Salem Pioneer Cemetery ~ George Knox Shiel ~ part of the Marion County Pioneer Cemeteries of Oregon
George Knox Shiel
MAIDEN NAME:  AKA 1: Shields AKA 2:  AKA 3: 
BORN: Abt 1825 DIED: 12 Dec 1893 BURIED: 13 Dec 1893
ETHNICITY:   OCCUPATION:  Attorney, Congressman, Territorial Auditor (1855),
DEATH PLACE: Salem, Marion Co., Oregon
IOOF - George K. Shields [sic], born in Louisiana [sic?], died in Salem, fell over banisters at Willamette Hotel, was a pioneer to Oregon
1880 CENSUS of Salem pct, Marion Co., Oregon, #13/#170: George K. Sheil, age 57, lawyer, Ire/Ire/Ire. 
1893 City Directory: Shiel, Geo. Manager of Willamette Valley Milling Co., res. 397 Front St. 
1895 CENSUS of Marion County, Vol. 1, pg. 58: SHIEL, George, born England, 5' 9", 190 lbs., light, miller, Protestant, voter, male, age 48 [living with Walter Sheil family].
PROBATE - Polk Co. Probate File #70: Dr. James Sheil. Intestate, died on or about Jan. 1853, Adm. Julia M. Sheil, widow, and Dr. Wm. J. Bailey, 1856, (by 1856 Julia M. Sheil is Julia M. Bailey), references to DLC land in French Prairie, three heirs in Marion Co. and other names mentioned were Rebecca, Sr., mother, of St. Martinsville, Lousianna; Edward Sheil, brother of Jacksonville, Oregon Territory; George K. Sheil, brother; Rebecca Sheil, sister and Mariah Sheil, sister.
DISCREPANCY - Name is spelled differently in various records as Shields and Shiel.

GEO. K. O'SHIEL, formerly of Oregon and once an obscure member of Congress, was one of the party of peace plotters who met at St. Nicholas Hotel, New York, after the reception of McClellan's acceptance letter, to consult upon the organization of a peace party. Mullaly, editor of the "Metropolitan Record", presided at the meeting. The "Day Book Journal" and "Daily News" were represented. There were about fifty traitors present and for once O'Shiel was prominent. The meeting inaugurated the convention at Cincinnati. These fellows all support McClellan now on the private pledge, as the "News" says, that he will favor an immediate cessation of hostilities or in other words, that he will prove himself as much a traitor as any of them. 
Oregon Statesman 31 Oct 1864 3:6.

BIOGRAPHICAL: (The following article was written for a monthly column in Salem's Statesman Journal called "Headstones in History", by Capi Lynn) 
Error Etched into History. A Civil War-era congressman, whose grave is mismarked, is best known for the tumble that killed him. The inscription on the toppled headstone is so worn it is almost indecipherable. For George K. Shiel's sake, that's probably a good thing. His last name is misspelled on it. It is just one indignity - though probably the most enduring - for one of the least-distinguished congressmen to come out of Oregon. A burial register for Pioneer Cemetery in Salem originally listed Sheil as having the last name Shields. The "d" and "s" have long since been crossed out, but the error remains on the headstone. Such errors were not uncommon in the 1800's, although dates of birth and death were more likely to be mistaken. "There were a lot of problems, especially in the earlier days," said Jim Desch, whose family was in the tombstone business for five generations. Shiel's headstone, not much bigger than an 8½-by-11-inch sheet of notebook paper, is measly compared to markers that memorialize other prominent politicians buried at Pioneer Cemetery. Of course, it's arguable whether Shiel ever reached prominence. He has been described as an obscure member of Congress, where he served from 1861-63, during the Civil War. The late Ben Maxwell, a local historian, once wrote that Shiel was "regarded as the most inconsequential congressman ever sent to Washington from Oregon." An early pioneer to this state, Shiel was known to be a pro-slavery Democrat, an avowed secessionist and a bitter foe of President Abraham Lincoln. His views were often condemned in The Oregon Statesman. The newspaper's editor, Asahel Bush, singled out Shiel as a "congressman who never voted a man or a dollar for the Civil War." Shiel is perhaps most famous for the way he died on the evening of Dec. 12, 1893. After socializing at the Willamette Hotel - later renamed the Marion Hotel - the 68 year old tumbled through a railing along the sidewalk and into a 14-foot deep basement stairwell. Shiel suffered a broken neck and died almost instantly. It was reported that he was intoxicated, although hotel proprietor, A. I. Wagner told the Statesman that Shiel had not been drinking there that afternon. Chief of Police Harry P. Minto and a hotel bellboy witnessed the accident. Minto was passing the hotel when he saw Shiel lean against the railing and fall head first. The four-story hotel, once located on the block where demolition is now taking place for a new conference center, was a popular meeting place for those involved in state government. It often was said that more laws were made in the rooms of that hotel than in all the state's offical chambers combined. Shiel, who never married, had a reputation as a man who enjoyed his liquor. On May 26, 1862, the Statesman reported that, in a state of somnambulism, he had fallen through a trap door over a tin shop in Salem. "He would have broken his neck and back both if he had not be 'dead drunk'" the newspaper reported. Shiel came to Oregon in 1854, setting up a law office first at State and High streets, then at Commercial and D. streets. He was considered one of the best orators and craftiest practitioners in the Willamette Valley at that time, according to his biography in the 1899 "Report of the Secretary of State." Shiel once refused to take the oat of allegiance and was barred from practicing law. He later was reinstated. He was nominated for Colonel of Marion County at the 1856 Democratic Convention in Salem, although it is doubted that he ever commanded troops in active service. The newspaper headlined nonetheless referred to him as Col. Shiel when he died, and his headstone is inscribed with his military title. At least that part of the engraving is accurate. Desch, the former owner of Capital Monument in Salem, said a lack of reading and writing skills - from family members to stonecutters - contributed to many errors found on old grave markers. "A lot of people spelled the name the way they thought it should be," Desch said. 
