I thought this might be an interesting short post for Veteran’s Day. My ancestral grandfather William Shepard, of Westfield, Massachusetts, retired a Colonel of the Revolutionary War.
When he first joined up to help further the cause of the Revolution he was a 2nd Lieutenant, as he had had prior experience in the military when it was British. Over the years during the war he was eventually promoted to Colonel, and in 1782 he was recommended for promotion to Brigadier General. It appears that they needed more Generals to run the brigades in the army.
Unfortunately, William didn’t get that promotion. He retired from military service January 1, 1783, possibly because he felt it was a promotion he should have gotten, plus he had served his county for many years, it was time to go home.
However, nine months after he retired a Congressional Resolution dated September 30, 1783, was passed, it appears that his service was finally being recognized, as he was promoted to Brig. General, although without pay of that rank.
A couple of years ago I found the coolest newspaper article when researching William Shepard of Westfield, Massachusetts. It has always been in the back of my mind, waiting, I guess, for me to finally say “Hey, I need to blog about this.”
So, finally, here I am blogging about this.
On and off for about 15 years, William tried his hand at politics by running for the office of Representative, or Lieutenant Governor, from 1789-1804. It took nine tries before he was finally elected as Representative of Massachusetts, Western District, in 1796 (and again in 1797, 1798, his last win was in 1800).
In May of 1797 he apparently stood up in session and made reply to a speech given by President John Adams a few short weeks earlier. His words were sent to the newspaper by ‘A Customer.’ (Maybe this was done by William himself, to help sway the voters back home in his favor for the next election.) By the way, he was a Federalist.2
…The observations of the Hon. William Shepherd in the House of Representatives, May 27, on the reported answer to the President’s Speech…
Mr. Shepherd did not rise from his seat with an expectation of throwing much light on the subject under debate; but being a new member, he conveyed it his duty to come forward and announce his political principles to his constituents and to the world, and to make some remarks and observations on the subject under consideration that he might be able to justify his own conduct for thus doing,
“Sir, said he, I do not come forward with an intention to criminate the government of the United States, for in general I believe it has been wisely conducted and well administered. I do not come forward to make researchers into the police of the government of Great Britain, neither do I come forward prejudiced against the republic of France, nor do I come forward with any prepossessed prejudiced against any of the members of this House, for they are the greater part of them entire strangers to me; but Sir, the President of the United States in his speech has informed us that there is an unhappy dispute existing between the republic of France and the United States1, and on that account there is a report Sir, on your honor’s table, which was designed for an answer to his speech, but objection has been made, and an amendment is proposed by the honorable member from Virginia—the question is before your committee, whether we shall admit of the amendment, first; Sir, I will take a retrospective review of the conduct of both nations and remark how France first came to be connected with the United States—because it has been hinted by some gentlemen, that France had no motives to induce her to take an active part with us—but pure benevolence and gratitude to help the poor Americans in their helpless and forlorn situation; but Sir, did we hear any thing from France in ’75, even in ’76 when we wre obliged to fly in every direction before the forces of Great Britain asked and barefooted—so, they did not come to our assistance. In ’77 we were more successful, the face of our affairs was materially changed, we had the good fortune to take and capture a whole British army, but as yet Sir, we received no assistance from France. In ’78 in the opening of the campaign we saw no French to assist us—what did we do at the action at Monmouth, we kept our ground as least in spite of all the force of Great Britain—By this time France had come into an alliance with us, but Sir, let us make a little pause here and enquire whether France had not some motive besides mere goodness to the Americans.
Was it no inducement to France to lop off so considerable a branch of the British government as the United States were —and weaken that government—had ever a nation a stronger motive to induce them to step into our succor.
I will only say, that in the year ’78 Count d’Estaing, planned with others an expedition against Rhode Island. In the operation of which the fleet under his command, was unsuccessful, and he was obliged to quit the harbor, and left the army of the United States on the Island, in a dangerous situation.
