Mason Bradford Shelton

Contributor: Pat M. Mahan

 

MASON BRADFORD SHELTON, the leading general merchant of Florence, Ala., was born February 2, 1838, in Jackson county, Ala. He is the son of William F. and Elizabeth (Wood) Shelton, the former of whom was born August 30, 1812, and came to Alabama in 1827 with his parents and an uncle or two, and was thus one of the first to settle in Jackson county. He followed farming for a livelihood and died in 1882. His wife was a native of Tennessee and was born in 1816. They were married in 1835 in Jackson county, and were the parents of nine children, five of whom together with their mother, are still living. She is living on the old homestead. Mason Bradford Shelton was reared on the farm and was educated in the common schools of his county, and then by persistent private study, the schools themselves not being very efficient. By this private study he acquired a knowledge of the higher English branches and classics. At the age of fifteen he had passed through Mitchell's and Olney's geographies, Kirkman's grammar, and Pikes's arithmetic, and though a young boy, began teaching school near his home, filling a vacancy caused by the teacher of the school going away during the winter. He taught school more or less each year in Jackson and adjoining counties for the next ten years. As a rule he taught about eight months in the year, and the rest o the time was spent in different stores, posting up the books and waiting on customers. In the latter part of the year 1862, Mr. Shelton had a long and severe attack of sickness, and upon partially recovering, being unable to bear arms went to Gen. Pillow at Huntsville, who sent him to Dr. Stout, at Chattanooga, for assignment to some duty, and he was sent by him to Ringgold, Ga., to fill a place in one of the Confederate hospitals. After remaining there for some time engaged in the capacity of nurse for the sick and wounded, he was appointed private secretary to Dr. Curry, surgeon in charge of the Ford hospital, of which he became steward. At the end of about three months' time, however, having regained his health, he was, at his own request, sent to Shelbyville, Tenn., and he there joined the fourth Confederate Tennessee infantry. Forty days after joining this regiment, he was with Gen. Bragg on his famous retreat from Tennessee, and at Winchester. Being unable to keep up with the regiment on account of having been sick so long, he was captured by the Federal soldiers. Being dressed in citizen's clothes, no having yet donned the soldier's uniform, he was taken by them for a spy and sent to Camp Chase, Ohio, where he was kept a prisoner for twenty-two months, notwithstanding it was impossible to prove him a spy, and it was only through the intervention of United States Senator Powell, afterward governor of Kentucky, with President Abraham Lincoln, that he was released, the president himself signing Mr. Shelton's discharge. After leaving Camp Chase, he went by railroad to Cincinnati and by steamboat to Henderson, Ky., where he was given a position as salesman by Soper & Dallam, merchants of that place, where he remained about three months. After the war he returned to his home in Jackson county. He remained at home with his parents only a few days, and then accepted a position in the store with his cousin, C. C. Shelton, now of Chattanooga, Tenn., where he remained until January 1, 1867. Mr. Shelton now found himself the possessor of a few hundred dollars earned by wages as clerk, but the most important event of his life had taken place when he met the lady he expected and promised to make his wife, Miss Endora Pittman. This brought serious reflections to a poor man with high anticipations, which resulted in a resolution to go west---out in the mining camps of the Rocky mountains. Crossing the plains by driving ten oxen to the old-time prairie schooner, which required six weeks, two days of which time was spend in fighting Indians, he reached Denver city in the month of July, and from there went to Georgetown, at that time a small mining camp, but while he was there grew to be quiet a city. From this point he made his prospecting detours, leading a life of adventure, filled with hardship, danger, and privation. After nearly nine years spent in search of gold and silver mines, meeting with the usual reverses and successes incident to the pursuit, he finally returned to his native home, and finding the lady he had left still watching and waiting, they were united in marriage on the 23rd day of February, 1875. To this union there have been born three children, all of whom are daughters, the eldest, Effie, born December 9, 1875, dying in infancy. The next in age, Lida G., was born September 4, 1878, and the youngest. Alta P. was born November 23, 1880. Mr. Shelton bought out the old firm he had formerly clerked for, and engaged in the mercantile business at Larkinsville, Ala., making a success in the business from the beginning. After nearly five years, he lost his store by fire on December 23, 1880, In 1881 he removed to Florence and formed a partnership with John H. Young, under the firm name of Shelton & Young. A few months later he opened another store in partnership with a Mr. Ragsdale, under the firm name of Shelton & Ragsdale. About eighteen months after going into business with Mr. Young, continuing in the other firm. About 1885 Mr. Ragsdale retired from this firm, and since then Mr. Shelton has continued on in business by himself, doing a general merchandise business and meeting with great success. Mr. Shelton was one of the organizers of the Merchant's bank of Florence, opened in 1892, and of that institution he is vice-president and a member of the board of directors. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and is at present worshipful master of Florence lodge, No. 14, A. F. & A. M., which, as is evident from its low number, is one of the oldest lodges in the state. Mr. Shelton is one of the self-made men of Lauderdale county, and in the truest sense of the word. Starting with nothing he has attained a position of wealth and influence in the community, all by his own industry and energy, and by doing business on strict business principles, and thus gaining a reputation for honesty and integrity which is wide spread and well known. Mr. Shelton is an enterprising and liberal citizen, and has always done his share in supporting all laudable public enterprises. He is a steadfast friend to schools, and has always been found ready to do all in his power to advance the educational interests and to improve the educational facilities of the city of Florence and of the County.

 

Source: Memorial Record of Alabama. Vol. II. Brant & Fuller. Madison, Wis., 1893. pp. 368-370