Biography of Sheldon Sickels
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

SHELDON SICKELS attained to the venerable age of eighty years, and nearly sixty years marked the period of his residence in the City of Cleveland. There is no fixed ultimate, no definite maximum in the scheme of human motive and action, but the man who best uses his intrinsic powers and objective opportunities comes most nearly to the realization of his maximum potentiality. This was significantly shown in the career of Sheldon Sickels, who made his influence large and benignant in connection with business affairs, whose intellectuality and well poised personality well equipped him for a goodly measure of influence in the directing of popular thought and action, and whose aid was given loyally to the advancement of educational interests and all other agencies making for social betterment. This nation has had very few who have been closer and more appreciative students of the history and teachings of the Masonic fraternity, and in much pertaining to this time revered organization Mr. Sickels was a nationally recognized authority. A man who thought well, taught well and worked well was this honored and veteran business man of the Ohio metropolis, and it is gratifying to pay in this work a tribute to his memory.

Sheldon Sickels was born at Albion, the judicial center of Orleans County, New York, March 25, 1839, and at his home in the City of Cleveland, Ohio, his death occurred November 7, 1919. He was a son of Henry J. and Rebecca (Sheldon) Siclcels, who continued their residence in the old Empire State until their death, the father having been one of the prominent and honored citizens of Albion, where he served a number of years in the office of postmaster, besides having represented Orleans County in the New York Legislature. Sheldon Sickels profited by the advantages afforded in the public or common schools of his native place, and also attended a business college in the City of Rochester, but in the acquiring of a really liberal education in the passing years he had recourse to fortifying self discipline through well ordered study and reading, the while he made the most of the progressive influence which practical experience ever lends. As a lad of fourteen years, Mr. Sickels began to assist his father in the Albion postoffice, and later he was appointed to a clerkship in the New York State Legislature, of which his father was a member at the time. When he was about eighteen years of age he went to the State of Michigan, and after having there been employed a few months as a bookkeeper he returned to the old home in New York.

On the 29th of April, 1860, about one month after celebrating his twenty first birthday anniversary, Mr. Sickels arrived in Cleveland, the city that was to continue the stage of his activities during the remainder of his long and useful life. Here he found employment as bookkeeper in the office of the Gordon, Fellows & McMillan Company, and with compensation represented only in the providing of his room and board during the first month he so definitely proved his efficiency that he was given a regular salary of $35 a month. Out of his salary for the first year he saved eighty dollars, and as a mark of special appreciation of his efficient and faithful service Mr. Gordon, one of his employers, presented him with a bonus of $50, which he was thus able to add to his reserve. Mr. Sickels continued to give evidence of his capacity for larger responsibilities, and thus won advancement of consecutive order. In three years he thus gained promotion to the position of cashier for this company, which was then the largest concern of its kind west of New York, its province being the handling of wholesale groceries, etc. In his two years of service as cashier Mr. Sickels became an expert in the detecting of counterfeit money, and it may be said in this connection that all through his signally active business career he made each successive experience render to him knowledge of enduring value.

After leaving the employ of the company mentioned in the preceding paragraph Mr. Sickels here became a manufacturer of sewing machine cabinets, and after establishing the industry on a solid foundation he sold the same, taking the buyer's note for virtually the entire purchase price. Under the changed control the business failed before the note matured, and Mr. Sickels consequently realized nothing from his labor and his investment. In the meanwhile he had formed the acquaintance of the officials of the Union Steel Screw Company, and in 1873 he accepted the office of secretary of this corporation, a position which he retained thirty two years, until April, 1906, when he became vice president of the company. He had served also as general manager of the company from 1878 onward, and was the highest paid official of this important industrial corporation, his interest in which he retained until his death.

With his home, his business and his affiliation with the Masonic fraternity as his dominating interests for many years, Mr. Sickels had no desire to enter the arena of practical politics or to become a candidate for public office. His civic loyalty, however, was of the highest type, and his political allegiance was given to the republican party. He was ever ready to lend his influence and tangible aid in the advancing of educational and moral interests, and in this connection it is to be recorded that he was one of the founders of the University School, to the development and upbuilding of which he contributed in generous measure, the institution being now an important and well ordered unit of the educational system of Cleveland and the graduating class for the year 1924 mustering fifty four members.

In the year 1867 Mr. Sickels was raised to the degree of Master Mason in Tyrian Lodge, and he then advanced through the other York Rite bodies until he reached his maximum affiliations, in Oriental Commandery, Knights Templars. After having received in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite the thirty second degree Mr. Sickels had the distinction of gaining also the supreme and honorary thirty third degree, which was conferred upon him in the City of Boston in 1880, he having been the thirteenth Mason in the United States to receive this degree and having been the oldest thirtythird degree Mason in this country at the time of his death. He was a past master of Tyrian Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and passed official chairs in the various other Masonic bodies with which he was identified, he having run the full gamut of both the York and Scottish Rites. While in the City of London, England, in 1870, Mr. Sickels received a special invitation that enabled him to attend the meeting of the English Grand Lodge and there to witness the ceremony of inducting the Prince of Wales into the office of grand master, the Prince having later become King Edward VII, and having succeeded Earl de Gray in the office of grand master of the British Masonic Grand Lodge on the occasion when Mr. Sickels was thus present.

In his study of the great mass of material touching the history and teachings of the Masonic fraternity Mr. Sickels manifested an enthusiasm and pertinacity that resulted in his becoming a recognized authority, as stated in the opening paragraph of this memoir. Not until the latter years of his life did he consent to abate his earnest study of Masonry, and then only in accordance with the admonition of his physician, who urged his cessation of such close application. His own estimate of what the Masonic fraternity stands for has been given in the following statement made by him: "I wish to express my belief that one who lives in accord with its tenets is as fully assured of future salvation as one who places his faith in the doctrines of the church."

On his trip abroad in 1870 Mr. Sickels visited France as well as England, and as he was in France at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war, he experienced no little difficulty in leaving the country. He again visited Europe in 1883, and in a diary which he faithfully kept for many years is noted his wonderment at the great expenditure of time and money being made by the Germans in the building of immense forts and the extending of fortifications to manifold strategic points. He lived to see and know the reason for this systematic movement of militarism, as the great World war came to its close the year prior to his death.

September 29, 1864, recorded the marriage of Mr. Sickels and Miss Ellinor L. Davies, daughter of John and Eliza (Babcock) Davies, her father having been a representative wholesale merchant in Cleveland. Of the five children of this union the first born was Llewella, who is the wife of Charles Keim, of Cleveland; Bert L. died atthe age df sixteen years; Miss Grace Ella maintains her home in Cleveland, as does also Edith Sheldon, who is the wife of Marley T. Reynolds; and Malcolm Clark, youngest of the number, resides in the City of Chicago, the maiden name of his wife having been Ada Hewston.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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