Clayton, at the junction of State Highway 315 and Farm Road 1970, sixteen miles southwest of Carthage in southwestern Panola County, was first settled around 1845 by Jacob Cariker, a native of Georgia. Cariker built a house two miles southwest of Reed's Settlement, one of the earliest communities in Panola County. During the early 1870s most of the White residents from Reed's Settlement moved to the Cariker site. A post office opened in 1874 under the name Clayton. Cariker, who suggested the name, had wanted to call the town Claybourne after one of his former slaves, but there was already another town with that name. Cariker instead chose Clayton, after Clayton, Alabama, said to have been the origin of several early settlers. The first store in Clayton was owned by Pleas Fite, who also opened the first saloon. By 1885 the town had a general store, a steam gristmill and cotton gin, two churches, a school, and a population of 130. The town's population reached 200 in 1914 but began to decline after World War I. In the mid-1930s Clayton had six stores, a factory, a school, and a number of houses; the estimated population in 1936 was 175. During the 1950s and 1960s the town's population continued to dwindle. In 1965 the school was consolidated with the Carthage school, and by the late 1960s the number of inhabitants had fallen to 125. In 1990 Clayton had one business and seventy-nine residents. In 2000 the town had two businesses and the population remained unchanged.
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