“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Claysville in Washington County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)


Claysville Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2008
1. Claysville Marker
Inscription. Claysville has the distinction of being one of the original “pike towns” along the National Road. In 1817, an early settler and land owner, John Purviance, learned that the new National Road, that was being constructed between Cumberland, Maryland and Wheeling, Virginia, would cross his land. The Road, important because it was the first interstate highway built by the federal government, would eventually extend to Vandalia, Illinois. As the first constructed highway to cross the mountains, it was sure to bring economic opportunity to any town situated along its route. Aware of the opportunity being afforded, Mr. Purviance platted a town and named it in honor of U.S. Senator Henry Clay, noted for his staunch support of public improvements like the National Road. With the completion of the road to Wheeling by 1818, traffic began to flow. The bounty of the mid-west came east as settlers moved west, farmed the land and started new businesses. The road also provided local farmers with a direct route to eastern markets.

One of the more common sights was that of the Conestoga Wagons, freight haulers that could carry up to 3,500 lbs. of cargo traveling about 15 miles a day. The town became an important stopping point between Washington to the east and West Alexander and Wheeling to the west. Claysville taverns and inns
Claysville Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2008
2. Claysville Marker
offered corrals for the wagon teams and herds of livestock being driven to market, as well as food, drink and a place to rest for the wagon drivers and other travelers.

Claysville grew quickly as a result of the National Road. The first school was opened in 1818, with a Presbyterian Church being constructed in 1820. Many of the early settlers in the town were of Scots-Irish descent, drawn to the area by the availability of cheap land. Interestingly, many of the workers that built the Road were also Irish. In 1832, Claysville was incorporated as a Borough and by 1850 the population had grown to 275.

In 1856 the railroad arrived. This marked the beginning of a period of decline for the National Road but not for Claysville. Located astride two major transportation links, the town continued to grow as a regional agricultural service center. In the late 1800s an oil and gas boom furthered the prosperity of the community, diversified businesses and increased the population. By 1900, the town boasted a total of 856 residents.

A description of Claysville in 1908 listed 10 stores, three restaurants, two furniture dealers, two livery stables, a carriage shop, six physicians, two hotels, two banks and two lumber mills. The Claysville Flour Mill made three different brands of flour and George Sprowls operated such a large hardware business that it needed nine
Detail of photograph on marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2008
3. Detail of photograph on marker
Paving crew laying brick on Main Street – the National Road,.
buildings for retail and inventory.

(sidebar) A Change in the landscape ~ In 2005, buildings at the corner of Greene and Main Street, marked on the image below, were demolished to provide space for all apartment building and parking. The first structure located on the northwest corner of this Intersection was Walker’s Tavern. In the 1880s, a Second Empire structure with mansard roofs replaced the tavern and operated as a hotel until 1910. The Farmer’s National Bank then occupied the building until the 1940s. The northeast corner was known as “Cooper’s Corner.” Several small, mid-19th century commercial buildings occupied the site, including a wood frame structure which housed the Claysville Recorder newspaper.

(sidebar) Leading the Way. Henry Clay was a leading American statesman and political figure the first half of the 19th century. Known as the Great Compromiser, his efforts were successful in brokering political solutions, notably the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850. Clay also worked tirelessly as an advocate for a system of internal improvements including support for the National Road. During his career he represented Kentucky in both the U.S. House and Senate, ran for President 5 times and served as Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams.

Benjamin Franklin
Detail of photograph on marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, July 11, 2008
4. Detail of photograph on marker
Mid-19th Century View of Main Street - the National Road.
Jones was born in 1824 near Claysville. As a young man, he worked in Pittsburgh for a canal boat operator. He rose to partner in the company and by 1850, recognizing the future of railroads, he formed the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company with financier James Laughlin. J&L Steel became one of America’s largest iron and steel producers in the 19th century.

One of the great names in 19th century education was William Holmes McGuffy. Born in 1800 near what is now the Borough of Claysville, McGuffy attended college in Washington, PA, and went on to teach at Miami University in Ohio. In 1836 he published the first of the McGuffy Reader series. The illustrated stories emphasized virtuous behavior and became the most popular reading textbook in the 19th century with over 122 million copies published. The local school district is named in his honor. His birthplace is now part of Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village.
Marker series. This marker is included in the The Historic National Road marker series.
Location. 40° 7.035′ N, 80° 24.756′ W. Marker is in Claysville, Pennsylvania, in Washington County. Marker is on Main Street (U.S. 40) near Green Street, on the right when traveling west. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Claysville PA 15323, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Claysville Veterans Memorial (approx. half a mile away); William Holmes McGuffey (approx. 3.2 miles away); Rice’s Fort (approx. 3.3 miles away); “S” Bridge (approx. 3.7 miles away); Miller’s Blockhouse (approx. 4.4 miles away); Washington (approx. 5 miles away); National Road (approx. 5 miles away); Wolff’s Fort (approx. 5.3 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Claysville.
More about this marker. Marker has a number of photographs. Along the bottom is a panorama of the town captioned “View of Claysville ~ ca. 1914. Visible in the foreground is the line of the B&O Railroad. The National Road can be clearly seen in the picture exiting the town to the west (upper left).” Below the main text “Paving crews laying brick on Main Street – the National Road” and “Mid-19th century view of Main Street – the National Road.” On the sidebar to the right are portraits of Henry Clay, Benjamin F. Jones, and William H. McGuffy.
Categories. Political Subdivisions
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,617 times since then and 93 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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