Papers and Letters from Frederick Dewitt Shelton

Title Written
1 Shelton Laurel - Summary of Fred's visit to Shelton Laurel September 4, 1936
2 Family of Ralph Shelton of Shelton's Ford Tenn. - Summary of discussion with Emmett Rode September 5, 1936
3 More About Shelton Laurel - Letter from Fred to Sam Shelton describing another trip to Shelton Laurel May 5, 1937
4 Shelton Family History - Primary Source; Summary of Fred Shelton's research notes July 10, 1939
5 Additional Shelton Laurel - Letter from Fred to Sam Shelton; provides additional Shelton Laurel information July 31, 1942

September 4, 1936


In Madison County, North Carolina, northwest from Ashville, is a lovely and picturesque mountain creek called Shelton Laurel. Sometimes this creek is called Big Laurel to distinguish it from Little Laurel, another creek which joins Shelton Laurel to make just plain Laurel Creek.

Shelton Laurel is about 12 to 15 miles long. I would say without having ascertained the exact length. It has a substantial flow of water, swift running over rocks, and between high hills. There isn’t much of a valley—"bottom" is small in area. It is what I think of as a "holler." But somehow people live and raise families in this country, by farming the little flat fields in the bends of the creek and by tilling hillside and hilltop patches here and there.

And nearly all of the inhabitants of Shelton Laurel are Sheltons. I asked a gasoline station attendant near Marshall if there were many Sheltons now living in Shelton Laurel and he said, "Ask any man you meet along the road in Shelton Laurel and chances are he will be a Shelton." I found that to be true. I stopped to inquire the way of about 8 people and asked them their names, and all but one said it us "Shelton." And I’m told that most of the inhabitants having other names are akin to Sheltons.

I was hunting for information about the early settlers of Shelton Laurel since my great grandfather, Ralph Shelton, left this country as a young man and moved to Claiborne County, Tennessee, on the Clinch River at Sheltons Ford. I was told that John A. Shelton was the best man to consult. This man, however, died about 2 months ago. He was known as Patsy’s John to distinguish him from other John Shelton in the vicinity. But a son of this John Shelton lives on his father's place. His name is William Shelton, know familiarly as "Bud." I met him walking along the road, asked his name, noted a Landon sunflower in the buttonhole of his Sunday coat.

This William Shelton said he had heard his father, John A. Shelton speak of "Rafe" Shelton, my great grandfather Ralph Shelton. Later Rode Emmet, of Coal Creek, Tenn. told me be had heard of a visit that Ralph Shelton made to Laurel Creek when he was an old man. I mean to see or write to this William Shelton to see if I can get any information which he had gathered from talks with his father.<DM>

I also was told to consult Frank Shelton, age about 82. I found him living at the "head" of Shelton Laurel Creek. The following is his story:

Frank Shelton is the grandson of David Shelton who was one of four original settlers of Shelton Laurel. David Shelton came there from Virginia as a young man with his young wife Katie and took up large tracts of land, several thousand acres. Frank Shelton does not know from what part of Virginia David came. He described David as a highly respectable citizen and a man of considerable wealth. David gave 100 acres of land to each of his children when they married.

The other original settlers who came with David were Charles Hensley, George Franklin, and a man named Duck. There are numerous Hensleys now living in Shelton Laurel. Years ago there was a feud, sometimes bloody, between Sheltons and Hensleys. One old-timer said it was nearly always a Hensley who got shot.

David had brothers in Virginia, but Frank Shelton did not know their names. (Another old man I met in Shelton Laurel said David had a brother William, and this old man said he was a grandson of this William.

Shelton Laurel was wild country when David Shelton came to it. There were no white inhabitants, a few Indians, no clearings of land, just trees and wild animals.

David had 14 children, according to Frank Shelton. Frank did not know names of all the children, but he gave me the following: David Shelton's sons were William, James, Isaac, Silas, David, Alex. Perhaps there were others.

David Shelton’s daughters were: Nancy, Kate, Sally, Judith, Molly and perhaps others.

Both David Shelton and his wife Katie died during the Civil War. David was "very old—must have been more than 90 years old" according to Frank Shelton. From this it would seem that David must have been born near 1770, and thus probably came to Shelton Laurel about 1790 if he came when he was about 20 years of age.

Fol1owing is brief information about the descendants of old David Shelton:

(1) William Shelton, son of old David: Had sons Andy and William. No information about other children.

(2) James Shelton, son of old David: Sons who lived to be men were John A. and Calvin. This John A. is the "Patsy's John" referred to above. During the Civil War the Rebels hunted down loyalists in the hills of Shelton Laurel, and on one of these raids captured James Shelton, three of his sons, and nine other Sheltons, lined them up together and shot dead the whole group. This story still is told with great feeling in Shelton Laurel, and accounts for some of the emotion with which these Sheltons cling to the Republican Party. "We’re all Republicans in Shelton Laurel," one of them told me. John A.'s. daughter-in-law told me that John A. was "a terrible Republican." He was too young to be caught and shot by the Rebels when his father was.

