Lee County Biography

Benjamin F. Shaw


Benjamin F. Shaw the well-known editor and proprietor of the Telegraph, the leading Republican organ of Lee County and one of its best newspapers in every way, has long exercised a marked influence on the affairs of this section of the county, not only professional1y but as a citizen of progressive views and notable public spirit, who has the dearest interest of his country at heart, is influential in its political life and in all that tends to promote the social, moral and educational condition of his community. In connection with the weekly newspaper is the evening Telegraph, a leading daily newspaper of this section of the State.

Mr. Shaw was born in Waverly, N Y. March 31, 1831. His father, Alanson B. Shaw, was born in Bradford County, Pa., in 1801, and was of Scotch blood, his father being one of four brothers who came to this county from their native Scotland in the days before the Revolution and one of the brothers, for whom our subject was named, fought in that great struggle of the American Colonies for freedom. The father of our subject married Philomela, daughter of Zephon Flower an early settler of Athens, Pa., going there from Connecticut. He was a Revolutionary soldier and was one of the last on the Revolutionary pension rolls, living to the advanced age of ninety-six years.

When he started out in the world in his yonthful days Benjamin Shaw made his way from his native State to Iowa, which at that time was a Territory. He remained there for a period of two years and then recrossing the Mississippi River to Rock Island, he took the first steps that have led him to a high position in the editorial profession by acquiring, in that then village, a good knowledge of the printing business. In the fall of 1851 he came to Dixon to take charge of the printing of the Dixon Telegraph, of which he subse­quently became the owner by purchase, and has since edited it with marked success, devoting his energies to making a newspaper that should educate its constituency and be a potent factor in the upbuilding of city and county. This he has accomplished and the journal,which owes its strength, and high reputation to his genius, takes the lead in advocating whatever will be for the highest good of the community. In all matters pertaining to the advancement of society, education and­ politics, our subject takes a keen and discriminating interest, and through the columns of his paper, which has a wide circulation both in Dixon and the neighboring districts, he has many times been instrumental in securing for the city various advantages of a nature more or less important. As before mentioned the Telegraph is one of the accepted organs of the Republican party, whose policy is set forth in a clear and able manner in its editorials, which are noted for their vigor and independence, although they are never offensively partisan, Mr. Shaw has by no means confined his talents to his profession but he has taken a conspicuous part in puhlic life, and has held various prominent of­fices with honor to himself and to his constituency. He has been a leader in the councils of the Repubilicans of this section siuce the organization of the party. He was one of the editors that met at Decatur in the winter of 1856, to call the first Republican State Convention, and on that occasion he wa in consultation with Abraham Lincoln on the Committee on Resolntions. In 1860 our subject was elected Clerk and Recorder of Lee County Circuit Court, was re-elected to tbe same office in 1864 and served until 1868, carrying the same en­ergy and business acumen into the administration of the affairs of that office that have ever characterized his management of his newspaper. In 1876 Gov. Cullom appointed him State Canal Commissioner and he served six years as one of the Board of three Commissioners who had charge of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, the Illinois River Improvements and other Illinois public works. He has always been a warm friend of the city of Dixon and has been most earnest and liberal in advancing its interests, both personally and through his paper. When the late Col. Noble was appointed one of the commissioners to locate a soldier's home in lllinois he requested Mr. Shaw to accompany him to the meetings of the commissioners in Springtield and Chicago to act in behalf of Dixons claims as a suitable site for the proposed building. Mr. Shaw has always been an earnest worker in the Hennepin Canal enterprise, and was, indeed, the Secretary of the first Hennepin Canal meeting ever held which was nearly a quarter of a Century since in Rock Island. Unsolicited on his part he was in December, 1891, appointed Postmaster at Dixon.

Source: Portrait and Biographical Pg 308 1892


BENJAMIN F. SHAW, editor and proprietor of "The Telegraph," Dixon, Ill., was born at Waverly, N. Y. March 31, 1831, of English and Colonial ancestry, being a descendant of William Bradford who kept the log of the ship "Mayflower" in 1620, and became the first Governor of Plymouth Colony. His grandmother on the paternal side was, previous to her death, the last survivor of the "Wyoming Massacre" of 1778, her father and two uncles being killed during the battle which preceded the massacre. His mother's father, Major Zephon Flower, was a soldier of the Revolution. Mr. Shaw engaged in journalism in Dixon, Ill., previous to 1856 and, on February 22d of that year, as editor of the "Dixon Telegraph," took part in the convention of Illinois editors held at Decatur for the purpose of outlining a policy in opposition to the further extension of slavery, serving upon the committee which framed the platform. It was in accordance with resolutions adopted at this convention that the first Republican State Convention was held at Bloomington, Ill., May 29, 1856. Mr. Shaw's journalistic career, extending over a period of over fifty years, has been almost entirely identified with the "Dixon Telegraph," of which he is now the editor and proprietor, although he spent sometime in 1867 and 1868 as the Washington correspondent of a Chicago paper. The official positions held by him include two terms as Clerk of the Circuit Court and Recorder of Lee County, six years as Canal Commissioner, and Postmaster of the city of Dixon in which he is now serving his second term.

