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Shields, Robert

ROBERT SHIELDS.

Among the early settlers in Franklin County was the Shields family, which had emigrated from the north of Ireland. James Shields was born near Chambersburg, in that county, in 1770, and came to Westmoreland in 1798, locating some four miles northeast of New Salem, in Salem township, on the farm now owned by his son David. He built a house on his two hundred-acre tract of land, to which he added subsequently one hundred and twenty acres more. He married Elizabeth Wilson, of the old and wealthy Wilson family, near Chambersburg. She was the eldest daughter of her parents, who had seven sons and three daughters. She became in 1872 sole heir of the extensive Wilson estate in Franklin County, embracing some five thousand acres of land, together with other valuable personal property. James Shields died in 1841, and his wife, Elizabeth (Wilson), March 23, 1873, aged ninety-nine years. Their children were Matthew, who died young; John, living in Franklin County; Robert; James, a resident of Chambersburg; David, residing in Latrobe; Matthew, living in Mount Pleasant; Wilson, also in Mount Pleasant; Sarah, married to William Ray; and Mary (deceased), married to James Dickey. Of these, Robert was born in 1803, and when nineteen years of age went to Shieldsburg, where he learned the tanning business with Capt. Benjamin Hill, who there carried on an extensive tannery. In the fall of 1825 he removed to New Salem, where his father had purchased two lots, with a little tannery sunk on them, of John Hutton, the owner, who had started it a few years before, Robert Shields made additions and improvements to the establishment, and carried on the tanning business until 1870, a period of forty-five years. It was on the lots of his present residence on Pittsburgh Street, but the vats have been covered up for several years. He bought out the saddlery and harness-making business of John B. Plumer, which he conducted also for a long time, in addition to a boot and shoe factory carried on by him until the cheap Eastern manufactured goods began to be kept by the stores. He was married Aug. 31, 1826, to Mary Borland, daughter of Samuel Borland, by Rev. Harper. His wife died Feb. 5, 1861. Their children were Elizabeth, born June 19, 1827, was married to George Lloyd, of Latrobe; Lydia Anne, born March 19, 1829, unmarried, and resided at home; Florinda Patton, born Oct. 3, 1831, married Henry McKeever, and died Dec. 5, 1865; James, born Feb. 15, 1833, died young; Mary Jane, born June 30, 1834, married Samuel J. Paul; Samuel Shields, born April 26, 1836; Sarah, born Dec. 6, 1838, unmarried, residing at home; David Wilson, born Oct. 4, 1839, died young; Rachel Maggie, born Oct. 16, 1841, married John F. Humes; William Wilson, born April 1, 1843, died young; Nancy Sterritt, married to Dr. James A. Fulton; and Robert, an infant. Mr. Shields was raised and educated in the Presbyterian faith, and until 1849 (when the Presbyterian Church was organized at New Salem) was a member of Congruity Church, where for nearly twoscore years he worshiped under the benign ministrations of Revs. Samuel Porter and Samuel McFarren, two distinguished divines of their day. He is the only living head of a family who resided in New Salem in 1825, which was then a small village of but few houses, but a noted stopping-point for stages on the Pittsburgh and New Alexandria turnpike. For over half a century he was very largely identified with its business interests, and contributed greatly to its growth in material resources as well as to the advancement of its educational and religious projects, to all of which he ever aided by his voice and purse. Since his residence here he has witnessed the erection of four substantial church edifices, the organization of good schools, and a rapid development of the borough in population and wealth, and in his old age enjoys the recompense of a busy and well-spent life, enjoying the respect and confidence of his neighbors.


 

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