Skip to content

Delaware railroad evangelist

b&w silhouette of early railroad engine and car

I’m starting to think about how volume 2 in my Delaware history book series will emerge.

Certainly one person who towers over 19th century Delaware, and must be included, is John M. Clayton. He’s one of only two Delawareans to have a marble statue in the US Capitol.

He earned that statue due to his efforts as US Secretary of State (under Zachary Taylor) to lay the diplomatic groundwork that led to America’s building of the Panama Canal.

marble statue of John M. Clayton, with Clayton, DE railroad station behind him.

His impact back in Delaware was enormous. In an era when transport by ship was still dominant, he watched the new railroad technology emerge. He grasped early on how it could open the non-coastal areas of the state to far flung markets.

Clayton proposed a rail line running north-south the length of Delaware in 1836, only 4 years after the very first Delaware railroad appeared. Though he never lived to see its completion, John M. Clayton’s fierce advocacy for this new mode of transport, and the resulting railway, changed Delaware’s way of life forever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *