Page 464-466, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Butler County, Kansas by Vol. P. Mooney. Standard Publishing Company, Lawrence, Kan.: 1916. ill.; 894 pgs.

Alvah Shelden


Alvah Shelden was born in Fond du Lac, Wis., January 15, 1849. His mother, whose maiden name was Louisa Vaught, was of Dutch parentage, his father, Benjamin Shelden, of German descent. This ancestry accounted in later life, for much of the thrift, economy, and steadfastness of purpose shown in his character. When Alvah Shelden was three years of age, his parents moved to Little Rock, Ark., and a year, or so later, to Helena, Karnes county, Texas, where his father was shot and killed in 1859 in his own dooryard by a rebel sympathizer or "copperhead," because of his fearless and out-spoken anti-slavery sentiments. Martin Vaught, a brother of Mrs. Shelden, then living in Jefferson county, Kansas, started at once for Texas to bring back his widowed sister and five children: Olive, Alvah, Marion, Mary and John. He went on horseback, starting early in October, 1859, making the trip in thirty-five days. He remained in Texas until May, 1860, settling up affairs, when they started for Kansas in a covered wagon, drawn by five yokes of oxen. They also drove fifty head of cattle and eight horses through, making the trip in six weeks. The family had several adventures and miraculous escapes, coming through Texas and the Indian territory in that early period of their history, notably when crossing the Red River and the Cimarron, some Mexicans, who were assisting the stock to swim the rivers, were nearly drowned, and at other times, the Indians made several attempts to stampede the cattle. These incidents seem quite thrilling to relate in these days of high civilization in the Oklahoma State.

The Shelden family finally arrived at Chelsea, after their tempestuous trip, piloted by the ever faithful "Uncle Mart." They remained until fall and then went to Paris, Ill., to live with Alvah's grandfather, John Vaught, a prominent and well-to-do farmer, where they remained until 1868. The "Call of Kansas" appealed to Alvah, now


nineteen years of age, and as the head of the family, he, with them, turned westward, stopping in Chase county, Kansas, on the south fork of the Cottonwood river, and rented a farm. It was a bounteous crop year, and by dint of hard work and much saving, the family had a little money which they decided to put into a home. They came again to Chelsea township, and bought 240 acres of school-land on Cole creek. They built a native lumber house, much of it walnut, and Alvah, aided by his younger brothers and Uncle Martin Vaught, framed it finished it. Everyone who is at all familiar with early Kansas history, appreciates the hardships and privations incident to the development and the paying for a home at that time. Upon Alvah, the eldest of the three sons, the burden of it rested, but by his indomitable pluck and energy he accomplished it.

Always from a youth up, an inveterate reader, from the use of his grandfather's library, and from the country school, which he attended, he acquired his education. Aided by keen observation power, by an understanding of human nature and things, it was a liberal one. In 1872, he taught his first country school; in 1874, he was assistant cashier in the Farmers and Merchants Bank of El Dorado, and in 1876, he was elected county superintendent of public instruction of Butler county. He was married January 28, 1877, to Miss Mary M. Lamb of Douglass. She was a teacher in the Douglass schools, and their courtship dated from the first time they met, at the first teacher's institute in Augusta in April, 1872. Of this union there were six children born: Bertram Benjamin, June 29, 1878; Mary Myrtle, August 17, 1879; Chester Conkling, August 30, 1880; Lida Lou, September 3, 1882; Bernice Barbara, July 19, 1885; and Marjorie Jane, October 14, 1890. Bertram died February 21, 1882, and Bernice, August 22, 1902.

In 1878 Mr. Shelden was re-elected to the superintendency of the county schools. In 1879 he was appointed postmaster of El Dorado to succeed Mrs. M. J. Long. He held the office five years. In March, 1881, he bought the "Walnut Valley Times" of T. B. Murdock, which he owned and edited thirty years. March 1, 1911, he retired from active work, transferring his newspaper and business to his son, Chester C. Shelden, who now conducts it. It was in June of the same year that he was stricken with angina pectoris, a disease of the heart, from which he never recovered, dying December 17, 1911. No more fitting summary of his biography could be written than this from his old time friend and newspaper associate, George F. Fullenwider: "As a writer, Mr. Shelden was apt and forceful, and as an editor, able and emphatic, with opinions all his own, expressed tersely and plain. As a business man he was conservative, prompt, firm and successful. He was one whose advice and opinions were sought by his fellows, and considered sound. As a citizen, he was honored and respected; as a friend, he was loyal and true. He was kind as a woman, big-hearted, generous to a fault, discriminating in his friendships and unyielding in his condemna-


tion of wrong doing. He was always interested in the welfare of the community, and his efforts were in behalf of progress and enterprise. During his regime, the "Times" was a welcome visitor in more homes in Butler county, perhaps, than any other paper ever published here. He was always reaching out for the best in the newspaper world, nothing was too good for his paper and its readers. So well did he succeed that he ranked with the very best in the State, and he enjoyed a wide reputation as a writer and editor of ability. In proof of his enterprise, his special editions of which he issued more than any man in the State, namely the "Pink Edition," "Old Soldiers' Edition," "Farmers' and Stockmen's Edition, "Woman's Edition," have gone down in history, as some of the brightest and best newspaper work of that kind in Kansas. His public life and work is done, no more will he furnish "copy," or correct proof. The foreman has called "thirty" on his hook, and readers will look in vain for locals and editorials from his pen, but the fleeting years, in their onward march, cannot efface the memory of his good deeds, the influence he exerted, nor can time blot out the numberless pages he has written and left as a record for generations yet unborn."

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