Ralph Clayton, 1788–1883
When St. Louis County separated from the city of St. Louis in 1876, it needed a new county seat. Ralph Clayton donated 100 acres of his farmland in 1878 for that purpose. His friend and neighbor, Mrs. Cyrene (Walton) Hanley, the widow of Martin F. Hanley, also donated four acres.
Ralph was born in Bath County, Virginia, on 22 February 1788, but he grew up in Augusta County, Virginia, where his parents had moved when he was a child. He was thirty-two years old when he came to St. Louis in 1820. Here, Ralph settled on a 700-acre farm nine miles west of the city in what was then Central Township in St. Louis County.
Alexander McCausland, with his wife and two children, had immigrated from Ireland to Alabama and then to St. Louis where they, too, settled in Central Township. Ralph became acquainted with their daughter, Rosannah, whom he married on 31 May 1831. The celebration of their marriage was said to have been “the biggest ever known in St. Louis County.” There were several tables set up for the affair, each one seating sixty-two people.
Ralph and Rosannah first lived in a two-story log home near the intersection of what is now Clayton Road and Brentwood Boulevard. It burned in the 1840s when a fire in the cooking stove got out of control. It was replaced with a grand brick house. Their three children, John, Mary, and William, were born in the log home. John married Bridget Kelley and remained in St. Louis. Mary married Dr. Robert Kyle McCausland, Rosannah’s nephew. Robert died in 1888 at age fifty-two, and Mary remained his widow until her death in 1923 in St. Ferdinand, St. Louis County. William became a minister, married Delia Eunice Moore, and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they spent the rest of their lives.
Ralph was a religious man throughout his life and began every day by reading passages from the Bible. He built a brick Methodist church near their home where he and his family then worshiped. He never drank alcohol and disapproved of the use of profanity. He enjoyed music and was said to have been able to pick out tunes on his piano using one finger. He also built and played an instrument that was like a dulcimer. With the exception of one term as a justice of the peace, he never held public office.
Rosannah (McCausland) Clayton died at their home in Clayton, Missouri, on 7 December 1862. Ralph lived on his farm for sixty-two years, dying there on 22 July 1883 at the age of ninety-five. He and Rosannah (and their son John and daughter Mary) are buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.
The City of Clayton, bearing his name, was incorporated in February 1913.
Written by Ted Steele
© 2023, St. Louis Genealogical Society
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Last Modified: 18-Jul-2023 13:04