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William Clayton

The recent death of William Clayton, of Deer Park, has taken from us one of the few remaining early settlers of LaSalle county, and removed a prominent connection between the rugged, toiling, heroic period of pioneer life and the almost marvelous developments and achievements which surround us today. Actors in the same scenes, sharing the same toils and privations, hopes and fears, a fraternal feeling provides and binds together the few who have seen under their hands the wild and naked prairies become the homes of intelligent and happy thousands. The memory of those who by years of toil have made this change deserve a hearty recognition from those who enjoy the fruition prepared for their use.

The writer of this has known Mr. Clayton intimately for full half a century, in all the vicissitudes of frontier life, and those scenes where the actors leave their impress on the institutions they form for all the future. In age his senior by five days only, I deem this sketch a fitting tribute to the memory of a valued friend and worthy man.

William Clayton was born in Philadelphia, March 13, 1806. His family moved to West Virginia, near Wellsbury [sic., should be Wellsburg], where he grew to manhood, married and lived till 1834, when he moved to Illinois and settled in what is now the town of Deer Park, on the farm where he spent most of his life. The famed curiosity of Deer Park is on the farm he occupied. Of a good physical organization, of strictly temperate and regular habits, he lived to within a few weeks of 80 years of age.

Fond of music, of a genial and cheerful temperament, he encouraged his family to indulge in rational and satisfying amusements at home, in which he joined with a zest unusual with the old. The sterling integrity, pure lives and temperate habits of his children prove the wisdom of his course.

He was a copious reader and good thinker. Of a sound, practical mind, he filled a quiet, but important, place in the locality where he lived and where he accumulated a large property. He had no ambition for political preferment, though few knew better the movements on the political chessboard.

In an early day he was elected a justice of the peace, but the duties were distasteful, and he soon resigned. He was the first supervisor for the town of Deer Park, and a sound, practical and safe official.

He was a Republican in politics. In religion he believed with Pope, "That: His faith can ne'er be wrong, Whose life is in the right."

A few years since he purchased a tract of unimproved land in Iroquois county, Illinois, enclosed it, got a railroad to cross it, with a station, which will perpetuate his name, and where he spent the last few years of his life. This business venture, like all his previous ones, was very successful.

Several months since he was attacked with that dread disease, a cancerous tumor, which forced him to surrender his business to this son. He has resided for some time with his youngest daughter in Platt county. On Saturday, Nov. 28th, he was removed to the residence of his son, John S. Clayton, near his old home in Deer Park, where, on Thursday morning, December 3, he painlessly and quietly passed to his final sleep.

He was buried on Sunday, the 6th, services being held in the old church at Vermillionville, Rev. J. M. Day, of Marseilles, officiating. The pall bearers were D. F. Hitt, of Ottawa, James Clark, of Utica, Esquires Arthur and Wood and William Ellsworth, of Deer Park, and Elmer Baldwin, of Farm Ridge. We laid him to rest by the side of his excellent wife, who preceded him about twelve years. Her obsequies were attended at the same place and by the same minister. The world is better for their having lived.

Source: Free Trader, December 1885, contributed by S Donavan

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