The other major settlement in the Town is
the Hamlet of Depauville, originally called Cat Fish Falls. The hamlet is
located in a valley along the Chaumont river. The area was being settled by
1816 utilizing the Chaumont River as its navigable waterway for
transportation of timber, goods and people. Catfish Falls was an
excellent source of water power to operate a Saw Mill and Grist Mill.
Due to its favorable positioning on the
St. Lawrence River and an ample supply of lumber, the first major industry
in Clayton was timber. Trees were lashed together to form rafts and then
sent down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and surrounding areas. There,
the logs were cut into usable lumber. Depauville also had a substantial
lumber industry. The local economy was dominated by this industry until the
railroad made its way to the North Country in the 1870's.
Its location on the river and supply of
lumber was a natural fit for the shipbuilding industry. Simon Johnston owned one
of the prominent shipyards in the Village. The Town Hall is located on the
site of his shipyard. Clayton is also know as the home of the St. Lawrence
Skiff. These skiffs were first build as fishing guide boats starting around
Images of America-Clayton: Site of
present-day Antique Boat Museum
The schooners financed and built here
sailed the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes in the shipping trade well into
the era of steamships. They also, periodically, were overhauled,
repaired, and sometimes enlarged to carry more goods to and from the ports.
Tradesmen with many skills were drawn to the area to build and maintain all
boats on the River.
In 1873, the railroad was brought to
Clayton and with it came people seeking time away from the city life. As a
result, hotels, restaurants, boat livery's, fishing guides and tourist
related services began to flourish and a new industry was born, tourism.
Grindstone, Picton, Bluff, Murray and other smaller islands began to become
settled by local residents and tourists. Luxury hotels were built to
accommodate this influx of vacationers: The Windsor, The Walton, The
Riverview, The Hubbard House, The Frontenac on Round Island, The Clayton
Hotel and the Herald House. The Clayton Hotel is now O'Briens and the Herald
House is the TI Inn: all of the other old hotels have either burned or were
torn down. The influx of people during this period brought money, built
houses and created an increase in small privately owned boats. The small
boat trade and repair business quickly became lucrative for many
entrepreneurs. This period of growth lasted until the advent of the car as a
family vehicle. It became easier to travel were ever you wanted and not just
where the train would take you.
1888 Map of the Town of Clayton
There has been a resurgence of the boat
trade and repair in the last twenty years due to increases in boating as a
recreation, boat owners and the population of Clayton, both residential and
Agriculture was an important industry in
the Town. The number of active farms has been steadily decreasing, a trend
that is occurring all across the State and Country.
The Town has a history of mining that
includes quarries on Picton and Grindstone Islands that were active in the
mid 1800's. High quality granite from Grindstone and Picton Islands was
widely used for paving blocks and prominent buildings such as the New York
State Capitol Building. There are a number of active sand and gravel operations located
on County Route 4, the Crystal Springs Road.
Like any other community over the last 177
years, Clayton has undergone many social and economic changes. Today,
Clayton remains as a reflection of the small shops and restaurants,
recreational opportunities and marinas that existed in the early years.
provided by Historian Norm Wagner