It is imperative and eminently proper that mention should be made of James Sheldon in this volume, for during forty-three years he has been a resident of Ford county and is, moreover, entitled to distinction by reason of his remarkable activity. At the age of eighty-three years he is still able to do a day's work in the fields and leads a life of intense activity. It has been a commonly accepted opinion that old age must necessarily suggest idleness or want of occupation but on the contrary there are many notable instances wherein physical powers remain largely unimpaired, while the mental and moral development is characterized by a continuous growth. Such has been the history of James Sheldon, who is engaged in general farming and stock-raising on section 30, Pella township.
He is a native of the state of New York, having been born on the 8th of November, 1824, in Copake, Columbia county. Four generations of the family had previously resided in the Empire state. The grandfather was a Revolutionary soldier and was present at Burgoyne's surrender. Gideon Sheldon, the father of James Sheldon, spent his entire life upon a farm in Columbia county, where he followed agricultural pursuits. He married Lydia Leak, a native of the same county, and his death occurred during the early boyhood of his son James, who was left an orphan a few years later by the death of the mother. Gideon Sheldon was quite prominent locally, serving for a number of years as justice of the peace and giving unfaltering support to the whig party throughout his entire life. All who knew him esteemed him for his many excellent traits of character. In his family were nine children, of whom James, who is the youngest, is the only one now living.
No event of special importance occurred to vary the routine of farm life for James Sheldon in his boyhood days. He lost his father in 1836 and his mother in 1851. In the meantime he acquired his education in a select school and an academy. He remained at home until he attained his majority and for two years operated the farm, after which he started out in life on his own account as an agriculturist. In 1851 he removed to Genesee county. New York, where he lived for fourteen years, carrying on the work of tilling the soil. The year 1865 witnessed his arrival in Illinois and in Ford county he purchased eighty acres of land, which was still uncultivated. He has since lived upon the place which is yet his home and his was the sixth house erected in Pella township. He could ride across the prairie to Chatsworth without meeting any sign of settlement. In June the prairies were starred with thousands of flowers and covered with the native grasses, while in the winter they were enshrouded in one unbroken sheet of glittering snow. The cabins, too, were of a primitive character as compared with the commodious and substantial homes of the present day but the early settlers possessed a strong, courageous spirit that enabled them to bravely meet the hardships and privations incident to pioneer life. Mr. Sheldon brought with him six hundred and thirty-one sheep, which he had purchased for twenty-two hundred dollars, the cost of transporting them to Ford county being one hundred and fifty dollars, but the low lands here were unadapted to sheep-raising and nearly all of the sheep died of disease, so that Mr. Sheldon lost heavily thereby. He borrowed four hundred dollars with which to make payment on his present place, comprising eighty acres, which he purchased from the railroad company for seven hundred and twenty dollars. At a later date he purchased forty acres additional, which he has since sold to his son, who now resides upon that tract. His land is very rich and productive and is devoted to general farming and stock-raising. The fields are now well tilled and the place presents a most neat and attractive appearance, bringing to the owner year after year rich harvests and a gratifying financial income.
In September, 1845, in Columbia county, New York, Mr. Sheldon was united in marriage to Miss Annie Van Dusen, a native of that county and a descendant of one of the early families of the state. Her parents, Richard and Clara Van Dusen, spent their entire lives in Columbia county as farming people, the father owning nine hundred acres of land. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon has been born but one child, Gideon, whose birth occurred in Columbia county. New York, January 22, 1849, he being therefore about sixteen years of age when he accompanied his parents to Illinois. Here he completed his education in the public schools and in Onarga Seminary, which he attended for one year. He herded cattle for his father all over this country for seven years and has killed deer in Pella township, while lesser game was very plentiful. On the 24th of July. 1872, in Genesee county. New York, he married Miss Nellie Clark. In 1882 he removed to Griggs county. North Dakota, where he entered a claim from the government and carried on farming for seven years. He has since purchased forty acres of land from his father and lives upon this tract adjoining the old homestead, being one of the representative and highly esteemed farmers of the community. Unto him and his wife have been born four children: Addie, the wife of Martin Crandall, of Indiana, by whom she has two children: Laura, the wife of John Holmes, of Pella township, by whom she has three children; Nellie, the wife of James Haas, of Iroquois county, Illinois, and the mother of one child; and James, who married Mae Wilkinson and is at home.
In 1904 Mr. Sheldon was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife, who died on the 1st of November of that year at the age of seventy-nine, her birth having occurred October 10, 1825. She had indeed been to him a faithful companion and helpmate on life's journey, so that her loss came as a great blow to him. Mr. Sheldon still resides upon the old homestead, which has been his place of residence throughout the entire period in which he has lived in Ford county. He has been somewhat prominent in public affairs and is a lifelong republican, who was sent as a delegate to the first republican convention in New York, thus participating in one of the most important historic events of the state. He was supervisor of Pella township for four years and declined other offices, preferring to concentrate his lime and energies upon his business affairs. However, he has always been loyal to the best interests of the community and has done much to promote public progress and improvement. He is a man of exceptional vitality and energy and at the age of eighty-three years is able to work in the fields every day, doing as much work as a man of half his years. In his business affairs he has ever displayed sound judgment and keen discrimination and at the same time has ever been straightforward and honorable, basing his business principles and actions upon the rules which govern strict and unswerving integrity. He is a man of many friends and has long been numbered among the valued citizens of the county.

Extracted 16 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Ford County, Illinois, From Its Earliest Settlement to 1908, author E. A. Gardner, Volume 2, pages 572-579.

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