(Editorial Note: Part 104 of a series of further development in the early days that impacted the settlement of Franklin County. Sources: Hometown Album, Newell Hart, editor; Cache Valley Newsletter, compiled by Newell Hart with Sheeley’s Life Story; Franklin County Citizen newspaper )
Leland Chatterton was a man of many talents. Some of those talents showed promise even in his childhood years in Utah. He was born in Salt Lake in 1900 to Jacob Chatterton and Katie Ann Guiver. Salt Lake City was not so densely populated in those days and he grew up in an area of open fields, few houses, canals nearby. There were natural ponds in the locality and Leland loved the winter because it meant he could ice skate and he became very proficient.
Another pastime was fighting. The big arc lights on the corners of the block provided a perfect place for the youngsters to hang out of an evening. The older boys, Leland’s brothers, would encourage a bout of boxing. They even had boxing gloves available.
“We were all pretty fair fighters - we thought we were. If we didn’t (want to fight) they’d hang us up on the picket fence by our heels. . . Pretty soon a kid would holler, “Get me down - I’ll put on the gloves!” Kids would come over from neighboring blocks and we’d box them. There would be champions declared for each block of residents. There were times Chatterton came out the winner, and times that he did not. All the time he was learning, and these days served him well in his future.
Jake Chatterton, Leland’s father, was a brakeman on the railroad and the job took him to southeastern Idaho occasionally. When Leland was about 11 or 12 the Chatterton family was transferred to Preston. As one of the ‘new kids’ in town Leland went through the age - old process of proving himself. In this case the method was fist fights and his first fight was with Orell Lamoreaux, older brother to Battling Lamoreaux. The fights went on with various opponents, during recess or lunch hour, and were usually unscheduled fights.
The Monson boys, Harold Hawkes, Dick Steers, Tate Hopson, a Jorgensen kid, on and on. Finally Leland had either proved or disproved himself and was Okay with the other guys---admittance to the gang had begun.
Chatterton was a marbles champion. He likely had marbles from every kid in Preston. According to his friend Fred Struve they played at the Oregon Short Line Depot and there might be several games going on at once. The ground was packed good and level and only a football field’s distance from Leland’s home. A perfect setup for a marbles champ.
He was known by his peers to be an excellent fisherman, but Leland’s absolute passion was baseball. At the time one of the stars of a Salt Lake team in the old Pacific Coast League, was a first baseman named Earl Sheeley. When Chatterton was about 13, while playing with some of the older guys, one stated,”By damn, we’ve got an Earl Sheeley on the team here!” The name stuck and Leland hardly ever heard his first name again. Sheeley Chatterton it became, and stayed throughout his adult years.
Early on Sheeley was part of the boxing crowd of Franklin County. He attended Jefferson School and was among its first graduating class, then went on to the Oneida Stake Academy. At the OSA he joined in the professional wrestling and boxing bouts at the new Nielsen Gym with instructions from George Nelson, Wallace Allred and other early Preston boxers and wrestlers. Sheeley tried his hand at both sports.
He said,”mostly I picked up boxing by myself, just watching and by experience. Mostly I was just a Curtain Raiser for a dollar or two. I only fought around in the valley, generally in preliminaries.” When he was 18 he got matched up against a boxer who was 25 pounds heavier. His brothers were concerned for his safety, scared he was going to take a beating. Sheeley claimed he could take care of himself. The match only lasted three rounds, but Sheeley won by a decision. Sheeley worked with Kid Barger and Cyclone Workman, Bat Lamoreaux. “I enjoyed boxing and wrestling, as long as it was anywhere near clean, and would follow the bouts of fighters nationally. “
The Franklin County Citizen of 1922 featured an article about the Jail Street Athletic Club. “We have a number of young men in our community who have some ‘pep’ to them. They have started an Athletic Club, intending to show Preston some real good clean fun in the wrestling and boxing line, as soon as they are in trim. The young men are Sluggin’ Fritz Struve, Barber Dick Steers, Whirlwind Hansen, and Clever Kid Sheeley, also returned Soldier Orell Lamoreau.” Sheeley’s described it as a “building behind Smith’s store, kind of a warehouse, just east of the jail house. Just a couple of rooms. It gave us kids something to do. No real bouts were put on, just workouts. Seems like we had an old punching bag. We’d meet there day or night, a bunch of us:”
Chatterton served as a referee in many of the boxing and wrestling bouts in this part of the country. “Referee Sheeley Chatterton counted out the New Yorker in 1:30 of the first round. . .” He had a reputation of holding to matches being clean and honest.
Sheeley’s father died while Chatterton was in high school and for family financial reasons, he went to Salt Lake City to find work. When he was home in Preston one friend was Ike Evans who worked at the Citizen. This association helped Sheeley to become acquainted with Watkin Roe, editor of the paper, and his sons. When young Watkin Roe, Jr. passed away during the influenza epidemic of 1918, Sheeley was hired and with this employment was able to return to Franklin County.
He started as a ‘flunky’ but through his own efforts, learned to do the linotype. He did a lot of experimenting after hours, on his own, to get the experience, with the permission of his boss. He became a valued member of the staff and worked there for nine years.
Sheeley married Indra Elizabeth Nyborg in Preston, just before Christmas of 1921. They had a family of four sons. When Sheeley left the Citizen he went to work, still in the printing business, in Logan. He passed away in February of 1988 and is buried in the Preston Cemetery.