Statesman Journal 1 Jul 2003 pg 3C
Once a Prominent Citizen of Oregon -- 
His Neck is Broken by a Fall Last Night. 
He Tumbled from the Sidewalk to a Floor Below a Distance of Fourteen Feet. 
At 9:30 o'clock last night Col. George K. Shiel, who in days gone by was one of Salem's most noted citizens and a man of great prominence in Oregon, met his death in a most deplorable way. It seems that Col. Shiel left the office of the Hotel Willamette to go to his home and leaned for a moment against the iron railing to the right of the main entrance. He suddenly lost his balance and pitched headlong over the railing to the ground, a distance of about 14 feet. When bystanders reached him he was carried into the hotel basement but in a few moments breathed his last. Undertaker Clough was notified and removed the remains to his undertaking parlors. The particulars of the accident are as follows: Col. Shiel had been in and out of the hotel during the afternoon and at 5 o'clock was seated in the reading room where he was seen by Landlord Wagner. Soon afterward he went into the office and sat there chatting with friends, and reading. He seemed in unusually cheerful spirits and jocularly remarked to J. A. Waddell of Portland "that he was 68 years old and in pretty good fighting trim." He interested the listeners with reminiscences of his past life in Oregon and amused them with stories of his early experiences. Col. Shiel was evidently slightly intoxicated and about 9:30 o'clock announced his intention of returning home. He bade them all good night and started out but at the foot of the steps, stopped to lean for a moment against the iron railing which serves to protect passersby from falling into the opening made to admit light into the basement. Suddenly losing his balance he pitched head foremost over the rail and falling some 15 feet struck his head upon the stone foundation of the hotel wall just in front of the hotel just in front of the door leading into the basement. He was seen to fall by Chief Minto and a bell boy of the hotel who ran through the basement to his assistance. They found him laying upon his face with his body doubled up and as the chief lifted him he saw a dark pool of blood upon the stone foundation and blood was flowing from an ugly cut on the right side of the colonel's forehead. He was carried into the basement and then it was seen that his right eye was greatly discolored and swollen and his nose cut. There were also bruises upon the left side of his head. Dr. Byrd was sent for but Col. Shiel breathed only once or twice and was dead when the doctor arrived. Chief of Police Minto sent for Undertaker Clough and the remains were taken to his undertaking establishment on State street. (..stories from A. I Wagner, H. P. Minto and Andrew Klett repeat details..) When the body was taken to the undertaking parlors and on examination made, it was very evident that the unfortunate man's neck was broken and his skull fractured. Thus his death must have be sudden and comparatively painless. Col. George K. Shiel was 68 years of age and during the prime of his life occupied quite a prominent position socially and politically in Oregon. He was one of the early pioneers of this state and closely identified with its early history and growth. A lawyer of considerable prominence and a man of means, exceedingly well informed, bright and popular, he made hosts of friends. A democrat in political faith, and a man of sound principles, he was elected in 1861 by the popular vote of the people to represent them in the House of Representatives of the United States and there he was looked upon as one of the sturdiest supporters of the democracy in the house. Oregon Statesman, Dec. 13, 1893, 1:3-4. Col. Sheil’s Funeral - The funeral of the late Col. George Knox Sheil will be held at 2 o’clock today at St. Paul’s Episcopal church. Interment will be in the family lot adjoining the E. N. Cooke vault in Rural cemetery. His mother, brother, and two sisters are buried there. 
Oregon Statesman 14 December 1893 4:2
Col. Geo. K. Shields 
IOOF Register of Burials 
1880 Census of Salem pct, Marion Co., Oregon, #13/#170 
1895 Census of Marion County, Vol. 1, pg 58 
Polk Co. Oregon Probate File #70 
OS 31 Oct 1864, 3:6
 OS 13 Dec 1893 1:3-4 
OS 14 December 1893 4:2 
SJ 1 Jul 2003 pg 3C 
SEE ALSO: Statesman Indexes at Marion County Historical Society (Salem), Oregon Historical Society (Portland), Oregon State Library (Salem), Salem Public Library. Kincaid pg 230-231