Benjamin De Shields was born in Camden, New Jersey on July 2, 1834. He married Anna M.
H. Williams of Boston on September 1, 1862, and his occupation is listed as gilder on his marriage
certificate. All that is evident of his early life from the collection is that he stayed in Boston,
Massachusetts after his marriage, where his son Ivan was born. In 1872, a business letter is
addressed to him in Fredericksburg, Virginia. However, that same year, a land survey was made in
California (presumably for Benjamin), and by 1895 he had bought land in Oakland and Fruitvale.
With his wife, Anna, he had two children: Ivan, and a daughter, Bernice.