The Legacy of the Shephard and McCallum Families: The Panic of 1837, and a new start in Pittsburgh, Pa., manifest changes good and bad in the life and times of Antebellum Allegheny County

The Panic of 1837 slowed down western expansion to growing communities like Pittsburgh (seen above in 1849), and the United States suffered seven years of hardship making change inevitable for many of its citizens. Pittsburgh would undergo substantial changes in the several decades prior to the Civil War (when it became a Forge of the Union), as iron ore had proved to be abundant regionally, rapidly expanding industrial growth and production of the native metallic mineral. 

Manifest Destiny had furthered the antebellum fortune of Pittsburgh, Pa., to become the Gateway to the West, as the Ohio River — formed by the southern flow of the Allegheny River and the northern flow of the Monongahela River — proffered the perfect confluence for itinerant riverboatmen and steamboatmen to provide a crucial service for its businessmen, who labored to grow the commercial hub and its near-monopoly on western trade. “The booming steamboat industry helped maintain Pittsburgh’s role as a key ‘Gateway to the West’ from the 1830s through the 1860s,” wrote Katelyn Howard for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2014. By 1849, over 2,000 steamboats were anchored annually along Pittsburgh’s wharf.

The financial crisis had caused many businesses to fail. New York City was especially hard hit. On November 28, 1837, John Shephard III and his wife Thermuthis (Jones) signed a deed granting property in NYC to his brother Samuel. By 1840, John, Thermuthis, and their three sons (Thomas Haddon, John Newbold, and Richard) had moved west to take a chance in Pittsburgh’s transitioning economy, and growing community with a population of just over 21,000. 

Thermuthis (Jones) and John Shephard III both came to the United States in 1817. They were married in Grace Church, New York City by Bishop Upfold on December 8, 1829. Shephard had arrived in New York City when he was nine years old — his older brothers Samuel, 19, and Thomas, 17, assuming parental responsibilities for him and their two younger sisters, Mary and Katherine, on their journey from the village of Great Ponton in Lincolnshire to the bustling Brooklyn waterfront, where they would settle into the teeming Williamsburg Neighborhood, adjacent to the busy Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The growth of western cities such as Pittsburgh would have prompted some brave souls to take action to improve their lives no matter how hard their lot had become because of the Panic of 1837. The “iron city” might have seemed a practical harbinger for future economic success to young men like John Shephard III. He probably had read the newspapers that would have informed him that his former country had decided to invest less in the United States and more at home, and so he may have been in a speculative state of mind with regards to his family’s future. “Go West, young man!”

Historian Steven E. Woodworth writes in Manifest Destinies that “British investors had been bullish on America during the early 1830s, investing so lavishly that the inflow of their gold effectively doubled the U.S. money supply. At the same time, U.S. bankers had recklessly expanded credit, with banknotes in circulation jumping from $95 million to $140 million during the middle years of the decade. With the easy credit provided by scores of eager investors, a number of state governments foolishly borrowed dizzying sums to finance lavish programs of transportation improvements — railroads, canals, and the like. Midway through the decade, the Bank of England became alarmed at the ongoing export of capital and changed its policies so as to make investing in Britain more attractive. The resulting diversion in the flow of British investment capital might at first seem an insignificant cause for the massive financial crash America suffered in 1837, but credit bubbles, such as the one that had formed in the United States during the first half of the 1830s, are notoriously skittish. Like a slight vibration on a snow-covered mountainside, even a small tremor in the money supply can trigger an avalanche that carries away everything in its path. So it was with the U.S. economy of the 1830s, as the withdrawal of British investments triggered an inexorable credit contraction that historians would come to call the Panic of 1837.”