I mean not—by making these observations to criminate any one, for I will admit that it was all owing to misfortune, and the fate of war; I shall make no observations until the year ’81, here I acknowledge that the French army and navy of France was of great and essential service to us in the capture of Cornwallis, and I am willing to acknowledge that I felt thankfulness and the deepest gratitude towards that nation of any in the world, from their first alliance with us, to the close of the war with Great Britain. I shall now observe the conduct of France in their own nation—soon after they left America they began a reform in their own government—no man on earth rejoiced more than myself while they were struggling for their just right against the nations of Europe. I rejoiced at every victory they gained and mourned at their defeats; but sir, if they had closed here, I should have rejoiced with them to this moment; happy of us had they stopped here and all Europe besides. I will now observe and make one or two remarks on the conduct of Great Britain towards America at this time—Great Britain complained of our conduct towards them—at the same time they were committing depredations and spoliations on our navigation—and what was the cry of many of the people of this country at that time—join France and go to war with them, how can you bear to have the American flag insulted and degraded; but what was the measure taken by the Executive? why he sent an Envoy Extraordinary and made a treaty with Great Britain—and agreed on the friendly principles on which we should settle all our differences, this however gives uneasiness to France, and it will be well to make some enquiry what are the substantial reasons for this uneasiness, are they not because we did not enter into war with Great Britain , here the executive part of government is called into question for their conduct; will it not be reasonable and just that we should find them guilty of a breach of their trust before we condemn them.
Has any one been able to pint out and show wherein they have gone beyond their powers which the constitution clothes them with. I have heard of none:
But Sir, what measure had been taken by the Executive to remove the complaints of France, have we not pursued the same course which was taken with England, have we not sent a minister to them in order to remove their complaints and settle with them on the most amicable terms. But how has he been replied? why, rejected with insult and they would not even listen to the voice of accommodation.
Several gentlemen have reproached us with ingratitude and speak of it as the most heinous sin a man can commit, I admit it to be one of the greatest sins, but where have we been guilty, have we taken away their property, have we unsubtle them in the person of their minister. Then why are we to be drawn to a confession of guilt when we know we are innocent—again let me ask where is our courage, our magnanimity, our confidence, if we dare not say of them what we know to be the truth; shall we not say they are wrong when we know they are wrong.”
Some gentlemen have said that the speech is a declaration of war, it does not read so to me, that it is sounding the war whoop, I have heard no war whoop, I have heard nothing hostile but against our own government, and gentlemen who have endeavored to criminate the Executive have proved their incompetence, they have not been able to produce evidence of a single fault, they are driven to act like the men who were brought as witnesses to condemn our favor, their testimony is nought and they are driven to make any outcry of crucify him, crucify him, and take his blood on their own heads, in order to get him given up into their own power. Are we in doing this, acting either wisely or prudently? I think we are doing neither.
He expressed the degree of satisfaction it would give him to find a more general unanimity in the house, but he despaired of seeing it, on this account he would prefer the report, to the amendment, not but what he was willing for the sake of conciliation to alter some things in the address. He hoped they would agree to put the country in a state of defense as the best best of avoiding hostility, this was an old adage, but it was as true as it was old. There was nothing he dreaded so much as going to war either with Great Britain or France. He knew his constituents were to a man opposed to war, he knew they would relinquish every thing but one in order to preserve peace—that is their independence. That would eternally disgrace them, and they were determined never to be disgraced—He knew his constituents would never be induced to quarrel with the government, and he was certain they were pleased with its administration—he could also assure the committee they would concur very readily in any measures Congress might adopt on this trying occasion.
