Mrs. Mary M. (Lamb) Shelden. Among the interesting names belonging to El Dorado is that of Shelden, which since 1874 had been identified with civic progress, advancement and education here. The late Alvah Shelden, who for thirty years was owner and editor of the Walnut Valley Times, was one of the best known of Butler County’s citizens and did much to encourage development and a high form of government, and is survived by his widow, Mrs. Mary M. (Lamb) Shelden, who is widely and favorably known because of her activities, particularly in connection with El Dorado’s library.
Mrs. Shelden was born at Troy, Geauga County, Ohio, April 19, 1856, and is a daughter of Chester and Anne (Crook) Lamb. The family originated in the State of New York, and it is probable that the family was founded there by the grandfather of Mrs. Shelden, a native of England. Chester Lamb was born in the Empire State, in 1816, and, being left an orphan at the age of nine years, went to Troy, Ohio, where he was reared in the family of his uncle, Gayland Lamb. Mr. Lamb received an ordinary public school education and adopted farming and stockraising as his vocation in life, and gradually developed into a breeder of registered horses, eventually acquiring much more than a local reputation as a breeder of race horses. In 1869, with his wife and children, he left Ohio and came to Douglass, where he was a pioneer, and carried on operations on a farm, although his residence was located within the limits of the town. In 1880 he changed his field of operations to Sterling, Rice County, Kansas, and there the remaining years of his life were passed, his death occurring in 1880. He was not an office seeker, but voted the republican ticket and assisted all good and public-spirited movements which were brought forward for consideration by the people. Mr. Lamb was married first to Miss Mary Crook, who died leaving two children: Henry, who is now deceased, and Frank, a resident of Dayton, Ohio, and a Union veteran of the Civil war, through which he fought as captain of a company in the Ninth Ohio Battery. Mr. Lamb’s second marriage was to Anne Crook, the sister of his first wife, who was born in 1819, in New York State, and died at Troy, Ohio, in August, 1861. They became the parents of five children: Watson M., who is engaged in the practice of medicine and surgery at Hoquiam, Washington; Harvey D., who was in the railroad mail service and died at Anthony, Kansas, December 22, 1916; Eliza, who died in 1905, at Colorado Springs, Colorado, as the wife of William Russell, a contractor and builder of that city; Mary M., now Mrs. Shelden; and Leland Adelbert, who died at Sterling, Kansas, in 1881, when a young man.
Mary M. Lamb was educated in the public schools of Troy, Ohio, and Douglass, Kansas, and subsequently attended the high school at El Dorado, after leaving which she secured her certificate as a teacher and taught at Rosalia and Douglass until her marriage. She was one of the most popular teachers of this locality, and is still remembered with fond affection by many of her former pupils who have since attained high positions in the world. Mrs. Shelden had always taken a keen interest in club, social, and educational work. She belongs to the Shakespeare and Wednesday clubs and the City Federation of Clubs, of El Dorado, and is chairman of the committee on welfare of the Federation of Clubs. She is also an ex-member of the Order of the Eastern Star, the Pythian Sisters and the Knights and Ladies of Security. It is probable because of her work in connection with El Dorado’s library that she is best known. She was the originator of the free library movement at El Dorado which resulted in the organization and maintenance for years of a free public library, and in 1914 was one of the leading promoters in the movement which resulted in the securing for El Dorado of a Carnegie Library.
On January 28, 1877, occurred the marriage of Mary M. Lamb and Alvah Shelden, and to this union there were born six children, as follows: Bertram B., born June 29, 1878, who died February 21, 1882, aged three and one-half years; Mary Myrtle, born August 17, 1879, who married H. G. Sandifer, a traveling representative of the Standard Oil Company with headquarters at El Dorado, and had two children, Granville and Mary Lou; Chester C., born August 30, 1880, who is editor of the El Dorado Times; Lida Lou, born September 3, 1882, who became the wife of Lee Scott, of El Dorado, a dealer in real estate, oil and gas brokerage, and had three children, Shelden, Virginia Faye and James Alvah; Berenice B., born July 19, 1885, who died August 22, 1902, aged seventeen years; and Marjorie J., born October 14, 1890, a graduate of the Kansas University, Class 1915, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. She resided at home with her mother.
