Notable among the pioneer settlers of Linn county is James Shelton, who is now living retired from the activities of life in Albany. Coming here when the country was in its original wilderness, he met with privations and obstacles hitherto undreamed of. Settlers were few in number and far between, and the Indians were a constant source of terror to the brave pioneers. None of the luxuries of life were to be had at any price, and many things deemed necessities east of the Rockies had to be dispensed with here. The forests, however, were filled with an abundance of game of all kinds, which furnished the chief subsistence of the inhabitants, grouse being their only summer meat. Pork was an unknown quantity for many years, and their nearest approach to coffee was a drink made from browned peas. Clothes were made from deer skins, which the men themselves dressed, and hats were manufactured at home from wheat straw. Little can the people of this day and generation realize the trials and tribulations that beset the courageous men and women who, by persistent toil and wondrous self-sacrifice, made the homes and lives of their immediate descendants so pleasant and joyful.
A Virginian by birth, James Shelton was born March 2, 1828, in Patrick county, which was also the birthplace of his father, Haman Shelton. His grandfather, Clayborn Shelton, a farmer by occupation, served in the war of 1812, and afterwards moved to Jackson county, Mo., where he spent the remainder of his life.
Haman Shelton removed with his family to Oregon at an early period, crossing the plains with his wife and twelve children in 1847. Locating in Linn county, he took up a donation claim of six hundred and forty acres, and was there engaged in farming until his death. His wife, whose maiden name was Priscilla Fitzgerald, was born in Virginia, a daughter of Harvey Lee Fitzgerald. Of the twelve children born of their union, all came to Oregon, but only eight are now living.
Moving with his parents to Missouri when about five years old, James Shelton acquired his early education in the typical log school-house of his day, with its dirt floor, and rude benches. Coming with his parents to Linn county in 1847, in a train composed of three wagons, each one drawn by three yoke of oxen, he had charge of one of the teams during the journey of five months, starting in April and arriving September 15, the trip being made along Barlow route. Remaining at home a few years he assisted his father in clearing a farm. At the age of twenty-one years he began life for himself by taking up a donation claim of three hundred and twenty acres at the forks of the Santiam. With characteristic zeal he at once began its improvement, breaking up the sod with a rude plow of his own manufacture, drawn by five yoke of oxen. He subsequently bought adjoining land, and on his fine ranch of four hundred acres was engaged in general farming, including stock-raising, until 1894. He raised grain of all kinds, but made a specialty of wheat, and was very successful, his farm being one of the most fertile and productive in the neighborhood.
Mr. Shelton was also engaged to some extent in the mining operations of ealier days, going to California during the excitement of 1849, and remaining on the north bank of the American river a few months as a prospector and miner. Being taken ill, he returned to Oregon, resuming his agricultural labors. In 1862 he spent a few months at the Florence mines, and in 1863 mined in the Boise Basin, on each trip to Idaho going by pack train. Since 1894, Mr. Shelton has rented his farm, and made his home in Albany.
Mr. Shelton married, in Linn county, Ore., Miss Theresa J. Melholland, who was born in Illinois, and came across the plains with her brothers in 1852, with ox-teams. Mr. and Mrs. Shelton have two children, namely: Haman, who is successfully engaged in agricultural pursuits on the farm adjoining his father's; and Mrs. Rufina Follis, of Linn county. Politically Mr. Shelton is independent, voting for such men and measures as in his opinion will best advance the interests of the community. Mr. Shelton is a member of the Baptist Church.
"Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley"