Today, the West Virginia State Quarter Coin tells the story of Mr. Clayton’s aeronautical adventure on April 8, 1835.
In summary, Mr. Clayton made an ascension at Cincinnati and traveled for nine and a half hours to land on a mountain in Virginia (now West Virginia) at 3000 feet above sea level and 350 miles from Cincinnati.
In the 1908 book, History of Summers County from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, James Henry Miller and Maude Vest Clark wrote of his adventure as they described the area named after him:
This place derives its name from an incident occurring many years ago, before the railroad, the telegraph and the balloons had reached this portion of the Western wilderness.
Richard Clayton was a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, and in April, 1835, made a balloon ascension in that city, at 5 o’clock P. M., landing the next morning, at 2 o’clock A. M., in the top of a large tree on Stinson’s Knob, the highest point of Keeney’s Knob, or Keeney’s Mountain, near the chalybeate spring, designated as the Mossy Spring, then Monroe County, now Summers County, being near the corner line of the three counties of Monroe, Summers and Greenbrier.
Mr. Clayton had some ropes with him in his balloon, with which he lowered himself to the earth, landing in a complete wilderness.
After some search he found a dim path leading to some cabins two miles distant, in which resided Samuel and James Gill, whom he secured to look for his balloon, but they were not successful in their search at first.
By their directions. Mr. Clayton found his way to the house of Mr. Jos. Graham, the father of David Graham, the historian of the Graham family.
The Gills, in the afternoon, found the balloon, and that night brought it to Mr. Clayton at Joseph Graham’s house.
This was on Thursday. On Friday the two Gills and two of Mr. Graham’s sons, John, the surveyor, and James, the farmer, and Clayton, secured the balloon and brought it to the house.
In those days, as Mr. Graham stated in his history, the militia was required to train twice a year, in April and October.
The next day following, Saturday, was a militia training day, and the two Graham boys, who were then young men, went to the drill for muster in the militia, and there spread the news of the wonderful event of the landing of the balloon on Keeney’s Knob.
The people doubted their veracity, as it was remarkably strange news for a man to come from Cincinnati in nine hours, a distance of 360 miles.
Hiram Graham was secured by Mr. Clayton to convey himself and the balloon to Charleston, then in Virginia, now West Virginia, in Kanawha County, by wagon, which they proceeded to do on the following day, which was Sunday.
On Sunday morning the cavalcade began its march, and the citizens and the people along the route put in their appearance, doubting the veracity of the story of this wonderful performance by the balloonist.
The balloon was somewhat torn by the limbs; otherwise, it was uninjured.
Mr. Clayton, with his wagon and balloon, returned to Cincinnati, crossing Keeney’s Knob, passing down Lick Creek, up Mill Creek, across the Sewell Mountain, War Ridge, to the old James River and Kanawha Turnpike : thence down the same to the mouth of Gauley, and thence to Charleston, there loading his balloon and himself on a steamboat, and proceeding to Cincinnati, there being no other means of transportation between these two points in those days.
Hiram Graham was hired to haul the balloon to Charleston.
The present post office of Clayton, when established a few years ago, was named after Richard Clayton, this balloonist, and from the incident herein recited.
This post office is located on the site of the old Joseph Graham residence, now owned and occupied by Mr. David Graham Ballangee, the owner and a grandson of Joseph Graham, the present postmaster, and, in fact, the only post master, who has ever filled that position at that place.
The West Virginia State Quarter Coin shows beside aeronautical drawings of balloons, circa 1818.