Village of Clayton History
Lumber Heritage and Civil War Heroes
Like most communities in Northwestern Wisconsin, it was loggers that first settled in Clayton. They found the greatest stand of white pine trees in the world waiting to be harvested. In 1874 the railroad arrived, making its way northward through many logging camps including Clear Lake, Summit, Pineville and Richardson. The end of the line was at the large sawmill located at what is now called Lake Camelia on the west edge of the Village of Clayton.
The lumber company, Humbird and Rogers, operated the mill and owned most of the land surrounding Clayton. Clayton Rogers was the boss of the mill and reputed to be an excellent manager and capable of the work of ten men. Mr. Rogers was a veteran of the Union Army in the War Between the States. He was an officer of the 6th Wisconsin, which was one of the divisions of the famous "Iron Brigade. He was in many battles including the Battle of Gettysburg in which he performed invaluable services. On the first day of the battle his delaying action against the confederate forces enabled the Union Army of the Potomac to march to Gettysburg and participate in the battle. In recognition of Clayton Rogers' great accomplishments, the village was given his first name.
Another notable pioneer of the village was Worthy Prentice, also a Civil War veteran. Mr. Prentice was a surveyor who mapped out the village. He lived in Clayton most of his life. The main street through the village is named Prentice after him.
Clayton was incorporated in 1909. Following the lumbering era Scandinavian, German and Russian families settled the area and eventually went into dairy farming. The area became known for many small creameries and cheese factories which served the area. The Clayton Cooperative Creamery was purchased by Stella Cheese Company in the 1930s and became a producer of fancy Italian Cheese which was shipped throughout the whole nation. During the 1960s the factory produced Blue Cheese and became the largest producer of Blue Cheese, not only in the nation but also the world. The Clayton Lions Club promoted the Village by proclaiming it "The Blue Cheese Capital of the World." The Wisconsin Dairies Cooperative purchased the cheese factory during the 1980s. Today it is known as Foremost Farms and is a producer of pizza cheese for our country's most popular "fast food."
Strong Educational Traditions
The first school in Clayton was established in 1876. In 1914 the school included a four-year high school and was headed by F.M. Robey who was the principal of the school for fifty years, retiring in 1964. The Clayton School in 2000 dedicated its second major addition in ten years. Clayton residents are very proud of the excellent school system and have always been supportive of exceptional facilities and programs for area youth.