Many of the first settlers of Transylvania County came here before it was officially designated by that name. One such founding family is that of Lambert Clayton, Revolutionary War veteran and Justice of the Peace. Lambert was born on June 22, 1755 in Delaware. Some of his many accomplishments will be covered later in this article. After the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, he relocated to what would become Iredell County, North Carolina, where he married Sarah Davidson on December 14, 1782.
Sarah had her own interesting life history, though it has been contended among historians that the Sarah described here cannot be confirmed as the same one who married Lambert Clayton. Sarah was born to “One-Eyed” John Davidson and Nancy Brevard Davidson on December 25, 1759. If her mother’s maiden name seems familiar, it’s because Sarah’s uncle was Dr. Ephraim Brevard, the namesake of our county seat. Tragically, Sarah’s parents were killed in 1760 by Native Americans in the Catawba River Valley when she was less than one year old.
Phyllis, an African American nurse who was caring for the child, was able to hide from the attack with Sarah from until the violence subsided. Over the course of three days, Phyllis successfully hid herself and Sarah during the day and they travelled by night to the safety of Old Fort, subsisting on what Phyllis could forage, including chewing oak buds to feed barely weaned Sarah. Sarah and Phyllis went to live with Nancy Brevard’s sister (Sarah’s aunt) Jane Brevard Davidson and her husband Ephraim Davidson, who were in Charlotte, NC at the time. Although the last name is the same, it cannot be confirmed if this branch of Davidsons was related to Sarah’s parents.
Sarah was raised by her aunt and uncle and married Lambert Clayton in 1782. Lambert fought in many battles including those at King’s Mountain, Guilford Court House, and Eutah, and was awarded extensive land grants in what would become Transylvania County for his service in the Revolutionary War. Presumably, he and Sarah moved to the region in order to take up residence there. He was sworn in as a Justice of the Peace for then-Buncombe County in 1792, which correlates to when Lambert and Sarah Davidson Clayton moved to our mountains. From 1806-1813 he was a postmaster for “Claytonville”, which was the first post office established in the Blue Ridge Mountains area (in the vicinity of Enon between present-day Pisgah Forest and Penrose). He was also given the task of supervising the creation of the first road between Asheville and Cathey’s Creek.
They had nine children, who also prolifically added to the population of the area, which is why so many of those who are descended from the founding families of Transylvania County can claim a connection to veteran and civic leader Lambert Clayton and his wife Sarah Davidson Clayton. . Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History Librarian Laura Sperry. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.