Shephard may not have read what visitors had written about Pittsburgh as early as 1816: “A hovering cloud of vapor obscures the view.” But his father, Thomas, had faced bankruptcy as a farmer in Lincolnshire, England, likely influencing his mindset regarding a yeoman lifestyle: so how John ultimately responded to the belief of Thomas Jefferson “that great cities were pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberties of man” would take him close to a quarter of a century to formulate in his own mind. Jefferson believed so strongly in an agricultural state that he “favored legislation to maintain the United States as a nation of planters and small farmers,” wrote J. Cutler Andrews in A Century of Urbanization in Pennsylvania, 1840-1940. As he became Americanized, Shephard would have been well aware of the allure of Jeffersonian democracy and would eventually move east to Luzerne County, Pa., to farm the land; but that was in the future. As he entered his fourth decade, Shephard and his family settled into Antebellum Pittsburgh, which supported frontier farmers who needed “products made of iron, such as nails, horseshoes, and farm implements… Iron foundries and blacksmith shops proliferated.” 

Steam locomotion by railroads in the 1830s and 1840s was playing an important new role in the United States. Port cities were quickly being connected by rail, and new lines to the interior would have allowed the Shephard family to make their move from NYC to Pittsburgh via Philadelphia on the Camden and Amboy Railroad — completed in 1834 — and the new Pioneer Fast Line westward in conjunction with canal packets — the Pennsylvania part of the journey taking three-and-a-half days.

Opened in 1832, the Pennsylvania Canal, with its system of “packet” boats, steam engines, horsepower, and Portage Railroad, lured passengers with the promise of “Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, through in 3-1/2 days. Credit: Railroaders Memorial Museum, Altoona, PA

By the 1850 United States Census Shephard was a baker and confectioner and owned Shephard’s Steam Cracker Bakery at 317 Liberty Street. His Pittsburgh business and property were valued at $15,000 (worth over $505,000 in 2021). “Our crackers are baked upon the OVEN BOTTOM, and are superior to any baked or by any other process,” ran one advertisement. As the country was expanding rapidly westward, Shephard’s steam crackers were surely accompanying pioneers.

Whether or not the Shephard family suffered hardships after the Great Fire of Pittsburgh on April 10, 1845, burned one-third of the city, destroyed 1,200 businesses, and left 12,000 people homeless, they and their fellow Pittsburghers endured and rebounded strongly. Real estate values soared, and the greater growth of the industry was galvanized by the recovery.

Detail from View of the Great Fire of Pittsburgh, 1846, a painting by witness William Coventry Wall

Shephard became a prominent and very active member of the Christ Methodist Episcopal Church. The Second Great Awakening had renewed the Protestant spirit to be born again —one in five Americans attending Sunday services in the 1840s — and erase sin from the land in order to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. His wife, Thermuthis, likely played an important role within the congregation, and most assuredly at home. Sermons across the land emphasized morality, and preachers were tasking the fairer sex with instilling proper values in their menfolk. “No other avenue of self-expression besides religion at once offered women social approbation, the encouragement of male leaders (ministers), and, most important, the community of their peers,” wrote historian Nancy Cott in The Bonds of Womanhood. From the time it was founded in 1784, MEC leaders had preached against the evils of slavery and ruled that owning slaves was forbidden within the church.

Pittsburgh became a destination for “freedom seekers” during the antebellum period. “By the 1830s, Pittsburgh had a growing reputation as a fierce, militant abolitionist community…The community investment included forming organizations to not only aid the cause of abolition and freedom but also to assist in the cause of education, employment, homelessness, and other humanitarian needs of the newly free and destitute,” according to The Senator John Heinz History Center project From Slavery to Freedom.

The ensuing debate in his church and throughout the nation over the “peculiar institution” was antithetical to the “gag rules” Congress had imposed on itself from 1836 through 1844, when former President John Quincy Adams, serving as a representative of Massachusett’s 8th District, led a group of congressmen in overturning the odious taboo. The reading of more than 130,000 abolition petitions signed by more than 2 million Americans could, and would, proceed in the house chamber, thus enraging Southern representatives, who would fight the matter tooth and nail. 