Alvah Shelden was born at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, January 15, 1849. His mother, whose maiden name was Louisa Vaught, was of Dutch parentage, and his father, Benjamin Shelden, of German descent. This ancestry no doubt accounted in later life for much of the thrift, economy and steadfastness of purpose shown in the character of the son. When Alvah Shelden was three years of age his parents removed to Little Rock, Arkansas, 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 Southern sympathizer, because of his fearless and outspoken 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 her five children, Olive, Alvah, Marion, Mary and John. He made the journey on horseback, starting early in October, 1859, and made the trip in thirty-five days. Remaining in Texas until May, 1860, he settled up the affairs of his brother-in-law, and then started for Kansas in a covered wagon drawn by five yoke of oxen, and the party, driving fifty head of cattle and eight horses through, made the trip in six weeks. The family had several miraculous escapes, and a number of adventures and exciting experiences, particularly on coming through Texas and the Indian country. On crossing the Red River and the Cimarron, some of the Mexican cattle hands were nearly drowned, while Indian parties made a number of attempts to stampede the cattle. These incidents, which seem quite thrilling now in the days of civilized Oklahoma, were taken as a matter of course at that time when the country was still in a large degree wild and savage.
After a tempestuous journey the Shelden family eventually arrived at Chelsea, Kansas, piloted by the ever faithful “Uncle Mart,” and remained at that point until the fall of the year, when they went to Paris, Illinois, to make their home with Alvah Shelden’s grandfather, John Vaught, who was a prominent and well-to-do farmer. There they remained until 1868, in which year the “call of Kansas” appealed to Mr. Shelden, who was now a stalwart and experienced youth of nineteen years and the head of his family. Accordingly, with the family, he turned his face westward and made his way once more to this state, stopping in Chase County, on the south fork of the Cottonwood River, where he rented a farm. It proved to be a year of bounteous crops, and through hard work and close saving the family managed to have a little money left over at the close of the season, and this they put into the building of a home. Coming to Chelsea Township, they bought 240 acres of school land on Cole Creek, and there built a native lumber house, much from walnut. Alvah, aided by his younger brothers and his uncle Martin Vaught, framed it and finished it. Anyone who is at all familiar with early Kansas history will appreciate the hardships and privations incident to the development of and payment for a home at that time, and upon Alvah, the eldest of the three sons, the greater part of the burden rested. Through his perseverance, pluck and ambition he succeeded in the accomplishment of his object.
From the time of his youth Mr. Shelden had been an inveterate reader, and through his grandfather’s library and the country school, which he attended during the winter months, he acquired a good education, which, in later years, aided by keen observation and an innate understanding of human nature, became a liberal one, so it was but natural that his thoughts should run more or less along intellectual lines. In 1872 he taught his first country school; in 1874 he was made assistant cashier in the Farmers and Citizens Bank of El Dorado, and in 1876 was elected county superintendent of public instruction of Butler County. He was married January 28, 1877, and established a home of his own. In 1878 he was re-elected to the superintendency of the county schools, and in 1879 was appointed to succeed Mrs. M. J. Long as postmaster of El Dorado, a position which he held for five years.
In March, 1881, Mr. Shelden bought the Walnut Valley Times from T. B. Murdock, a publication which he owned and edited for thirty years. On March 1, 1911, he retired from active work, transferring the 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, his death occurring December 17, 1911. No more fitting appreciation of his career and qualities could be written than the following, from the pen of his old-time friend and newspaper associate, George F. Fullinwider:
“As a writer, Mr. Shelden was apt and forceful, and as an editor, able and emphatic, with opinions all his own, expressed tersely and plainly. 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 condemnation of a wrong-doing. He was always interested in the welfare of the community and his efforts were enlisted in behalf of progress and enterprise. During his régime 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 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’ and ‘Women’s Edition,’ have gone down in history as some of the brightest and best pieces of newspaper work of that kind in Kansas. His public life and work are done; no more will he furnish ‘copy’ or correct proof. The foreman had called ‘thirty’ on his book 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 had written and left as a record for generations yet unborn.”