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15 Jan 1879
Wareham Sheldon’s 95th Birthday
A Man Older Than the Republic – A Voter for Madison and Hayes – A Long and Interesting Life.
It is not often that newspapers have an opportunity to record the celebration of the ninety-fifth birthday of any of their readers. It is with unusual feelings that we notice the fact that on Monday of this week, Mr. Wareham Sheldon, one of Geneva’s most respected citizens, and for many years a reader of the COURIER, completed his ninety-fifth year. A visit to him in his pleasant home on Washington street brought out several items of interest concerning his long life.
Mr. Sheldon was born in the town of New Harford, Litchfield county, Connecticut, December 13, 1784. This was one year after Washington resigned the command of the American army, and four years before the adoption of the Federal Constitution. Mr. Sheldon’s life thus antedates that of the Republic, and precedes the election of Washington as its first President. When about twenty years old Mr. Sheldon was married, and two years later he emigrated to Dutchess county in this State. Here he engaged in farming, conducting a farm of 900 acres for nine years. He then removed to Wayne county, and twenty-five years ago came to Geneva. He was then seventy years old, and had retired from active business. Until that time he led an active life, engaging in farming, manufacturing, and dealing in produce. Like many of the well-to-do men of the early days of this State, he was once a slave-holder, but the fact did not prevent him being a staunch Republican in after years. He has been twice married, his second wife remaining to minister to his comfort during his declining years. He has lost six children, and has four yet living.
Mr. Sheldon still retains his faculties in a remarkable degree. He shows signs of old age, but no more than people twenty-five years younger. On his birthday he wrote several brief letters to his children, and directed the envelopes in a plain clear hand, which would do credit to any business man. He has been for many years a member of the Presbyterian church of this village. His health has always been good, and in common with all who know him, we join in the hope that he may live to reach his hundredth year.
In politics Mr. Sheldon is a Republican. Previous to the organization of the Republican party he was an old line Whig, and in his youth he ranked as a Federalist, his first Presidential vote being cast for James Madison, in 1808. He has voted at every Presidential election since, casting his vote in 1876 for President Hayes. In State and local politics he has been equally faithful, always voting until the last town election, when he was unable to be out. Ever since he has resided in Geneva he has taken the COURIER, always paying for it in advance.
A glance over the principal events of Mr. Sheldon’s life gives a vivid idea of the world’s progress since he was born, and makes forcibly felt alike his great age, and the comparative youth of his great nation. Here is a man who was four years old when the first President of the United States was elected; who remembers the war of 1812, as well as the great rebellion of 1861. He joined in the rallying crys of “Jefferson, Burr, and the Constitution”; of “Tippacanoe and Tyler too”; of “No more slave territory – not a man, not a dollar;” and he lived to hear the joyous acclamation of a nation over the fall of rebellion and slavery. He was an old man when the Mexican war broke out; he witnessed the rise and fall of the slave power; and he lived to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the declaration of independence, eight years before his birth. In a thousand ways his life has been interwoven with the great events of our national history, and his recollection reaches back years before the fathers of the present generation were born. Most of the state of the union were admitted since his birth, and he has been a witness of the steady growth of the thirteen colonies into the nation of to-day.
The relation of his life to the nineteenth century, and to the civilization and progress of the world is no less remarkable and interesting. Not until he was a middle aged man was steam transportation on land and sea introduced. The first locomotive. the first ocean steamer, are within his recollection. The first iron clad war vessel never floated till he was nearly eighty years of age. Since his younger days the science of war has been revolutionized; the great invention of the age have been brought into use. He was a young man when the battle of Waterloo was fought; Pope Pius IX began to reign before he attained middle life. He has witnessed the decay of Spain and Turkey; the growth and progress of Germany, Italy and Russia. He was a contemporary of Washington; of Franklin; of William Pitt; of Napoleon; of Wellington; of Byron; of Scott; of Humboldt. He was born in the reign of George III. Queen Victoria began to reign when he was 53 years old. He has out-lived thrones, monarchs, and nations, and in his old age is a striking exemplification of the fleeting nature of everything pertaining to earth, and by the very fact of his exception, proving the rule of brevity and change in human life.