Moses Sheldon’s House

Photograph of the Sheldon Family Tree, Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, VT.

After arriving in 1810 in Salisbury, Vermont, a picturesque small town located just under ten miles south of Middlebury, from Salisbury, Connecticut, Moses Sheldon immediately moved his large family into a modest, simple, and quaint abode that, while free of opulence and magnitude, provided more than sufficient shelter for his unit of the Sheldon clan. The house, located at the time directly adjacent to that of Louise Nelson on the road that is today Route 7 remained in the possession of the Sheldon family until 1883, as Moses, the grandfather of Henry Sheldon, passed the house down to his namesake Moses, one of Henry’s numerous uncles, who then ultimately sold the house to Frank B. Nelson, a relative of the home’s longtime neighbor Louise, in that year. 1 The new buyer chose to dismantle the humble edifice and construct a new home on the site later on in 1889.2  Henry’s uncle Moses bestowed several family artifacts upon Henry on March 5, 1883, including a piece of wood from the frame of the longtime Sheldon family residence, as indicated in the Museum acquisition ledger and in Henry’s own diary.3

Acquisitions ledger of the Sheldon Museum, indicating donations from Moses Sheldon: chairs, snuff box, books and pamphlets, and “Piece of wood from his house which is the same into which Grandfather Moses Sheldon and family moved when they came from Conn. in 1810.”
Henry Sheldon, diary entry of March 5th, 1883. “Henry Sheldon Personal Diary,” Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, VT.

Though it is unclear why exactly Moses Sheldon, born in 1752, chose to migrate from Connecticut to Vermont in 1810, it is possible he was encouraged by his father-in-law, Samuel Keep, who was an original proprietor of several towns in the area. Moses remained married to Samuel’s daughter Hannah until his death in 1828 at 76 years of age, and his widow remained in the Salisbury, Vermont home until her own death in 1841 at age 82. The two were fortunate to have a wealth of children before their respective passages, thereby ensuring that the home remained occupied for a substantial period of time by numerous members of the family, the last of which, Moses, as discussed earlier, elected to sell the home to Frank B. Nelson. This new owner, the first non-Sheldon man to own the home in almost a century, elected to remove and dismantle the old homestead in order to construct a more modern edifice on the property, “much to the regret of former occupants and friends” who found substantial sentimental value in the historic home.4

While the house from which this spindle is drawn is fairly innocuous on a larger level, as neither the home nor its residents maintained major significance during the time or today, its inclusion in the relic chair serves to illustrate a critical aspect of relics themselves. Relics are, oftentimes, undoubtedly drawn from famous, transformative, and iconic sources endowed with significance for nearly everyone who hears of them; however, such importance is not essential to the creation of a relic. Instead, as is the case in this instance, the source of a relic can be of entirely personal significance, of perhaps a more subjective, familial, and intimate kind. Therefore, while we today may not revere Moses Sheldon’s home as one of history’s finest, its inclusion indicates that to the Sheldon family, a people iconic to Middlebury and the state of Vermont in their own right, this home was a critical piece of their hereditary tapestry.

-Trevor Schmitt ’18

Footnotes

[1] Max P. Petersen, Salisbury–From Birth to Bicentennial. Salisbury, VT: Dunmore House, 1991.

[2] Henry Sheldon. “Sketch of East Street Salisbury Vt, 1903,” Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, VT.

[3] Henry Sheldon. “Henry Sheldon Personal Diary,” Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, VT.

[4] Henry Sheldon. “Sketch of East Street Salisbury Vt, 1903,” Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, VT.

Old Ironsides

Thomas Chambers, The Constitution and The Guerrière, ca. 1845. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, 1962, 62.256.5. See also: https://www.mfa.org/collections/object/engagement-between-the-constitution-and-the-guerri%C3%A8re-34269

The USS Constitution, perhaps better known by its famous nickname “Old Ironsides,” is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy named by President George Washington after the Constitution, the very document enumerating the values which the newly-formed Navy was commissioned to defend. 1 Authorized by the Naval Act of 1794, and therefore one of the six original frigates authorized for construction by the United States of America, Old Ironsides was the third constructed and was subsequently launched in 1797. Constitution and her five counterparts are distinct from the standard frigates constructed during this time period, however, due to their standing as the infant United States Navy’s capital ships. Such ships, as evidenced by the design of Constitution and her five original counterparts, are generally a navy’s most essential ships due to their larger size relative to the rest of the fleet which they are commissioned to lead. Designer John Humphreys, recognizing the need to develop ships that evidenced the power, courage, and destructive capability of a young Navy under global scrutiny and potentially vulnerable to attack, created frigates that were larger and more heavily armed than the common model of the time. Constitution herself was constructed in the North End of Boston at Edmund Hartt’s shipyard before originally being commissioned to provide protection to American merchant ships during the period of tension with France that arose following the achievement of American independence. She was also responsible for combatting the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War.2