(3) Isaac Shelton, son of old David: He had sons killed by Rebels along with the shooting of James.

(4) Silas Shelton, son of old David: Re Lied as a boy from eating artichokes.

(5) David Shelton, son of old David: He had sons William and Greenbury, perhaps others.

(6) Alex. Shelton, son of old David: He lived to be more than 100 years old, "some say 110." Had several wives, had thirty children. Among his sons were Nick, Merriman, Mandy, Richard.

(7) (8) (9) Daughters of old David about which there is no information Nancy, Kate, Sally.

(10) Judith Shelton, had sons who took the Shelton name. One of these sons was Frank Shelton, my informant as to data given Fred. Dan came back to Shelton Laurel after his mother's death to share in settlement of her estate.

(11) Molly Shelton, daughter of old David: Left home, married, and went west.

As to Ralph Shelton, my great grandfather, I learned nothing to show definitely who was his father. Rode C. Emmett told me that he was quite sure that Ralph came from Shelton Laurel, that he had heard that stated as a fact many times by Anderson, son of Ralph, and other descendants of Ralph. But Rode Emmett does not have any definite recollection of hearing the name of Ralph’s father. He wrote me last year that he thought the father’s name was Sam, but when I pressed him on this he said that it was only a very vague recollection and that he really had no idea as to the father’s name. It would seem to be plausible conjecture that Ralph was one of old David’s oldest sons. Ralph must have been born about 1790 or shortly thereafter, which is around the time old David and his wife Katie were starting their large family in Shelton Laurel. The fact that Ralph left Shelton Laurel as a young man may account for the failure of Frank Shelton to recall him as one of the 14 children of old David. Another possible conjecture is that Ralph was a son of one of David’s brothers, since one old man in Shelton Laurel told me David had a brother William who came to Shelton Laurel and had offspring there. Or he might have been the son of some other brother of old David and gone to Shelton Laurel on account of old David’s settlement there. So, while I think Rode Emmett is correct in saying Ralph came from Shelton Laurel it is quite possible that Ralph from Georgia or elsewhere to Shelton Laurel before settling in Tennessee.

(Written by Frederick Shelton, Washington, D. C.)

September 5, 1936


On August 24, l936 I visited Mr. Rode C. Emmett of Coal Creek, Tennessee. Mr. Emmett married Matilda, daughter of Anderson Shelton, son of Ralph Shelton of Shelton’s Ford, Claiborne County, Tennessee.

Here are some notes copied from an old family Bible now in the possession of Mr. Emmett.

"Anderson Shelton was born January the 20th in the year 1842."

"Anderson Shelton was married to Miss Mollie Hurst, March the 18th in the year of our Lord 1860."

"Anderson Shelton died November 1st 1919."

"Robert Shelton (son of Anderson) was born the 17th of July In the yew 1875."

Mr. Emmett told me that Anderson Shelton had four sons. Two sons died as children. The two who lived to be men were Robert and Ralph.

Ralph was born in 1869 but had no sons.

Robert married and had a son Robert. This son Robert is now living with his mother on a farm near Knoxville, Tenn., but plans to move to Strawberry Plains, not far from Knoxville.

The recorded date of Anderson Shelton’s birth gives a clue to the date of death of his father Ralph Shelton. Mr. Emmett says he recalls several times hearing Anderson say that he was 10 years old when his father (Ralph) died. That would put Ralph’s death in the year l852.

Mark Shelton, son of Ralph Shelton, and brother of Anderson Shelton, had two sons Mark and Fieldin.

Mark, son of Mark, left home, left the country, and was never heard of again.

Fieldin Shelton, son of Mark, married Phoebe Reed and had two sons: Charles and Thomas.

Charles, son of Fieldin, married, and now is supposed to be living at Gate City in Va or W. Va. (Mr. Emmett is not sure which of the two states it is in.)

Thomas, son of Mark, is married and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. <DM>

(Written by Frederick Shelton, Washington, D. C.)

Letter from Fred Shelton.
To Sam J. Shelton.

Washington, D. C.,
May 5, 1937


Dear Sam:

Charline, Napier and I left last Saturday by automobile for another trip to Shelton Laurel, the little valley among the mountains of Madison County, North Carolina, through which flows swiftly the clear, mountain creek of Shelton Laurel, shown on some maps as Big Laurel. We wanted to see this spot in May. The dogwood and redbud were in bloom and very profuse — lovely picture on every hillside. Great masses of rhododendron grow all along Shelton Laurel, but it does not bloom until about the middle of June. There is much more rhododendron than laurel, but the natives call it all laurel.

I dug up some plants and brought them home where I planted them. I got some beech, chestnut, holly, laurel and rhododendron. I got most of them from the spot near which the rebels in 1861 shot down and killed several Shelton men and boys whom they had taken because of Union sympathies. Among those shot were James Shelton and three of his young sons. This James Shelton was a son of David Shelton, the original settler in Shelton Laurel.