William Shepard – speech
The most likely reason that it took so long for William to win an election, or even get votes (in several earlier runnings he had only 1 vote), was because of his being instrumental in the defeat of Shay’s Rebellion. The people of Massachusetts had long memories, and vindictive feelings about his role in the event. In fact anonymous neighbors, and bullies, threatened and assaulted himself and his family for years afterward:
excited against me the keenest Resentments of the disappointed Insurgents, manifested in the most pointed Injurys, such as burning my Fences, injuring my Woodlands, by Fire, beyond a Recovery for many Years – wantonly & cruelly butchering two valuable Horses, whose ears were cut off and Eyes bored out before they were killed ~ insulting me personally with the vile Epithet of the Murderer of my Brethren, and, through anonimous Letters, repeated by threatening me with the Destruction of my House and Family by Fire.- which kind of Injuries I occasionally experience even to this day.
There were others though that respected his willingness to serve his community, in many local offices, and defend the state of Massachusetts “at all hazards.” They understood that you don’t give in to terrorists, which is exactly what the Shay’s Rebellion participants were.
One of these men recalled his presence and military bearing at militia exercises and drills, which inspired admiration and respect:
When I recall his large, imposing figure, bedecked with his trusty sword and crimson sash…and heard the whispers ‘there’s the general,’ I remember the awe, notwithstanding his genial face, with which he inspired me.3
The haters were in the minority long enough for him to be elected four times as a representative of Massachusetts.
John and Elizabeth (Noble) Shepard of Westfield, Massachusetts had two sons that we probably descend from, the famous General William and the not so famous Enoch. While William and his wife stayed in Westfield their whole lives, Enoch moved his family around eventually landing in Ohio when land became available there after the Revolutionary War. I use the term probably when discussing Shepard ancestors before Hartley because, while DNA indicates that we descend from these Shepards, and verbal family history has Hartley’s parents as Henry and Huldah Shepard, we still have no documented evidence to confirm this.
Enoch Shepard was born in Westfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts on 25 Oct 1742. He was five years younger than his brother William. In his formative years he appears to have received schooling, but by his own admission it was probably just enough to learn basic reading, writing and arithmetic. When he reached the age of 19 he married a cousin (of some degree), Esther Dewey, a descendant of Thomas Dewey and Constance Hawes. (We descend from the same Thomas Dewey and Constance Hawes three times in this Shepard line.) His brother William married Esther’s sister Sarah.
In July of 1773 Enoch and Esther purchased a lot in the town of Murryfield, (which is now called Chester) and apparently they were dismissed from their church in Westfield to Murrayfield in July of 1775 and admitted to the church in Murrayfield in January of 1776. It was from here that Enoch signed up and joined the Revolution. And while he might not have had as much notariety as William, he was Captain of his own unit. Although according to this record he was uncomfortable with the assignment:
Petition addressed to the Council, dated Murrayfield, April 6, 1778, signed by said Shepard, stating that he held a commission as Captain, 13th company, Col. John Mosley’s (3d Hampshire Co.) regiment, although he had viewed himself as not equal to the discharge of the office when chosen, but having made the experiment and finding himself unable to discharge the duties of his office with credit to himself or benefit to the country, asking to be permitted to resign his commission; ordered in Council April 24, 1778, that the resignation be accepted.
Enoch shows up in a history of Murrayfield book1 usually as Capt. Enoch Shepard, involved in local goings on and committees for the time that they lived in the town. They even managed to be chastised by their church according to this interesting statement found online:
…on 23 May 1784, Capt Enoch Shepard and Esther his wife, “a beloved brother and sister,” were admonished for neglecting worship, and on 26 December, 1784 they were excommunicated. [from the church in Murrayfield]
When the town of Wolcott in Vermont was created in 1781, it is thought that our Enoch is one of the people listed as a proprietor.2They appear to have moved to Vermont about 1784/5. But, if indeed this is the same Enoch and they did move to Wolcott, the family didn’t stay long before they packed up and headed further south, eventually making the move to Marietta, Ohio.
The first, frame house in Marietta was built in the summer of 1789… Captain Enoch Shepherd (brother of General Shepherd, who suppressed Shay’s rebellion in Massachusetts) prepared the timber and lumber for this house at Pennsylvania and made it into a raft, upon which he brought his family to Marietta.
