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Identifier: WH1497


The papers range from George Clayton’s personal and business life through building, creation and management of the College in the early twentieth century, management of Clayton College, until the city ceded control in 1982. Student records are found through 1988. Deeds and real estate documents describe Clayton's involvement in early Denver. Mortgage papers from the early twentieth century reveal the funding process to build the College. Construction and management are documented in reports, correspondence and financial records. Student records (restricted from 1940; boxes 31-50) provide background about the boys who were enrolled.


Clayton's diaries comprise the first collection sub-series. He wrote almost daily, recording the weather, travels and activities. Significantly, the 1857 to 1871 diaries which would have depicted life in early Denver are missing. Diaries describe Clayton's life in Philadelphia and in Leavenworth, before travel farther west. Correspondence, legal and financial papers and newspaper clippings constitute the papers of Clayton's family and friends. The financial documents reveal ways in which Clayton made money including loans, property transactions and investments. Arranged chronologically, deeds, correspondence, agreements and banking documents describe property transactions and loans. The series also contains several copies of Clayton's will, basis for the creation and operation of Clayton College.


The series documents property transactions before Clayton's death including papers from properties co-owned with Judge Moses Hallett, who later acted as the executor of Clayton's will. Tax receipts, bank statements and court documents describe Hallett's accounting of the estate and his efforts to distribute assets according to the will's terms. Before construction of the college buildings, Hallett engaged realtors and listed Clayton properties for sale. The transactions are recorded by correspondence, deeds and tax receipts. The documents reveal much of the property was vacant land, subsequently subdivided and developed, and sold for houses with mortgage agreements.

With the college open, Hallett was succeeded by his son and then by administrators appointed by city and county officials. The emphasis of the commission shifted to estate management to best provide support for the college without dissipating the principal. Correspondence, banking records, deeds and other financial papers show the process through which the Clayton Trust Commission managed its funds.

In the 1960s, the nature of the papers changes. Clayton Trust Commission meetings took place monthly. Discussions of racial discrimination at the College and management of the Park Hill Golf Club are included in the Commission's meeting minutes and correspondence.

SERIES 3 CLAYTON COLLEGE 1887, 1906-1999 BOX 18-23

The Report of the Superintendent was presented to the Board of Trustees at its monthly meeting. It contains minutes, status reports of college operations including student activities, medical procedures and the farm until 1930 when the Park Hill Golf Course became a topic of discussion.

Financial records, reports, booklets and newspaper clippings comprise the portion of this series dealing with the operations of Clayton College. Several papers document discussions of racial discrimination and court actions to end it. The series includes forms used by the College. Invoices and receipts from 1937 and 1938 provide a sample of expenses incurred.


Student records include family information and detailed scholastic and behavioral information about each individual boy. Applications, report cards and correspondence constitute the papers. These records are restricted for boys discharged after 1940.

As Clayton was a privately-funded institution prior to the 1960s, records open after the policy of the U.S. Census, 72 years after discharge. After the 1960s, Clayton College received some public funding including federal funding. Consequently, papers are restricted for 80 years after discharge. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA or the Buckley Amendment), affords access only to a student and his/her school record. Exceptions include: (1.) if the student has died and proof of his death is provided; (2.) written permission by the student. In the absence of proof of death, student records become public 80 years after the discharge of a student. Accessibility of restricted student records effectively is on a case-by-case basis (boxes 31-50).


This series contains cutlery from Clayton College, print blocks depicting Clayton and various Clayton College scenes, samples of lunch checks used instead of money by students and a brass eagle, possibly used for a standard for a flag pole.

SERIES 6 OVERSIZE 1864-1989 OVBOX 1-11, OVFOLIO 1-2, OVVOL 1-34, OVFF 1

Oversize boxes, folios and volumes contain financial records of George Washington Clayton, his estate and Clayton College. Maps depict the Union Pacific right of way in Denver before the railroad was built, Salt Lake City development and the Panama Ditch and Reservoir in Boulder County, Colorado.


  • TBD


The collection is open for research. Boxes 31-50 have been restricted until 2023.


Literary and copyrights - as appropriate - have been assigned to the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


George Washington Clayton was born February 22, 1833 in Philadelphia to Curtis, a merchant, and Margaret Clayton. He apprenticed at his father's Philadelphia store. December 1855, Clayton traveled to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to join his cousin Powell Clayton. He opened a general store in Leavenworth City.

In June 1859, Percival G. Lowe, Clayton and Jerry Kershaw, all of Leavenworth, formed a partnership to open a store in the Colorado gold fields. The firm rented a store on Blake Street in Denver. They sold clothing, boots, shoes and miner's goods. The company built the first frame store in Denver located at the corner of Larimer and 15th Street in August 1859. In the spring of 1860, Kershaw sold his interest to William M. Clayton, George's brother. In 1861, Lowe also sold his interest to William. From 1869 to 1874, Clayton served as Vice President of the First National Bank of Denver. In 1879, he was a receiver for the newly formed Denver Pacific Railroad. In 1881-1882, George and William Clayton built an office complex on the southwest corner of 15th and Larimer Streets called the Granite Building to replace their Blake Street store.

Clayton married Letitia Emma Myers of Philadelphia on September 12, 1860 in Leavenworth. Their son, Powell, was born June 1861, but died in October 1861. Letitia died March 1862. Clayton died August 15, 1899 in Denver, leaving an estate worth approximately $2,000,000. Judge Moses Hallett, Clayton's close friend, took charge of the estate, serving as executor.

In addition to family bequests, Clayton’s will stipulated establishment within ten years of his death a college, similar to Girard College in Philadelphia, to assist white males between the ages of six and ten, of reputable families, whose fathers had died, to be “instructed in such various branches of sound education as will tend to make them useful citizens and honorable members of society.” The college required legal custody, but allowed the boy to continue to visit with his mother and extended family.

Funds and property constituting the college's endowment were held by the City and County of Denver and managed by the George W. Clayton Trust Commission. A Board of Trustees - consisting of the U.S. District Court of the District of Colorado Judge, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Colorado, the senior District Court of Denver Judge and two persons appointed by the Mayor of Denver - supervised the College. Construction began in the summer of 1909. In 1911, Clayton College opened its doors. The College reached its peak enrollment in the mid 1930s and thereafter declined. Park Hill Golf Course replaced the College Farm in 1930. Clayton land was sold for Stapleton airfield in 1948.

Growing city, state, and federal social programs made redundant the College’s dated approach to education. By 1980, investigative reporters charged the city with mismanaging College trust funds and selling land below value. In 1982 the Denver City Council voted to remove the city as trust manager due to the Colorado Attorney General’s lawsuit over mismanagement. Former University of Denver Chancellor Chester Alter was given control of Clayton and changed its mission to reduce welfare dependency, prepare children under the age of five for school, and to inspire regional change in early childhood education.


51 Boxes

11 OVBoxes, 2 OVFolios, 34 OVVolumes, 1 OVFF


Cathy McCarty of the Clayton College Foundation donated the materials in 2004.


The Western History/Genealogy Department has additional collections with related material, including:

Robert-Louis Gasser Papers: WH1901

An Inventory of the Papers of George Washington Clayton (1833-1899), the Clayton College for Boys, the Clayton Trust - a holding of the Colorado Historical Society: C378.78883 C719m


Number of Boxes: 51

Oversize: 11 OVBoxes, 2 OVFolios, 34 OVVolumes, 1 OVFF




Ann Brown

August 2012


Abby Hoverstock

Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States