A grandson of James Shelton was our principal guide on this trip. His name is William B. Shelton, called "Bud" Shelton. His father was John A. Shelton, called locally Patsy’s John. Patsy was John’s mother, wife of the James Shelton shot by the rebels. Her maiden name was Patsy McCoy.

Bud took me us a long hillside to a fenced in cemetery where are buried several of the Sheltons shot by the rebels. The grave of James Shelton has a huge pine tree growing at one end of it - the trunk of the tree having grown almost entirely around the rough grave stone.

All of the Sheltons in this community are ardent Republicans, many of them passionately so, due to the incident of the shooting of old men and young boys who were noncombatants in the Civil War. Several houses there still display the campaign pictures of Landon, and one still has Frank Knox’s picture on his front porch.

I visited the old log house built by the original David. It is still solid, stands erect, the stone chimney and fireplace still intact. It needs a new roof badly. It has two stories, two good sized rooms on each floor. It is unoccupied, and stands in the middle of a level field now used for tobacco. It is owned by Hubert Shelton, son of Sol Shelton who was the son of Judith Shelton, who was the daughter of old David. I did not meet Hubert, but I met his brother Courtney Shelton. Courtney seems to appreciate the historical value of the old log house, and I encouraged him to get his brother to preserve it. Inside the house is an ancient loom with most of the parts still there. Also two beehives made from hollow trees, which Bud Shelton reckoned must be over 100 years old. In this house Judith Shelton raised her large family. Judith was quite a competent business manager, according to Bud. She acquired considerable property, enough to give her children a good start. She was administrix of the estate of Catherine Shelton, Catherine being the wife of old David, who survived him by five years.

At the county seat court house at Marshall, I saw the original of the will left by old David Shelton, dated Jan. 5, 1858. It is recorded in Will Book "A" at page 19. I got a certified copy of it from the clerk of the court. Also I got from the clerk a certified copy of the inventory of the estate of Catherine Shelton, David’s widow, as sworn to May 25, 1863 by Judith Shelton. In the inventory were about 30 notes, for amounts ranging from 30 cents to $500.

The most interesting tangible new "information" I got this trip was the positive assertion of Jim Shelton, brother of Bud, that Ralph Shelton of Shelton’s Ford in East Tennessee, our great grandfather, was the son of Alexander Shelton. Jim Shelton is about 60 years old, a Spanish War veteran. He says he recollects well hearing from his father, John A. Shelton, about a trip that Ralph made back to Shelton Laurel when he was an old man, and he recalls definitely hearing from his father that Ralph was a son of Alexander. Alexander, called Alex, was one of the 14 children of old David, the original. Bud Shelton also says he remembers hearing his father talk about the visit from Ralph. I don’t know how seriously to take this, but it is the first time I ever heard anyone positively assert he knew the name of Ralph’s father.

Anyway, I made further inquiries about Alex. I found in the county seat town of Marshall a man named W.E. King who knew Alex well. Mr. King must be around 80 years old, intelligent and alert. He is descended from Martin Shelton. Mr. King said he worked for Alex as a boy, said Alex was a fine man, tall, large, strong, good looking, very fair with blue eyes. He said Alex had a good reputation for keeping his word and paying his obligations. But he said Alex liked the women, and in his life time had four wives. He knew the names of three of the four wives: Rhoda Norton, Nancy Hall and Margaret Hensley. I don’t know that this is the order in which he had them. And I have no idea which of them was Ralph’s mother.

You will recall that in my report on Shelton Laurel last year I reported that Alex had 30 children. From various sources I now have the names of the following sons of Alex: Mandy (or Manny), Nick or Enoch (may be the same or different ones), Merriman, Richard, David and Ralph. Last year Father told me he remembers as a boy a visit to his home from an Uncle David he thinks must have been his grandfather’s brother.

Add to the list of the sons of old David the following: John Shelton, who was a captain in the Civil War, Union Army, and who also fought in the war with Mexico. Captain John in his last years made his home with Calvin Shelton, son of James who was massacred by the rebels. This Calvin Shelton now owns a fine stock farm in Virginia somewhere between Lynchburg and Richmond. I intend to locate him and visit him sometime. <DM>

Now about the origin of old David Shelton, the original settler in Shelton Laurel: Frank Shelton, David’s grandson, told me last year that David came from somewhere in Virginai. Now comes Bud Shelton who says he recalls hearing his father say that David came from Ireland as a young man, that he was Scotch-Irish. Also Bud says that David first went into what is now Indiana and married his wife Catherine, there. Then David, who loved to go on long hunting and fishing explorations, made a trip into Shelton Laurel, fell in love with the little valley, settled there, acquired much land, and started the Shelton tribe of Shelton Laurel. One of his deals was to trade a little gray horse for 100 acres of good bottom land.

I will amplify these notes for my own records. Would you like to become part owner of the old log house and a tract of land running about 300 yards down to Shelton Laurel Creek? It could be purchased, but I don’t know the price.

Charline expects to visit Missouri late this month or early in June, and of course hopes to stop with you and family going or coming. Napier will stay with me, and then I will take him to Missouri about the time Charline is ready to return. I will have to make it a quick trip like I made two years ago.

Love to all,



Note by S.J.S.

When I read this letter to father May 8, 1937, he commented:

"I remember Uncle David coming to our house when I was a boy. I think he came from Tennessee. He was my father’s uncle. He was a doctor, and he had a brother Hezikiah, also a doctor. Hezikiah was called Doc. I think he then lived in Alabama. Hezikiah drank a lot of liquor, and David none at all. They had one practiced together but had gone their separate ways because of Doc’s drinking. I remember that when Uncle David visited us he was always walking back and forth in the house and talking - always talking." <DM>

July 10, 1939



Data gathered by Frederick Shelton during visits to Virginia and North Carolina Court Houses and other sources of early records, July 1 to July 8, 1939.

* * * * *

On one previous trip to Coal Creek, Tennessee, I talked with Rode C. Emmet, who married a daughter of Anderson Shelton, a son of Ralph Shelton, my great-grandfather who lived and raised a large family on a farm on the Clinch River at a place then known as "Shelton's Ford" in Claiborne County, in eastern Tennessee. <DM> Rode C. Emmet told me that Ralph Shelton came to Claiborne County from "Shelton Laurel", a section in Madison County, North Carolina, near the Tennessee line. Emmet had known Ralph Shelton, having lived in the general vicinity where Ralph Shelton lived, talked with him many times, and he stated to me that be had heard Ralph say he came from "Shelton Laurel", and that he remembered one visit Ralph made to "Shelton Laurel". It was in 1936 that I visited Emmet and got his account, Emmet then being quite an old man. <DM>

As a result of Emmet's story I visited "Shelton Laurel" on two or three different occasions. I have written accounts of those visits in previous reports. I talked with several old settlers who knew the early history of the community and I never found anyone who definitely had any recollection of a Ralph Shelton as a member of any of the Shelton families which lived in "Shelton Laurel". <DM> I did get lots of information about the family and descendants of David Shelton. who was one of the first of a large number of Sheltons to live in "Shelton Laurel". I suspected, from Rode Emmet’s story, that Ralph Shelton was a son of this David Shelton. Further inquiries have not brought proof of that suspicion, and I am now inclined to doubt that theory of Ralph's origin. find in US Census of 1850 that he was born in Virginia about 1787. [Transcriber's Note - crossout and "find in US Census of 1850 that he was born in Virginia about 1787" are hand written] <DM>


I will record here first a story of a line of Virginia Sheltons which is interesting and is circumstantial evidence pointing to this line as the origin of our Ralph.

A line of Ralph Sheltons dating back to earliest Virginia history: John Shelton of Hanover who in 1670 to 1673 built the historic home called "Rural Plains " which still stands and is occupied by William R. Shelton and family, direct descendants of the builder, is supposed to have had a brother Peter Shelton.

This Peter Shelton was born in York County, Virginia, in 1664, and Susannah Jaxon, March 2, 1684. Later they lived in Middlesex County, Virginia, where was born their son Ralph Shelton.

This Ralph Shelton was born in 1709, and in the year 1731 married Mary Daniel. The above data on Peter and Ralph Shelton is taken from Mrs. Whitaker’s book on Shelton Genea1ogy, and the accuracy of that book has been questioned, but I have the word of Miss Bertie Shelton of Richmond that records of Middlesex County do show birth of a Ralph Shelton. I shall try to get more authoritative data on this Ralph. <DM>

Royal land grant to Ralph Shelton: I personally inspected the official records in the State land. Office in Richmond of lands granted by patent from the King of England, and found a grant from George II dated June 20, 1749 for 400 acres to Ralph Shelton. There are no words to indicate the residence of Ralph. This tract of land is described as being in Lunenburgh County, located on the lower side of Ledbetters Creek. Description of the land shows that this tract touched the land of John Ingram, Samuel Ingram, Jonathan Davis, and "Johnson’s line." Part of what was then Lunenburgh County later was cut off to form Amelia County.

I found record of land patent granted to Ralph Shelton, on September 20, 1745, for 400 acres, and. it bears the same description as stated in deed from Ralph Shelton to Richard Burks, in 1763, the land lying on north side of the great Nottaway River. This definitely identifies Ralph, the patentee of 1745, as the man who sold out in Amelia County and moved to Henry County. This patent shown in Book No. 22, page 561.

Sale of Amelia land, by Ralph Shelton: In the present Amelia County records, Deed Book 8, page 374, I saw on July 7, 1939, a record of a deed from Ralph Shelton, of Nottaway Parish, Amelia County, to Richard Burks. Date of the deed was February 22, 1763. Tract was of 686 acres, and the consideration was 400 pounds. Description of land showed it to be on the lower side of Snales Creek, and on the north side of the great Nottaway River, 400 acres of the tract "being land which was granted to Ralph Shelton by Patent, September 20, 1745. The other 286 acres was land bought by Ralph Shelton from Samuel Jordan on October 23, 1751.

