Lee County Biography

Thomas Clayton
Nelson Township


Thomas Clayton, for many years a leading farmer of Nelson Township and improved one of its finest farms. He was prominent in its public life, and his memory will ever be held in reverence for his service in its upbuilding, as well as for his good influence in promoting the spiritual welfare of the commuuity, where he was well known and honored.

Mr. Clayton was born in Columbia County, Pa.., April 19, 1814. His parents were Pennsylvanians by birth, but his grandparents were English, who in coming to this country in Colonial times, settled in 1 his native county on a farm, which was their home during their remaining years, the grandfather being nearly one hundred years old when he died. William Clayton spent his entire life on the old homestead as a successful farmer, dying when nearly eighty. He married Miss Elizabeth Metz, who was a native of New Jersey, her parents, who were of Dutch stock, also having their birth in that State, going from there to Pennsylvania when she was young. After the death of her husband she removed with a daughter to Ashland, Schuylkill County, Pa., and there died at the age of seventy-two. Both she and her husband were rearedin the Quaker faith, and adhered to it all their lives.

Our subject passed his boyhood in his native township, Catawissa, and in the village of the saem name learned the trade of blacksmith, which he followed in addition to carpentering until he came to Illinois in 1856. He was then in the prime of vigorous life, and had determined to try farming on the rich virgin soil of this part of the country. His means would not admit of his buying land at first, so he farmed as a renter a few years, until he had gathered together enough money to purchase the farm on section 29, Nelson Township in 1859, on which he made his home until his untimely denth, February 6, 1885. Devoting himself assiduously to the improvement of his farm, Mr. Clayton p1aced its two hundred acres under fine tillage, erected good barns and a commodious residence, and had a well ordered place entirely free from debt. He left a small fortune, and what is better than riches, a good name, which will ever be honored as belonging to a man who was prominent in the development of the township and county, active in their public life, and devoted to the good of his community both materially and morally. He was greatly missed, as he had made himself useful in various ways as a citizen. He was Supervisor for a number of years, representing Nelson Township on the County Board, and once sat on the United States jury in Chicago for one month. He was sensible and sound in his po­litical views, and always stood firmly by the Republican party. After coming to this State he united with the Lutheran Church, and died in that faith.

Mr. Clayton was married to Miss Mary Wright in Columbia County, Pa., at the bride's home on the banks of the beautiful Susquehanna. River. Mrs. Clayton was born near Allentown, Pa., April 9, 1817 daughter of John and Mary E. (Fr'y) ! Wright, natives of Pennsylvania, who lived and died in that State, spendin'g the most of their lives on a farm in Columbia Couuty. Mr. Wright died from injuries he received some years before in falling from a loft in his barn when it was dark. He was sixty-seven at the time of his demise, while his wife, who survived him, lived to the advanced age of eighty-eight years. They were both members of the Lutheran Church, and prominent in their community, where they were greatly respected for their many virtues. Mrs. Clayton's grandfather was a Scotchman, who coming to the United States when young died on his farm in Pennsylvania many years later, at the age of eighty years. He is remembered by his granddaughter as being a very bright, active man of his years, who took a prominent part in the affair of his township.

Since the death of her husband Mrs. Clayton, assisted by her son, has had charge of the farm and it is kept up to the same high standard it had attained under her husband's supervision. She is a very capable manager, understanding how everthing ought to go on a well-regulated farm, and having a clear compehension of all business matters pertaining to it. She is also an excellent. housewife, and under her supervision her household matters always go smoothly. She is the motherly, noble-hearted woman, and has many friends in Nelson Township. She is a member of the Lutheran Church in which her busband was promi nent as an official member during his life. Mrs. Clayton is the mother of six children, of whom but one survives, her son Owen, L. who is a fine young man, a hard worker and an intelligent farmer, assisting his mother in operating his father's homestead. He married Miss Mary C, Mensch who was born, reared and educated in Pennsylvania. She is a daughter of Michael and Margaret Mensch, who were also Pennsylvanians, and Michael Mensch died in his native state some years ago. The mother is yet living, at a venerable age. She is a member of tbe Lutheran Church, as was her husband. Mr. and Mrs. Owen Clayton have five children, all at home with them except Hattie E. and named as follows - Hattie E., Thomas , Cbarles, Clark and Henry A. Hattie E. married Alonzo Birdsall and lives in Whiteside County; she has one son named Orrin. The children of our subject who are all deceased are Delilah, John, J. Lafayette, and Alice who died in childhood; and; Charles, who died of diphtheria at the age of twenty-two.

1892 Portrait and Biographical Record Lee Co Pg 297

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