If it dresses like a man, and says it’s a man, she must be a woman

Sometimes I find the coolest things hunting and pecking around the interwebs researching my ancestors in an attempt to flesh out their lives. This one was a very convoluted find, because it all started with questions about a probate record for Samuel Billings of Vermont, and ended up in Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War.

So, here’s what happened — I was working on creating a timeline for Samuel, to get a general sense of the whens and wheres, and it turns out that he had been a Captain in Colonel Learned’s 4th Massachusetts Regiment during the Revolutionary War. Upon further research into this regiment I find out that this is the same one that William Shepard took over after Learned died. Cool. Now I know that Samuel served under my 5x great grandfather Col. William Shepard. That, in and of itself, is pretty interesting. But then, this little gem pops up on my radar:

In 1778 Deborah Sampson wanted to enlist in the army as a Continental soldier. But the army said no, because, well, because women can’t serve you silly ninny. So, she disguised herself as a man. She had little difficulty passing as a man because she was 5′ 7″ in height, which was tall for a woman at that time. She ended up serving 17 months in the army, as “Robert Shurtlieff,” (wounded in 1782, honorably discharged in 1783).

Sampson was chosen for the Light Infantry Company of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment under the command of Captain George Webb. The unit, consisting of fifty to sixty, er…, men, was first quartered in Bellingham, Massachusetts and later the unit mustered at Worcester under the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment, commanded by Colonel William Shepard.

~~ taken from (and, well, edited a bit by me, a girl has to spice things up a bit): https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Deborah_Sampson
Deborah Sampson statue.

In the town where she died, Sharon, Massachusetts, they have statues of her, buildings named after her, and lots of history honoring her service and life. I seriously doubt that William or Samuel ever knew they being snookered at the time. Good for her! Of course, it would have been even better if the military had said “by all means, the more warm bodies to help us kick English ass, the better.” But they didn’t.

William Runs For Office

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.

Portrait of William by Gilbert Stuart

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
Here is a bit of the newspaper article.

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.

William Shepard

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.


  1. See the following website https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-29-02-0308#TSJN-01-29-0314-kw-0001 for more on the issue of Adams and the French.
  2. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/federalism
  3. http://shaysrebellion.stcc.edu/shaysapp/person.do?shortName=william_shepard

Commits murder and gets away with it

There is an ancestor on the Shepard side of our family by the name of Walter Palmer. He was a Puritan born about 1585 in probably, Yetminster, Dorsetshire, England who emigrated to Salem, Massachusetts in June of 1629. When his daughter Grace married Thomas Minor in Massachusetts in 1634, our Palmer surname line ended. (This line of Minors eventually married a Lantz and daughter Susannah Lantz married Edmund Hays.)

Walter has the honor of being the first ancestor I have run across in my tree who commited murder, and got away with it.

This map shows the locations in Stonington, Connecticut of our ancestors Thomas Minor and Walter Palmer1 where they settled in about 1653.


In 1630 a servant by the name of Austen Bratcher was to be punished by whipping, and Walter Palmer, a giant of a man at around 6’4″, was to do the job. Apparently he was quite enthusiastic about his responsibility, so much so, that he killed the man. The charge put forth by the court is stated below:

“the strokes given by Walter Palmer were occasionally the means of death of Austen Bratcher & so to be manslaughter.”


The court records have no details about why  Austen was being punished, but one wonders if the offense merited such an enthusiastic response. A jury trial was held:

 “Jury called on September 28, 1630 to hold an inquest on the body of Austin Bratcher.” “…that the strokes given by Walter Palmer, were occasionally the means of the death of Austin Bratcher, and so to be manslaughter. Mr. Palmer made his personall appearance this day (October 19, 1630) ; stands bound, hee & his sureties, till the nexte court.” At “a court of assistants, holden att Boston, November 9th 1630” numerous matters were taken up and disposed of, including the trial of Walter Palmer…” “A Jury impannell for the tryall of Walter Palmer, concerning the death of Austin Bratcher…The jury findes Walter Palmer not quilty of manslaughter, whereof hee stoode indicted, & soe the court acquitts him.”

One of the witnesses in the trial was William Chesebrough who happened to be a very good friend of Walter’s. William was a gunsmith who traded in illicit goods, such as guns and rum, with the local indiginous people. (Although, he always vehemently denied any such rumors.) Maybe his testimony persuaded the jurors to acquit his good buddy Walter.