The deed to Richard Burke was witnessed by a John Shelton.

Record of this tract bought by Ralph Shelton from Samuel Jordan is in Amelia County records, Deed Book 4, page 179. Date is October 23, 1751. Ralph is described as of Parish of Nottaway, Amelia County. Consideration was 30 pounds. 286 acres. It is stated in deed to have been patented to Samuel Jordan by King George II, September 20, 1748. It is described as being on lower side of Snales Creek, beginning at Bagley’s corner white oak, etc.

Then Ralph Shelton moved to Henry County, Virginia. This is shown by Amelia County records which show sale of land by Ralph Shelton of Henry County, Va., the land being the same as that previously owned by Ralph Shelton of Amelia County.

Deed from Ralph Shelton of Henry County of Thomas Dudley. Deed Book 15, page 34. Consideration, 250 pounds. Tract described as 400 acres granted to Ralph Shelton by patent, September 20, 1745, and lying on lower side of Snales Creek, on north side of great Nottaway River. James Shelton signed as a witness to this deed.

It is the same land previously deeded to Richard Burke. That may have been a deed of trust to secure a loan, or the deal may have fallen through for some reason. Date of this deed to Thomas Dudley is November 28, 1778.

Then a few days later there was another deed for sale of land from Ralph Shelton of Henry County and Richard Burks to John Knight. Date is December 2, 1778. Recorded in Amelia County Deed Book 15, page 205. Consideration was 300 pounds. Detailed description of land is not given in deed. Stephen Shelton was a witness.

Other records of Ralph Shelton while he was a resident of Amelia County:

February 19, 1747: Ralph Shelton petitioned the County Court for permission to build a water mill on his land on the great Nottaway River. Court ordered a committee of 12 freeholders of the vicinage to view the site and report damage that might be done to other property. This supports the record that Ralph had patented land in 1745 in this county and was living on the great Nottaway prior to record of a patent to Ralph Shelton of land in Lunenburgh County in 1749.

In 1763, Samuel Jordan sued Ralph Shelton on a debt, and a jury heard the suit and gave judgment against Ralph for 52 pounds and seven shillings with interest at the rate of 5 per cent from November 1, 1756.

Ralph Shelton in Henry County, Virginia: Ralph Shelton bought land in what is now Henry County in July, 1763, after having sold. his land in Amelia County in February of the same year. Land. bought by Ralph in Henry County was then located in Halifax County, later in Pittsylvania County, before Henry County was formed.

Record in Halifax County Deed Book 4, page 357. Date July 21, 1763. Deed from Darby Callahan of Orange County, North Carolina, to Ralph Shelton "of Amelia County". 400 acres, lying on both sides of the South Fork of Mayo River. Consideration, 70 pounds of the current money of Virginia.

Record in Pittsylvania County Deed Book 2, page 309. Date, May 6, 1771. Deed to Ralph Shelton "of Pittsylvania County" to 400 acres on South Pork of Mayo River. Consideration, 25 pounds. (This land is now in Henry County.)

Pittsylvania County Court, July Term, 1770: Ralph Shelton got an injunction to stay proceedings against him by Ross and Leak under a previous judgment of this Court. Daniel Shelton was security for Ralph.

In 1776, in Henry County, there is record of a deed to Ralph Shelton, Senior, for 1l91/2 acres of land, for consideration of 100 pounds. (He sold this about a year later for 140 pounds.) Note the use of the suffix "Senior". Apparently the son Ralph was coming along and of age to be having business transactions.

Sale of land in Henry County by Ralph Shelton:

In 1784, Shelton, Senior, of Henry County, sold 400 acres to his son, James Shelton of Henry County. (In this, or one other sale in Henry County, it provided in the deed that Ralph was paid the consideration "in hard money." The customary payment was "in current money of Virginia").

In 1788, a deed to land in Henry County was executed by "Ralph Shelton and Elizabeth his wife of Henry County". It was for 250 acres, and the consideration was 100 pounds. It is interesting to note that the suffix "Senior" was not used. Also there was no mention of a wife in the deed from Ralph, Senior, in 1784. It looks as if this may be a deed from Ralph, the son.

Last records of Ralph Shelton in Henry County: The above two deeds from Ralph Shelton are the last records of any kind I found in the County records of Henry County, although my search was hasty and possibly inexhaustive. Ralph, Senior, died around the period 1787 to 1789. Thus, there is at least superficial evidence that Ralph, Junior, left Henry County around this period. One point is that Ralph, Senior will, dated. April 23, 1787, named his son Ralph as one of two executors but then the will was presented in Court of Henry County on March 30, 1789 it was the other son and executor, Eliphaz, who presented it.

Will of Ralph Shelton, Senior, of Henry County, is recorded in Will Book No. One, page 170, Martinsville, Virginia. It was dated April 23, 1787, and was presented in Court of Henry County on March 30, 1789. Executors named were "my sons Ralph Shelton and Eliphaz Shelton". It was Eliphaz who presented it in Court in 1789. No record. of the actual death of Ralph, Senior. And there is no mention of a wife, so she must have died previously.

