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RG# 6030


RG 1325-003-207: Main St. Clayton c. 1912

The 1800s

Established as a stop on the railroad through Delaware in 1855, Clayton was originally known as Smyrna Station. In 1860, its name was changed to honor John M. Clayton, a former U.S. Secretary of State and a strong advocate of the railroad.

Clayton was first incorporated in 1887. Five men were appointed as Commissioners and they were tasked with selecting a “skillful” surveyor to plot the Town of Clayton and to record this with Kent County. The appointed Commissioners were to arrange for an election of five new Commissioners who would govern the new Town. The elected Commissioners, who were to meet four times a year, were empowered to regulate the streets, to investigate complaints of the citizens, to raise taxes, and to ordain ordinances for the welfare of the Town. From among themselves, they were to elect a chairman whose duties were discussed. Additional Town officials named in the Incorporating Act were a Treasurer, an Assessor, an Alderman, and a Constable. In addition to assessing real estate and personal property, the Act called for the Assessor to ascertain the number of dogs and to assess their owners $1 for male dogs and $2 for female dog.1

The amount of money which the Kent County Levy Court would contribute towards road maintenance was not specified in the Incorporating Act, but an amendment to the Act in 1862 indicated that this amount would be $125 annually. In the same year, an additional amendment provided more specific guidance related to laying out new streets and gave the Commissioners the power to exempt manufacturing plants established within the Town limits from being taxed for a period of up to ten years.2 In another four years, the Incorporating Act was again amended to allow for voting at locations other than the schoolhouse and to clarify the section of the Charter related to laying out streets.3

Ten years after its original incorporation, in 1897, the Town of Clayton was re-incorporated. The size of the Town did not change. The Town was to be governed by five Councilmen each of which was to serve for five years. Both males and females over the age of 21 who were Town residents and had paid their taxes were entitled to vote in elections. A president, elected from among the Council members, was to chair the Council meetings that were to take place seven times during each year. The Town officials included an Alderman, a Treasurer, a Constable, a Secretary, and an Assessor. Among other powers, the Council had oversight over the existing streets and the power to open new streets and make gutters (with assistance from the Kent County Levy Court in the amount of $150 annually) as well as to direct the paving or graveling of footpaths (paid for by the property owner). A tributary of Duck Creek runs through the Town and Kent County had built bridges to span it on the Town roads. The Act made clear that the maintenance of these bridges remained the responsibility of Kent County. The Council had the power to assess personal property and real estate and establish the maximum annual tax to be levied, which in this Act was to not exceed $900. They continued to be able to waive taxes for ten years for manufacturing plants located in the Town.4


1900 – 1949

Five years after the re-incorporation of the Town, an amendment to the Act was passed which clarified a number of its provisions. The most significant change was the removal of a cap on the annual amount of taxation. The law also increased the annual amount that Kent County would provide to maintain the streets to $200.5 The first of several laws to allow the Town of Clayton to issue bonds in order to raise money to establish various municipal works beginning in 1911. The first law allowed the Town to issue bonds to raise $10,000 to establish a lighting plant.6 Two years later, the Town raised $15,000 by bond issue for a water and sewer plant.7 Two years after that, an additional $20,000 was raised in the same manner in order to establish and maintain the waterworks and sewer system,8 and another $9,000 was raised in 1917.In 1919, 8,000 was raised to build an electrical plant, and an amendment required property owners abutting the street to be charged for its grading, paving, and guttering.10

A second re-incorporation took place in 1923. The new Incorporating Act changed the manner in which the Town was to be governed calling for Council members to serve for only one year and to meet monthly. It also contained new provisions for the Town to maintain an electric plant as well as water and sewer systems. Other than these changes the Act closely mirrored the 1897 Act.11

Only a few amendments were made to the 1923 Act. In 1927, the Town of Clayton issued bonds for various unspecified improvements.12 In 1933, the 1923 Act was brought into compliance with Article 6 of Chapter 79 of the Revised Code on Delaware of 1915.13 In 1935, two pieces of legislation amended sections of the Act; the first set a 10-year time limit for exempting taxation of manufacturing operations within the Town, and the second clarified certain issues related to tax liens. Also in 1935, the Town of Clayton was allowed to issue bonds in the amount of $41,000 which was to be used to redeem and refund outstanding bonds. The Town was required thereafter to raise taxes sufficient to pay the debt.14

In 1937, the Town was incorporated once again. For the most part, this Incorporating Act mirrored the previous Charter in its format. There are some minor revisions within the provisions of the Act, including references to changes in the revised Delaware code, modernization of terminology (e.g. Police replacing Constable), specifying some additional powers for the Council to meet current needs, and increases in fees, but the overall structure of the government did not change. Among the expanded powers of the Council was a new provision to prevent residents from keeping pigs within the Town limits and one which allowed the Town to regulate traffic. Only the section of the Act that related to the Town’s management of its electric plant and the sewer and water systems was expanded.15

Over the course of the next fifty years, the 1937 Incorporating Act was amended a number of times, and a number of laws were passed which authorized the borrowing of money. In 1941, an amendment allowed the Town of Clayton to borrow $30,000 to redeem and refund bonds while issuing new bonds to be paid for by increasing taxes. In another law that year, a change in the Delaware Code on workman’s compensation required further amendments to the Act.16


