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William Sheldon (1788 - 1871)

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

Of the many daguerreotypes in the collections of the Longmeadow Historical Society, 10 of them are of this eccentric gentleman. He was described in the Springfield Republican Newspaper obituary as: "an aristocrat of the first water, never having accepted the American Revolution. A Tory, a monarchist of the day of Queen Bess, and a churchman of a higher order than any American..." He preferred to dress in old-fashioned clothing, "As he took his daily walk by the roadside, with a silver-headed cane in hand, he was a quaint and ancient looking figure of a portly old man with long white locks, a bell crowned hat of great breadth and height, a high standing collar, sustained by a white cravat, with ample bows and double frilled shirt bosom, and to complete the effect, a blue dress coat, with gilt buttons, and pantaloons of too ancient a cut for minute description."

Sheldon's father, Dr. William Sheldon, married Eunice Williams, one of Reverend Stephen Williams' granddaughters. Eunice was the younger sister of Sarah Williams Storrs, second wife to the Reverend Richard Salter Storrs. After both of the Williams sisters were widowed within a year of each other, they lived together in the family home in Longmeadow. The younger Sheldon lived with his aunt and mother in the Storrs home until about 1860. At that time he built a house at the north end of Longmeadow Street and proceeded to live there with domestic help. The census records describe him as a literary professor, gentleman, author, and retired farmer!

Wealthy enough not to have to work, he had the opportunity to explore scientific theories. According to the Springfield Republican obituary, "he understood all mysteries and explained the 'spirit rappings.' His greatest scientific discovery was the utilization of the 'Od Force' by which he claimed to have stayed Cholera and other epidemics. His Last and crowning invention, a secret to be buried with him, was a method of aerial navigation." Keep in mind that this was the mid-19th century!

St. Albans Daily Messenger

See also Stephen Gencarella's book: A Celebration of New England's Eccentric and Misfits: Wicked Weird & Wily Yankees

Contributed by Betsy McKee, Board Member, Longmeadow Historical Society Originally published October 8, 2020

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