Posted by: Manager / Associate Curator | May 5, 2020

William Clayton, Cornwall Jeweller 1900-1911

William Clayton was born in 1866 in Flesherton in Ontario’s Grey County. He was the middle of five children born to George W. Clayton (1832-1910) and Sarah Strachan (1837-1924).

He undertook the first year of apprenticeship in his hometown, followed by four years in Owen Sound. After that he worked short stints in Aurora and Hamilton before being employed for a substantial period at the J.L. Anderson repair shop in Toronto, possibly the largest in the country at that time.

Clayton relocated to Cornwall in 1891 to work in the repair shop of J.F. Milliken & Co’s jewellery store (est. 1874), then one of the largest in Eastern Ontario. A master mechanic and an expert on watch and clock repairs, he became a practically indispensable and trustworthy employee.

When Milliken’s health failed, Clayton purchased the business’ entire stock and its good will and quickly expanded the selection. A July 27 1900 Milliken ad hinted at a pending change.

An August 17 1900 Clayton ad announced the change of ownership.

Located in Pitt Street’s Miller Block, the store was tastefully appointed with considerable variety and reasonable prices.




The business held exclusive Cornwall agency for Excello Silver Polish, popular for cleaning precious metals, china and glass.


This colour photo is from a different era, but Clayton occupied the north stall at 77 Pitt Street on the left corner in later years.



September 28 of 1904 saw Clayton and Helen Maud Paterson united in marriage with the ceremony taking place at the bride’s parents’ (John Paterson and Caroline King) Fourth Street Cornwall residence. Helen was born in 1876 in Levi, QC. The couple raised two daughters, Wilma (1906-1994) and Ida Vina (1911-1999).




It appears that Clayton closed shop shortly after this June 30 1911 advertisement was published. It may be coincidence, but J.R. Maynard began advertising himself as “The New Jeweller” in the vicinity of Clayton’s store, earlier that same month.

We find the couple residing in Saskatoon, SK by 1916. Helen died on June 1 of 1946 in Winnipeg, MB. William’s passing occurred on March 18 of 1957, also in Winnipeg. A branch of the Strachan line now resides in Milford, IA.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Cornwall Industry

A Cornwall Community Museum Blog

Cornwall Canal and Shipping History

A Cornwall Community Museum Publication

Cornwall Community Museum

In The Wood House at the waterfront, Cornwall, Ontario, Canada

%d bloggers like this: