The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter V
Clayton Township

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



THE TOWNSHIP OF Clayton was originally covered with dense forest, where the wolf, the panther and the bear found safe retreat, where the pride of the forest--the deer--had his home and where the red man ambushed his foe or stalked his game. A more herculean task than that of clearing away this sturdy greenwood and preparing the pleasant farms which today dot its surface can hardly be imagined, but the indomitable will and perseverance of the pioneers, together with their ability to endure long and severe toil with all its attendant hardships, accomplished the mighty work.

The history of this achievement begin in the locality known as the "Miller settlement." In 1836, Adam Miller, a native of Germany who had lived for time in Livingston county, New York, settled with his family on section 35. They came into the township by way of Flint, following well-worn Indian trail which led north as far as the Indian sugar camp in Gaines township. This trail became approximately the line of a portion of what afterwards came to be known as the "Miller road," the first in the township.

During the infancy of this settlement, people coming here from the direction of Flint spoke of going "up the Swartz." In time the small stream flowing near became known as Swartz creek, though only a branch of the mainstream, which gave its name to the post office established there in 1842. The mail route extended from Flint north to the Grand road, via Vernon and old Shiawasseetown. Peter Miller, a son of Adam Miller, was one of the first postmasters. In the same year with the post office a store was started in the Miller settlement by Miller and Rall. The village of Swartz Creek was not platted until 1877, the year after the railway was completed.

It was probably in this settlement that the first school in the township was taught. The children of the settlement first attended a school kept by Miss Watkins, of Mundy, in a log schoolhouse built across the line in Gaines in the spring of 1838. In 1839 a frame school house was erected on the north side of the line where later the store of Messrs. Miller stood. A religious society was here organized by the Methodists as early as the fall of 1837. Rev, Whitney, then stationed at Flint, was the first preacher. In 1859 a frame church was built on land taken from the Miller property.

Early pioneers of 1837 in or near the Miller settlement were John and Thomas Nash, John Hartsock, Seth Silsby, Emir Woodin, Seth Hathaway and Sedgwick P. Stedman.

Another early beginning was the "Lyons settlement," in the northwest part of the township. In the winter of 1839 Isaac Lyons, in company with his brothers-in-law, Jacob Coddington and John clement, all from Tompkins county, New York, but residing since 1836 in flint, settled here. Mr. Lyons built a log blacksmith shop on the corner of his place, for a long the only one within a radius of many miles. About 1844 a log school house was built on the corner of his land, in which the first school was kept by Miss Angeline Smith.

A third settlement of note in the early days was the "Donahoo settlement." In 1843 Michael Donahoo, always known here as "Squire" Donahoo, came from the north of Ireland to America and settled in Clayton. When he came tot he township there was but one team of horses in it except a span of ponies owned by Daniel Miller, although several owned one horse. Oxen were used universally for teaming. "Erin's green Isle" send several sons to become residents of Clayton. Considerably earlier than Squire Donahoo were Bernard Lennon and Patrick Conlen, who came in 1834-40. Both later married sister of Michael Donahoo. Bernard Trayor, who also married a sister of Mr. Donahoo, came with the latter and located in the same neighborhood. Three Carton brothers, William , Peter and John, settled about 1842 in the northern part of the township. Patrick Bradley located four miles east of Lyons Corners. A near neighbor was James E. Brown, who settled in 1840 and became on of the most prominent men in the town.

Among other first settlers of the township were Joseph Burbridge, from England, who settled near the center of the town in 1837; the Ottawa brothers--James, Stephen, George and John--also from England, who settled in the summer of 1840; Albert, Granger, William and Richard Goyer, about 1840-42; James w. Cronk, E. W. Fenner, james Glass and Peter Lannon, Sr.

In 1844 as shown by the official list, the residents taxpayers in what is now Clayton township numbered seventy-four. In 1846 the township was deemed to have a sufficient population to warrant its separate organization. 


At the first elections held in the school house in district No. 6, fifty-one votes were cast. The following officers were elected:


Alfred Pond

Town Clerk 

Francis Brotherton


Theron Wallace

Justices of the Peace 

Seth Newell, Isaac Lyons and Caleb Calkins


Harry Brotherton and Seth Silsby

Commissioners of Highways 

Richard C. Goyer, John C. Clement and John M. Nash

Inspectors of Schools 

Alanson Niles and Alfred Pond

Directors of Poor 

Alex H. Fenner and Barnard Carpenter


John M. Nash, Silas Henry and Elhanan W. Fenner

Overseers of Highways 

Alfred Richardson, Wright N. Clement, Albert Granger, Alexander H. Fenner, William Piper, Bernard Lennon, John M. Nash, Morgan D. Chapman, Abraham Knight and David Felt.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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