JARED DIXON SHELDON
JARED DIXON SHELDON, deceased, was born January 8, 1813, in Underhill Centre, Vermont, his parents being Truman and Polly (Dixon) Sheldon. The father served in the War of 1812, and was engaged in the battle on Lake Champlain. When visited by their grandson, William C. Sheldon, in 1871, the old couple were hale and cheerful at the ages, respectively, of eighty-nine and eighty-seven, and both died in 1876. Truman Sheldon was the seventh in descent from one of three brothers - Isaac, John and William - who were among the early arrivals in Boston. Those who write their name Sheldon are descendants of William, and all of either form in the United States are descendants of the three, except one family in New York City and one in Buffalo, New York. Truman Sheldon learned the trade of tanner and currier from his father, who worked at that trade, but Truman himself spent most of his life on a farm. Jared D., and an older brother, Orville, had to work on the farm in youth to help pay a debt for which the father had become security. The education thus limited was afterward supplemented by special efforts. As compensation for their sacrifice, the father made them a gift of the remaining years to their majority. Both went West, and became teachers of district schools, using the intervals between school terms in perfecting their own education by attending college and by private study. Jared Sheldon taught school at Quincy, Illinois, in 1832, at $16 a month, which he then regarded as a fine salary. In 1834 he taught in the township of Berne, Indiana. In May, 1835, he wrote from Dayton, Ohio, “a place of about 4,000 inhabitants,” and alluded to the fertility of the Miami Valley. At some time in those years, 1831 to 1837, he was married in Iowa to Miss Edwards, who died six months later. In 1837 he was farming near Quincy, and in 1838 was the owner of 160 acres in southern Indiana, the sale of which he entrusted to his brother, who accounted for the same to the heirs in 1872, with interest. In the spring of 1838 he went to St. Louis, Missouri, where he engaged as a guard to some expedition to Santa Fe. There he transferred his services to a party--probably a hunting and prospecting party--bound for California. The Lewis and Clark exploring expedition is thought to have supplied the incentive to this marked change in his career. On the journey he became sick and was necessarily left behind to follow as best he could. Among the trails of that lonely journey, he used to recall in after life as the most disagreeable, was the effort to sustain life by eating coyote. He made his way to California, and is known to have arrived in 1839. He spent one season in sea-otter hunting--it may have been in 1839-’40. His later education included some knowledge of surveying and building, and it is also assumed that he was a regular carpenter, but this idea arose from his having had so much to do with building, while in fact, so far as known, it was rather as a contractor or superintendent than as a practical mechanic. He erected the first saw-mill on the Pacific slope, at or near Los Angeles, the saws being transported on pack-asses from Mexico, wrapped in raw-hides. The mill was put in complete working order in 1841, but the owner dying during its construction and the widow not required by Mexicans then to pay her husband’s debt, Mr. Sheldon was left in the lurch. Meanwhile he had contracted some debts in the prosecution of the work, and being unable to pay he was sentenced to imprisonment. Learning this, he took refuge among the Indians, and became of such service to his new friends on their raids into the plains that the Governor annulled his sentence, and he returned to civilized life. He is known to have traded in horses between California and Chihuahua one year, and it is not improbable that it was at this period of his eventful life. He was engaged for two years in building a custom-house in Monterey, for which he received from Governor Micheltorena, in 1844, a title to what was then known as the Omochumney rancho, one league wide on the right bank of the Cosumnes and extending to the upper crossing of the trail to Stockton from New Helvetia. It was afterward called the Sheldon ranch, and after the division with his partner, William Daylor, the name of each owner was given to his share. About this time he built the first four-mill on the Pacific Coast, in the Russian settlement of Bodega; and in June, 1844, he built one at San Jose. In 1845 Mr. Sheldon first came to settle permanently on his ranch, which had been attended to by his partner, William Daylor, and his assistants, to fulfill the requirements of Mexican law in regard to occupation and improvement. Three hundred head of cattle had been obtained of Dr. Marsh in exchange for some job of building by Mr. Sheldon. Other herds were received on the place on shares. Altogether the ranch afforded ample occupation for both partners. In March, 1847, Mr. Sheldon was married by Alcalde Sinclair, at his place on the American River, to Miss Catherine F. Rhoads, aged fifteen, a daughter of Thomas Rhoads, who had arrived in California in the fall of 1846, and was then living on Dry Creek. In 1847 Mr. Sheldon’s flour-mill on the Cosumnes was in operation. His extensive lands and immense herds made him the natural prey of the freebooters of the period. His wealth was great and his losses heavy. In 1851 Mr. Sheldon erected a dam near Clark’s Bar for the irrigation of his lands. The water flowing on his grounds in nice shape when the miners in that region undertook to tear it down as interfering by back water with their labors. Accompanied by his workmen, Mr. Sheldon sought to protect it against an overwhelming force of angry miners. He was threatened with death if he went on the dam. Perhaps thinking their threats to be mere bravado, he paid no heed to their warnings. The miners fired and one of his men fell dead and another was wounded. Dazed by the crime or despising danger, he made no effort to escape, though the angry mob was shouting “Now for Sheldon,” and at the next volley he was shot dead - July 12, 1857. He left a widow, aged nineteen, and three children. Of these the second was accidentally drowned a few years later; the oldest, William C., was three years old and the youngest, Catherine D., was only fifteen days. She became the wife of Joel S. Cotton, but died in 1873, leaving two children; Katie Irene and Joel S., whose birth the mother survived but a few days. The father died in 1878.
Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
Davis, Hon. Win. J., An Illustrated History of Sacramento County, California. Pages 588-590. Lewis Publishing Company. 1890.
© 2007 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
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