His son John Shelton he cut off in the will with a bequest of 25 pounds sterling, so that he could not "claim kinship".

Then he named his children as follows, ordering that the estate be divided among them:

Ralph Shelton

Palitiah Shelton

Eliphaz Shelton

James Shelton

Ezekiah Shelton (other records spell it, Hezekiah)

Jeremiah Shelton

Azariah Shelton

Roger Shelton

Easop Shelton

Abbegal Shelton

Mary Shelton

Liberty Shelton

Kathern Rutherford

Sarah Robertson

Elizabeth Arnold

Rina McGhee

Susanah Jones.

What next after the Henry County residence of Ralph Shelton, Jr.? That is not known. Perhaps we will find, in some county in Tennessee, or North Carolina, o" Georgia a record of a deed to Ralph Shelton of Henry County, Virginia. He must have been a mature man in 1787 (perhaps 40 to 50 years old) when his father named him executor of his will, and the fact that he was named first in the list of children indicates he probably was the eldest. Thus the time element is such that he might logically have been the father, or grandfather, of Ralph Shelton of Claiborne County, Tennessee, who was my great grandfather. It is, of course, another possibility that any of the other sons of Ralph Shelton, Senior, might have been the father, or grandfather of Ralph Shelton of Claiborne County.

Coincidence of Family first-names: The name Ralph has stuck through several generations of my father's family, including his father and grandfather and nephew, and it is not a common name. In various Virginia county records of Shelton families known not to be in our line I did not find this name appearing. The most suggestive coincidence, however, is the fact that Ralph, Senior, of Henry County, had sons, Ralph, Hezekiah and Azariah, three unusual names not likely to reappear together in a family of brothers unless closely related. Yet my father’s grandfather Ralph Shelton of Claiborne County, Tennessee, had a brother Hezekiah ... And father’s name is Samuel Azariah Shelton, and he had a brother William Hezekiah Shelton. <DM>

This speculation based on similarity of names is recorded here as the basis for further searches.

Next I will set down further factual records indicating the early settlement of Shelton’s in East Tennessee.

There are records of a Ralph Shelton living in Grainger County, Tennessee, from 1796 to 1804. This is the county just east of Claiborne County where my great-grandfather Ralph Shelton lived. Rutledge is the County Seat, and I inspected records there August 8, 1935. I found deed records of a Ralph Shelton there as follows:

Deed Book A, page 10, date 1796.

Deed Book A, page 77, date 1798.

Deed Book A, page 210, year 1800, November, 24.

Deed Book A, page 333, date May 23, 1804.

This Ralph Shelton had about 400 acres "on the south side of Holston River in Grainger County opposite the mouth of German Creek". The records show that he added and sold parcels of land from time to time but kept a large tract here as his home. This land was then in Grainger County but later was in another county (not Claiborne) which was cut off from Grainger County. This Ralph Shelton signed some but not all of his instruments with "his mark".

Then in the year 1811 (Deed Book F, page 614) Ralph Shelton "of Knox County, Tennessee," executed a power of attorney to Richard Shelton to act for him in selling his, Ralph’s land on the Holston River in Grainger County. This Richard Shelton was a neighbor of Ralph when Ralph lived "on south side of Holston River opposite the mouth of German Creek". This power of attorney was witnessed by David Shelton and George Shelton, both of whom had died sometime before January 14, 1834, as evidenced by a recorded affidavit to prove the signatures of David. and George Shelton.

This Ralph Shelton of Grainger County and Knox County could well have been the son of Ralph Shelton of Henry County, Virginia, and the father or grandfather of Ralph Shelton of Claiborne County Tennessee.

Records of Ralph Shelton in Claiborne County, Tennessee: The early records of Claiborne County are in bad shape, some damaged badly by a fire, and some destroyed entirely.

In Grainger County records at Rutledge, however, I found a deed to Ralph Shelton "of Claiborne County." This deed. was granted by Crispian E. Shelton. It was dated. May 8, 1818.

Also there was another deed to Ralph Shelton "of Claiborne County" in 1820.

The above two tracts of land were described as lying on Puncheon Camp Creek, and the one in 1818 was described as "at fork of Puncheon Camp Creek and Clinch River."

Then, in 1821, November 21, Crispian H. Shelton "of Rhea County, Tennessee" deeded to Ralph Shelton of Claiborne County another tract of land on Puncheon Camp Creek "adjoining Ralph She1ton's land." These transactions pretty clearly establish the residence of Ralph Shelton, my great-grandfather, on the Clinch River, where we know he lived. He may have been in Claiborne County before 1818. The destroyed records may have shown prior residence.

The Ralph Shelton of Grainger County in 1796 and of Knox County in 1811 could not have been my great-grandfather Ralph Shelton of Claiborne County because the dates are too early.

