Memories and History of James Thomas Shelton

by Doris Ruth Moore Birdsong Artrip

I first remember going to see Grandpa in the 1940s. He was already 69 years old when I was born in 1936. He was in his 70s before I can remember him. He stood tall, better than six feet, slender, had beautiful thick white hair (even at his death at 86), and blue eyes. He sported a handlebar mustache. He always had a dark suntan from working his fields and garden and he always wore bib overalls. Even in his 70s he still worked his farm. He never owned a tractor that I can remember and always had a team of mules and plow. When our family visited he took us to wonderful places to play - to his barn where we shelled corn by the bushel for the chickens, played in the hay loft, fished in Black River and to his fields to collect early corn and watermelons.

Since we lived in St. Louis suburbs it was great to escape the heat of the city the last two weeks of June when Daddy (Robert Virgil Moore) had his vacation. We always went to Grandpa and Grandma Sheltons on the farm to visit. They would know when to expect us. About one-half mile out of Hillard Missouri (and half mile from their farm) we would beg our Dad to start tooting the horn so that Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Joe would be standing in the yard when we arrived. Oh, the hugs and kisses were flying everywhere. Wonderful, wonderful are my memories of them.

Uncle Joe always lived with Grandpa and helped on the farm. He was his fraternal twin. A carbon copy in looks but not in size. Joe was taller, approximately 6' 5". He never married. Always worked in blue bib overalls and used a stick cane that he made.

Grandpa and Grandma lived on a farm at Choania, MO when they married. After they had Dorothy, Bunia and Marvin, they sold their farm and all household goods and moved by train to Mile City, Montana; returning within a year to Choani and buying another farm and starting over. They did real well on this farm, even able to buy a car, which Grandpa never drove. My mother (Dorothy L. Shelton Moore) did all the driving for the family.

When the government bought land for the Wappello Lake they bought Grandpa's place. He moved to Butler County, near Hillard, seven or eight miles north of Poplar Bluff. They lived on three places near Hillard. Their last home was across the street from Spark's Grocery Store at Hillard. They loved it there, even though it was a dusty road at the front porch and 15 foot from the road. All the comings and goings of their neighbors and friends who frequented the store kept them entertained the last five years or so of Grandpa's life.

Grandpa spent much of this time reading his Bible.

On the night before his death on November 12, 1953, he saw a group of angels standing around his bed. He told my mother that they were beautiful - "so beautiful." He asked them, "Have you come for me?" and they replied, "No not yet." The angels took him Home the next day and he's been in heaven every since. Praise God.

Memories and History of James Thomas Shelton

by June Lorene Moore Ettinger

Known as "Tom" to his many friends, my Grandpa was special. I always thought he was about the most distinguished and handsome farmer around. He stood SO TALL (in my eyes), his white hair was thick and beautiful and he had a deep voice. In the latter years of his life he never went anywhere without his homemade cane which was taller than he was.

When we visited Grandma and Grandpa's farm he spent much of the time we were there in the fields, plowing and planting with a team of mules. The work had to be done because there was much of it to do. He was always up and gone from the house by the time I got up of a morning; he began his work at daybreak. I can see Grandpa now, walking back home across the fields when it was time for lunch. Sometimes Grandma rang the big bell that was out on the porch if he wasn't too far away, otherwise "he just knew" it was time for lunch. He would be carrying the things he had taken to the field: his water jug, and a container for his snack that Grandma had made for him that morning.

Grandma always fixed their big meal in the middle of the day and then Grandpa would take a little rest and nap in his rocking chair afterwards. He would return to the fields until maybe 4:00 p.m. Every day was a long day.

Uncle Joe, Grandpa's twin brother, usually helped Grandma with the farm chores near the house - the garden, repair of the chicken houses, milking the cows, etc.

Going to "slop" the hogs was great fun! Every night Grandpa and Uncle Joe, with their heavy five-gallon pails of garbage heading for the pig pens. (Slop was a conglomeration of peels from the potatoes, tops from the carrots, milk that had spoiled, a dead chicken -- you name it.) Those pigs could smell their "good stuff" acomin' and they were squeeling their heads off, nearly knocking Grandpa and Uncle Joe down as they entered the pen to fill up the troughs. I learned at an early age what "hungry as a pig" meant.