After the trial Walter went on with his life as if he had done nothing wrong. His fellow citizens didn’t hold a little murder against him either, he took the Oath of a Freeman on May 18, 1631 (An oath drawn up by the Pilgrims during the early 17th century meant that the person was an established member of a colony who was not under legal restraint, and vowed to defend the Commonwealth and not to conspire to overthrow the government),2 and continued to be a respected member of the community until he died.

So I guess the world being what it is, as usual, being one of the top dogs in town is all it takes to get off of a murder rap.

2. https://minerdescent.com/2010/05/13/walter-palmer/
3.General source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Palmer_(Puritan)

Deacon Enoch Shepard…

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.

Enoch and Esther’s marriage entry in Westfield, Massachusetts

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.2 They 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’s newspaper advertisement selling their property in 1778 in Murrayfield.

Enoch’s receipt regarding their land in 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.

Above is the title page of the book, on the right is the newspaper advertisement regarding the publication. Printed in 1812.


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.

Here are the moves of the Enoch and Esther Shepard family. Starting in Westfield, making a short hop to Murryfield, then possibly Vermont, and on to Pennsylvania, where they built the raft that floated them to their final destination of Marietta, Ohio.

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.


  1. https://archive.org/stream/historyoftownofm09cope
  2. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~vermont/LamoilleWolcott.html

John Fay’s naughty exploits…

I have more goodies to share from my recent research trip to Salt Lake City. Sit back and enjoy.

Just some picture of Puritans I stole from the internet. Have to add media interest.

The Fay family has appeared in a previous post when I talked about Stephen Fay who was the owner of a famous tavern in Vermont during the Revolutionary War. The Fay in this post is either his grandfather or father, I am not 100% sure which one is the principal character.

John Fay, sr. was born in England about 1640 and came to America sometime after. He settled in Middlesex County, Massachusetts and sometime before 1669 he married Mary Brigham (his first wife). She bore him 4 children, dying shortly after the birth of Mary, the youngest, in 1676.

The publication titled: The History of the Brigham Family; Descendants of Thomas Brigham, compiled by Rhonda R. McClure has a quote from Sex in Middlesex: Popular Mores in Massachusetts County, 1649-1699, by Roger Thompson, which is of interest to us Fay descendants as it regards a court case I have summarized as follows:

William Hudson, came to court in April of 1691 and bewailed “the danger that whores accuse rich single men or married men as the father of their bastards.” Because he was protesting his innocence in the case of fathering a child he was asked to provide evidence that another male could be responsible. Hudson produced evidence that “in August [1689] the soldier John Fay had been at the house of Ephraim Roper** in Lancaster, in or on the bed with sd. Mercy Rugg, lying upon his belly with some violent motions toward her.” By the time of William’s testimony in the case John Fay, sr. had conveniently died, so could offer up no defense. Hudson was judged to be the father.

I was a little taken aback when I saw this entry, then I started shaking my head trying to get the images out that had popped in there. Geez gramps, close the curtains! (Well, that’s assuming they had curtains. Or doors.)

After reading the entry a few time the next thought that came to mind was: “Is it possible Mr. Hudson is actually taking about John Fay, jr.,  who would have been about 20 years old at the time.” The mention of ‘soldier John Fay’ brings to mind someone younger. But, if it was John, sr. then he was definitely having sexual relations outside of his marriage. Susanna, his 2nd wife, would not have been pleased. If it was John, jr., then he would also have committed adultery, as he was married December 1 of 1690 to my 8x great grandmother Elizabeth Wellington. Or he had relations shortly before his marriage; the case doesn’t say whether Mercy had had the child, or was still pregnant in April of 1691. (As I haven’t seen the actual case it is possible that mention is made of John Fay, sr.’s demise, which would of course answer the question of which ‘John’ (ouch! no pun intended).)

Typically, William, who is being accused, calls Mercy a whore, it is doubtful she actually was one. He was just a little too free with his favors, proceeded to get her pregnant, and didn’t want to pay the price for unprotected sex. I have a little violin playing just for him in the ‘oh woes me’ band.

While investigating this source I ended up reading the whole book by Roger Thompson. I learned quite a bit about our ancestral Puritan’s and everyday shenanigans. They were a group of pretty typical humans whose Puritan beliefs really didn’t change the natural tendencies of human nature, and their children were just as rebellious and annoying as teenagers today. The Puritans fooled around, got into squabbles, swore, and blasphemed with the best of them.

**Interesting side note: The Ephraim Roper mention in the above case file, was the second husband of Hannah Brewer Goble Roper, our ancestress. So this incident involved two ancestors or ours, Hannah Brewer and John Fay, who was having sex in her house, with her servant. And…when Montreal Goble Shaw married Charlotte Hatch in 1909 the two families were now connected by marriage. In our family at least.