Another coincidence of names in Henry County, Va., and in east Tennessee is this: There was a Palitiah Shelton who was granted royal patent to land in Amelia County, Va. about the same time that Ralph Shelton's patent was granted. Then the Ralph Shelton, Senior, of Henry County, Va., had a son Palitiah Shelton, naming him in his will dated 1787. Next there are records of a Palitiah Shelton in Grainger County, Tennessee, during the years when Ralph Shelton of Grainger County lived there. The reappearance of this unusual name along with the name of Ralph suggests kinship.


The following are records which I have found and examined in various Court Houses and libraries in the states mentioned. In most cases there is no known connection between these Sheltons and my own family, but there may be some unknown connection, and I am listing the records here for future reference.


Records of original land patents in Virginia granted by the Crown:

(The years covered by the Book mentioned are the only dates I have, since I did not have time to look up the exact date of each patent.)

Book 7 — years 1679 to 1689:
William Shelton. 150 acres. Page 82.

Book 10 — years 1710 to 1719?
William Skelton (probably Shelton). 150 acres. Page 39.

Book 11 — years 1719 to 1724:
John Shelton. 1198 acres. Page 232.

Book 11 — years 1719 to 1724:
James Shelton. Four grants of 1200, 400, 400, 400 acres respectively. Pages 338 and 339.

Book 12 — years 1724 and 1725:
John Shelton. 400 acres. Page 245.

John Shelton. 600 acres. Page 378.

Book 13 — years 1725 to 1730:

James Skelton. 1600 acres, 1600 acres, 750 acres, and. 393 acres in four separate grants. Pages 14, 15, 434. (The handwriting of that time often made an "h" to look like a "k" and thus copied records are apt to make a Skelton out of a Shelton. And sometimes it is hard to tell whether it is an "h" or a "k")

Book 15 — years from 1732 to 1735:
James Shelton. 393 acres. Page 290.

Book No. 22 — years from 1743 to 1745:

Ralph Shelton. 400 acres. Page 561. Date of grant was September 20, 1745. This is the tract in Amelia County lying on the great Nottaway River.

Book No. 24 — years from 1745 to 1746
Joseph Shelton (or Skelton). 400 acres. Page 358.
Edward Shelton (or Skelton). 125 acres. Page 383.

Book No. 28 — years from 1746 to 1749:

John Skelton (or Shelton). 335 acres. Page 1.
John Skelton (or Shelton). 150 acres. Page 2.

Ralph Shelton. 400 acres. Page 592. June 20, 1749. This tract was in Lunenburgh County, on Ledbetters Creek.

Book No. 29 — years from 1749 to 1751:

James Skelton (or Shelton). 10 acres. Page 178.

Book No. 33 — years from 1756 to 1761:

John Shelton. Separate grants of 650, 1400, 940, 995, 150 and 1000 acres, respectively. Pages 196, 202, 210, 268, 269, 319.

William Shelton. 82 acres. Page 471.

Joseph Shelton. 98 acres. Page 502.

Benjamin Shelton. 119 acres. Page 550.

Book 34 — years from 1756 to 1762:
Henry Shelton. 29 acres and 250 acres. Pages 201, 488.

Book 35 — years from 1762 to 1764:
William Shelton. 80 acres and 50 acres. Pages 175, 436.

Book No. 36 - years from 1764 to 1767:

Palatiah Shelton & c. 400 acres. Page 1006.
Crispin Shelton, 1515 acres. Page 589.

Book No. 38 — years from 1768 to 1770:
William Shelton. 99 acres. Page 829.

Book No. 40 — from 1771 to 1772:
James Shelton. 400 acres. Page 819.

Book No. 41 — years from 1772 to 1773:

Mark Shelton. 399 acres. Page 126.
James Shelton. 500 acres. Page 131.
Abraham Shelton. 249 acres. Page 133.
Gabriel Shelton & c. 400, 404, 794 acres respectively. Pages 416, 417, 442.

Halifax County, Halifax Virginia? —Deed to Palletin Shelton of Halifax County. 140 acres, lying on Sycamore Creek. Consideration, 100 pounds. (This may be misspelling of Palatiah Shelton, who bought 165 acres on Irvin River, Aug. 29, 1771, — once in Halifax County.

Pittsylvania County, Chatham, Virginia: — This County and Henry County were once parts of Halifax County: —Deed to Palatiah Shelton of Pittsylvania County. 165 acres, lying on Irvin River, date, August 29, 1771.

Deed from Palatiah Shelton and Mary his wife. Nov. 29, 1770. 130 acres on Smith River at a place known by the name of Rock Castle. (Smith River flows by city of Martinsville.)

Deed from Mark Shelton, "Planter, of Pittsylvania County. December 16th, 1779.

Henry County, Martinsville, Virginia. Henry County was once part of Pittsylvania County after the latter was cut off from Halifax County:

Deeds to the following are recorded:

1776. Ralph Shelton, Senior. l19 1/2 acres. Consideration, 100 pounds. He sold it a year later for 140 pounds.

1779. Palatieh Shelton.

1780. William Shelton.

1780. Samuel Shelton.

1791. Hezekiah Shelton.

Buncombe County Court House, Asheville, North Caro1ina. This County in the early days included most of what is now Madison County and the section known as "Shelton Laurel", bordering on the Tennessee line.

