The Clayton House Museum

More From Arkansas

DESCRIPTION

This lovely home has three entrances. The back entrance was used for deliveries, the side door with stairs and porch was for clients/ job related folks because it led straight into Mr. Clayton’s office. There was a wide verandah on each entrance with steps leading up to each door.

The main front door after the small mud room, the original stain glass window is still there. The butler would greet visitors at the huge outside door, but would turn them away if it was inconvenient for the large family of Claytons to receive guests. They were sensitive about having private space.

This restored Clayton House Museum is a lovely Italianate style house museum with some of the Clayton’s personal artifacts and a few pieces of family furniture. All the other furniture are from the same era or replications of items that would be found if the Claytons still lived here.

Each room throughout the house had its own fireplace for heat. When the house was restored, a forced air heating system was added.

Folks who come to see the tour, go around to the large, wide back verandah to the back door. The tour starts on the left, back room of the house; Mr. Clayton’s home office. There is a glass case with various family artifacts, like the family Bible and an encyclopedia that has an article written by either William or Powell Clayton.

William’s original table is on display. His office has a small sofa and chairs with a table or two; looking very much like a lawyer’s office. There was nice consulting circle consisting of this sofa and chairs arranged for a meeting with the next client. Perhaps Mr. Clayton had just stepped out for a break!

On the wall above the fireplace are four portraits of the surviving Clayton brothers:District Attorney/Judge William Harrison Clayton, his twin; Sheriff and Politician John Clayton, Governor Powell Clayton and the eldest brother Judge Thomas Jefferson Clayton. Though only four sons survived out of ten Clayton kids, they were all self-starters with goals in mind. They were raised on the Clayton Farm in Pa, and were taught to be movers and shakers that all found powerful ways to contribute to society.

The left front room of the house was attached to his office through a door; the men’s parlor, where District Attorney Clayton and friends/clients could smoke and enjoy a drink.

There is a grand, wide hallway that runs down the center of the house to the back door. There is a gorgeous walnut, hand-carved central staircase on the left side of the hallway; leading up to the second floor landing area and bedrooms and probably a bathroom was added for turn of the century family members.

Across the hallway on the front right side of the house is the common parlor room that is dedicated to the taste of the original owner; in a Victorian, antebellum style.

A door led into the dining room behind the parlor. The dinner table was set with Mrs. Clayton’s actual silver and glass collection; the full sports package of cutlery needed for a four course meal, including a bowl for fish bones, and glasses for champaign, red wine, white wine and port for dessert.The chandelier hanging above the table was also original and was glorious.

Because of Covid restrictions, we were not able to go up the gorgeous central staircase to see the large open landing and the bedrooms, but there were pictures on display of these rooms on the first floor,

As with other historic house museums, The Clayton House rents out the space for social events like weddings, receptions of all kinds and other social events.

 

HISTORY

Clayton Family History:

Raised on a Pennsylvania Farm, three of the brothers; Powell and twins John and William joined the Union side during the Civil War. They recruited soldiers, and fought in major battles. After the war, Tom and William Clayton studied to be lawyers, John became a sheriff in AR. for ten years, before running for a public office in the AR State Legislature. serving three terms. Powell ultimately became the Governor of the state of AR, and senator in Washington DC.

Powell was the first brother to come to Arkansas. After being urged by Powell, the twins came too.
All four brothers proved to be high achievers; Judge Thomas Jefferson Clayton, Governor Powell Clayton, twins politician/sheriff John Middleton Clayton And United States Western District Prosecuting Attorney William Harrison Clayton.

William Clayton was later promoted by President McKinley in 1897 to be the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals in a new federal district court in the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. The family moved to Oklahoma in 1901.

In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals for the Oklahoma territory, which he served until 1907. Though retired from Federal law system, William served as a delegate to the Oklahoma State Constitutional Convention that year. He retired to a private law practice in Oklahoma where he died in McAlister OK, in 1920; fourteen years after his beloved wife, Florence. He probably worked up to the day he passed!

History of The Clayton House:

The original house was built in 1852 by a well-to-do landowner, Mr. Sutton for himself and his family, where they lived briefly for eight years. It was a square, two story practical structure, built to be an antebellum forever home; about half the size of the house we see today. The original size served the Sutton family well.

