My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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JOHN W. SHIELDS, L. L. B. The task of the biographer becomes a very pleasant one when the subject of whom he is to write possesses so many of the most noble traits of character that his heart is thrilled with admiration, and when to this is added uncommon talents or acquirements, the task is yet more pleasing. In such a mood as this the sketch of the late John W. Shields is undertaken, and although to those who knew him it is not necessary to recount his virtues, the recital may be the means of inciting some to a better life, and encouraging those who feel that their lot is hard.

In the Emerald Isle, many years ago, James Shields opened his eyes to the light of day, and emigrated to Virginia in 1805. There he married Miss Keziah Bain, and soon after came to this county, making a settlement two miles east of what is now the city of Xenia. This was in 1812, while the country was still new and sparsely settled, and like others of the pioneers he cleared and improved a good farm. His original estate consisted of five hundred acres, but at the time of his death he owned but three hundred and forty. Here he reared a family of seven children, but two of whom are now living in this county. The circle included Robert, who died in 1879; Jane, the wife of Judge J. W. Harper, of Xenia; John, the subject of this sketch; Margaret, who died young; James Harvey, who died in Kansas, in 1877; Mary B.,now living in Xenia with a daughter of our subject; and William, who died on the farm in 1852. The father breathed his last on the old farm, June 13, 1839, his widow surviving until 1869, her death also taking place on the homestead. Mr. Shields was a member of the Associate Church, and a man of high moral character, honest, industrious and charitable. He had held the office of School Director, and labored earnestly to advance the cause of education.

The subject of this sketch was born in Xenia Township, November 20, 1817, and grew to maturity on his father’s farm. He completed his education at Hanover College, Indiana, failing to graduate on account of his near sightedness, which prevented his finishing Greek. He studied Latin and other branches, prior to his course in Hanover College, under the instruction of the Rev. Hugh McMillan, who had the first academy in Xenia, it being in the house now occupied by Miss Shields, and in which our subject died. After leaving Hanover College, Mr. Shields read law with Aaron Harlan, of Xenia, and was graduated from the Cincinnati Law School in 1839, afterward practicing as a partner of the gentleman with whom he had previously read. He went to Mississippi, intending to locate in that State, but not being able to endure the climate soon returned. For a few years he was in partnership with Judge Burney, in Cincinnati, after which he returned to Xenia and formed a partnership with the late Hon. J. G. Gest. During the exciting days of the Clay-Polk campaign he was a strong Whig.

Not long after this Mr. Shields began the study of theology under Dr. McMasters, in Xenia, and being licensed to preach, in 1850 took charge of a Presbyterian Congregation at Bellbrook, but was compelled to resign on account of poor health.

In 1849 he had an attack of cholera, for many days his life being despaired of, and the disease had so affected the system that he had to go South for two winters in order to ward off pulmonary troubles. During these winters he acted as agent for the American Bible Society, and his labors had such an effect that he became interested in the society, and organized many township auxiliaries. He is known as the father of the Spring Valley Bible Society.

After his marriage, which took place September 30, 1855, Mr. Shields made his home on a farm near Spring Valley until the spring of 1869, when he became a resident of Xenia. He had become totally blind, but although forced to abandon some of his bright hopes for the future, he continued useful to his fellow-men, and acted as their servant on the school board, while his example in private life afforded a striking proof of his Christian faith and character. During his term of service on the school board, to which he was elected twice, the new High School building was erected, and in that work he was active and earnest, as he was in all that promised to benefit the community. He became so familiar with the streets of the city that he rarely missed the house or office of a friend. A thoroughly loyal man, the attempt to destroy the Union roused him to earnest efforts in behalf of the united nation, and he made many speeches throughout the contiguous country, his fervid utterances rousing the desire to sustain the government in the minds of those who were disheartened or whose zeal needed strength. The death of Mr. Shields took place April 13, 1886. The noble old man entered into his rest, leaving one daughter, Mary, from whom these facts in his history are obtained.

The wife of Mr. Shields, in her girlhood Miss Margaret McKnight, was born near Spring Valley, February 13, 1813, to the wife of William McKnight, an early settler there. The family came to this county in 1809, and the days of Mrs. Shields had been spent at her birthplace, where her marriage took place. Her demise occurred December 5, 1875. She was a good woman, whose chief aim in life was to properly fulfill the duties of wife, mother and neighbor, and she is yet remembered by what she has done. She belonged to the Presbyterian Church.

The daughter of our subject opened her eyes to the light on the farm near Spring Valley, in 1856, but coming to Xenia in her early childhood she was educated here, being graduated in the class of 1875. She is a highly cultured woman, whose wisdom has been increased by travel and the knowledge gleaned from observation of the habits and manner of mankind in various localities, as well as by the perusal of the wise sayings of learned men. Following the teachings of her revered parents, she is a member of the Presbyterian Church. She is still living at the old home, having the companionship of her aunt, Miss Mary B. Shields, who was born on the James Shields farm east of the city, and remained upon it until the death of its other inmates. In 1880, she came to the city and took up her abode with her brother.

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This family biography is one of the many biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890. 

View additional Greene County, Ohio family biographies here: Greene County, Ohio Biographies

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