The Port of Clayton is located in Jefferson County, New York. The Port of Clayton contains the Village of Clayton and is conveniently located near the popular Thousand Islands region. The Port of Clayton is about 13 nautical miles (23 kilometers or 14 miles) east-northeast of the Port of Cape Vincent.
The Port of Clayton is about 200 nautical miles (270 kilometers or 168 miles) east-northeast across Lake Ontario from the Port of Toronto. The Port of Clayton is part of the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway system. The 2010 US Census reported that over 5100 people called the Port of Clayton home.
Known by its French name, the Iroquois League or Confederacy, or the people of the Six Nations who lived in the future Port of Clayton area called themselves the Hau de no sau nee. The Six Nations included the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and, later, the Tuscarora. The Iroquois are proud to be the oldest participatory democracy in the world.
When Europeans came to the future Port of Clayton area, tradition says the Iroquois League had been active around the Great Lakes and in upstate New York since the 1142 solar eclipse when two men, Dakeanawida (the Great Peacemaker) and Hiawatha united the five original Nations. Modern archeologists think the League formed in the middle 15th Century. By the 1600s and 1700s, the Iroquois were one of the strongest Nations in North America, making war on and conquering the Algonquian people.
Jacques Cartier met Iroquois-speaking peoples along the St. Lawrence River in about 1535. When Samuel de Champlain came to the future Port of Clayton area in 1608, the Iroquois were already well known to early English settlers as a powerful nation. The Iroquois fought the French and their Huron allies in the Beaver Wars that started in 1609. Having defeated the Mahican people, the Iroquois had a monopoly on fur trade with the Dutch by 1628.
The original Five Nations made peace with the French in the mid-1660s, and the peace lasted for 17 years. By 1677, the people allied with the English. From 1638 until 1711, the Iroquois conquered a substantial area stretching from what is now New York into Virginia, Kentucky, and as far west as Illinois.
They fought alongside the British during the French and Indian War. To protect that alliance, the British Royal Proclamation of 1763 forbade white settlers beyond the Appalachian Mountains, but colonists ignored the order. In 1758, the Iroquois sold their land between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers to the British Crown.
The American Revolution brought a split in the Iroquois Confederacy when the Tuscarora and Oneida fought for the colonists, and the Mohawk, Onondaga, Seneca, and Cayuga fought with the British. After the war, many Iroquois moved to Canada or Wisconsin.
Today, estimates put the population of Iroquois living in Canada at about 45 thousand. The 2000 US Census identified over 80.8 thousand Iroquois, including over 17.5 thousand in the State of New York. Modern Iroquois in the Port of Clayton region include almost 1600 Onondaga, over 1199 Oneida, and more than 5600 Mohawk.
The Port of Clayton was formed in 1833, being named for US Senator John M. Clayton. By 1835, the Port of Clayton contained 93 buildings and a population of 426. Its location on the St. Lawrence River within rich forest lands, the Port of Clayton's first important industry was timber which dominated the Port of Clayton economy until the railroads came in the 19870s. The Village of Clayton was incorporated in 1872.
By the late 1860s, ship-building had become a busy industry in the Port of Clayton where the first St. Lawrence Skiffs were produced. The skiffs carried cargo into the steamship era. Tradesmen flocked to the Port of Clayton to overhaul, repair, and enlarge cargo vessels so that they could carry more goods.
When the railroad arrived in 1873, more people came to the Port of Clayton to escape city life, beginning an area of growth and a new tourism industry. Local residents and tourists began to settle the Thousand Islands area. Luxury hotels appeared, and the flow of people into the Port of Clayton brought new wealth and many small private boats. Boat trade and repair became a prosperous new business in the Port of Clayton. Growth continued until the automobile entered the picture, making travel easier and faster.
In the past two decades, boat trade and repair has again become a busy local industry as boating for recreation has become more popular for both Port of Clayton citizens and seasonal visitors.