The division sowed further — a reckoning that would split Protestant churches (including Shephard’s) and upset the two-party system that President Martin Van Buren had envisioned and thought would preserve democracy as a civilized conversation between common people and the aristocracy — now Democrats and Whigs would be cleaved North and South. “The national party that he wanted to create was a democratic (small d) party that embodied true Americanism as determined by the majority of the people. Its opposition was a much smaller, but still powerful, aristocratic party comprised of wealthy elitists and special interests. The goal, from Van Buren’s perspective, was to ensure that the democratic party remained the permanent voice of the people and that it drowned out the noise produced by the minority party, which was only interested in furthering its own selfish interests,” wrote Mark Cheathem in an editorial for the Tennessean. 

Political viewpoints in Pittsburgh were pressed by the editorial views of Neville Craig, editor of the Pittsburgh Gazette, who “became an active member of the Antimasonic Party in the 1830s. Craig’s hatred of the Masons put him at odds with Henry Clay as a presidential candidate. In 1842, the paper opposed Clay’s presidential run because Clay was a Mason and a slaveholder. While a strong protectionist with his anti-Clay position, Neville Craig became at odds with the Pittsburgh industrialists who were Clay supporters. In 1844, a group of Pittsburgh industrialists…helped implement a change in the Gazette’s editorial approach. From 1844 on, the paper became an advocate of Henry Clay and his ‘American System’ of protectionism. Henry Clay’s Whig Party stood for American industrialization and American greatness. This demonstrated the extensive political power of the Pig Iron Aristocracy in western Pennsylvania. In the Clay-Polk presidential election, Polk won handily nationally, but Whig Henry Clay carried Allegheny County. The local Democrats claimed the Pig Iron Aristocrats assured the Democrat Irish were working on Election Day. Still, the Whig victory would augur the great political alliance of management and labor in the future Republican Party. During the formation of the Republican Party, Pittsburgh was a Whig stronghold and its leaders were known as ‘Iron Whigs,’” wrote Historian Quentin R. Skrabec in his book How Pittsburgh’s East Enders Forged American Industry

Neville Burgoyne Craig was a journalist, politician, historian, and lawyer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
He edited the Pittsburgh Gazette newspaper from 1829 to 1841 and served a term in the state legislature.

“As the population west of Pittsburgh surged, down-river cities, such as Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis, began to challenge Pittsburgh as supply points near the frontier,” wrote William Dietrich II in the Pittsburgh Quarterly. Shephard’s oldest son Thomas would eventually follow the new commercial opportunities in the west, leave Pittsburgh, head down the Ohio River to Cairo, Ill., with his wife and son, and then up the Mississippi River to Davenport, Iowa, where the family would head west and make Iowa City their new home in the 1850s. In the 1860 United States Census, Thomas is listed as a merchant. Two years later he accepted an appointment as major in a battalion of horse soldiers to help protect the expanding frontier. His brother John Newbold would marry Elizabeth McCallum, and two of her brothers would become U.S. Cavalry officers during the Civil War.

To be continued by Mark A. Shephard


The Legacy of the Shephard and McCallum families: Wrath, Righteousness, and the Pursuit of Truth in Antebellum America and Pittsburgh, Pa., in the 1860s

Prologue: “The Legacy of the Shephard and McCallum families: The Pursuit of the Holy Grail and an Empire of Liberty”

“The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully,” declared Abraham Lincoln during his Second Inaugural Address, knowing that both sides in the conflict between the North and the South read the same bible. “The Almighty has his own purposes.” Lincoln’s rhetoric was informed by Matthew, chapter 18, verse 7.

Matthew 18:7

“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” 

Abraham Lincoln had become the ‘legatus’, or person delegated to preserve the Union, vindicate democracy, and end slavery. His legacy would, of course, mean different things to different citizens in the Reconstruction Era, though undoubtedly a young Percival Wardlaw Shephard growing up in Pittsburgh at this time would have been told by his mother Elizabeth (McCallum) that her mother’s Scottish maiden name, Wardlaw, meant watcher of the hill — distinguished in meaning as had been Lincoln’s chief goal, preservation of the Union, which he did by watching out for its best interests. Percival would have heard the stories from his Uncles Alexander and William Douglass McCallum, who watched many hills as U.S. Cavalry officers.