1950 – 1999

In 1951, there were amendments to the duties of the Council President.17 In 1953, legislation authorized the Town to borrow $25,000 if there were insufficient funds in the Town’s treasury to make emergency repairs to its water, sewer to electrical distributions systems.18 In 1955, the Town of Clayton expanded its boundaries.19 In 1957, a series of amendments were made to the 1937 Act. Among these were: changing the term of office of Council members from one year to two; establishing a new provision for a police pension fund; revising the duties of the Alderman; establishing the ability to place liens on property in cases of non-payment of sewer and water fees; and establishing the ability to assess fines for motor vehicle violations within the Town.20 In 1961, pension benefits, formerly only available to the police, were extended to all employees of the Town.21 In 1971, the Town’s limits were expanded once again. Along with the addition of land that took place in 1955, the Town was increased in size by about 68 acres.22 Another addition of land consisting of over twelve acres was approved in 1974.23 In 1980, the Town increased its borrowing power for emergency repairs to $100,000. The law also provided that if the Town increased their debt, they must also increase taxes in an amount that would enable it to be repaid.24

The Town of Clayton re-incorporated in 1988 and a Charter established. Although the Act was entirely re-organized, the manner in which the Town was governed was not significantly changed. One of these changes was re-naming the President of the Council as the Mayor. He was elected to this position for a one-year term.25

Since 1988, the Town’s Charter has been amended a number of times. In 1989, the Charter was amended to allow the Town of Clayton to accept the 1% real estate transfer tax that the State of Delaware made available to local communities.26 Then in 1992, the position of Vice President of the Town Council, also known as the Vice-Mayor, was created.27 A year later, the date on which their fiscal year began was changed from April to January.28 In 1997, the Charter was amended to change the date on which the Council would be elected from the first Saturday in May to the last Tuesday in April.29


2000 – Current

Amendments in 2004 increased the maximum amount the Town could borrow from $200,000 to $750,000.30 In 2009 the Town’s polling date was changed.31 Amendments to a number of provisions of the Charter were made in 2010 among which were absences of council members, revenue, indebtedness, and a per capita tax.32 The Charter was again amended in 2017 to allow for changes to be made to the election process.33

For a fully amended text of the current Charter, see



View selected photographs of Clayton



CITATIONS in Del. Laws

1 18 Del. Laws, c. 169 (1887) [pp. 291-97]

2 18 Del. Laws, c. 644 and c. 646 (1889) [p. 835 and pp. 836-39]

3 19 Del. Laws, c. 763 (1893) [pp. 1083-84]

4 20 Del. Laws, c. 535 (1897) [pp. 601-23]

5 22 Del. Laws, c. 423 (1903) [pp. 886-88]

6 26 Del. Laws, c. 222 (1911) [pp. 505-9]

7 27 Del. Laws, c. 229 (1913) [pp. 653-59]

8 28 Del. Laws, c. 139 (1915) [pp. 428-35]

9 29 Del. Laws, c. 145 (1917) [pp. 449-51]

10 30 Del. Laws, c. 134 and c. 135 (1919) [pp. 297-301 and pp. 320-6]

11 33 Del. Laws, c. 131 (1923) [pp. 357-87]

12 35 Del. Laws, c. 98 (1927) [pp. 288-90]

13 38 Del. Laws, c. 96 (1933) [p. 423]

14 40 Del. Laws, c. 154, c. 155, and c. 156 (1935) [p. 562, p. 563, and pp. 564-66]

15 41 Del Laws, c. 138 (1937) [pp. 318-51]

16 43 Del Laws, c. 160 and c. 271 (1941) [pp. 605-8 and p. 1124]

17 48 Del. Laws, c. 253 (1951) [pp. 639-40]

18 49 Del. Laws, c. 268 (1953) [p. 495]

19 50 Del. Laws, c. 519 (1955) [p. 1216]

20 51 Del. Laws, c. 52 (1957) [pp. 67-72]

21 53 Del. Laws, c. 88 (1961) [pp. 266-67]

22 58 Del. Laws, c. 31 (1971) [pp. 42-3]

23 59 Del. Laws, c. 344 (1974) [pp. 1062-63]

24 62 Del. Laws, c. 299 (1980) [p. 696]

25 66 Del. Laws, c. 291 (1988) [pp. 531-48]

26 67 Del. Laws, c. 80 (1989) [p. 263]

27 68 Del. Laws, c. 282 (1992) [p. 907]

28 69 Del. Laws, c. 14 (1993) [p. 13]

29 71 Del. Laws, c. 124 (1997) [p. 239]

30 74 Del. Laws, c. 232 (2004) [p.540]

31 77 Del. Laws, c. 157 (2009) [vol. I, pp. 326-27]

32 77 Del. Laws, c. 274 (2010) [vol. II, p. 57]

33 81 Del. Laws, c. 135 (2017) []

Delaware Laws from 1935 to present can be found online at


Town of Clayton records at the Delaware Public Archives include:

  • Minutes of the Town Council (1926-1994): 6030-000-001


jnl/ May 10, 2018 | April 22, 2019