Early Evansville Portraits And Biographies
From History of Vanderburgh County, Indiana
by Brant & Fuller

John Shanklin

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JOHN SHANKLIN, one of those whose honored names are imperishably written the history of southern Indiana, had a career that is a notable illustration of the possibilities of life in a land of freedom to an energetic and indomitable spirit.

When he was a babe of two years, the father, who bore the same name, fell in the Irish rebellion of 1798, fighting for the liberties of his native land. For this orphaned child, born at Carrick Magra, County Donegal, on the 17th of February, 1796, there surely could have been, in those troublous times, no augury of a prosperous future. At the tender age of thirteen years, after receiving such education as could then and there be obtained, he began the battle of life as an apprentice in a general store at Donegal, and remained there five years.

Then the story of the new world drew him, and on the 5th of August, 1815, after a six weeks' voyage in a sailing vessel, he set foot on American soil at New York. His apprentice lessons then stood him in good stead, and he immediately began an engagement, which lasted three years, with Samuel & James Lambert, wholesale hardware merchants on Pearl street, New York. The end of this engagement was caused, again, by tidings of the promise for young men further west. He talked with a hardware dealer from Frankfort, Ky., a Mr. Miles, who invited young Shanklin to become a salesman for him, and the offer was accepted.

At this new pioneer home, a great misfortune befell him, only a few days after his arrival, an accident which caused the amputation of his right foot. This at first seemed to force him to abandon business, and he essayed teaching, in which he had fair success, at Shelbyville and vicinity, for about three years. Then he went back to trade, entering the extensive auction store of Robert J. Ormsby, at Louisville. Ormsby proved to be a good friend, and established Mr. Shanklin in the dry-goods business at Newcastle, Ky. But the hopes of the young merchant were speedily crushed. Ormsby failed, and a nice sense of honor impelled the young man to send back to Louisville all the goods he had received.

He had nothing of commercial value left but a horse and saddle and a good credit. The latter enabled him to obtain a stock of goods at Shelbyville, Ky., and he established himself again in business, this time at Hardenburgh, Ky., with one Moffatt as partner. In a few months they moved to Evansville, beginning business life in this city, December 3, 1823.

Their stock was too large for the town, and the partner, Moffatt, took half the goods to Cvnthiana. Under the firm name of Shanklin & Moffatt, Mr. Shanklin conducted the business at the corner of Locust and Water streets until 1827, when the firm was dissolved. Then for five years the firm name was Shanklin & Co., changing to Shanklin & Johnson in 1837, and afterward to Shanklin & Reilly. Until 1853, the original business stand was occupied.

On the first of January, 1872, Mr. Shanklin retired from trade, and devoted himself to the care of his private affairs, and five years later, on the 11th day of January, 1877, he was called to rest, peacefully closing a long life well spent.

In business he was active and sagacious. His enterprises were grand in scope and remarkably successful. For many years he engaged in shipping the agricultural products of the region, first by flat-boat, and then by steamers, to New Orleans, and throughout the great region in which his trade extended, his name was always untarnished and his honor and his credit unquestioned.

Not only in business was he active, but in those enterprises which make men beloved of their fellow' citizens, in those things which work for the general good, and in his attitude toward the religious and benevolent movements of society, he was ready, sympathetic and open-handed.

His estimable wife was truly a helpmeet in these functions, and to her as the founder of the Sunday School movement in Evansville, the community of today owes a deep debt of gratitude. Her zealous, self-sacrificing spirit will be immortal here, in the good that she has done. As time rolls on, the memories of these two noble lives will grow fresher and sweeter, an inspiration to all earnest souls who would achieve honest success for themselves, and lend an ever-ready hand of aid and encouragement to others.