Old Ironsides’ greatest military fame, however, comes from her actions during the War of 1812, which pitted the young democracy against its former monarchical master, the United Kingdom. Constitution was successful during this period in capturing a multitude of merchant ships as well as defeating five British warships: the HMS Guerriere, Java, Pictou, Cyane, and Levant.4 The battle with Guerriere is especially significant in that her victory earned Constitution the nickname Old Ironsides” as well as the public reverence and adulation that has saved her from a death sentence in the scrapyard on a number of occasions.5 During the battle with the famed Guerriere, which took place on August 19, 1812 at a distance of 750 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, Constitution unloaded her entire twenty-two cannon arsenal directly into her adversary at point blank range. While the British Guerriere simultaneously fired her own twenty-two cannon blast from no more than 50 yards away, such an onslaught failed to harm Constitution as Guerriere’s cannon balls glanced lamely off the former’s weathered oak sides. This demonstration of such remarkable strength prompted one of the Constitution’s crewmen to shout, “Huzza, her sides are made of iron!” thereby endowing the famed ship with her iconic nickname.6 Following her enormous successes during the War of 1812, Constitution remained a stalwart in the US Navy, serving as a flagship in the Mediterranean and African squadrons before going on to circle the entire world in the 1840s. In her last true act as a military instrument, Old Ironsides operated as a training ship for the United States Naval Academy during the Civil War. Her role as a beloved servant to her country did not cease there as the ship went on to carry American artwork and industrial displays to the famed Paris Exposition of 1878.

 

 

Photograph of Old Ironsides in Boston Harbor following a renovation in 1930, Boston Public Library7 

 

 

 

Retired from active service in 1881 and designated a “museum ship” in 1907, Constitution today rests as the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat. In honor of her 200th birthday in 1997 and in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of her victory over Guerriere in 2012, Constitution has twice since sailed under her own power.8

Though far from fit for active service as either a military or merchant vessel today, Old Ironsides remains a fully commissioned Navy ship with a crew of 60 officers and sailors responsible for promoting understanding of the Navy’s role in war and peace through educational outreach, historical demonstration, and active participation in public events as part of the Naval History & Heritage Command.9

 

– Trevor Schmitt ’18

Footnotes

[1] “History.” USS Constitution Museum. Accessed January 23, 2018. https://ussconstitutionmuseum.org/.

[2] Reider, Bruce. “Old Ironsides.” The American Journal of Sports Medicine 37, no. 3 (March 1, 2009): 461-62. doi:10.1177/0363546509332621.

[3] “Home.” USS Constitution Museum. Accessed January 23, 2018. https://ussconstitutionmuseum.org/.

[4] “Short History of the War of 1812.” Accessed February 02, 2018. https://ussconstitutionmuseum.org/history/essays/.

[5] Daniel P. Murphy, “America’s First Crisis: The War of 1812.” The Journal of American Culture 39, no. 2 (2016): 237.

[6] “‘Old Ironsides’ Earns its Name, 1812.” Accessed January 23, 2018. http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/oldironsides.htm.

[7] Leslie Jones, USS Constitution, 1930. Boston Public Library, Boston. Accessed February 1, 2018. https://ark.digitalcommonwealth.org/ark:/50959/5q47rq845

[8] “USS Constitution Museum; New Acquisitions at the USS Constitution Museum.” Science Letter, May 27, 2008.

[9]Ibid.

Additional Links

USS Constitution History

http://www.navy.mil/ah_online/constitution/

A comprehensive look inside recent renovations to the ship as well as information on its current state, purpose, and crew (includes videos).

https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/c/constitution.html

Suggested sources from Naval History and Heritage Command: https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/c/constitution/constitution-bibliography.html

Online links from Naval History and Heritage Command: https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/c/constitution/constitution-links.html

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.
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