Meedy Shields

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Meedy White Shields Portrait

Meedy White Shields (July 8, 1804 - February 6, 1866) was an early Indiana Pioneer, the founder of Seymour, Indiana, a successful capitalist and Indiana politician. He was first cousin to General John Tipton and a distant cousin of Robert Shields (diarist).

Early life[edit]

Shields was born in what is now Sevier County, Tennessee at Shields Mountain near the site of Fort Shields (aka Shields Fort) built by his grandfather, Robert. His father James was one of the "Ten Brothers" of the Irish Shields family who had left Tennessee for the Indiana Territory.[1] One of these Ten Brothers was John Shields who was recruited by Lewis and Clark for their 1804 expedition as a gunsmith and scout.

At the age of 7, Shields moved to Harrison County, Indiana. In 1816 his father acquired about 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) of land to the north, in Jackson County, Indiana. At the age of about 16, he manned flatboats on the Ohio River carrying goods to New Orleans returning via the Natchez Trace[2]. He eventually owned several flatboats of his own.

In 1827, he was sued for Malicious Trespass by his neighbor to the north, James Reno, father of the notorious Reno Gang. This was part of a long-standing feud between the Shields and Reno families. James Reno had settled in Jackson County, Indiana in 1813, three years prior to James Shields.

Mid Life[edit]

Shields then joined the Indiana Militia in 1832 to fight in the Black Hawk War and by the fall of the that year, acquired the title of Captain. His only brother William, a member of the Indiana Legislature, died in office in 1841 and his father, James, died in 1848. Shields received a sizeable inheritance by this time. He opened a gristmill in nearby Rockford, Jackson County, Indiana which was the largest commercial center in Jackson County, Indiana at the time[2].

He was on the Board of Directors for the new Ohio and Mississippi Railroad Eastern Division[3] and successfully persuaded railroad engineer, John Seymour, to bypass Rockford, Jackson County, Indiana on the White River and cross his land. In Seymour's honor a new town would be build and named Seymour, Indiana.

The new east-west rail line would intersect the established north-south Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis Railroad. To assure that both trains would stop, he joined the Indiana Legislature and authored a Bill requiring them to do so for safety purposes. This assured the demise of nearby Rockford, Jackson County, Indiana.

Later life[edit]

Shields sold lots to speculators for the formation of the new town and built a personal fortune valued at over $2 million according to the US Census records of 1860. He died from a stomach ailment in 1866 a wealthy and respected citizen by many, except perhaps by the Reno Gang who had used the burned-out Ghost town of Rockford, Jackson County, Indiana as their home base.[4]

Footnotes[edit]

[1] Selected History of the Shields Family
[2] 1886 History of Jackson County, Indiana
[3] 1856 US Railway System
[4] Anarchy in the Heartland, 2008, by A. David Distler

External links[edit]