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Clayton - A brief history

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The community which has grown into the Town of Clayton was built on a road cut blazed by Governor Tryon’s troops around 1770 as they marched North from New Bern to Hillsborough against the Regulators.

Nearly 100 years later the railroad came through and the community had its first name—Stallings Station, since the depot for the North Carolina Railroad was in the home of Mrs. Sarah Stallings. The name lasted only three years, however, before officially becoming Clayton.  Incorporation followed in 1869. 

At the conclusion of the Civil War, the railroad was extended and businesses began to thrive in and around Clayton. Among the businesses that flourished during that time were lumber plants, a brick kiln, a cotton gin, a gristmill, a sawmill, tobacco warehouses, cotton mills and a turpentine distillery. 

By the early 1900’s, Clayton had become a major market for cotton, watermelons and tobacco. In 1907, the Raleigh Evening Times of nearby Raleigh wrote that there was “more money per capita in Clayton than any city its size in the world.”

Clayton's economic fortunes have ridden the tides of change and the town has prospered. As industrial growth and population have increased in the region, Clayton’s workforce has adapted. Today, manufacturers like Caterpillar and bio-pharmaceutical companies like Talecris and Novo Nordisk are large local employers.

Commercial development along US 70 through town has changed the face of Clayton in recent years, with thriving retail and service sectors. However, downtown Clayton still boasts quaint specialty and coffee shops, a thriving financial services area, furniture stores, restaurants, jewelry stores, and more than a dozen personal care businesses. Some of Clayton’s oldest businesses, Beddingfield’s Drugs (1919), Jone’s Lunch (1958) and TR Lee Gas & Oil (1958) still operate downtown today. In recent years, a strong effort to protect and preserve the traditional downtown has helped the area maintain its economic vigor and historic charm.

Visit Clayton today!

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