Biography of Edward Shellenbaum

Edward Shellenbaum is co-editor and owner with D. E. Deputy of the Manhattan Nationalist. He entered the newspaper field a few years ago after long and competent service as postmaster at Randolph in Riley County.

A native Kansan, he was born in Riley County on his father’s farm near Randolph, November 25, 1875, a son of Henry and Elizabeth (Siebecker) Shellenbaum.

Mention of the name of the late Henry Shellenbaum serves to recall not only one of the most prominent pioneers of Riley County, but also some incidents of pioneer life that fittingly find a place in the history of Kansas. The Shellenbaums and their connections were among the first to occupy and develop that beantiful tract of Kansas landscape known as the Fancy Creek Valley.

The Shellenbaums are of Swiss stock. Henry was born at Zurich, Canton Winterthur, Switzerland, October 1, 1833. At the age of twenty-one he came to the United States with his parents and brothers and sisters. His father died on the voyage and was buried at sea. The widowed mother and her children located at Seymour, Indiana. About two years later, in 1856, Henry Shellenbaum, with two other natives of Switzerland, Edward and Solomon Secrest, journeyed from Jackson County, Indiana, to Kansas. Kansas was still a territory and a hot bed of the critical troubles growing out of the free-state movement. In November of that year the trio in quest of land joined a band of Indians on a hunting expedition through East and Central Kansas. Their purpose in joining the Indians was the better to explore and discover a suitable and favorable location. In their wanderings they passed up the Blue River to the beantiful and fertile valley of Fancy Creek. That valley more than any other country over which they ranged impressed them and it did not take them long to determine to make it their future home.

It was in this valley that Henry Shellenbaum took up his homestead, and there he lived out his long and useful life which came to a close September 24, 1914, when he had almost reached the eighty-first milestone of his mortal journey.

In securing his homestead Henry Shellenbaum exemplifled the old fable of the hare and tortoise. The first white settlement had been made in Riley County in 1853. Arriving about three years later Henry Shellenbaum and his companions were thus among the very early pioneers. In the preceding year Gardiner Randolph and his grown up family of sons, daughters and sons-in-law, had located near the mouth of Fancy Creek, and had preempted and claimed much and nearly all of the fertile valley. Henry Shellenhaum sought as his claim a homestead that had been entered in the name of a minor son of Randolph. Then arose one of those familiar land disputes of the early days. The contention was carried before the land agent at Junction City. That official proposed to settle the matter in favor of the claimant who first succeeded in laying upon the disputed tract a foundation for a residence. Young Randolph had a horse, but Shellenbaum had to depend only upon his sturdy legs. Randolph was therefore the hare of the fable and Shellenbaum the tortoise. With a fleet steed at his command Randolph decided that he would await until the next morning. Shellenbaum, taking time by the forelock, set out from Junction City immediately after the decision had been rendered by the agent, and under the cover of night walked across hills and valleys, encountering numberless obstacles, but proceeding directly and indefatigably to his destination. At daybreak he was on the scene, and without pausing began the work of laying the foundation of a log cabin. Early the next day young Bandolph arrived on the scene. With much chagrin he had to witness the excavation and foundation laid by his rival, and he withdrew, leaving Henry Shellenbaum in possession of his original homestead in Riley County.

On April 24, 1861, Henry Shellenbaum married Elizabeth Siebeeker. Their home was not far from the Shellenbaum place. Wedding journeys in that early day of Kansas were always more or less primitive affairs. This one was probably distinctive in the form of vehicle if in nothing else. The carriage which the young couple used consisted of the trunk and crotch of a fallen tree. Some boards were nailed on the timbers forming the crotch, while the trunk of the tree served as the tongue, on each side of which was a vigorous young ox. Seated on this rude seat the young bride rode rejoicing to her future home, while her young husband walked alongside and drove the oxen. Their wedding supper was also a meal which their descendants may well remember. It consisted of “specht,” a German word then current in that section of Kansas and meaning side-meat bacon. With this meat was corn bread and coffee made of parched corn.

Henry Shellenbaum and wife lived exemplary lives. They became the parents of seven children, and the five now living are: Anna M, Frank H. and Ida, all of whom live at Randolph in Riley County; Edward; and Mrs. Sophia E. Vawter of Blue Rapids, Kansas. The two deceased children were John J., who died in 1885, and Mrs. Louisa C. Vawter, who died in 1908. The mother of these children was called to her reward in 1906. The first home of the family was a rude but of unhewn logs. This primitive eabin later gave way to a more substantial one. Henry Shellenbaum combined a great deal of intelligence and thrift with the faculty of hard labor, and it is not strange therefore that he prospered. In time the family home was built of the stone which entered into the fabrle of so many early dwellings in the Fancy Creek Valley. There, through years of hard work, in sunshine and storm, drought and plenty, Henry Shellenbaum continued his peaceful progress through the years, and was long accounted one of the most substantial citizens in the northern part of Riley County. He was equally a factor for good citizenship and for those things that count in the welfare and progress of a community.

The children of these noble pioneers were more greatly blessed with the inheritance of the qualities of their father and mother than with the material estate, large though it was, which descended to them. Edward Shellenbaum grew up on the old home in the Fancy Creek Valley, and was taught many invaluable lessons of industry and perseverance. After gradusting from the Randolph High School he spent one year in the State Normal School at Emporia, and in 1897 completed the four years’ course in the Kansas State Agricultural College, graduating with the degree Bachelor of Science. Soon after leaving college he was appointed assistant postmaster of Randolph. After holding that place for nine years he was made postmaster on January 1, 1906, and faithfully and regularly kept the office there until April 22, 1914. On retiring he left behind a record without a flaw, and his seventeen years in the postoffice constituted one of the longest consecutive periods of service in such a federal position in Kansas.

On June 1, 1914, Mr. Shellenbaum and D. E. Deputy bought the Manhattan Nationalist. They have since done much to increase the influence and standing of this splendid journal, and since then Mr. Shellenbaum has had his home in Manhattan. While in college he took an active interest in military affairs, and rose from the ranks to a captainey of a company of cadets, and also acted as battalion adjutant. He is a republican, is affiliated with the Knights of Pythias and the Ancient Order of United Workmen. In 1901 Mr. Shellenbaum married Anna Heller. Mrs. Shellenbaum was born in Riley County, and likewise represents pioneer family in this section of Kansas. Her father, the late John Peter Philip Heller, was born October 7, 1819, at Wiesbaden, in the Duchy of Nassau, Germany. Coming to America in 1837 he settled in Jackson County, Indiana, and there on October 5, 1858, married Esther Caroline Secrest. In 1863 they arrived in Kansas, settling in Jackson township of Riley County, and were also among those who early established homes in the Fancy Creek Valley. Mr. and Mrs. Heller had ten children. John P. P. Heller died March 30, 1912, aged ninety-two years five months and twenty-three days. He had lived his years honorably and successfully, endured the toil and privations of the early days of Kansas, and his declining years were spent in plenty and comfort. He was a consistent Christian, a devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather. His special delight was in music and children, and he was beloved and esteemed by all who knew him. A noted event in the Heller family history occurred October 5, 1908, when Mr. and Mrs. Heller celebrated their fiftieth anniversary at their home in Fancy Creek Valley. Mrs. Heller is still living.

Mr. and Mrs. Edward Shellenbaum have three children: Laurin Edward, Alverta Mae and Anna Lonise. The family are active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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