William Clayton, pioneer journalist, scribe, businessman, musician, and composer was born in 1814 and died in 1879. He was born in Penwortham, England, where he worked as a factory clerk until shortly after his conversion to the Mormon Church in 1837. He then quit his work to devote his time to missionary service, and in 1840 emigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois.
There he became an intimate associate of, and scribe to, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. He recorded the famous revelation on plural marriage as it was dictated by Joseph Smith in 1843, and after he accepted the principle he ultimately married nine additional wives (although three left him).
Clayton was responsible for keeping many of the important church records in Nauvoo, including those that were considered the most private and sacred. He was also recorder and clerk of the Nauvoo City Council, secretary pro tem of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge, an officer in the Nauvoo Music Association, a member of the influential Council of Fifty, and a member of Joseph Smith's private prayer circle where the LDS temple ceremonies were first introduced. He later helped prepare Joseph Smith's official history, and Clayton's personal journals became the source for many entries in that history.
Early in February 1846 Clayton was among the first Mormons to leave Nauvoo during the tragic exodus to the West. In March, while camped on the plains of Iowa, he wrote the words to "Come, Come, Ye Saints." He spent the winter of 1846-47 at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, and was with the vanguard pioneer company that crossed the plains to Utah in 1847 and selected the site for the new Mormon gathering place in Salt Lake Valley.
His published pioneer journal is the most well-known account of that expedition. He also prepared and published The Latter-day Saints' Emigrants' Guide, a meticulous description of the entire route from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City, with suggestions for camping places. It became an invaluable guide not only for Mormon migrants, but also for thousands of pioneers bound for Oregon and California.
In Utah, Clayton became a prominent and well respected citizen. He continued for a time to help keep the records of the church, and he also engaged in various public and private business activities. He became auditor for the Territory of Utah as well as recorder of marks and brands, holding both positions until his death. He also worked for a time as treasurer of the Deseret Telegraph Company and secretary of ZCMI. His private ventures included collecting debts, filing land claims, acting as an attorney, lending money, merchandising, farming, and mining speculation. He also continued to participate in cultural activities, particularly those associated with music. He died in Salt Lake City on 4 December 1879.