When the Civil War broke out, the Sutton Family fled to a safer area in Texas and stayed there until the end of the war. During the Civil War, the Sutton House became a Confederate convalescence home for recovering soldiers. No soldiers died here which means the male spirits in this lovely home aren’t soldiers who died here.

Whoever used it failed to express their gratitude for the use of the home. They trashed the place, and stole most of the valuables left behind by the Sutton Family; leaving nothing for the family to recover when they returned from Texas. Of course, what the troops didn’t take, I’m sure that the neighbors helped themselves to whatever was left; perhaps thinking that the Suttons wouldn’t be back.

The house had become an empty, fixer-upper opportunity needing a boatload of money to bring it up to respectability. Mr Sutton was profoundly disappointed, discovering the sad shape of his forever home, with no money to fix it. The Suttons like a lot of other folks had to start over again. He not only had to sell this forlorn fixer-upper opportunity, “as is,” but all his other real estate holdings in Fort Smith to raise the funds to make a new start somewhere; perhaps Texas?

The house sat empty and forlorn until the newly appointed prosecuting Federal Attorney for the Western District, William Harrison Clayton saw its possibilities and bought the property as well as all of Sutton’s property for sale when he was assigned to serve in Fort Smith.

At first William H. Clayton fixed up the original structure that was there; giving it a new life. However, by 1872, his family had grown to seven children and move space was needed. He had a boatload of money to spend to not only add a huge addition that doubled the size of the house, but also to change the architectural style from antebellum to Italiante with a touch a Gothic.

His twin brother Rep. John Clayton was assassinated at the age of forty eight when he suspected that his political election was rigged. The evil deed was done when he was investigating some monkey business in some of the districts that were lax in security. It remained an unsolved murder, much to the frustration of William Clayton. It was later proved that the election was rigged as John Clayton thought.

William Clayton and his wife, Florence raised their children here; six daughters and one son. In 1897, he jumped at the promotion to be Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals mentioned above in Oklahoma. In 1906, Florence died in Oklahoma.

“In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Clayton to serve on the Oklahoma Districting and Canvassing Board. Clayton had also been a delegate selected to write the new constitution for the State of Oklahoma.”

Judge William Clayton died in 1920, fourteen years after the death of Florence. Both are buried in the Fort Smith National Cemetery.

The Clayton House remained in the family until 1912. It became at some point a boarding house, and slowly deteriorated over the years, due to the fact that not much money can be made renting the rooms, so maintaining the structure becomes a struggle.

What put the nail in its already creaky condition was a fire that burned a hole in the roof in one of the bedrooms. It was scheduled for demolition but was rescued by a preservationist, Julie Yadon; herself a mover and shaker!
“In 1969, Fort Smith citizen Julia Yadon stopped the wrecking ball.”
A picture of Julia Yadon hangs on the wall by the back entrances so all the visitors can see her.

Julia and six other people formed the Fort Smith Heritage Foundation, which bought the property and began the long task of putting this now really creaky fixer-upper back together to what it originally was under the Clayton Family years.

Fort Smith Heritage Foundation’s mission: To protect, preserve and promote The Wm. H. Clayton House and the Victorian era of Fort Smith.

“The work of taking the structure apart and putting it back together again over a seven-year period resulted in the grand opening of the historic house museum on May 30, 1977. In attendance at the Opening were Mayor Jack Freeze, Governor of Arkansas David Pryor, and U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers.”

Apparently, the public and the Heritage Foundation aren’t the only ones who love this property. The spirit people who are attached to the home wasted no time making their presences and feelings known.

HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS

When a creaky structure is restored to it original glorious state, spirits that are attached to this structure can be drawn back. Spirits can become more active if they are already there.

Dutton House, VT (Spirits attached to this home became active when their home was restored).

Hartford Twain House Museum, CT (After the house was restored, spirits of the whole Mark Twain family moved back in along with the maids).

Hampton Lillibridge House, GA (Spirits with a variety of emotions became very active during the renovation/restoration process and afterward as well).

Clayton House, AR (When this structure was restored to all its glory, spirits were not afraid to let the living know that they had come back in force).

