James McCurdy Shellabarger, a prominent funeral director of Topeka, Kan., was born near Springfield, Ohio, Sept. 2, 1846, a son of David and Elizabeth (Baird) Shellabarger, both natives of Ohio, where the former was born near Springfield March 2, 1813, and the latter in 1816, of Scotch descent. David Shellabarger was the son of Ephraim Sheilabarger, who was born near Harrisburg, Pa., the son of German parents who emigrated from the Fatherland to America and settled near Harrisburg prior to the Revolutionary war. Ephraim Shellabarger married a Miss Bethany McCurdy in Pennsylvania and soon thereafter removed to near Springfield, Ohio, when that section of the country was still a wilderness. There he cleared a farm from the unbroken forest and, being a millwright, built a grist and saw mill on Mad river, near Enon, Ohio, which he operated in conjunction with his farm until his death. His widow survived him a number of years and died at the extreme age of ninety-eight years. They became the parents of seven children: Nancy, David, Samuel, Julia Ann, Belle, Elizabeth and John, none of whom are now living. Samuel, the second son, became very prominent in public affairs and served several terms as a Republican Congressman from the Springfield district. He was also a lawyer of exceptional ability, and at the close of his service in Congress he removed to Washington, D. C., where he practiced law until his death. David, the father of James M. Shellabarger, was reared on the farm and aided in clearing up the old homestead. He attended the pioneer schools of that day and when of age, or in 1834, he bought a tract of wild, heavy timber land seven miles south of Springfield, Ohio, and built thereon a two-story double log house. He cleared up the farm, on which he also burned brick, ran a sawmill, and built a ten-room two-story brick house to take the place of the log house. He remained there until 1865 when he removed his family to Bloomingburg, Fayette county, Ohio, where his children could secure better educational advantages. In the spring of 1869 he removed to Shawnee county, Kansas, where he bought what was known as the General Sherman farm of 1,400 acres, lying four miles north of Topeka. There he resided until his removal to Topeka, which city remained his home until his death on July 30, 1878. He was twice married. His first wife, Elizabeth (Baird) Shellabarger, who died in 1854, bore him six children, namely: Jane Ann, now Mrs. Joel Garrison of near Springfield, Ohio; Samuel, who lost his life at the battle of Chickamauga in the Seventy-fourth Ohio infantry, Company K, of which he was sergeant; John, also a soldier in the defense of the Union in the Sixteenth Ohio battery, who after the close of the war attended Wittenberg College at Springfield, Ohio, and then entered the government's employ in the Dead Letter Office, Washington, D. C., where he remained until his death; James M., the fourth in order of birth and the subject of this review; George, now at Winona, Minn.; and Ruthina, now the widow of Prof. L. A. Thomas, who was for many years, or from 1870 until his death, the successful principal of the Topeka High School. In 1856 David Shellabarger married as his second wife Miss Elizabeth Drake, and to that union were born two children: Nancy, who is now Mrs. Albert Thompson of Topeka; and Belle, who died at the age of sixteen. The mother of these children died in 1867 and the father died in 1878. He was a Republican in politics, and he and both his first and second wife were members of the Presbyterian church.
James M. Shellabarger was reared to farm life and was educated in the common schools, in Bloomingburg Academy, and at Wittenberg College. When nineteen years of age he began work at undertaking at Bloomingburg, Ohio, and was thus engaged four years, or until 1869, when he followed his parents to Topeka, Kan., arriving there Oct. 8. Thereafter he was engaged several years in work on his father's farm during the summers and in teaching during the winters, his first position as teacher being that of principal of the Ozawkie graded schools. On March 13, 1873, he was married to Miss Catherine M. Kistler, who was born in Cass county, Indiana, April 2, 1856. Her parents were Benjamin F. and Sarah Kistler, both natives of Cass county, Indiana, who came to Shawnee county, Kansas, when she was but an infant. She was therefore reared in Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Shellabarger are the parents of one son and three daughters, namely: Frederick M., born Aug. 2, 1877, who married Miss Mabel Proudfit of Topeka and who is associated with his father in the undertaking business in Topeka; Cora Irene, born March 3, 1874, now Mrs. Adelbert E. Parker, of Topeka; Elizabeth, born Nov. 14, 1879, now Mrs. Norman Jury of Omaha, Neb.; and Jessie May, born March 8, 1885, who is now Mrs. James Magee of Kansas City, Mo. All of these children are graduates of the Topeka High School. Mr. Shellabarger returned to Ohio soon after his marriage and resided there until 1880, when he came to Topeka and was there engaged in merchandising several years. He then became foreman of the Inter Ocean Mills at Topeka and was thus employed five years. In 1900 he began the undertaking business in North Topeka but after the great flood of 1903, in which he lost heavily, he removed to his present location at 122 West Fifth avenue, Topeka, where his undertaking parlors are modern in all of their appointments and his equipment is of the first class and all of the very best. He has recently added to his already fine equipment a magnificent funeral car in silver grey of the latest approved model and style. He has the only morgue in the city, which is strictly modern in all of its arrangements, and has a large and representative trade not only in the city but in the surrounding towns also. Politically he is a Republican, and fraternally he is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in which he has passed all the chairs; the Ancient Order of United Workmen; the Fraternal Aid Association; the Sons and Daughters of Justice, and of the Masonic order. Both he and his wife are members of the Rebekah lodge, an auxiliary of the Odd Fellows lodge, and Mr. Shellabarger is a member of the Encampment and has been secretary of the general relief committee of that order. Both Mr. and Mrs. Shellabarger are members of the First Presbyterian church of Topeka; he has been vice-president of the Shawnee County Sunday School Association for the past two years, and prior to that was secretary for a number of years.Pages 1361-1363 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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