Deed from John Strother to David Shelton, for 30 acres on "Laurel Branch". Consideration, $13.00. July 28, 1815. This was part of a large tract of’ 326,000 acres originally granted to John Gray Blount, later sold by Sheriff for taxes. Deed. Book H, page 270.

Deed from State of North Carolina, No. 931, to David Shelton and his assignee Rodrick Shelton. 100 acres, on Bald Mountain Creek. December 10, 1801. Deed. Book 4, page 622.

Deed to David Shelton. 418 acres on Laurel Creek. April 12, 1823. Deed Book 13, page 418.

Deed to Rodrick Shelton. August 27, 1800. Deed Book 11, page 75.

Deed to Lewis Shelton. 12 acres on Laurel Creek. July 28th, 1815. Deed Book H, page 219.

Lewis Shelton and. James Shelton are described as sons of Rodrick Shelton.

Also there was a Martin Shelton as grantee of a deed in Laurel Creek Country about the time of the first deeds to any Sheltons.

No mention of a Ralph Shelton in the early deed records of Buncombe County.

There probably are earlier records in the North Carolina state Capitol, records of deeds prior to formation of Buncombe Co.

Shelton’s Gap in Buncombe Co.: An Order of the Buncombe County, N. C., Court, April Term, 1800 reads as follows:

"Ordered by the Court that the Sheriff summon the following persons to serve as a Jury to View, mark and lay off a road the nearest and most convenient way from the road leading from Asheville to the head of the Catawba to Shelton’s Gap," etc . . . (From, "History of Buncombe County, N. C.’ by P. A. Sondley.)

Census of 1790 shows a David Shelton in the list of taxpayers of the Caswell County, North Carolina, of the "Richmond District."

David Shelton of Caswell County, North Carolina, was a member of the State Legislature in the year 1782.

Census of 1790 shows Heads of Families in Stokes County, North Carolina, as follows:

John Shelton. No free white males under 16 years of age. Two free white females. No slaves.

John Shelton. Two free white males under 16 years of age. Three females. One slave.

William Shelton. Four free white males under 16 years of age. Two females. No slaves.

Daniel Shelton. Two free white males under 16 years of age. Two females. No slaves.

References to early Virginia Sheltons are found in the book, "Early Settlers of Alabama", by Col. James Edmonds Saunders. But it does not say much about early Sheltons, in Alabama. I saw this book in the Sondley Library in Asheville, North Carolina.

Captain Francis Shelton, during the Revolution, organized a company in Henry County, Virginia, to put down the tories who were causing trouble on the Dan River. (Prom Augusta County, Va., records.)

Written by Frederick DeWitt Shelton
4411 Hadfield Lane, N. W.
Washington, D. C.

Note 1 - Stapled to the following was a handwritten note, "From the Desk of-- FREDERICK D. SHELTON", Dear Belle -- Enclosed are my latest Shelton data. Add this: I found in US Census of 1850 that Ralph Shelton (our g-grandfather) was born "in Virginia" in 1787. I'm also mimeographing my Napier notes - will send them in due course. Love to all, Fred <DM>



July 31, 1942

Dear Sam:

Here’s something to put in your files along with my reports on Shelton Laurel which I sent you during the past few years.

A Mrs. Luber who lives here phoned me a few days ago and said she had been to Shelton Laurel where she was born and had some information for me. The people whom I had interviewed there remembered me and sent lie some information along the lines of my inquiries. It was of no value so far as it concerns our own family line. But it’s interesting that old Tempe Shelton reported that 40 years ago one Rafe Shelton from Tenn. or Ky. had visited there and she reported on him and his offspring. Best I can figure out he probably was the Rafe who was son of Mark and therefore Father’s first cousin. My records show that Mark did have a son Rafe. This probably is why Bud Shelton thought he had heard about our great-grandfather Rafe having made a visit to Shelton Laurel.<DM>

Charline and I had a pleasant evening with Mrs. Luber. Rube Hensley who gave me the details on Alexander Shelton was uncle of Mrs. Luber. At that time Bud had thought that Alex probably was father of our Rafe, but we learned later that he was no kin, Anyhow, Rube told me all the names of Alex’ four wives and 30 children and tales of his rugged character. He was a tough old bird, and lived to be over a 100 years old. Rube is now dead, but his daughter recalled my visit to their house and told Mrs. Luber this story with much gusto. <DM>

After I said good-bye to Rube, he stood up on his porch, silently watched me and Charline clamber down the rocky mountain trail, and when we were out of sight he turned to his aged wife and said, "Mom, sich fruit as that never sprung from Old Alec!"

Mrs. Luber vows he meant it for a high compliment, but I think it makes a better story to take it the other way. She says there’s a social worker in Shelton Laurel now but the natives literally refuse to have anything to do with him, say "He appears to think we’re heathens!"


Fred (signed)

1. <DM> Comments and analysis of Duane Mills