The changes and new freedoms that were wrought out by the leadership of Lincoln and the sacrifices of many Americans came with the realization that benefits and burdens were to be part and parcel.

“Liberty to all,” Lincoln said, is America’s “apple of gold.” Attaining independence had called for revolution, however, attaining “liberty and justice for all” would prove to be an elusive battle, as slavery had been an offensive foundation on which to build a blessed capitalistic enterprise; a bad apple with a big worm in it, as it was.

Antebellum America held diverging opinions about freedom with regards to the “peculiar institution” that had been part of its fabric since 1619. The argument that slavery was a “positive good” was the position taken by South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun in 1837. He was not alone in thinking that Abolitionists’ moral principles were misguided, and that slavery was a “natural” institution going back to the ancient world of Aristotle, the philosopher who wrote that “…the use made of slaves and of tame animals is not very different; for both with their bodies minister to the needs of life.” Calhoun assumed an opposite moral position in his speech on the US Senate floor when he declared: “But I take higher ground. I hold that, in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by colour, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding states between the two is, instead of an evil, a good — a positive good. I feel myself called upon to speak freely upon the subject, where the honour and interests of those I represent are involved.” Agricultural profits were justifiably important to Southern plantation owners, but as Daniel Walker Howe states in What Hath God Wrought: “The notion of paternalism provided a framework for discussing slavery different from both naked self-interest and the violation of natural rights. Slaveowners, in response to moral criticism, sought to explain their relationship to ‘their people’ as one of caring for those who could not look after themselves.”  

Mercantilism suited Southern planters well. Yet the distribution of wealth served only a select few. As the demand for “King Cotton” increased so did the political power of the planters who relied on involuntary servitude to provide it. Southern landowners who owned African-Americans viewed them as their agrarian trumps. Upward mobility was difficult for the majority of Southerners; those who did not own large plantations, slaves, or grow cotton, tobacco, rice, indigo, or grains. 

North of the Mason-Dixon line, industrialization, manufacturing, and immigration were transforming the economy. The Shephard family had moved west from New York, New York, to Pittsburgh, Pa., a city that by the second year of the Civil War had grown by leaps and bounds since Calhoun’s “positive good” argument 25 years earlier. Percival Wardlaw Shephard arrived in his mother Elizabeth’s arms two weeks after the Battle of Shiloh (also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing) on April 6-7, 1862, and into a divided Allegheny County, where the people of Pittsburgh held varying beliefs about slavery. A City Divided: Debates Over Slavery in Antebellum Pittsburgh, (a thesis by Cody A. Wells) proposes that Pittsburgh  had become a “microcosm for the diverse antebellum North.” Southern trade was important to Pittsburgh businessmen who used the Ohio River to ship goods. “This left many businessmen and entrepreneurs in the growing industrial city sympathetic to the struggles of southern slaveholders,” wrote Wells. Pennsylvania had passed gradual emancipation legislation in the era of the Founding Fathers — the Gradual Emancipation Act of 1780 — but slavery in the state was not deemed illegal at that time, as slaveowners were allowed to keep the slaves they already owned. However, the Pennsylvania law—the first of its kind among Northern states—and other gradual abolition acts in the northern states, began to transform northern societies as newly freed slaves began to settle in urban areas and entered the labor market. 

William Swan Plumer (1802-1880), left, was an American clergyman, theologian, and author who was recognized as an intellectual leader of the Presbyterian Church in the 1800s. In 1862, he resigned as pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church in Allegheny (Pittsburgh, Pa.) over a controversy within the congregation, and his refusal to ask ‘God’s blessing upon the Government of our country in its efforts to suppress the rebellion.’ John Newbold Shephard (1832-1900) was one of the congregants who left the church prior to Plumer’s resignation on September 19, 1862.

