Written by Edna Liggin
Joseph Shaw, and his wife, Mary, lived only a mile or so from the little
town of Shiloh on a farm, yet it was a farm so well managed as to supply
almost all the needs of Joseph and his family. One of the earliest settlers
of Shiloh, this man of independence was to live there all of his days, and
his daughter to live after him long years on the same farm.
Joseph Shaw first acquired land near Shiloh in 1852, coming to Louisiana
from Mississippi. Almost one hundred years later his daughter, Lelah Shaw
Reeves, was still living this land. Today her descendants own the same land.
If the old home is weather beaten, if the once productive land lies idle,
the knowledge is in the minds of some that once here was a growing family,
thrifty, and industrious in those times.
Joseph Shaw, as a young man in Mississippi, had married a girl named Carolyn
Lynn. To them were born three children: Mollie, Sallie, and Joseph, Jr.
Some of the oral tradution in the family claims that he was a widower with
three small children when he came to Shiloh. There is evidence in one old
record that she died in 1858, thus making it probable she lived in Union
Parish with Joseph Shaw on the land he bought in 1853.
In these same early years at Shiloh, a little girl named Mary Catherine
Hamilton lived nearby and perhaps helped her mother in the home of W.H.
Hamilton at Shiloh. She was to be the second wife of Joseph Shaw, and the
Mary in the Shiloh home of “Mary and Joseph.”
Joseph Shaw bought 160 acres in 1853 from J.G. Fuller, who had bought it
from James Edmunds. It was part of 370 acres bought by James Edmunds in
1846 from Phillip May. By working hard on the land, a man and his family
took substance of a good life, and when the man was gone, the land provided
for his family. For him a livelihood was food and shelter for himself and
to keep the farm intact and in his possession. Ahead were years to live
through when times were hard. Such as the South he was used to disappeared
forever, and the farmer faced a shortage of labor, crop failures, insect
pests, and in retrospect to us, very bad times. Lelah Shaw Reeves remembered
that later, her father let his slaves go, though the daughter of one of them
lived some time, into the twentieth century on the place of Joseph Shaw.
It was on December 22, just before Christmas in 1858, Joseph Shaw married
Mary Catherine Hamilton. Records from an old family Bible list her as being
born March 6 that would make her seventeen when she became the second wife
of Joseph Shaw. Their child, John Thomas, was born July 31, 1862.
In her later years, Lelah Shaw Reeves said her father was home in 1865 after
four long, weary fighting in the Civil War, but unhurt. Yet in those years,
he no doubt came on furlough to visit his family. Lelah, herself, was born
February 16, 1865, the second child of Mary and Joseph, who, now the war was
over, could build up their farm, working side by side. There were yet to be
born four girls and another son.
What was life on this farm like for the family of Mary and Joseph?
According to their daughter, Lelah, her father was stern and upright with
his children, believing they should be seen and not heard. All the family
went to church at Shiloh, nor was there much frivolity in the home. They
grew up devout in their church work. Christmas meant a piece of candy and
an orange, but no toys. Lelah Shaw Reeves did not have a doll to play with
in childhood. Her four younger sisters must have been like dolls as she
helped her mother, though the term baby-sitter was unheard of in those days.
The older children simply cared for the smaller children routinely while the
mother did the multitude of chores on a farm, outside and inside the house.
The Shaw children, during those terrible years of Reconstruction went to
school at home. Taught by their grandfather, Henry Hamilton, at first, then
later to the Concord Baptist Institute. Lelah would often ride a mule
bare-backed to Shiloh for mail, for there was a post office established in
1852 in the small town.
As the children grew up and times got better, Joseph began shipping his own
cotton down the stream of Cornie to Trenton or Monroe. Sometimes the family
would go to Stein’s (where Cornie bridge is at present) and picnic, trade at
the store there, and watch boats come up the Cornie. The family did not do
much trading for they raised everything, plenty of vegetables and meat.
They even made sugar by letting syrup drip through cloth. Sugar crystals
were allowed to bleach, then pulverized.
At age 16, Lelah Shaw Reeves, was baptized at Shiloh. Early membership
lists of the church of 1869 show two Mrs. Mary Shaws. The second Mary Shaw
must have been the wife of Joseph, Jr., whose wife was Mary Ann, perhaps
The third child born to Mary and Joseph was Kitty, born May 5, 1868. Kitty
did marry and died in 1900. In 1871, the girl, Nina, was born and at the
age of 19, on 1890, married John Powell. The fourth girl, Ellen Roberta,
was born August 26, 1875 married Tilmon (Tilman) Kelly (Kelley), son of
Georgia Penter and William Kelly, Dec 1895. She was later the second wife
of Will Lewis, and died October 27, 1918.
The fifth daughter was Alma Estelle Shaw, born March 24, 1897, and she was
married to Starling P. Tabor, January 22, 1903. Alma Estelle Shaw Tabor
died April 11, 1955. One of the Shaw children was a son, Robert Frederic
(Fredrick) Shaw, born August 26, 1882, married to Fannie Brooks, daughter of
Jack and Sabrina Butler Brooks, November 1902. Shaw died in 1953, and was
likewise, as the other Shaw’s, buried in the cemetery at Shiloh.
Some of the younger children of Joseph and Mary Shaw were still quite young
when the oldest full brother, John Shaw, married Ellen Lee on September 6,
1885. She was the daughter of Dan and Mary Edmunds Lee. Already married at
that time, when her brother Fred was born, Lelah Shaw’s marriage September 2,
1881, had preceded that of her brother, John. He, along with William J.
Reeves, was the only member of his family to come to Louisiana. John Shaw
died in 1924, but Lelah Shaw Reeves lived until 1948.
What of the three children of Joseph and his first wife, Carolyn? Joseph
Shaw, married to a Mary Ann, died October 9, 1897, leaving a small estate,
and was survived by his wife and the following children: Eula Lee, Vice
Eugene, Aja, Martha M., and Effie, all majors and one minor daughter, Jodie.
Mary Ann Shaw was appointed tutor for this minor daughter.
Sallie Shaw married William Knott October 8, 1872 with Rev. Jonathan Milner
performed the ceremony. The Knott family were early settlers of Shiloh.
One of them, John C. Knott, was postmaster in 1854 at Shiloh, married Martha,
daughter of James Edmunds and they were the parents of William, whose
marriage to Sallie Shaw produced children John, Robert, Joanna, Mattie, and
Mollie, sister to Sallie and Joseph, Jr., married Henry Anderson who died
shortly after Nellie’s death in 1873, when their son, Wiley Henry, was born.
Wiley was reared by grandparents, Joseph and Mary Shaw.