This Place in History: Colonel Elisha Sheldon

Vermont History

SHELDON, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’, we’re in Sheldon, Vt. with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“This is one of those towns where we are going to come and talk a little bit about the name, Sheldon. What’s interesting with this town is it did not start out as Sheldon. It was originally chartered as Hungerford, named again after a guy’s last name of Hungerford. And a number of folks bought patents or land titles to this town, but nobody really moved here until the early 1790s. So that’s after Vermont becomes a state. One of those early families was the Sheldon family,” explained Perkins.

“The head of the Sheldon family was Elisha Sheldon. His sons came up ahead of him and built the houses and helped grow this town. Then, he came up a little bit later and lived out the rest of his life here. And the town was named after the Sheldons. But, the really cool connection between Elisha Sheldon and the history of our country is his connection to George Washington,” continued Perkins.

“Elisha Sheldon was in charge of the Second Continental Light Dragoons, a cavalry unit. Dragoons were troopers that were trained to fight on horseback and on foot. Light referred to their horses. So, they rode on lightweight horses instead of heavy horses. This was one of George Washington’s favorite units in the Continental Army.”

“He used them as his personal bodyguards. They were deployed to almost every battle throughout the northern part of what is now the United States. They were at Saratoga and they were at Trenton. They were at Brandywine, White Plains, all over the place. They were based out of Connecticut. And Elisha Sheldon was in charge of that unit. And of course, they called it Sheldon’s Horse.

“My brother, who lives in Nova Scotia, wrote me a note a little while ago and says I love this television show. It’s called Turn. It’s about George Washington’s spies and takes place on Long Island and in Connecticut. It turns out that the head of Washington’s spy ring, the Culper Ring, was a major in Sheldon’s Horse. And he helped recruit these spies and run this whole spy ring. That is the whole premise of this show and that is Sheldon’s Horse, the unit that this guy ran. And, after the war, he was recommended by George Washington to get a whole chunk of land. He ended up right here in Vermont and the town was named after him,” concluded Perkins.

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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