Sheldon B. Crossett

 

 

 

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Sheldon was the youngest of Jacob Crossett Jr.s children. Here he is in later years. I am grateful to Kris Crossette Pangburn for the picture. 

At age 28 Sheldon married Eliza Anna Webster, sister of his brother Martial's wife Sarah. (Interestingly, Martial's sons Russell and Kirk also married sisters, Eugenia and Lillian Merryfield.) Sheldon moved to DeKalb County, Illinois where he met and married Eliza and where at least some of the children were born. They had eight:

  • Merritt Powell, b. March 23, 1849 m. Luella Lynn Ricker
  • Helen D., b. 1851 m. Edgar N. Robinson
  • Emma, b. 1853, remained single
  • Franka M., b. 1855, m. Thomas W. Jordan
  • Adelaide, b. 1856, d. December 15, 1861
  • Rosella, b. 1859, d. September 14, 1860
  • James Sheldon, b. January 5, 1860, m. Katherine Fitzgerald
  • Gustus Jacob, b. February 1863, d. September 16, 1864

The couple lost three children in 1860, 1861, and 1864. What a difficult time it must have been with the Civil War also raging. Five of the children lived into adulthood. Merritt and James were both Railroad men, Merritt a conductor. James was killed in an accident when pipes rolled off a railroad car and crushed him. Helen moved with her husband to Chicago, Franka and husband remained in Illinois farming, and Emma became a school teacher. In 1893 she bought a farm in North Dakota where her father came in later years.

From public records and several family members we can gather some idea of the family's life.

". . . Mr. Crossett came to Pampas (now Cortland) in October of 1843, taught school at Sugar Grove the following winter, also taught school near Sycamore until he married.  There are some early school records dated December 08, 1843, that state, 'We certify that we have examined S. Crossett and find him qualified to teach arithmetic, grammar, geography, orthography (spelling)'."

"On April 01, 1844, Sheldon purchased approximately one hundred and nineteen acres of land from the government for a price of $2.50 (per acre.)  He then purchased forty additional acres of land on June 25, 1846, (cost $1.25) and another forty acres on November 26, 1847 (cost $1.25)." 

"The census records of DeKalb County indicate that Sheldon was a farmer in the year of 1850, and in the census year of 1860, he is listed as the postmaster, as well as other records showing he was appointed to that position on November 24, 1859.  Information from his obituary, notes he moved off the farm and into the town of Cortland and conducted a grocery store, where he was Postmaster and held other offices of trust. We can assume this occurred sometime prior to November of 1859."

He was the first teacher in Sycamore township's first school 1843-44 and Superintendant of Schools from 1847-1850. 

The Crossetts of this generation placed a very high value on education, many of them completed college and many became teachers.

As Sheldon was nearing the end of his life, after losing his wife in 1880, he moved to Montpelier, North Dakota where daughter Emma lived. It was while there that Sheldon's nephew John Bristol Crossett wrote him asking about family history. His reply gives little history but a great sense of what life was like at that time. It is copied here complete.

Montpelier, ND, Feb 2nd, 1897

Dear Nephew:

Yours of Jan 28 I received Feb. 1st and I was very glad to hear from you and that you and yours were well.

I know nothing of any Crossetts before my father. I donít remember him say anything of his parents or what was their names, he had a half brother, John Crossett who lived at or near Troy, NY and he had a large family of boys I think as many as my father had but I never saw any of them. Brother  Royal used to correspond with one of them. I have heard sometimes that some of the Crossetts lived in Minn. at or near St.Paul but I donít know the address of any of them.

My health is very good for a man of my age but of course I am past doing farm work or any other work to amount to anything, but I am generally able to do chores and work in the garden in the season of it. I am the oldest man in this settlement, (77) there is one woman who is older. Emmaís health is pretty good except her tumor is very burdensome to her and this winter she has neuralgia in her face and head a great deal. We get along as well as could be expected for people who canít work. We have to have all our farm work done and it takes about all crop to pay for the work. There is no chance to let land here as they do in Illinois. There is so much vacant land and homesteads that have improved some and (been) abandoned that if a man wants to work land he can get all he wants for a trifle or nothing. People who can do their own work and have their own help can get along very well though the prices are (high) and there is no market for anything but wheat. There is not enough of any other produce here to make it an object for dealers to buy to ship to markets so far away. If we (have) butter or feed grain, pork, poultry, or eggs to spare we have to depend on small customers who buy only for the present use. Em says she thinks teaching school runs in the Crossett race for she can do that and make good butter. We have tried to grow into stock ever since I have been here and we thought five cows would make butter enough to buy our supplies if we did have to sell it low and last summer we got up to our number but our old cow, from which we raised all our stock, sickened and died and then we had four to milk and as many young as we could keep with all the convenience we have and all too young to sell to advantage. But our winter set in a month earlier than usual so severe that everybody was alarmed about fodder and we sold off all but three young cows that we milk and two heifer calves. So we will have to wait awhile to have our five cows again.

Cattle do well here on the prairie grass till it is under snow so deep they canít get to it but it begun to snow Oct. 29 and continued till it was more than two feet deep and it lies on the ground good and solid yet. Nov. was the worst month I ever saw in Dakota. Not colder but so much snow and bluster. Dec. was a very pleasant month the temperature most of the time ranging from 20 degrees above to 10 degrees below zero, a few days up to thawing and a few below 20 degrees below zero. Jan. was a little colder and more wind. We have such steady cold weather so long people get used to it and prepared for it. They donít feel it as they do in Illinois where they have so much damp weather and sudden changes. We call it mild when it is not more than 10 degrees below zero if the wind donít blow and the sun shines.

Our neighbors are mostly old country people more Belgians than anything else and they are all Catholics. They have a priest come from Jamestown once or twice a year to confirm the children and Christen the babies. We have no meetings or society of any kind nearer than Jamestown and that is twenty miles across the prairies without a house for fifteen miles that anybody lives in and thereís no physician nor any office near except the school director's and the post master. We have mail three times a week. This railroad is a branch of the Northern Pacific and they run a train down to meet the North Western at Oakes and back three days in a week and carry the mail both ways.

This is a cheap place to live because we can raise most of the necessary provisions and there is nowhere to go so thereís no necessity for expensive clothes only some warm underclothes and some overalls and anything will do for the rest. People who are out much wear fur overcoats and they can be bought at any price to suit the pocketbook.

If you come from California by the N.P.R.R. It wouldnít be much out of your way to stop off at Jamestown and come see us and it would be a great gratification to us.

Ambrose Merrillís widow and daughter live in Jamestown. I will return your genealogy for I donít think I could make any use of it.

With love to all, yours very truly,

Sheldon Crossett

At the time of this writing Sheldon was 77 with only three years to live. Emma was 44. She continued there until after 1910 when she appears for the last time on the census. Sheldon had Illinois in his blood and his family was buried there so his remains were shipped back to Cortland and a service was held at the M. E. Church in Cortland, Illinois, on April 26, 1900.  Old cemetery records tell us that an S. Crossett purchased seven graves in the Mound Rest Cemetery, Cortland.  We know of three of his children's gravestones in that cemetery, and an unidentified marker with the initials R. C. (probably baby Rosella)  Death notices and obituaries state both Sheldon and Eliza are buried in the Mound Rest Cemetery, however, a gravestone for neither has been found to my knowledge.  It is surmised they rest there together with their children." (Recently, this stone was placed in the cemetery)

Sheldon's new stone

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