Thomas Shiels was born July 12, 1819 near Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He was the oldest son of Thomas and Barbara Jean (Cranston) Shiels. Thomas (the son) worked for the Prentice family as a coachman and groom. He worked on a farm called Muirlea Farm owned by John Prentice of Libberton. He fell in love with one of the bosses’ daughters, Elizabeth, and they were married on April 30, 1840. Elizabeth was well educated as she was from a good family. They had 4 children in Scotland, Robert Hunter (1839), Jane (1841), Thomas Prentice (1845) and John (1851).
They left Scotland in 1852 and emigrated to the United States, settling in Greenup, Illinois. While on route, the youngest child, John died and was buried at sea. Thomas was quite sick with Malaria when they were in Illinois and Elizabeth taught school and took in sewing to support the family. Elizabeth is noted as having a very strong character and being very religious. No one was allowed to do anything, not even cook a meal, on Sunday.
While living there, they lost another son in infancy. William was born in 1854 and lived only four months. He was buried in the Prentice family cemetery and there is a marker there for John also, who was buried at sea. This is a private cemetery on the farm of James Prentice (Elizabeth’s brother) at Greenup, Illinois. Thomas and Elizabeth’s son Robert worked for uncle James and later married his daughter Elizabeth.
In 1860, Thomas, Elizabeth and their son, Thomas Prentice, moved to Canada. They lived within one mile of Thomas’s brothers, John and George. Thomas bought lot 16 in the 15th Concession of Grey Township in Ontario from his brother John. The two oldest children, Robert and Jane, remained in Illinois and both married there.
This land turned out to be rather poor so Thomas resorted to some of his groom experience from Scotland and became the local Vet. He was very good with animals and also had a reputation as a well driller and “witcher” for locating underground water.
Thomas and Elizabeth had two more children born while they live in Ontario, Elizabeth (Feb 3, 1860) and John (1862). In 1881, Thomas and Elizabeth adopted another son, James Grant (1876) James Grant’s mother had died when he was very young. When his oldest sister left home, the father could no longer look after the children so he peddled them off around the area to neighbours who could take them. James was the only one to be officially adopted.
Thomas and Elizabeth continued to farm until 1886. Then, along with their youngest children, Elizabeth, John and James, they moved to Fort Ransom, North Dakota where their son Thomas Prentice Shiels had gone earlier. They started farming in the area just at the west side of Sheyenne Valley and continued to do so for a number of years. Thomas became a US citizen in October 1892.
Elizabeth was a very religious woman being a strict Presbyterian. She had a fine head of black hair with hardly any grey, even at the age of 76 when she died in 1891. She had a strong Scottish accent all her life. She always wore a little bonnet when she went out and a sunbonnet in the yard or garden. Sunday was always strictly observed in the Presbyterian way, going to church, read only the Bible, meals prepared the day before, and everyone were required to sit quietly all day on the Sabbath. She was obviously a very strong character, but Thomas was equal to the challenge. He would go over to his son’s place on Sunday to read the newspaper which came only once a week and his wife was never able to break him of this “terrible” habit.
An incident which reveals much about the times in which they lived tells of Thomas and a neighbour by the name of Barch getting into an argument about a fence line. Barch struck Thomas on the head with a sturdy stick causing some serious damage and profuse bleeding. He got to the house and his wife patched him up. By this time, some of the neighbours had arrived at the house and were relieved to see he was still on his feet. The neighbours became very indignant and dismayed, voicing their anger & inflaming the already angry Thomas. Thomas took his muzzle-loading shotgun off the wall & loaded it, intending that he and his neighbours should go after Barch. As he was going through the kitchen to join the “posse” at the back door, he bumped the gun against something and it discharged, the bullet striking him in the head. It was just a graze but there was more blood for Elizabeth to attend to and he carried the scar for the rest of his life. Thus closed the incident of the nearest thing to a feud or at least a shoot-out in our family. Thomas had a full set of teeth when he died and he never had a cavity or lost a tooth in his entire life. He did not smoke but he chewed tobacco as it was very popular at the time. After Elizabeth had died in 1891, he lived in a little place in the valley. He never put anything of Elizabeth’s away after she was gone, even her sunbonnet remained hanging on the wall. Later he moved out onto the prairie to Englevale where his youngest daughter, Elizabeth and James Tracy Logan lived.
While Thomas was living with Elizabeth and James, something happened that reveals a good deal about his character. Elizabeth was pregnant with her fourth child and was about to give birth. James went to fetch a neighbour lady to help with the delivery. Events happened quickly however and before James got back, his new daughter had been delivered. Thomas had taken over, going into the bedroom and shut the door. He delivered the baby, using his pocket knife to cut the cord, tied it off, wrapped the wee mite in a blanket and had it ready for the midwife’s attention.
Thomas died in Fort Ransom, North Dakota on May 31, 1897. Elizabeth had died Sept 12, 1891.
They had 8 children, Robert Hunter (1839-1894), Jane (1841-1891), Thomas Prentice (1845-1892), John (1851-1852), William (1854-1854), Elizabeth (1860-1926), John (1862-1912) and an adopted son, James Grant (1876-1959).
