James M. Clayton – is one of the many residents of Ogle county who started out in life with naught but an abundance of determination and indefatigable industry and a strong and healthy constitution and who have succeeded through their own diligence, energy and economy.  He is now able in his declining years to lay aside all business cares and live retired at his pleasant home in Stillman Valley where he is surrounded by all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life.

     Mr. Clayton was born in Brimfield, Massachusetts, November 18, 1814 and when a young man through the influence and solicitation of an older brother made application to and had his name changed by a legislative enactment from Crouch to Clayton.  His paternal grandfather was of German descent and a soldier in the American Revolution while the father Ephraim Crouch who was born and reared in Vermont, took up arms against Great Britain in the war of 1812.  When a young man the latter went to Massachusetts where throughout the remainder of his life he engaged in farming and the butcher business.  There he married a Miss Stebbens.

     As his parents were in very limited circumstances, Mr. Clayton’s educational privileges were limited being able to attend school only a few months during the winter.  His training at farm work was not so meager however and during his youth he worked on the farm of Colonel Brown and gave his wages to his father until he reached manhood.  On the 2nd of April, 1827 in company with Colonel Brown, Hon. A.F. Brown and Samuel Patrick, he started for the Rock river valley, Illinois going down the Hudson river from Hartford to New York city by vessel to Philadelphia by canal to Pittsburg down the Ohio and up the Mississippi rivers to St. Louis where he changed boats and then proceeded up the Illinois river to Peoria by team to the Rock river and by stage to Dixon.  Mr. Clayton arrived in Ogle county May 2, and until the following August worked by the day at Byron.  He next worked by the year for Joseph Sanford and from that gentleman purchased a partially improved claim of one hundred and sixty acres on which a log house had been constructed. His brother-in-law Solomon Small who arrived here in 1838 located upon the place while our subject continued to work for others for a few years.

     In the fall of 1841, in Byron, Mr. Clayton married Miss Harriet Norton, who was born and reared in New York and was one of a family of ten children, five sons and five daughters.  Her father, Rev. Isaac Norton, a Free Will Baptist minister, settled in this county in June, 1837.  The young couple made their home in Byron until the spring of 1842 and when Mr. Clayton sold his first place and took a claim of one hundred and twenty acres adjoining the village of Stillman Valley which he subsequently entered and still owns.  After erecting a log house thereon he moved in and began to break and improve his land.  IN 1868 he built a neat, substantial and commodious residence and later erected two barns and other outbuildings, set out an orchard and a number of forest and ornamental trees and transformed the wild tract into a beautiful and attractive farm.  His financial resources having increased he purchased on adjoining farm of one hundred and fourteen acres, making in all two hundred and thirty-four acres of valuable and well improved land which he successfully operated for forty years but now leaves the active management of the farm to younger hands while he spends his declining years in that ease and retirement which should always follow a long and useful career.  He has lived in Stillman Valley since 1882 and there owns two good residences.

     Mr. Clayton has been called upon to mourn the loss of his estimable wife, who passed away December 12, 1887.  Of the seven children born to them, three are now deceased, two having died in childhood.  Adelaide, the eldest, is the wife of Wallace Revell, a prominent business man of Stillman Valley whose sketch appears elsewhere in this volume.  Nellie is the widow of Rev. James Robertson, a minister of the United Brethren church and she resides in Forreston, Illinois.  George is a farmer residing in Stillman county.  Edgar is also a farmer of Ogle county.  Hattie is the wife of Eli Hoysington, a farmer and dairyman of Ogle county.  Carrie is the wife of William Sovereign, formerly a business man of Stillman Valley where he now resides.  Lena died when a young lady; Delia Ann at the age of two years; and William H. at the age of three months.

     Politically Mr. Clayton is a staunch Republican having supported that party ever since its organization.  He cast his first presidential vote for Martin Van Buren in 1836 and in 1840 supported Tippecanoe and Tyler too.  He has never sought or cared for official preferment but when a young man once served as constable in Byron.  He has ever used his influence to secure good schools and teachers and for some years was a most efficient member of the school board.  For sixty-one years he has watched with interest the wonderful changes that have taken place in this country, has borne an important part in its up building and development and his name should be among the foremost on is roll of honored pioneers.  He is one of the charter members of the Stillman Valley Congregational church and his life has ever been such as to commend him to the office and respect of all with whom he has come in contact either in business or social life.

Transcribed by Denise Border

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Illinois Ancestors