Transcribed by Karen Holt - 1904 History of Lee County Illinois edited by Mr. A.C. Bardwell


The record of Benjamin F. Shaw, of Dixon, honors the name of journalism. He entered upon newspaper publication at a period when the purpose of journalism had its educational features in addition to the dissemination of general and local news and had not been tinged with that commercial spirit which seeks through sensationalism to stimulate the curiosity of the public without regard to wrong impressions which, like tares, grow up and choke out the good seed. He never deviated from the high principles which he set up or lowered his standards because he considered it expedient or profitable to do so. At the time of his death he was perhaps the Nestor of the Illinois journalists, having for many years been editor and proprietor of Dixon 's oldest newspaper. He was born in Waverly, New York, March 31, 1831, and passed away September 18, 1909. His ancestry wa« traced back to William Bradford, who kept the log of the Mayflower and later became the first governor of Plymouth Colony. His grandmother on the paternal side was the last surviving of those who suffered from the Wyoming massacre of 1778, her father and two brothers having been killed in the battle which preceded the massacre. His mother's father, Major Zethon Flower, was a soldier of the Revolution and one of the last survivors on the pension roll of that war, dying at the advanced age of ninety-six.

His parents, Alanson B. and Philomela (Flower) Shaw, were natives of Bradford county, Pennsylvania, and died when their son Benjamin was a young lad. His brother, Alonzo Shaw, removed westward to Tipton, Iowa, and in 1841 returned to the east for his father's family, then living at Towanda, Pennsylvania, so that Benjamin F. Shaw spent a portion of his youth upon the frontier region, where the work of civilization and progress seemed scarcely begun. He was not yet fourteen years of age when he began carrying the mail in a section of country adjoining Tipton — a section which was then a wilderness infested with Indians and robbers. The following year — 1845 — he went to Rock Island, where he began learning the printer's trade, which he followed continuously for about fourteen years. Within that time, or in 1851, he removed to Dixon. The first paper published in that city was the Dixon Telegraph and Lee County Herald, established on the 1st of May, 1851. Mr. Shaw secured employment in the office and on the 21st of January, 1852, he became manager of the paper. On the 30th of April, 1854, he purchased the Telegraph and at a later period the Transcript, consolidating the two papers under the former name. Various changes occurred in newspaper ownership in Dixon, but through a long period Mr. Shaw remained owner and editor of the Telegraph. In 1859, however, attracted by the discovery of gold at Pike's Peak, he went to Colorado. He did not meet with the success he anticipated in the mines there and returned to Illinois. He remained for but four months in Colorado and while there had to resort to his trade and set type on the Rocky Mountain News. In April, 1860, he purchased the Amboy (111.) Times, of which he remained editor until January 6, 1870. In 1871 Mr. Shaw again became sole proprietor of the Telegraph and remained at its head until his death. In November, 1883, he extended the scope of his business by the establishment of a daily which he called the Evening Telegraph and which has proved one of the most successful papers of the state outside of Chicago. In 1868 he was Washington correspondent for the Chicago Evening Journal, but through the greater part of his life his energies were concentrated on the publication of the Telegraph in his weekly and daily editions, and as the years passed on its circulation and its advertising patronage increased. Improvements were added to the plant in keeping with modern newspaper publication and the office was splendidly equipped with all the accessories necessary to issuing a high-class paper, presenting the most attractive forms of the printer's art.

Through all the years Mr. Shaw was an ardent supporter of the republican party and took just pride in the fact that he had been one of its organizers. In February, 1856, he was an active participant in the meeting, held in Decatur, of Illinois editors who were opposed to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The political questions and the issues of the day were earnestly discussed and the editors' meeting resulted in calling a convention to meet in Bloomington in June of the same year. It was at the latter meeting that the republican party had its real organization and nominated the first state ticket. On that occasion Mr. Shaw was in consultation with Abraham Lincoln as a member of the committee on resolutions. In his capacity of journalist he was brought into contact with many of the distinguished men of that and later periods and had personal acquaintance with the prominent political statesmen and leaders of Illinois. Few men not active in politics and seeking the rewards of office have had more intimate, accurate and comprehensive knowledge of the political situation and the questions of the day. Mr. Shaw held some local offices but he regarded journalism as his profession and his real life work. In 1859 he was elected clerk of the circuit court and was reelected to that position, his term expiring in 1868. The following year he was connected with the internal revenue department and was appointed by the government to locate the asylum for the insane at Elgin.

In 1876 he was appointed state canal commissioner and served for six years as one of the three commissioners who had charge of the Illinois and Michigan canal and the Rock River improvement work. He acted as secretary of the first meeting held in the interests of the Hennepin canal. In 1891, without his solicitation, he was appointed postmaster of Dixon and served for the full term of four years. In 1899 he was again called to that office and by reappointment served until his death, filling the position altogether for twenty-two years. He was interested in all matters of public progress and improvement, and from the time of its organization until his death was president of the O. B. Dodge public library. Progressive public measures which he deemed practicable always received not only his personal indorsement but the support of his paper, and it was well known that the Dixon Telegraph was at all times the champion of advancement and improvement. He stood as a high type of public-spirited citizenship, and never weighed a question of civic or personal honor in the scale of policy.

Mr. Shaw was united in marriage to Miss Annie E. Eustace, a sister of Judge John V. Eustace and a daughter of the Rev. Thomas Eustace, a Presbyterian clergyman, who was a native of Dublin, Ireland, and who married Fannie Olmstead. Mr. and Mrs. Shaw had three sons: Fred, of Denver, Colorado; Eustace, deceased, who for some years was his father's associate in business; and Dr. Lloyd L. Shaw. Mrs. Shaw passed away February 6, 1905, and four and one-half years later Benjamin F. Shaw departed this life. He was a member of the Elks lodge and of the Dixon Club. There was, perhaps, in Dixon no man more widely known and none who had labored more loyally for the interests of the city and state.
Transcribed by Karen Holt - 1914 History of Lee County Illinois Vol 2 by Frank E. Stevens.


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