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The following historical information was provided by Kathy Leighton, one of the premier historians of Contra Costa County in modern times and the Clayton Historical Society.
“This well known gentleman was the son of John and Mary (Bate) Clayton, and was born in Bugsworth, Derbyshire, England, probably in 1812. Joel was the eldest of 12 brothers and sisters. He there received his education and resided until 1837, having learned the trade of block cutter and wood carver. That same year he immigrated to the United States, first settling in Lowell, Massachusetts, and later moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he joined his uncle who lived in that city.”
Clayton worked with the manufacture of oil cloth at Pittsburgh. Then in 1839 he went to Missouri. His father’s family joined him and then they moved to Illinois where he switched to lead mining.
In 1842, he moved to Wisconsin, where he started the business of extracting zinc from ore then he found it very difficult process and decided to leave it completely.
Until 1850 he remained in Wisconsin where he founded the town of Mifflin. Then he relocated to California where his aim was gold mining, accompanied by a number of miners.
By the end of that year, he moved to Stockton starting a butchering business, which went on until 1853, when he was able to get 25 acre tract within the boundaries of Broadway, Webster, Clay, & Pierce streets to start a milk ranch.
After one year, he changed his business to local coal mining. In 1856, his wife settled down with him in California near LA and they had three children.
It was in 1857 when Joel’s travels finally brought he and his family to Diablo Valley where he founded and laid out the town of Clayton. Joel and his brothers, Charles and James, became very successful community and business leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area and Joel also became one of the major landowners in Clayton.
[His first name for the new community was “Garibaldi” honoring the Italian patriot who had unified Italy. The toss of a coin is said to have decided whether it would be “Rhinesville” for his mercantile partner, Charles Rhine, or “Clayton”.]
Joel and Margret had nine children, five of them died due to sickness at early ages.Joel passed away when he was 60 years old, and Margaret passed away at the age of 88. Both were buried at Live Oak Cemetery, now located near Clayton, in Concord.
That was the life of a businessman who obviously had a lot of energy and quick decisions to take all the time. Whether he succeeded or not, whether he lived happy or not, we do not know.