William W. Shelby

by Edmund Starling, 1886

 
 

WILLIAM W. SHELBY was born in the Point, opposite Newburgh, on the twenty-seventh day of August, 1836. His father being a man of more than ordinary means, and a well-to-do farmer, was enabled to give his son a liberal collegiate education. His early training was had in the private schools of Newburgh, Indiana, and from thence to Princeton College, Kentucky, where he remained three years. At the age of eighteen, he was sent to Hanover College, Indiana, where he remained two years. He then entered Georgetown, Kentucky, College, but, owing to the political complexion of the country, he became dissatisfied at the end of six weeks, and was granted an examination, and permitted to graduate. Mr. Shelby, then returned to his father's farm in the Point, and undertook a farmer's life. In 1856 his father removed to Owensboro, and young Shelby took control of the farm. He was a large grower of corn and tobacco up to 1866, and usually shipped his tobacco to European markets. In 1861 Mr. Shelby formed a partnership with his uncle, John S. McCormick, and built a large tobacco stemmery[sic] at Scuffletown. In 1868, they build a large store room, and for many years, did a very large grocery, dry goods, and notion trade. In 1867, through the instrumentality of Mr. Shelby, the Post Office Department at Washington was induced to establish an office at Scuffletown, and John Folden was appointed Postmaster. Mr. Shelby really was Postmaster, as he alone attended to all postal matters up to 1881. Shelby & McCormick did an immense business, and with very gratifying results. In addition to their tobacco stemmery and store, they built and operated a grist mill and blacksmith shop. They put up in strips for the European market, as high as five hundred hogsheads and one hundred hogsheads of leaf. Their usual average was from three to four hundred hogsheads.

The mercantile interest averaged, in annual sales, thirty thousand dollars. Mr. Shelby was, during the partnership, the active partner, and gave his entire attention to its affairs. Prior to the time he commenced buying tobacco; there was not much of a crop grown in the Point, but in 1877, there was 1,100,000 lbs. grown, and he became the purchaser of nearly the entire crop. This was the largest crop ever grown in the Point Precinct. Mr. Shelby was a heavy grower of corn and tobacco, his crops frequently averaging from ten to fifteen thousand bushels of corn, and from fifty to one hundred thousand pounds of tobacco. During the early part of 1881, Mr. Shelby sold his store to Fulner & Allen, and in June came to Henderson to reside. On the twenty-fourth day of October, 1877, he married Miss Mary E. Turner, third daughter of Hon. H. F. Turner, a lady of high social character and very handsome. As a result of this union, two children have been born, Lucie and Georgia, two as bright jewels as are to be found in the entire human family. Prior to his coming to Henderson, Mr. Shelby, and his uncle, John S. McCormick, purchased the Dunlop tobacco stemmery[sic] on lower Main Street in the City of Henderson. For several years the firm purchased tobacco, but in September, 1882, he became, by purchase, the sole owner of the entire property. On the first day of July, 1882, having leased the lower saw mill, and laid in a large supply of logs, Mr. Shelby commenced sawing lumber for the trade. He carried on a very large business, but owing to the incompleteness of the mill and the heavy running expense attaching on that account, he abandoned the lumber business. During the summer of 1882, a copartnership, consisting of W. W. Shelby, Fielding B. Turner and William Soaper, was formed, and, in September, the building of a hominy mill was begun. This mill, a large, three-story frame, with roomy cribs, warerooms and other necessary appendages, was soon completed and fully equipped with the best and latest machines and machinery known to the manufacturing trade. On the first day of January, 1883, the machinery was started. Two years afterwards Messrs. Shelby and Soaper purchased Turner's interest, and, from that time, Mr. Shelby has had entire control, and a splendid success he has made of it.

IN addition to the large business, demanding the almost exclusive attention of Mr. Shelby, in 1882,'83, he was a large buyer of wheat and walnut logs. In everything he has undertaken he has proven a success, until to-day he is justly regarded of superior business tact and far seeing judgment.

Mr. Shelby, having gone from the schoolroom to hard and endless work, had so overtaxed himself that recreation was positively needed; therefore, he visited Europe in 1875, and spent the greater part of the year traveling in that country. Returning home again, he took up the thread of his multiplied business and has devoted himself with an assiduity of purpose that has placed him among the foremost men of his State. As a citizen, Mr. Shelby is enterprising and public spirited, contributing freely of his time, means and ability. As a man, he is fearless, open, frank, sincere, not only sagacious, but prudent, methodical and indefatigable, broad in his plans, keenly alive to the details in their execution and faithful under all circumstances to his engagements.

In 1883,'84, Mr. Shelby built his present magnificent residence, certainly the handsomest in the city and much handsomer than very many metropolitan homes costing twice as much. From 1860 to 1875 Mr. Shelby served the people of the Point District as Magistrate, and it is a fact, was never elected but once. The confidence imposed in him was unlimited. He also served as Postmaster from 1867 to 1881. He has never attached himself to a church or lodge.


The History of Henderson County, Kentucky by Starling 1887 page 733-35;

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