Clayton Avenue was opened in the latter half of 1881 between land owned by Moses Rowley and James R. Schermerhorn. Moses Rowley had been farming in South Cortland before purchasing the property which had been previously owned by successive Randalls. The building, which today houses the Cortland County Mental Health Department, was built as a residence by William Randall in 1820. In 1825, he sold the property to his brother Roswell. Roswell lived there until his death in 1871. In 1865, Roswell conveyed the property to his son Henry S. Randall, and after his father died, Henry moved into the mansion until his own death in 1876. Henry’s widow Jane sold the property to Moses Rowley in 1881.
Moses was married to Anna Messenger and they had one child, Clayton E. Rowley. Clayton was born in 1843 and died in 1907. He was a railroad conductor for the E.C. & N. branch of the Lehigh Valley railroad. He finished the term of Benton B. Jones as acting postmaster when Jones died partway through his term. Clayton Rowley never married, and he lived with his widowed mother until her death, after which he lived alone in the big old Randall mansion. He was a member of the Water Witch Hose Company and donated to the new hospital. The write-up in the paper after his death indicated that he was a genial soul and quick-witted but not mean.
It was difficult to pull together much information about Clayton E. Rowley for this story. Small tidbits were tucked away in many different places. He seemed to have been an active member of the community, but he wasn’t a local headliner. Why did the new street get named after Clayton, and not the family name? It could have just as easily have been Rowley Avenue. The sentimental part of me says that it was named after Clayton because of a father’s love for his only child. What do you think? ~Tabitha