Richard Mason Shelton was the son of Gustavus Shelton and Lucinda Pates of Stafford County, Virginia. He ran a livery stable at Stafford Courthouse where people coming to court could leave their horses to be fed, watered, and cared for. He also pleaded cases in court and served as attorney for some Stafford residents who submitted applications to the Southern Claims Commission after the Civil War. Richard married Eliza E. Shackelford (born c.1827). During the Civiil War, Richard M. Shelton was a Unionist and served as a guide for Federal troops. He spent part of the war in Washington where he had a job with the government. He lost property to both sides, the Confederates taking from him 2 horses, a gun, a drum, “& sundry articles.” The Union took vegetables from his garden, cordwood, fowls, and livestock. He submitted an application to the Southern Claims Commission asking for a reimbursement of $500 for his losses. Despite clearly being a Unionist, the commission granted him only $219. In his application, he deposed that he had been a drum major in the Stafford County militia prior to the war, but resigned on the day of the vote regarding secession. Two days prior to the vote, his militia captain, Aquilla Randall, told him that any man who voted against secession would have his property confiscated and be driven from the state. Robert Flatford told him that any man who voted against it would be shot. In April 1878, Richard claimed his homestead exemption, which consisted of 110 acres of land, 1 clock, 1 cart, 4 cattle, 1 colt, 1 mule, 5 shoats, 9 sheep, 1 table, and 7 chairs, all valued at $513.75.