G4: Robert Hunter Shiels 1839-1894 & Elizabeth Jane Prentice
Robert Hunter Shiels was born July 29, 1839 at Libberton, Scotland. He was the oldest child of Thomas and Elizabeth (Prentice) Shiels. He emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1852. Robert was quite young (12 or 13) when they moved to Quincy, Illinois. He took a job on a pig ranch for his uncle James Prentice. He eventually fell in love with the boss’s daughter, Elizabeth. Robert went to Canada with his parents but found he did not like it and returned to Illinois to be with Elizabeth. Elizabeth Jane Prentice was born July 1, 1844. Elizabeth & Robert were married and Robert took over the family farm.
Robert and Elizabeth had eight children, Thomas, Elizabeth, Mary, Robert, Melissa, Ata, Lottey and John. After Elizabeth died on July 6, 1886, Robert married Hattie (Ozier) Dooley on Nov 13, 1887. Hattie was a widow from Greenup. They also had three children, Carrie, Oliver and Bennie.
G4: Jane Shiels 1841-1891 & William Reynalds
Jane was born September 25, 1841 at Libberton, Scotland. She was the second child of Thomas and Elizabeth (Prentice) Shiels. She also emigrated to the United States with her parents in 1852.
Jane married William Reynalds and remained in Illinois when her parents moved to Canada in 1860. Jane and William lived around Greenup, Illinois. Jane and William raised a large family with 7 children, Elizabeth Reynalds Goshorn 1860-1942; Laura J Reynalds Brady 1868; Mary Olive Reynalds Journell 1870-1937; Lufenia E Reynalds 1873-1929; Dora M Reynalds 1875-1930; Nettie E Reynalds 1877-1926 and Thomas A Reynalds 1880-1967.
Jane died in May 1891 in Greenup, Illinois.
G4: Thomas Prentice Shiels 1845-1892 & Margaret Avery
Thomas Prentice was the second son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Prentice) Shiels. He was born in Scotland on January 18, 1845 and emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1852. In 1860, he moved to Canada with his parents and worked along side his father on the family farm.
In 1868, Thomas Prentice Shiels married Margaret Avery. They moved from Ontario, Canada to Fort Ransom, North Dakota and Thomas Prentice died there in 1892.
G4: John Shiels 1851-1852
John was born in 1851 at Libberton, Scotland. He was the fourth child of Thomas and Elizabeth (Prentice) Shiels. He travelled with his family when they emigrated to the United States. Unfortunately, John became sick and died on route. He was buried at sea and there was a marker put up for him when they arrived in Greenup, Illinois.
G4: William Shiels 1854-1854
William was born in April 1854 in Greenup Illinois. He was the fifth child of Thomas and Elizabeth (Prentice) Shiels. He only lived only four months and passed away August 4, 1854. He was buried in the Prentice family cemetery. This is a private cemetery on the farm of James Prentice (Elizabeth’s brother) at Greenup, Illinois.
G4: Elizabeth Barbara (Lizzie) Shiels 1860-1926 & James Tracey Logan
Elizabeth Barbara Shiels was the sixth child of Thomas and Elizabeth (Prentice) Shiels. She was born February 4, 1860 at Cranbrook, Ontario. Her parents had emigrated from Scotland to the United States earlier and moved from Quincy, Illinois to Canada in early 1860. In 1886 she moved with the family to Fort Ransom, North Dakota.
Elizabeth married James Tracy Logan shortly after moving to North Dakota on September 9, 1886 in Lisbon, the County seat of Ransom County. Elizabeth and James Tracy Logan had 7 children, David H. 1887; Mabel Edna 1889; Abigail Florence 1891; Grace A. 1893; Traceye J. 1896; Clara Mae 1898 and William Ray 1900.
G4: John Prentice (Ab) Shiels 1862-1912 & Elizabeth (Lizzie) Logan
John Prentice (Ab) Shiels was born Sept 22, 1862 in Grey Township, Ontario, Canada. He was the seventh child of Thomas and Elizabeth (Prentice) Shiels. He married Elizabeth Logan, the sister of his brother-in-law James Logan. In 1882 they moved to the United States and staked a claim southeast of Minot near Velva, North Dakota.
In North Dakota, John had a great deal of difficulty explaining that his name was Shiels, without the “d”, and at last he legally changed his name to Shields. We are assuming he just got tired of fighting the uphill battle of saying “no D” when people spelled his name.
John and Lizzie had three children, Abigail 1883; Thomas 1884 and William Lawrence 1888.
G4: James Robert Grant Shiels 1876-1959 & Jennie Slemmon
James was born James Robert Grant on June 6, 1876 to John Grant and Elizabeth Bishop. James was only 5 months old when his mother died. John had 8 other children and knew he could not raise a baby on his own. One of John’s neighbors was Thomas and Elizabeth (Prentice) Shiels and they agreed to raise James Robert and legally adopted him in 1881.
James Robert married Jennie Slemmon on November 26, 1902 and moved to North Dakota. James Robert and Jennie had five children, Marjorie 1903; Thomas 1906; twins Clarence and Warren 1907 and Leonard 1910.