GoDCer Writes About Relative Who Was Bodyguard to President Lincoln

Abe & Tad Lincoln
Abe & Tad Lincoln

We woke up this morning to a great email from a GoDCer. It’s a rather interesting story, so we’d like to share it with the community.

Since today is Abraham Lincoln‘s birthday, I would like to share the following DC family history regarding our esteemed 16th President.

My husband, Frank, is a fifth generation DC policeman (now retired). An old newspaper article that his Aunt Catherine  showed us back in the late 1960’s sparked my interest in finding out more about Frank’s great-great grandfather, Joseph Gales Shelton. The newspaper article was yellowed, and the name of the paper it appeared in was not on it; the only date I could see was October 1907. Over the years, I made trips to the Library of Congress, the DC Historical Society and the Washingtoniana Room of Martin Luther King Library, searching for the article about Frank’s great-great grandfather..

At the time of Frank’s retirement from the U.S. Capitol Police In 1996, Aunt Catherine’s granddaughter Cynthia sent us a copy of the article. I was still unable to make out all of the words, but it was enough to spark my interest in searching for it again.

I could make out from the article that the family’s address was on 12th Street, SE. While in the city one day, we drove to 12th Street and could not find the house number 406. It looked as though an elementary school now sits on the property that used to be the Shelton home on 12th Street.

Then, one day it occurred to me that the Congressional Cemetery is in that neighborhood of SE and I wondered if perhaps Joseph Gales Shelton might be laid to rest there! I looked to see if the cemetery had a website. Not only do they have a website, but also a wonderful database that not only lists the names of all those who are buried there, but also any newspaper articles written about the deceased! Bingo!! After looking for more than 40 years, I found the transcript of not only the article Aunt Catherine had shown us, but a second article as well.

Now, here is the cool part! From the The Evening Star article dated October 24, 1907 regarding Joseph Gales Shelton: “He was stationed at the White House during the Civil War, and was frequently detailed as a bodyguard to President Lincoln. His sagacity and bravery won for him high esteem about the city and among the police force where he had many friends. He was on terms of personal friendship with Mr. Lincoln as the result of his position at the Executive Mansion, and was also acquainted with many other famous men of that day.”

Quoting from the October 2, 1907 Evening Star article, “Mr. Shelton served as an escort and accompanied President Lincoln to Ford’s Theater the night he was shot and helped to carry the wounded President to the house on the opposite side of the street, where he died.”

Here is the link to the Congressional Cemetery newspaper articles:

http://www.congressionalcemetery.org/obituary-shelton-joseph-g-0

My husband Frank, his brother Charles, their father William, grandfather William Franklin Shelton, great-grandfather Benjamin Franklin Shelton, and great-great-grandfather Joseph Gales Shelton were all born in the Southeast section of DC and proudly served on the police departments of the city of their birth. William Robert and his father William Franklin are interred at Cedar Hill Cemetery; Benjamin Franklin and his father Joseph Gales are buried at Congressional.

Sharon

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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