 

When the favorite, most dear possessions are on display in a museum, spirits who were attached to them may decide to hang around and enjoy sharing their things with the living; or perhaps keep an eye on them).

Custer House, ND (Members of the Custer family and those officers who used to come over to Custer’s House have gladly moved right inside because not only was it rebuilt from scratch using Custer’s own blueprints to his dream house, but also because of all the pictures, and possessions of the Custer’s on display in this house museum located on Fort Abraham Historic Site).

Buffalo Bill’s State Park Ranch, NE (The spirit of Buffalo Bill loves to stay here in his old room in this fully restored property, marveling at all his memorabilia and furniture and possessions on display).

The Redwood Library and Anthenauem, RH (Spirits here are attached to a priceless reference book collection that they help to guard from folks who may steal them. Better behave!).

The Clayton House, AR (Apparently, some of brother Powell Clayton’s most treasured possessions are on display in a case in the office area which explains why this spirit visits alot).

 

When people while alive love their forever home, they can be drawn back to or become more active in their favorite place in this world when the structure is restored and renovated.

The Swenson House Museum, TX (The spirit of the former lady of the house, Shirley Swenson still is enjoying just being in her forever home. she became more active after The Abilene Preservation League stabilized, restored and renovated this marvelous home).

Hartford Twain House Museum, CT (After this historic house was restored to its original condition, the entire Mark Twain family plus their maids have all moved back inside, to greet visitors who come to tour their home).

The Whaley House, CA (After this historic structure was restored to its former state to become a house museum in Old Town San Diego, spirits of members of the Whalely family as well as spirits who died on this property became more active).

The Clayton House Museum, AR (A concerned male spirit, another spirit attached to possessions, and a female spirit who may be a former Clayton wife, owner or tenant, keep the living company in their forever home. The spirit of Powell Clayton was a lover of beautiful buildings. He was the main force behind the building of The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs).

 

Not being able to finish an important goal can keep a spirit restless in this world as they try to solve this unresolved issue.

Martha Washington House, VA (The spirit of President George Washington visits the spirit of his mother, while he tries to find the missing deed to this house that proved that the house belonged to the Washington family).

Hunt/Phelan House, TN (A spirit of a servant who was killed before he could complete an obligation still tries to do so).

Palace Theatre, NY (A tight rope walker who had fallen to his death so many years ago, is still trying to get across the rope, hoping this time to make it complete).

The Clayton House, AR (The spirit of Mr. Sutton may have moved back inside to enjoy this house that was supposed to be his forever home but circumstances intervened. Or the spirit of William Harrison Clayton may have returned to continue to work on who killed his twin brother, John. Perhaps he visits here to seek the peace he had in this house).

 

Sometimes spirits are not willing to share their special place in a structure, or object how the living are using their home. At some point, these disgruntled spirits may get used to the living and mellow out).

Buford House, AZ (There is an elderly female spirit who isn’t willing to share her bedroom with the living).

Hampton Lilibridge House, GA (An unwelcoming spirit was really annoyed with the living, but has learned to tolerate the living).

Whaley House, CA ( Occasionally, the spirits let the docents know that they have had enough visitors for the day. Sometimes the spirit of Mrs. Whaley lets mediums know that coming upstairs then isn’t a good time).

The Clayton House, AR (A grumpy male spirit isn’t happy about all the throngs of humanity traipsing through his home for events and has claimed one of the bedrooms as his own space. I suspect Mr. Sutton. Though it could also be Judge William Clayton, who never liked people to just drop by as he valued peace and solitude when needed).

 

Sometimes spirits of family members will stay with a restless spirit who can’t leave this world.

Old Allen House, AR (Spirits of family members stay or visit with their beloved, restless family member).

Stranahan House, FL (The spirit of lady of the house stays to still take care of the spirits of her black sheep brother, her father and her husband).

Le Duc House Museum, MN (The spirit of the daughter stays with her father in the family forever home).

The Clayton House, AR (The female spirit seen could be the Clayton sister, Anna Elizabeth who died at an early age. She may come to keep the spirits of her brothers, Powell and William company. Or it could be Anna, William’s daughter who stays here, or it could be Sutton’s wife, William’s wife, Florence, or Powell’s wife. She could also be the grandmother of the little spirit Grace).

 

Children who die from illness or accident or even murder sometimes choose to stay in a structure where they felt love and comfort.

Waverley Plantation House, MS (Two little girls like to play on the staircase; one died from falling down the stairs and the other one die from disease).

Brumder Mansion, WI (A spirit of a five year old girl, Sarah who died from a fever, still plays here).

Jennie Wade House, PA (Orphan children used to find a reprieve from the abuse they received at the Orphanage. They as spirits still stay here.)

Clayton House, AR (A little spirit by the name of Grace still enjoys playing here. She probably lived here during the years when Clayton House was a boarding house that rented rooms).

MANIFESTATIONS

General Activity

Docents have seen out of the corner of their eyes shadows and glimpses of apparitions.

They have seen gray legs going up the stairs.

Lights have a mind of their own.

Unseen presences are felt in William’s Office by docents and tour participants.

Foot steps are heard. Doors open and shut by themselves.

Spirit of Powell Clayton

Described as a self-confident spirit, not afraid to talk to paranormal investigators.

He told them through a medium that he is attached to some of the items in the display case.

He appreciates the beautiful restoration of his brother’s house; especially the office area, where all four portraits of the brothers are hung on the wall.

Spirit of an Older Female

She is described as being gentle, peaceful spirit who wears her gray hair in a bun, and wears a brown dress.

Her see-through apparition has been seen by the windows and seen in Clayton’s Office area.

A repairman was fixing something in the office when he saw this apparition of a woman curiously watching him; keeping him company. He continued in his project and left as calmly as he could manage. He tried to take a photo of her from his cell phone.

Spirit of the Grumpy Male; Perhaps Mr Sutton or William Clayton

Docents and visitors have seen a tall man in a suit and top hat scowling at them in various parts of the house.

In one of the bedrooms, one docent heard the door to this room, slam shut, and then heard the stomping of boots on the room’s floor boards.

During a paranormal event, the greeter on the front porch saw a man peek at him around the corner of the house but he wasn’t showing his usual grumpy face. The greeter thought it was a group participant for this paranormal class who had come in costume. When he got up to investigate, no one was there.

This spirit may have mellowed a bit, and is slowly getting used to so many people coming into his private space of peace.

Spirit of a Little Girl, Grace

The spirit of Grace plays all over the house.

She has been seen by docents, and visitors and known by other spirits who reside here.

She could be Mr. Sutton’s daughter who died here which would offer another explanation as to why Mr. Sutton may be here.

She may be the one who likes to play with the lights.

PARANORMAL FINDINGS

Since the house was restored and opened as a museum and event space, the living have experienced a boatload of activity stated above.

The NWA Ghost Connection team led by medium Lori Davies came up with some hard evidence that supports the claims made and the personal experiences reported by docents, repairman, visitors and tour participants.
They came to Clayton House armed with technical equipment and their medium leader in tow. Up in the bedroom, a spirit talked with them through flashlights.

Down in the office, they had a talk with the spirit of Powell. They also caught some interesting EVPs. One spirit was calling for a female spirit, “Anna.”

Paranormal Tours held here have also been successful in catching some hard evidence and having personal experiences.

STILL HAUNTED?

A big Yes Indeed! Spirits here have found some comfort and peace, even if they have tp share their beloved home with the living. The spirit who isn’t afraid to communicate and help is Powell Clayton. The three other spirits may be a little bashful or annoyed, but they have accepted that the living will use their home as well.

 

LOCATION

514 N 6th St, Fort Smith, AR 72901

The Clayton House Museum is located near the corner of N. 6th St and NF Street.

SOURCES INCLUDE

  • https://www.charlestonexpress.com/news/20190918/twin-brothers-influential-in-reconstruction-arkansas
  • https://www.hauntedrooms.com/arkansas/haunted-places/clayton-house-fort-smith
  • https://www.4029tv.com/article/the-clayton-house-in-fort-smith-is-haunted-by-several-ghosts/23801944
  • http://claytonhouse.org/visit/hours-and-location-tours/
  • http://claytonhouse.org/history/william-henry-harrison-clayton/
  • http://claytonhouse.org/about-us/fort-smith-heritage-foundation/
  • https://arkansasheritage.worldsecuresystems.com/blog/clayton-house

 
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Arkansas