Enoch supported the family as a Deacon and mill operator. He, along with a partner established the first mill in Marietta. As usual, we know very little of Esther, his wife. She died in 1794, and Enoch married again shortly afterward.
While the details of this Shepard family are currently unclear and spotty, I do get a good sense of Enoch through two books that he had published during his lifetime. It was here at Marietta that he appears to have taken his title of Deacon with great seriousness and fervour, because he wrote two books related to spritual matters. The first, which was more of a sermon, was quite boring (Dissertation on the quantity and quality of sin, 1814). I tried to muddle through but had a hard time keeping my eyes opened and never finished it. The second I discuss below.
So here are my impressions of Thoughts on the Prophecies, by Enoch Shepard, copywrite 1812, written by Enoch in response to a Rev. Bishop Faber’s book, where Faber apparently favors the Catholic Church too much for his liking.
The first thing I noticed while reading this book, was that great Gramps was very long winded. His tome bombastically denigrates the Catholic church – repeatedly. Over and over. Hammering on the same points from different angles for over 150 pages. With, of course, snippets of disgust against Jews and Muslims thrown in for a little diversity. And, while I might even agree with some of his points regarding the Catholic church, I don’t at all condone his bigotry. Apparently Enoch didn’t really practice christian charity as well as one would expect from a Presbytarian Church Deacon.
However, I do have to admit that against my will I was amused and quite enjoying his ranting style. I expected to be very bored with the subject matter, but I wasn’t, even though I didn’t always understand what he was talking about, or referring to, as he used lots of bible quotes (I never read a bible) and ancient battle references.
In his conclusion Enoch indicates that he never received a liberal education, which comes across in the book quite clearly. Someone with a liberal education tends to be more inclusive of other’s ideas, beliefs and points of view. It is also pretty clear that he believed that the current state of the church foretold “the approach of the glorious millennial day” also known as armageddon, (well, I call it the zombie apocalypse, but that’s just me.)
Along with being very anti-catholic in tone, Enoch also speaks in a very derogatory and contemptuous manner of ancient Roman religious beliefs and practices. The usual tendency of all religions to denigrate those who don’t believe in their version of god/s.
“The Roman Empire included many idolatrous and heathen nations, who were zealous worshipers of their several Gods, and obstinately tenaciously of their absurd rites and ceremonies. Consequently the pure doctrines of the Gospel, which struck at the foundations of their folly, and sought to overturn all their heathenish superstitions, appear in their view either foolishness, or a rock of offence. So that they become enemies to the christians, who would not join them in their idolatry, and with the utmost avidity engaged in persecutions authorized by the Emperor. Hence the followers of Jesus were always treated with contempt, and wanton abuse.” p10
Enoch was misinformed about early Roman history regarding the matter of the Christians and their persecution. Even to this day many Christians still, erroneously, believe that Christians were killed in colosseums in droves because of their religious beliefs. The Romans were pretty liberal regarding the religious views of other cultures, live and let live was their motto.
He went on to brag that when Constantine came to power and brought Christianity to the empire
“Pagans were turned out of office and faithful christians pointed in their stead.” p16 “The idol images were destroyed, and polluted temples cleansed, and converted into houses for the worship of the true God.” p17
Speaking in regards to a story about Mohamed “In his [Mohamed’s] travels…he had an opportunity of observing the many divisions and contentions, which existed among the professors of Christianity; for the idolatrous practices, which soon after were established in the popish Church…”p25
In this statement he makes reference to his distaste for Jews and Muslims:
More regarding Mohamed, and his shutting himself in a cave “…he procured some Jews and apostate Christian; also a few scribes vile enough to answer his purpose. With these he shut himself up in a cave for several years…When he had obtained from these despicable creatures all that he wished, he then put the whole to death.”
He proceeds to denigrate Mohamed and his beliefs where in this example he speaks of the wars that Mohamed imposed to establish his own beliefs over the Christians:
“Those parts which Mohamed subdues, and in which he established his wicked abominations…”p32.
