Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.


Sylvester C. Shera

SYLVESTER C. SHERA. Kansas may well take pride in the fact that it possesses only a few men who have "got rich quick." Success in this state has been a matter of years of persistant work, good judgment and the power of adapting self to circumstances. It was in the spring of 1886 that Sylvester C. Shera came into Edwards County. He had a very modest capital, and he went through all the trying hardships and ordeals of the time. Coming down to the modern date, Mr. Shera is now one of the substantial men of the Felsburg community, owns a section of well improved farm land, is a stockholder in the Felsburg Bank, and also owns stock in the Farmers Elevator.

He was born June 25, 1858, in Decatur County, Indiana. In that locality he grew up and received his education in district schools and in the schools of Sardinia, a nearby village. When it came time for him to make choice of vocation he readily chose farming. With the exception of a few months of working at wages he has in the main been dependent upon his own resources and has pursued an independent course in life.

He was married in his native Indiana County, and in the spring of 1886 came to Kansas by rail. He had no special destination in mind, and it was something like chance which led him into Edwards County.

He arrived here with money between $1,500 and $2,000, and that was perhaps more capital than most of the early settlers had. Part of this he used to buy the southeast quarter of section 8, township 26, range 17. The land had no house and very few improvements, but it cost him $1200. It is significant of conditions in Western Kansas that when Mr. Shera began buying other lands it cost him considerably less and in a decreasing ratio from his first purchase. His second quarter section he bought for $1,000. The third quarter cost him $450, and he rounded out section 8 under his own ownership by paying $850 for the fourth quarter.

For six months he and his little family lived in a mere shack, a single room, 8 by 10 feet, a model of convenience since practically every article in the room was within reach. While living there he built a small two room house, and gladly exchanged his former abode for more commodious spaces. During the first year he managed to break out twenty acres of land and planted it to corn. He cut this up for fodder and sowed eight acres of the field in wheat. The only return from that labor was a small crop of hay, no grain. Mr. Shera had been in the country several years before he planted wheat on a scale worth mentioning, and his first considerable harvest came in 1890 or in 1891. Like others he was urged on by an optimsm which led him always to expect good crops next year, even when the present year's prospects were nil. His faith and hopes were justified, and for many years now he has found wheat a profitable venture. His average yield has been about twelve bushels to the acre. In several seasons he got returns only enough to repay him for the seed which he sowed in the ground. Hail has been almost as destructive as drouth in defeating the efforts of wheat growers in this section. The nearest complete failure Mr. Shera has ever experienced came in 1917. There has been as much diversity in the price paid for the grain as in the quantity raised. Some of his wheat he sold as low as 40 cents a bushel. More recently be sold some at $2.45 a bushel.

His chief dependence in the early years was as a sheep raiser. At that time the range was practically all open, and he herded a considerable flock and helped with the shearing. Even with the advantage of practically free pasture Mr. Shera found his profits limited by the low price of wool. This factor and the gradual closing up of the range caused him to abandon the industry. Since then his attention has been concentrated upon cattle and hogs. His grades of cattle have been the Red Poll, and he has bred up a splendid quality of that stock. In all the years he has found hogs a considerable source of revenue, and his favorite strain is the Poland China.

Like many other early Kansans Mr. Shera well recalls the time when he wished he was some place else. In fact ten years passed before he was completely reconciled to Western Kansas. Outside of his first quarter section he used his other lands for pasture and wheat, and for fifteen years now his efforts have been well repaid and his farm has more than given him a living. In time he was able to put up a fine barn on his farm, 40 by 60 feet, with mow room for fifty tons of hay. He also has a granary with a capacity of 4,000 bushels. Then in 1908 be built a comfortable eight-room house as successor to the original frame building. For the past three years Mr. Shera has had a silo with 100 tons capacity, and this he considers one of the bulwarks of modern farm enterprise. He has also endeavored to do his part in a public way. He served as a member of the school board in district No. 21, and in politics is a republican in national and state elections. He and his family are members of the United Brethren Church.

His father was Caleb Shera, who was born in County Roscommon, Ireland, and came to the United States alone, landing in New York with not more than 50 cents to his name. By trade he was a hod carrier, and on going to Oxford, Ohio, he worked during the construction of one of the buildings for the Woman's College of that city. He soon found his way to Decatur County, Indiana, and entered government land, proving up on it and staying with it as an agriculturist the rest of his days. He had two sons who entered the Union army during the war. One of them was wounded in the battle of Chickamauga and died in a hospital at Murfreesboro. Caleb Shera died in 1882, and his wife, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Shafer, of Pennsylvania Dutch stock, passed away in 1905. Their children were: Catherine, living unmarried in Decatur County, Indiana; James, of Boone County, Indiana; William, who died as a soldier; John, who died in Decatur County; Thomas, formerly a resident of Boone County, now deceased; Isaac, of Decatur County; Martha, wife of Ed Watkins; Wilson, of Decatur County; and Sylvester C.

In March, 1886, Sylvester C. Shera married Miss Ella Roe. The Roes are an old family of Indiana farmers. Mrs. Shera died August 17, 1898. She was reared in the Village of Sardinia. To their marriage were born children as follows: Ray, who died at the age of twenty years; May, who married James Zimmett, of Edwards County, and has a daughter, Lela; Oma, who married Chester Young, of Mineola, Kansas, and has children named Lola, Lawrence and Cloe; Maude is the wife of Harry Zimmett, of Plains, Colorado; Lena married Verla Hevener, living on the Shera homestead, and they have a child named Clovis; Pearl, the youngest, is the wife of Ott Myers, of Caddo, Colorado, and has a daughter, Fern. Fraternally Mr. Shera is affiliated with Centerview Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.


Pages 2166-2167.


Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.

Volume 5 - Table of Contents

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