The Sheldons

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When John Lake Overturf married Alzina Sheldon, a new surname was added to the Overturf family tree: Sheldon. But we only know about Samuel Sheldon, his wife, Tryphenia Hatch, and his son, Lewis William Sheldon (who was Alzina's father).

Sheldon is usually considered to be a British surname with its origins in Warwarkshire, but Lewis’s father, Samuel, apparently came from Scotland, even though no records of when his father immigrated have yet been found. The name has several variations, including Shelton, Skelton, Shelden, Sheldrake, and Sheldrik.

According to Lewis William Sheldon’s biography, his father came from Scotland, but so far absolutely no records have been found to prove this one way or the other.

Samuel Sheldon (ABT 1806 - 1831) and Tryphenia Hatch (ABT 1808 - 1831/2)

The early Scots colonists preferred Virginia and those colonies south of the New England states. By the time the Revolutionary War began, Scots and Scots-Irish could be found in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and elsewhere. The main concentration of Scottish settlement was from Pennsylvania southward to Georgia.

However, nothing that Samuel Sheldon did seems to be “typical” of his countrymen. He immigrated at a time when not many Scots were immigrating. He went west to Ohio — away from the largest Scottish settlements in Pennsylvania. He appears to have been highly motivated by his faith, “devoted to the winning of souls to Christ" and thus his "mission" took him to different places than many of his countrymen.

Samuel met and married Tryphenia Hatch in the state of Ohio. The only document that exists to prove this marriage is here, and most notable is the spelling of the last name which appears to be “Shrttan.”

Immediately after their marriage, Samuel and Tryphenia migrated to Mississippi where he worked as a minister of the gospel. During the late 1820’s and the early 1830’s, Mississippi was used as a trade route, both by land trails and by the Mississippi River. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 meant that the Chicksaw and the Chocktaw began to move; this move later became known as the “Trail of Tears.” Samuel may have thought he could convert “savages” into Christians, or he may have wished to bring a church to the white settlers. Mississippi had only become a state in 1817, less than a decade before he arrived.

Tryphenia gave birth to one child, a boy, Lewis William, born in Mississippi on 1 Jan 1826. [See Lewis William Sheldon and Nancy Corbin below.]

Samuel “departed this life in Mississippi in 1831, leaving his wife and son, the only child, to mourn his loss.” He was only 25 years old, and the cause of his death is unknown.

After Samuel’s death, Tryphenia left Mississippi and returned to Ohio, taking with her her only son, Lewis (often called L.W.). Apparently she was already ill when she travelled there and, two weeks later, five-year-old Lewis was motherless; his mother died at the home of her parents, “who tenderly cared for and trained the orphan grandchild, who, during his boyhood, assisted his grandfather on the farm.” Tryphenia was only 24 years old.

Lewis William Sheldon (1826-1890) and Nancy Corbin (1830-1914)

The following biography of Lewis William Sheldon is on pages 800 and 801 of the Biographical Album of Knox County, Illinois, published in Chicago in 1886:

"Knoxville boasts many excellent men as residents, and prominent among them stands the subject of this biographical notice, who has arduously and untiringly pursued the practice of his profession in this city since 1881. He has been eminently successful and has gained a wide patronage and hosts of friends by his unremitting attention to business and his genuine knowledge of his profession.

"Dr. Sheldon was born in the state of Mississippi, on 1 Jan 1826, and is the son of Samuel and Triphena Hatch Sheldon, the former a native of Scotland and the latter of Vermont. His parents were married in the state of Ohio and immediately removed to Mississippi.

“Dr. Sheldon was left an orphan at the age of five. He was cared for and assisted his maternal grandfather on the farm as he was growing up.

[Dr. Sheldon] attended school every winter, and, being naturally industrious and intelligent, soon acquired a good education, so good that at the age of 17 he began the life of a pedagogue. He developed the worthy ambition to do and to be something, and devoted every spare moment to the study of medicine, spending the remainder of the time, that is the winter, in teaching. This supplied him with the means to prosecute his studies with Dr. E. Wheaton of Homer, afterward entering the office of J.L. Yeoman, M.D., of Hartford, Licking County, Ohio.

In 1849 he attended medical lectures at Starling College, Columbus, from which institution he graduated in the spring of 1850, and commenced to practice with that success which has been previously cited.

A postcard showing Starling College

[He] commenced to practice with that success which has been previously cited... and then removed to Newcomerstown, Tuscarawas County. From here he went to Champagne, Ohio, and then in 1852 returned to Licking County and settled in Appleton. Here he continued until 1864, when he came to Knox County, Illinois, and located in Persifer Township, buying 100 acres of splendid land, highly improved and cultivated. With the assistance of such help as he was able to obtain, he managed his farm until 1881, when he rented it and moved to Knoxville here to continue his practice.

