Carlos Butler Shedd was a man of many accomplishments.
Over the course of a long life, he had been a merchant, a civic leader and even the president of the Pen and Pencil Club of Columbus.
As he approached retirement, he mastered the game of roque -- a variation of croquet -- and enrolled in art school. Some of his paintings later were displayed publicly.
Having no special training as a professional historian, he nevertheless decided the past he had lived through in Columbus deserved to be remembered.
Thus, he became the storyteller.
Shedd was in a good position to tell the story of his hometown. His family had lived here for many years and had risen to prominence in Columbus.
His father, Edmund E. Shedd, was born in Bethel, Vermont, in 1828. The family had been in New England since 1645. Growing up in rural Vermont, Edmund Shedd attended a local common school until, like many young men of his generation, he became restless. In 1846, at the age of 18, he left home and traveled west to make his fortune in Columbus.
In 1846, Columbus was a vibrant but small community of about 15,000 people. Linked to the rest of the United States by the Ohio and Erie Canal and the National Road, Columbus was beginning to experience significant growth with the arrival of large numbers of German and Irish immigrants. The city seemed to be a place with a future.
Edmund Shedd went to work as a clerk in the wholesale grocery business of J.W. Brooks. Liking the grocery trade, he left the Brooks store and opened a new grocery business with Isaac Eberly in a store where the Westin Great Southern Columbus hotel is today on High Street. In 1870, that partnership ended and Shedd opened his own business. It came to be known as the E.E. Shedd Mercantile Co.
After marrying Aurelia Thompson in 1852, Edmund Shedd became the father of seven children, five of whom lived to adulthood. Several of his sons joined him the family business.
The youngest of them was Carlos Butler Shedd. Born in 1867, Shedd attended public schools in Columbus and moved on to Ohio State University from 1883 to 1884. He later would proudly recall playing snare drum in Ohio State's first marching band.
After leaving Ohio State, he married, had two daughters with his wife, Louise, and spent most of adult life working in the family business.
When he retired in 1938, he studied art, played roque and decided to share some of his memories of his hometown. In a newspaper interview, he explained, "I was at a desk for 55 years and now I have some time to read and do things. I thought it would be a shame if I did not put things on paper in a book for others to find years from now. Why should people not do something constructive. You see, I am the last shingle on the shed."
In 1951, Shedd self-published a small book of reminiscences called "Tales of Old Columbus." Long out of print but available at most major local libraries, the book provides an invaluable glimpse at the life of a boy growing up in Columbus 150 years ago.
Shedd reminds his readers of what it was like to be a young boy in a small Midwestern town that also happened to be the capital city. There were the five nights of Halloween, he recalls:
"The first was doorbell night, the second was gate night -- when gates were removed from their posts -- the third 'cabbage' night, then 'tick-tock' night, and finally Halloween, when we would do all of these stunts together."
He also remembered local characters of some renown. There was a scissors grinder, "a rather heavy-set man with a serious face. A man you would at a glance think had seen better days. It seems in some way or another Mrs. Kimbel found out he was a wonderful French scholar. She immediately bought him a new outfit of clothing, a long Prince Albert coat affair, and gathered up a dozen or more customers for him and started him on his way to a more substantial living.
"His name turned out to be M. La Pololian. He made a wonderful success ... and it soon became the thing to say, 'I learned my French from M. La Pololian.' "
Many of the short stories in "Tales of Old Columbus" originally had appeared in either articles or letters to the editor of a local newspaper. They were good memories of a good time:
"What fun we used to have in the (Capitol) rotunda. We would start at the edge of the large circle on the floor, put back our heads and start walking to the middle and try to stop on the spot which is marked exactly under the 'Seal of Ohio' at the top of the dome. You may think this would be easy, but just try it."
Shedd died in 1956 at the age of 89. He is buried in Green Lawn Cemetery.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.