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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



The city of Sacramento and indeed the entire surrounding country owes so much to the ability and influence of Dr. Marion F. Clayton and his estimable wife, Mrs. Sarah E., that it would be difficult to enumerate their wonderful accomplishments here for the benefit of the residents and especially the children of this part of the country. Their benevolence, their charitable, unselfish labors to secure better conditions in the homes and hospitals, their untiring effort toward furthering the interests of all hygienic movements, were the means of bringing about a wonderful improvement, and their memories shall be ever held in high regard by all who were recipients of these benefactions. A suitable monument has been erected by their loving children to their memory, but it was not necessary that this material thing should be done to hold them dearly, for their work and its excellent results is one of the most fitting monuments they could have.

The life of Dr. Clayton is filled with interesting events, for his experiences were many, and his coming to a new country opened up a newer and larger field of work than one of his profession is accustomed to handle. Born in Knox county, Ohio, in 1826, he spent his early days in Crawford county, that state, receiving his elementary education there. He matriculated at the Eclectic Medical College, in Cincinnati, Ohio, from which he graduated in 1855, and began active practice in northeastern Indiana, where he remained for about four years. Reports were constantly being brought from the west, and eager to see a new country, equipped with his professional knowledge to aid him in securing a position in the working world there, he came overland with ox and horse teams in 1859. It was a hard, long trip, and during his travels he had many opportunities to practice his profession, as there was much sickness and necessity for his services. He suffered many trials, not the least of which was the death of his horse when he was two hundred miles from human habitation, thus being forced to tramp the remainder of the journey, and on September 15, 1859, he arrived at Placerville, barefoot, almost naked and nearly starved.

Dr. Clayton immediately found a great deal of work to do. His first patient was a man suffering from a gunshot wound, whom he found in a very precarious condition, but through his skill as a surgeon he saved his life, and this was the foundation of his wide and most successful career in this section of the country. After eight laborious years at Placerville, Dr. Clayton removed to Sacramento and opened an office on J street between Fifth and Sixth streets, which place he occupied for two years, rendering valuable service to the citizens there. In January, 1870, Mrs. Clayton and their four children came from the east, and the doctor about this time purchased the Pacific Water Cure and Health Institute, which was situated at the corner of Seventh and L streets and was at that time a beautiful home, surrounded by shade trees, and fitted in every way for the care of the sick. This establishment was most excellently equipped with every modern appliance for the purpose, being arranged for the giving of Turkish, Russian, electric and medicated water and vapor baths. This institute the doctor operated for many years, until his death, and he met with gratifying success, as he had the benefit of his many years' professional experience, and the exceptional natural power to administer to the sick.

When the State Eclectic Medical Society was organized Dr. Clay- ton was one of the promoters, and served as its president and vice-president several terms. For three years he was a member of the State Eclectic Board of Medical Examiners, being its chairman for two years. He was a strong prohibitionist, and during the campaign of 1888 was a member of the state executive committee of the Prohibition party. He owned considerable land in Eldorado county, which proved a good investment.

Mrs. Sarah E. Clayton, wife of Dr. M. F., was a most suitable wife and helpmeet for such a worthy man. Her career has been quite as full of experiences which tended toward the welfare of the sick and unfortunate as was his, and there are many of her achievements which are today the material evidences of her unfailing effort to give of the best that was in her, and her unselfishness and thoughtfulness will never be forgotten by many who received from her generous heart and hand. Born December 7, 1826, in Delaware, she was of Welsh and English extraction, her parents being Rev. John T. and Harriette Davis. Rev. John T. Davis was born in Wales, and was a Methodist minister in Ohio, his service in the ministry covering a period of fifty years. Mrs. Clayton's family removed from Delaware to Ohio in 1830, finally settling in Bucyrus, Crawford county. From 1846 to 1851 she taught school, at which time she was married to Dr. Marion F. Clayton, and they were the parents of four children: Hattie C, wife of A. J. Gardiner, of Sacramento; Mrs. Clara M. Crawford; Frank W., of Seattle; and Willis M., deceased. The last named, Willis M., was accidentally killed while in London, England, in 1881.

During the Civil war Dr. W. H. Davis, brother of Mrs. Clayton, went to the front as surgeon in an Iowa regiment, and his death occurred at Pittsburgh Landing in 1862. Mrs. Clayton was the secretary of the Sanitary Commission at Fostoria, Ohio, for five years, and she considers that period the most important and possibly the most useful of her life, as the duty then of a sanitary commissioner was as constant and as arduous as that of the soldier on the battlefield. Soon after her arrival in Sacramento, in 1870, she found the old county hospital at the corner of Tenth and L streets to be a very unsanitary place, poorly supplied with conveniences of any sort for the inmates, and badly in need of attention in many ways. She persuaded the supervisors with the influence of the press to build a new hospital three miles east of the city, and upon its completion Dr. G. A. White was made its superintendent. She then appealed to the citizens of the city for reading matter, and so generous was the response that in a short time the institution had a large and valuable library for their new hospital. Among the books donated was a Greek Bible two centuries old, and this rare volume was probably the most valuable book given. It is a most unfortunate fact to relate that the new building was burned soon after completion, and the entire contents destroyed.

This was, however, only one of the many invaluable accomplishments of Mrs. Clayton. As one of the managers of the Protestant Orphan Asylum of Sacramento, in 1873, it was her duty to look after the children who had been taken out of the home on trial, pending- adoption. She served as director of the board of this asylum for fifteen years, and in her capacity as manager had many difficulties to encounter, but she was thoroughly capable of handling the matter at hand, and going before the legislature, procured several laws governing this work. By her earnest endeavor she soon had an almost perfect system established, by which the homeless wards were found comfortable and permanent homes with worthy people, and the law of the land assisted in the work. With others she after- ward founded the Sacramento Foundlings Home, now the Sacramento Children's Home, of which she was a director at the time of her death, on October 28, 1911. Too much cannot be said in praise of such a woman whose entire life had been given to help others, and whose every thought had been to comfort the sick and help the needy. No problem too hard for her to solve, no task too hard to undertake, if it was to benefit deserving ones she was ready to make the attempt. It may well be said of her: Well done, thou faithful servant !

Mrs. Clayton was an ardent worker in the First M. E. Church, on Sixth street, and it was from this religious home that she was conveyed to her last resting place. Her husband had preceded her to the grave, having passed away April 28, 1892, mourned by many friends. In 1910 their daughter, Mrs. Hattie C. Gardiner and her husband, A. J. Gardiner, erected in Sacramento on the site of their old home, the Hotel Clayton, in honor of her father and mother. It is a five-story reinforced concrete and brick structure, with steel frame, and built on concrete pile foundation, and is elaborately finished in every detail. It is considered by builders the best building in the citv and one of the most artistically constructed. 

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011