George Sheldon (preservationist)

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George Sheldon (1818–1916) led one of the first historic preservation societies in the United States.

He was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, educated at Deerfield Academy, and worked as a farmer. In 1844 he married Susan Stewart Stearns of Dummerston, Vermont, and from 1853 to 1857 lived in Chicopee, Massachusetts. In 1857 he was appointed Justice of the Peace at Deerfield and in 1867 was elected as a representative to the General Court, the state legislature of Massachusetts. In 1872 he was elected state senator. His first wife died in 1881. In 1897 he remarried; his second wife was the scientist and historian Jennie Maria Arms.

Sheldon's interest in history and historical preservation began in 1848, when Deerfield's Old Indian House (the first home occupied by the Sheldon Family in Deerfield) was demolished despite the objections of local residents. Sheldon, along with others, were able to preserve only the door of the house and some architectural fragments. In 1868, he and others erected a monument to honor the town's Civil War soldiers. Two years later, they decided to mark the spot where Eunice Williams, the wife of John Williams, was murdered during the 1704 Deerfield Massacre.

From that, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association was born in 1870, and Sheldon would serve as its president until his death in 1916.[1] The Association, which took its name from the original inhabitants of Deerfield (and the name of their village, located near the site of the town), was one of the first historical preservation societies in the country. Sheldon was named president of the Association, a post he held to his death. Although he split his time between Deerfield and Boston, he remained an important voice in town issues and a dynamic leader of the Memorial Association. In 1895 he published the History of Deerfield, a comprehensive, two-volume history of the town that included an extensive genealogy of its residents.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Amelia F. Miller and AR Riggs. Romance, Remedies, and Revolution: The Journal of Dr. Elihu Ashley of Deerfield, Massachusetts, 1773-1775 Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2007 p. 1
  2. ^ History of Deerfield - Archive.org