Minnesota State Law Library
John C. Shaw was born in Exeter England on April 10, 1829. He attended Sanders Military College and joined Her Majesty's Army in 1844 and served in the 18th infantry in various locations around the world, including India and fought in the Crimean War (1853-1856).
He immigrated to the United States in 1860. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 12, 1862, to fight in the Civil War. He was part of the 74th New York Volunteer Regiment Company K where he served as a private and likely fought in the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. He transferred to the 40th Infantry, Company H in 1864, when Company K disbanded and mustered out June 1, 1865 at the end of the war. He reenlisted in the army for an additional 5 years once the war was over, for a total of 8 years. He was injured in 1867 in a skirmish.
In 1870, he settled in Minnesota, where he met his wife Martha Norelius. They married Nov. 11, 1871 in St. Paul, Minnesota. At that time he was working as a recruiter for the Minnesota National Guard. Also in 1871, he began working in the Governor Austin's office correcting war records. He continued this work until 1873. He also worked as a clerk in the Adjutant General's office.
On April 1, 1873, Governor Austin appointed John C. Shaw State Librarian. During his time in office the library changed significantly, moving from a library with a general focus and collecting materials on many topics to becoming a law library. Books were distributed to the Minnesota Historical Society and University of Minnesota that did not fit the new mission. He also sold off books that were duplicates in the collection (see the Documents tab of this guide).
He remained in the position until July 31, 1877. By 1880, he was living in Cambridge, MN with his in-law's family. By then, he and Martha had a son, Austin, also known as "Bertie." He remained in Cambridge until his death, acting as Postmaster. He died April 9, 1896.