E.A. Sheldon Autobiography Digital Library
Shady Shore


Edward Austin Sheldon was born October 4, 1823 in Perry Center, Massachusetts. Growing up on a farm he took an active part in the day-to-day activities - a proper prelude to a philosophy of learning by doing. From his mother, he gained a sense of charity and from both his parents a strong religious character. The rustic school he attended made a strong impression on him - at least in a negative sense. He came to value what he himself had missed - attractive school environment, motivation, and kindly discipline. Such learning as he gained was incidental - from friends and from play he gained intellectual and spiritual growth. Later school experiences were more favorable. At the private academy he next attended, he met the man who awakened his ambition - C.A. Huntingdon.

In 1844 Edward set out for Hamilton College. During his sophomore year he became ill and returned home. After recovering, he came to Oswego and became a partner in a garden nursery. The firm began to fail and Edward pulled out and desperately sought other employment. During this period, Sheldon set out to investigate the poor of Oswego. To his surprise, he found fifteen hundred persons, mostly children of Irish immigrants, who could neither read nor write. He persuaded several prominent citizens to join with him in forming the Orphan and Free School Association, to provide a home for orphans and free schooling for the poor. With no teacher to be found, Sheldon himself taught the first class of 120 "rude, untrained boys and girls," aged five to twenty-one in the fall of 1848. Unfortunately, funds were hard to come by and the ragged school was closed, but the seeds were already sown that would result in the first free graded school system in Oswego.

Edward Austin Sheldon


Rogers, Dorothy. "Oswego: Fountainhead of Teacher Education." New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1961. 33-57.
"Edward Austin Sheldon (1823-1897)." SUNY Oswego. SUNY Oswego, 1995. 13 Dec. 2005.

In 1849 he married Frances Stiles and opened a private school, the Oswego Seminary, in the old United States Hotel. When this undertaking also collapsed, he accepted the position of superintendent of Syracuse schools for two brief years (1851-53). Meanwhile, the free school advocates had won out in Oswego, and, at their urging, Sheldon returned in 1853 as first superintendent of city schools. In 1856 he bought the tract now known as Shady Shore and the following year he constructed the home which, long since remodeled, houses heads of the institution today. Also, there arrived five children who all eventually graduated from the school their father founded, with three also serving on its staff.

In 1861, Sheldon founded the Oswego Normal School and served as its first president until 1897. He loved his home, he loved children, he loved his country, and he loved the rural life where he felt close to nature and God. In 1896 his wife died, and was the blow that spelled the beginning of the end for Sheldon. It seemed to prostrate him so completely at first that his friends doubted that he could return to work. Nevertheless, Sheldon struggled on refusing to yield to grief or age. At the age of 74, he continued to learn new methods of teaching. Courageous as it was, this venture exhausted his remaining resources of body and spirit and he passed away in August of 1897.

Oswego State Normal and Training School

This digital library was created by Robert Rogalski, Brad Duerr, & Brett Hogan at SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY.