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Book Offers Visual History of Clayton
By Bev Britton   - 02/20/2006

Clayton Pioneer

Many Clayton residents move here for the small town atmosphere. But the population explosion of the last four decades has left few traces of the Old West Clayton.

A new picture book from the Clayton Historical Society provides a look back at the town’s rustic past.

“Images of America – Clayton,” by Arcadia Publishing, spans the years 1857 to 1957. It covers the town of Clayton, the Clayton Valley, Morgan Territory and Marsh Creek.

The 128-page book aims to put the reader in the shoes of an early inhabitant through photographs with brief captions. “We are fortunate that many members of old-time Clayton families loaned us pictures for the book,” says Historical Society president Janet Easton. “A bonus was looking through other people’s photograph albums and seeing pictures of my ancestors that I had never seen before.”

Easton’s relative, Capt. Russelmann, moved to the area in the 1870s with his family. They lived on a ranch here while he was out at sea.

Tony Galvin, Mary Viera Delamater and Carmen Frank are among the other locals who contributed photos.

Delamater’s grandparents moved here from Portugal and settled in the Marsh Creek area. Her mother Lucy, who lived to the age of 99 ½, grew up on the family ranch.

One of the photos Delamater offered to Easton shows the butchering of a pig, which was to be divided among the extended family. “All the relatives lived around here, too,” says Delamater.

George Frank’s family also has lived in Clayton since the 1800s. Carmen Frank has lived on the family property since she and George married in 1937. “My husband’s family members were pioneers in this area,” she notes.

Easton worked on the book for eight months with Dick Ellis, past Historical Society president and a former Clayton Valley High School teacher, and Mary Spryer, curator of the Clayton Museum.

The book, which will be released in March, is part of Arcadia’s “Images of America” series. Antioch and Bay Point have published similar books, and a Concord book is in the works.

Clayton’s book follows Arcadia’s format, with sections on areas such as the downtown and agriculture.

“When we were doing the book, we got copies of books that other people had done to see how they lined up their chapters,” says Easton. “One thing we included that others didn’t is ‘Characters and Oddities.’ We have a picture of the Stranahan family all standing on the roof of their house.”

Joel Clayton mapped out the town in 1857. He won the naming rights after winning a coin toss with Charles Rhine, a Nortonville entrepreneur. The town of Clayton had a 50-50 chance of being named Rhinesville.

Early surveyors called the Clayton area Deadfall, perhaps in reference to the large number of fallen trees in the area. The book illustrates the changes that have taken place since the early days. “There is a cool aerial picture that was taken in the ’50s that shows Clayton Road with mostly orchards on both sides on the street,” says Easton.

Other photos trace the evolution of the building that now houses the Clayton Community Church offices.

Several other historic buildings can still be found downtown, including the Clayton Club, Endeavor Hall and the Historical Society Museum.

“I think people will be interested in reading it because they will put faces to the street names in Clayton, such as Stranahan, Goethals and Rhine,” says Easton.

The price of the book is $19.99, with all proceeds benefiting the Historical Society. Books may be ordered at the museum for delivery the first week of March.

“Images of America – Clayton” also will be available for sale at the Clayton Community Library Foundation’s library birthday party on March 4 and 5. Or, the book can be purchased at the Clayton Museum beginning March 5.

The Clayton Historical Society Museum is at 6101 Main St. and is open 2-4 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays. For more information, call 672-0240, visit www.claytonhs.com or email claytonmuseum@ sbcglobal.net.

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