Alston Knox Shaw was born February 11, 1833, at Townson, Norfork County, in Canada West. Though a Canadian by birth, he is really a Holland Yankee. His grandfather on his father’s side came over in the Mayflower while his mother’s people belonged to the oldest colony in the New England states. From both sides of the family he is a direct descendant of soldiers of Revolutionary fame. His grandmother, Mrs. John Martin, was a cousin of Ethan Allen.
After the states began to get settled the family drifted into Canada, then a new frontier. Being of a frontier loving class of people, Alston Shaw naturally drifted into the West, where there was a larger scope for a roving and scouting disposition to wander in.
The first fifteen years of Al Shaw’s life was spent on his father’s ranch in Canada with his nine sisters and six brothers. He then worked as an apprentice for three years in Austin’s blacksmith shop in Simcoe.
At the end of the three years, he and another apprentice, John Lemons, formed a partnership and started a shop of their own in the country. They were together about two years, when the restless disposition urged Shaw to move on, so he sold his interest to his partner and got the other boys to take him to Branford, the nearest railway station, a distance of twenty miles. He took the train for Chicago, Illinois, then drifted down to Rock Island, up the Mississippi river to Fulton City, finally stopping at Union Grove, Illinois, a year. After an absence of two years, he returned to his home in Canada and remained there during the winter and worked his father’s and brother’s teams in a lumber camp.
The following spring he started westward again and has never gone back to his old home. When he got word that his mother was dangerously ill he started home, but had only gone a day or two’s travel across the plains, when word was brought to him that she was dead, so he turned around and went back to the frontier.
He lived at Union Grove two years; then in 1859, he started for Pike’s Peak, but only got to Fort Kearney, Neb., when things began to go wrong. He gave away his interest in the outfit and started back to the Missouri river on foot. He worked his way back to Union Grove, 111. In the spring of ’60 he again pulled out for Pike’s Peak and in the fall of the same year he arrived in Denver. Shortly afterwards he went to Central City and worked in the mines all winter.
In 1862 he opened a livery barn in Denver. This same year he moved a family and some goods up to Montana, returning to Denver in the spring of ’64, when the Indian raids and massacres were starting.
Shaw loaded his wagon and made a start for Montana just about the time martial law was declared. He had only gone a few miles when he was stopped and his teams put into service. He loaned the wagon to a woman and she went to Montana with it. With his teams and wagon gone he was practically “broke,” so when the call for volunteers was given in the summer of ’64, he enlisted. He served until the regiment was discharged. In the spring of ’65 he went to freighting for Colonel Chivington and made thirteen trips across the plains from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Denver.
In 1873 he married and moved to Saguache, Colorado, where he went into the livery business. He had two children, a boy and girl ; both died in their childhood. Later he carried the mail to Los Pinos Agency, a distance of forty miles; after this hauled produce into Leadville.
In 1883 ne moved over to Ruby, Gunnison County, where he freighted for several years. Coming down on the western slope, he bought a ranch, lived on it four years, then sold out to a sheep man and moved to where Juanita now is and bought another ranch. In 1908 he sold it, and since then he has been knocking around Paonia and Hotchkiss, Colorado, where everyone knows him as Uncle Shaw. He spends his time in caring for and training his five thoroughbred horses.
Source: True History of some of the Pioneers of Colorado, by Miss Luella Shaw, Press of Carson Harper Co, Denver, Colorado, 1909