Select Sheldon Miscellany

Here are some Sheldon stories and accounts over the years:

The Sheldons at Cole Orton

Ralph Sheldon quite late in life acquired land at Cole Orton in Leicestershire in around the year 1533, possibly at the behest of his eldest son William who was to benefit from the rental income.  In Ralph's will "all such colles as be gotten at Colle Orton" were bequeathed to William.

That Ralph and William could see the potential for coal was far-sighted for Henry VIII's time, since its use as a fuel did not come into general use until the reign of King Charles I some eighty years later.

William prospered during his lifetime.  A contemporary described him as "the richest commoner in England," someone who used his wealth to build a vast portfolio or properties and investments.

He died in 1575.  In his will he wrote as follows:

"Whereas I have compounded with Mr. Winter and the Earl of Huntingdon to make a sough or drain in Cole Orton to get coals therefrom, my executors are to continue making the same as the coal will be beneficial to my heirs and a great commodity to a great number of the Queen's Majesty's subjects to have the said coals at reasonable prices for their fuel, my son, Ralph, to have the issues of my manor of Cole Orton and of the said coal mine with contingent remainders."

The Sheldon family association with Cole Orton was to last for some two hundred years

Eyam - The Play

In 1665 the plague had infiltrated a small Derbyshire village via a tailor’s cloth brought back from London. The citizens faced a deeply dramatic dilemma: should they flee and save themselves or keep quarantine and prevent the plague spreading?  This dilemma was the basis of Matt Hartley’s 2018 play Eyam.

The Rev. William Mompesson had arrived in Eyam, but initially failed to make friends with the locals.  Tension bubbled up between him and the local landowner Sheldon.  William then called on the villagers to make the ultimate sacrifice.  Somewhat unbelievably, they agreed.  The villagers decided to stay and three quarters of them died.

In the show’s dying moments, Mompesson solemnly recited the names of the 273 villagers who lost their lives to the plague.

John Sheldon and the Deerfield Massacre

Ensign John Sheldon was at home in Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1704 when the Indian raid happened.  Hacking and hewing the strong oaken door of his house, the Indians made a hole through which they fired a shot that killed his wife.  Swarming into the house they killed Mercy, aged three, and captured Mary and the two boys.

His eldest son John and wife Hannah had jumped from their bedroom window at the first alarm.  She sprained her ankle, but urged him to leave her to bring help.  Binding his bare feet with strips of blanket, he hurried down to Hatfield,
about fourteen miles away, to give the alarm.  His wife, along with three of his siblings, were taken captive and carried away to Canada.

The following year Ensign John Sheldon went to Canada and was able to return in the spring with five of the Deerfield captives, one of whom was Hannah, his son's wife. 
The negotiations usually involved the exchange of expensive "gifts" for the captives.  This type of exchange was probably also instrumental in the return of Sheldon's brothers Ebenezer and Remembrance and his sister Mary, all of whom were back in Deerfield by 1706.

Ensign John Sheldon moved to Hartford soon after 1707 and remarried there.  However, other Sheldons remained in Deerfield.  Their home, which came to be known as the Old Indian House, stood until 1848 when it was demolished

The Rev. Henry O. Sheldon

The Rev. Henry O. Sheldon was a vigorous, driving man who made things happen. He was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1799, moved to Ohio in 1819, and died in Oberlin there in 1882.  He has been called “the Tom Paine of Ohio education,” being an early advocate and promoter of Ohio Wesleyan University.  He kept a life-time journal which is now preserved in the Firelands Museum in Norwalk, Ohio.

He also developed early genealogical data about the Sheldons in America.  This was in the 1850’s at the time when he was a circuit preacher riding some 3-4,000 miles a vear from village to village and collecting data from those who shared his Sheldon surname.   He organized this information which he published into what he called The Sheldon Magazine.

At that time he documented five separate and apparently unrelated Sheldon arrivals in America:

  • Godfrey Sheldon (1599-1671) of Saco and Scarborough, Maine
  • Isaac Sheldon (1629-1708) of Windsor, Connecticut
  • John Sheldon (1630-1708) of Rhode Island
  • John Sheldon (1628-1679) of Rhode Island
  • and Richard Sheldon (of which little was known).  
Twenty years after his death his leather-bound manuscript was passed onto Philetus Sheldon for publishing.  Then it disappeared.  A copy was later discovered in 1955 in the hands of John Layton Sheldon who said that his family had received it around 1906.

Meanwhile the Sheldon Family Association (SFA) was founded in 1939 by a group of Sheldon descendants, with the purpose of furthering interest in their heritage and preserving their family history.  The SFA is active today and holds annual reunions for Sheldon members.

Herbert Sheldon Who Headed West

Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, was telling young men in the 1850’s: "Go west” and many like Herbert Sheldon did just that at that time.

In October, 1857 he left his home in New York to seek a home in the West.  He first went to northern Iowa.  But when he learned of the severity of the winters there he determined on a more southern location.

Taking a boat at Dubuque, he went down to Hannibal, Missouri. The Hannibal & St. Joe Railroad was just starting, having a track laid out thirty miles to a place they had named Shelbina.  Getting on board a construction train, he went out to the end of the road.  Four or five miles south of Shelbina he came to a school and taught there for a five months' term.

In the spring following he rented a farm in that neighborhood for one year and returned to his home in New York and then to Vermont where he got married. Together he and his wife returned to the farm he had rented.

Missouri at that time was a slave state and most of their neighbors held slaves.  The environment was anything but pleasant for those who had been reared in the atmosphere of a free state.

So in October 1858 they started across Missouri, a distance of 300 miles, traveling in a covered wagon, their objective being Lawrence, Kansas.  From Lawrence they went thirty-seven miles south to Ohio City in Franklin county where they purchased land and built a log cabin.

They survived the early traumas – fever and ague and the great drought of 1860 – and stayed (although many others, dispirited, had returned to the East).  Within a year of his settlement Herbert was elected a county commissioner.  He was for four years county clerk and for eight years register of deeds.  In 1871 he had built one of the finest theaters in the state of Kansas at that time.  It was known as Sheldon Hall.

Herbert was married three times and lived to the grand age of eighty-six, dying in 1917.

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