Joseph Earl Sheffield

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Joseph Earl Sheffield

Joseph Earl Sheffield (June 19, 1793 – February 16, 1882) was an American railroad magnate and philanthropist.

Sheffield was born in Southport, Connecticut, the son of Paul King Sheffield, a shipowner, and his wife Mabel (née Thorpe). He attended public schools, and moved south to enter the cotton trade. He was a clerk in a drygoods store in New Bern, North Carolina from 1807 to 1812, and moved to Mobile, Alabama in 1813, where he became a very successful shipper of cotton. He married Maria St. John of Walton, New York in 1822 and relocated to New Haven, Connecticut in 1835. He became owner of the Farmington Canal, a charter member of the New York and New Haven Railroad company, and president of the New Haven and Northampton Company.

The town of Sheffield, Illinois was founded by Sheffield and Henry Farnam in 1852. Sheffield and Farnam constructed the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad, and the townsite was intended as a coaling station for trains. According to Farnam, he and Sheffield flipped a coin to see for whom the town would be named. [1][2] A monument to Joseph E. Sheffield and the Rock Island Railroad stands today in Sheffield's town square.

In New Haven, he lived on Hillhouse Avenue in a house designed and first occupied by Ithiel Town with later modifications by Henry Austin. His canal, later replaced with a railroad, crossed Hillhouse near his home.

He gave Yale University a building for its scientific department, and a US$130,000 endowment for the school, which was renamed the Sheffield Scientific School in his honor. His son-in-law, John Addison Porter was on the faculty. Other donations to Yale followed, including his house and funds which were used to build North Sheffield Hall, to enlarge the library, and for other purposes. Trinity College and Northwestern Theological Seminary also benefited from his donations.

Sheffield died in New Haven, Connecticut and is buried in Grove Street Cemetery.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sheffield, Illinois
  2. ^ Geneseo