I can remember Grandpa hitching the horses up to the old wooden wagon out in the barn yard and then taking my Dad and us kids down to see his fields. Oh, that was great fun! We kids didn't care much about seeing the tall corn that Grandpa was so proud of, we just LOVED the adventure. No telling what we might see along the way as we rocked down through the two-wheel dirt road, through the creek and woods, and across the open fields that were near the house.

Grandpa's life was one filled with lots of hard work and much sorrow. His first wife, Amy E. Inman bore them four children: There was Flossy O., (I remember seeing a picture of Flossy that hung on the wall at Grandma and Grandpa's. She was a little doll.) Then there was James Howard, Johnnie L. and Virgie O. All four children died in very early childhood or infancy (between 1905 and 1908). Flossy O. was given the wrong medicine or medicine that was too strong for her by an intoxicated country doctor who came to their house to treat her when she was ill. She was about 2 1/2 years old when she died. Amy, his wife, died in 1908 with no living children. Amy E. Inman born September 13, 1877, Died March 31, 1908 was the daughter of Andrew Jackson Inman and Ellen Tilley Inman

His second marriage was to Mary Eliza Tilley Born January 1887. She died, Dec. 29, 1910, during the birth of their first child. Infant and wife are buried together, at Mt. Zion Cemetery, Butler Co. Mo..

So here he was, 44 years old, widowed twice and no living children. But God is good, He gave him my grandma and they had three children that lived, one of them being my grandmother, Lucy Vashti Inman.

Grandpa certainly had a part in making my childhood a happy one!

Note: By Doris Moore Artrip - James Thomas Shelton was living in Wayne County Missouri when the 1900 Census was taken. He had his twin brother Joel, brother Peter Monroe an sister Laura A. also his mother Lucy Malinda Wells Shelton living in his house. His mother died in November of 1900 and they took her body to Boone Co. MO. to be buried next to their father William David Shelton.

James Thomas Shelton was born in Howard County Mo. and lived there until the 1890's when he moved to Wayne and Butler Co. Mo. His father Wm David in 1890 and James' mother came to live with him and was living with him and other members of the family in Wayne Co. in 1900 just months before Malinda his mother died. About 1902 James Thomas Shelton married for the first time. His wife and all those children died. He married for a second time with the same fate, his wife dying in the birth of their first child and in 1911 her married by Grandmother Lucy Vashti Inman who had also lost two husbands.

When James T. Shelton was living in Wayne County near Choania, his farm was included in the buy up of farms for the Wappapello Dam and Lake Project. This was in the late 1930's so I never remember being at his home on the St. Francis river. This project was started in 1938 and finished in 1941. The reservoir at the spillway crest has an area of about 23,000 acres -- thus was lost 23,000 of Wayne County's most fertile land. In 1972 it was reported that farm production for Wayne Co. was lower then it had been 1000 years ago, so this was Wayne Counties finest farm land that was going under the lake. The Greenville Sun dated August 29, 1940, reported that 232 tracts had been bought ;by the government, Approximately 100 tracts had been condemned, and 400 more suits had been brought to condemn the remaining tracts needed for the dam and lake.

With so many farmers displaced, property in nearby counties skyrocketed. My Grandfather James T. Shelton purchased a farm on Black River near Hillard Mo. but it was not near the farm he had at Choania. This First Farm on Black River, he farmed in the early 1940's, splitting the farm with his son Marvin who had married and had built a home on his part of the farm near grandpa and grandma. Then he moved closer to town on the same road to another place for a few years and then in the late 1940's he purchased the farm across the street from the Spark's grocery store at Hillard Store. This house was right next to the Railroad track and there was a lot of people coming and going at the store across the street but that didn't seem to bother him as he sat out in the yard under the big trees and watched the comings and goings until his death in 1953.

NOTE: James T. Shelton was born in Howard Co. After his father died in 1890 he must have moved to Wayne/Butler Co. Area. in the 1900 Census he was in Wayne Co. MO. He had his mother, Lucy Malinda, his sister Laura, brothers Joe and Peter Monroe living with him.