"On the 28th of March, 1848, he entered into a connubial alliance with Nancy Corbin, who was born in Licking County, Ohio on April 23, 1830, [she was 18; he was 22], and was the daughter of Richard and Barbara Beaver Corbin, natives of Virginia. The union of Dr. and Mrs. Sheldon has been blessed by the birth of five children, of whom one survived, Alzina, wife of John Lake Overturf, who resides in Nemaha County, Nebraska. The doctor's home is among the most pleasant and congenial ones anywhere in the county, being a direct example of what refinement of taste and cultivations of intellect can achieve and is a resort for those who can understand and appreciate the qualities incident to these characteristics. The doctor has an eye to politics both local and public, and is a Democrat in voice and vote."

Lewis William Sheldon (left) and his wife, Nancy Corbin (right), and their only surviving daughter, Alzina (who would marry John Lake Overturf).

The following biography of Nancy Corbin Sheldon was written by John Horton Overturf, grandson of Lewis and Nancy Sheldon and son of Alzina and John Lake Overturf. He wrote it as though Nancy were speaking for herself:

"My father, Richard Corbin, was born at Culpepper County, Virginia, June 6, 1809. He came to Ohio with his parents in 1823 in an ox-cart. He was then past fourteen. My father's people were what the [some] called 'po' white trash. My mother, Barbara Beaver, was also from Culpepper, Virginia, but she and father were married in Ohio. Her people [the Beavers] were wealthy but held no slaves. Her father thought it was not right to do so. They all moved to Hartford, Ohio.

"I was the oldest child in father's family. My brothers and sisters were David, Levi, John, Harrison, Joseph, Richard, and Elmus. Mary and Martha, twins, were born after I was married. There was another named Viletta [or possibly Filetta]. John, Joe, Harris and Mary are dead.

"When I was 9 years old I was put to the spinning wheel. They had to saw off the legs so that I could reach to put the band on. I've 'scutched' many a bunch of flax. Then we would 'hackle' it. We used to spin in the winter and spring to have it for summer. I could weave flannel, lindsay, linen, jeans, or any kind of cloth. I used to weave enough for a pair of pants apiece for the boys and then I would begin to weave so they would have a change. "Galluses" were fastened on with sharp pegs. We never saw a button but made substitutes by winding flax on quills and sewing them on. They would last about two months. We never saw calico or any cloth like that.

"I also did a great deal of knitting. Journeyman shoemakers made our cowhide shoes with the seams on the outside. We used pewter knives, forks, and tin plates. We never saw a newspaper and had no books in the house except the Bible. Then they 'made up' the first school in our neighborhood. My parents had no money so they gave some sugar to send me to school. When I started to school I got an English reader, McGuffey's, and read out of the Bible. The men wore red flannel jackets. Once when a fellow named Greene was preaching about Esau he said, 'He was as red as that man's warmers.'

"I married Lewis William Sheldon and we had five children. We lived in Champagne County, Illinois for four years, where my Uncle David Corbin had gone. My husband practiced medicine there but there was so much sickness that we returned to Appleton, Licking County, Ohio. One child, a boy, is buried in Champagne, Illinois. A boy and girl, Fleetwood and Tryphenia, died at Appleton, Ohio, within an hour, one at eleven o'clock and one at twelve. Both were buried in the same coffin in the cemetery about a mile east of Appleton (Licking County, Ohio). Tamson (Sheldon) is also buried there. She was two years, nine months old. Alzina Sheldon, the youngest and the only surviving child, is the wife of John Lake Overturf ." 2

In the 1870 Census, Lewis and Nancy are living together in Persifer, Knoxville County, Illinois. Ten years later, in the 1880 Census, they are still in Persifer. Lewis lists himself as 54 years of age, and Nancy as 50. They have a “servant” living with them — a 19-year-old woman named Permilia Slotts.

It is assumed that this photograph of Lewis Sheldon and his wife, Nancy, was taken between 1885 and 1890.

Lewis Sheldon died 9 Nov 1890 in Knoxville County, Illinois. He was 64.

Nancy Corbin Sheldon was 84 years old when she died on 28 July 1914, fourteen years after her husband.

Nancy and L.W. are both buried in the Knoxville Cemetery along with the five children they lost in their infancy. Below is the record from the Knoxville Cemetery of their burials and includes the four infants they lost.

This page written and researched by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a descendant of the Sheldons. Page last updated January 15, 2016.

Return to Table of Contents for Exploring Ancestral Roots: Overturfs, Hansens, McDonalds and Mahoneys

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. It is hard to imagine the grief of losing four children, all young, and their deaths coming so close together.