My last post was about Minnie West, my great-great-grandmother, a woman I've long found myself fascinated by. I had no intention of following that up with a piece about her husband, my great-great-grandfather Clarence Layton, as I like to change things up and feature a different part of my family in each post. But it just so happened that, while researching my grandmother today, I stumbled upon an interesting little booklet entitled "Golden Memories of Taber Central School". Yeah, I know, that doesn't sound interesting, but it just so happened to have been written by Clarence's step-daughter, and serves as not only a history of the school, but a partial biography, detailing several decades of his life as the school's caretaker.
Clarence was born on the 21st of April, 1882, in Kaysville, Utah to Samuel Layton and Sarah Trappett. When he was small boy, the family moved to southern Alberta, where Samuel became a prominent member of the community, holding several positions over the course of his life: justice of the peace, undertaker, grocer, blacksmith, school board member, and Mormon elder. Clarence, too, would become very involved in the community, earning the rank of high priest in the LDS church, and devoting most of his life to Taber Central School.
Not a lot is known about Clarence's early life - his father, as mentioned above, held many positions in the community, and Clarence, being his first son, undoubtedly assisted his father in one or more of these jobs. What we do know is that, in 1902, he married Minnie West, and was apparently involved in farming and ranching for the first few years of their marriage. In 1910, with his father as a member of the school board, he became responsible for the gathering and organizing of materials to build Taber Central. From there, he became the school's caretaker, painter, and orderly, and was responsible for maintaining the coal furnace - a job he took so seriously, he actually lived in the school at times to ensure the furnace was always hot. It was this concern, in fact, that earned him his affectionate nickname: Pop Layton. He was perpetually worried about the cold conditions students faced for much of the year, and made a point of bringing the kids that had to walk the farthest or ride in on horseback through the furnace room to get them warm before classes began.
Clarence stayed with the school from 1910, when he was just 28, until his death at 72, in 1954. Over the course of those 44 years, he helped build the school, worked as its janitor, caretaker, painter, orderly, furnace man, and cadet advocate. The final entry about him in the book I discovered today reads as follows:
In October 1954, a familiar figure at Central,
As stated above, Clarence passed away in 1954. His first wife, Minnie West, died in 1929; they were both survived by their eight children: my great-grandmother Dorothy, William, Hazel, Cecil, Viola, Irene, Harold, and Orlin. His second wife, Elva Pickett, died 26 years after Clarence, and they were both survived by their two children, Patricia and Lynn.
A hard truth in researching one's genealogy is that you absolutely are going to find that some of your ancestors were bad people doing bad things. When you stumble upon an ancestor who spent their life just trying to be kind, you must embrace them, and Clarence is that person for me. Literally every story about him points to his kindness, his compassion, and his dedication to the good of the community. He fascinates me just as much as his wife, Minnie, does, and I am proud to call them my great-great-grandparents.