I would say this book gives a pretty good idea of Enoch’s worldview. It is possible that his wives shared in this prejudice, then again, they could have just rolled their eyes, shook their head and continued to put the dinner on the table. I don’t think Enoch made much profit on his book. Five hundred copies were made the first printing, and there doesn’t appear to have been a second one, so any hopes of his being celebrated and feted as a famous author never came to fruition. Enoch died in 1821 at the age of 78.
If anyone is interested in reading his book let me know. It is out of copywrite but I can freely share my digital copy, which was created just for me and is not available anywhere online. Believe me I tried. Thank goodness for the persistance of our University’s ILL department.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this document when I saw it listed in the papers of William Shepard at the Westfield Athenaeum as ‘indenture 3 year old negro girl.’ At first I was indignant at the hypocrisy of yet another revolutionary figure fighting for the rights of all [white, rich, men] yet dealing in slavery, but after reading over the document I wasn’t really sure what to think. So I decided to dig into the matter.
From what I understand, regarding this document, William Shepard, along with several other men (who were also relatives of Williams’), were overseers of the poor in Westfield, and on the 16th day of November 1791 signed over:
“a female negro child aged three years the first day of October last past, as an apprentice & servant girl unto Capt. Ezra Clap of said Westfield & Grace his Wife.”
Three year old Phoebe ___ was being indentured to Capt. Ezra Clapp for the term of 15 years (until she was 18). And according to the indenture, they were to teach and instruct “or cause the said apprentice to be instructed in the art, trade or calling of a: Housewife” they also had to provide “meat drink, cloathing & prove[provide?] for her in health & sickness & to teach her to read[?] English”. After her term was up, which would be in 1806, she was to receive “two suits of apparel for all parts of her body suitable for such an apprentice[?] & dismiss her from his said service at expiration of said term.”
According to online sources, Ezra arrived in Westfield in 1743 and built his house a few years later. The house was used as a tavern and later as a meeting place for Revolutionary War plotting. It’s operation as Clapp Tavern occurred from 1766 to the 1790s. I would assume that Phebe’s responsibilities were related to those of someone working in a tavern. Although what duties one expects a 3 year old child to perform is beyond my ken.
Ezra appears to have tried to owned slaves, it is unclear at this time if he actually purchased any outright. In 1781 he was sued by a gentleman by the name of Tony “a negro man of Westfield,” for unlawful imprisonment when Ezra tried to enslave him. Tony won the case.1,2 This evidence from Ezra’s past makes me doubtful that Ezra and this wife Grace were looking at this situation as benevolent parental figures. They were most likely looking to get themselves some cheap slave labor, apparently with the full cooperation of the overseers of the poor, which included William Shepard.
Thankfully Phebe’s indenture would be over when she reached 18, so her years of ‘slavery’ were at least legally finite. I am sure they were not joyful ones. (There is no mention of Phebe or any other indentured persons in Ezra’s household when you read any biographies about him, nor his court case with Tony.)
I have been unable to find out any more about Phebe. Having lost her family when she was a child, I am hoping that she eventually married and had one of her own.
1. Tony Negro vs. Ezra Clapp, Case No. 30, Sept. 1781, pp. 204, 216, v13, Inferior Court of Common Pleas Records, Hampshire Co. Commissioners Office, Northampton.
2. Hamden County, MA: Black Families in Hamden County, 1650-1865. by Joseph Carvalho III. Boston: New England Historic Genealogy Society. 2011.
…at home during another snow storm. It’s the middle of March already, you would think the gods would be bored with torturing us by now.
I have good news though. A friend of mine recently moved to Massachusetts. In fact he moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, which is 20 minutes away from Westfield. Westfield…the town where the Shepards came from. The town that has the library that has 4 archival boxes of Gen. William Shepard papers. But that is not the good news. The good news is he has agreed to help us out by going to said library and making copies from said collection for me.
Several months later…oops, sorry, too busy. So no copies for me.