Percival’s parents, John Newbold Shephard and Elizabeth (McCallum) had united with the Central Presbyterian Church, then under the pastoral care of the Rev. William Plumer, D.D., (named pastor on January 17, 1855, soon after it was organized by the Allegheny Presbytery) who when war broke out believed that men of God did not have the responsibility to support the men who waged it. He had been asked by some congregation members to pray for the success of the Union and its warriors. “Plumer avoided politics entirely in the pulpit and in his writings. Although a native of the North, he lived much of his life in the South and felt the Union’s division keenly, and personally. Babies he baptized now raised rifles to kill each other. Central Presbyterian, like many other churches north and south, got caught up in the war fever. Pastors in Allegheny and nearby Pittsburgh thundered imprecatory prayers against the enemy and prayed that the Federal armies would find success in battle. The pastor of Central Presbyterian Church, however, remained notably silent in the chorus of prayers for the Christian soldiers of the United States. Plumer refused to ask for ‘God’s blessing upon the Government of our country in its efforts to suppress the rebellion.’ He also chose not to ‘give thanks to God for the victories which God has granted our armies’ during Lord’s day worship.” wrote Miles Smith IV in his article “The Providence and Promises of God: The Life and Work of William Swan Plumer”. A minority of the congregation, including John and Elizabeth Shephard, left the church (they joined First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh), and on September 19, 1862, Plumer resigned. Soon thereafter, a letter he wrote was read to the congregation referencing James 1:20 towards the end: “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”

James 1:20

“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”

For more about the Plumer controversy, read an account of the disagreement published in the Pittsburg Chronicle on June 12, 1862.

Lawrence M. Mead reassesses freedom in his article “Burdens of Freedom” for National Affairs.

By Mark A. Shephard

Continued — “The Legacy of the Shephard and McCallum Families: The Panic of 1837, and a new start in Pittsburgh, Pa., manifest changes good and bad in the life and times of Antebellum Allegheny County.”

The Legacy of the Shephard and McCallum families: The Pursuit of the Holy Grail and an Empire of Liberty

We born souls all bear our inherited pasts for better or worse, some of us taking advantage of strong roots and working hard to grow and protect our fortunate domains of democracy and freedom. The family of man begins with one’s own ancestry. Those distant relatives whose life stories have been passed down, preserved, and searched out are the links that make one’s place in the world that much more edifying. 

Two of my American families established roots in the United States during the antebellum period — the Shephard family, who emigrated from Lincolnshire, England, and the McCallum family, who came from Inverness-shire, Scotland. A marriage resulted in Pittsburgh, and in 1862, the first child of John Newbold Shephard and Elizabeth McCallum was christened Percival Wardlaw Shephard.

Percival Wardlaw Shephard and his son Alexander McCallum Shephard (my father’s father) pose together circa 1913-14.

By this time the Civil War had brought hellfire and damnation to the young nation. The two families, like many of their fellow compatriots, had members who stepped forward to become noble servants and vigilant ‘knights’ in the cause of “the Empire of Liberty”, three serving as U.S. Cavalry officers — two of Percival’s uncles on the McCallum side, and one on the Shephard side. 

The name Perceval goes back to the 14th century. Sir Perceval was a knight in Arthurian legend who won sight of the Holy Grail. The pursuit of an “Empire of Liberty” and those who have served its cause of spreading freedom across our land and others was as important as Sir Perceval and his fellow knights’ quest for the Holy Grail — “an object or goal that is sought after for its great significance” as Merriam-Webster defines the idealistic treasure. Legend passed down that the revered Holy Grail had been used as a chalice by Jesus at the Last Supper, and he had served wine to his apostles and drank from the cup “on behalf of His people to save them from their sin.”

Mark 10:38 recorded Jesus’ understanding that his apostles did not comprehend his teachings regarding the importance of serving mankind, and thus the Holy Grail has come to represent the savior’s “cup of divine wrath” explains Ligonier Ministries. “In the Old Testament, the image of the cup can symbolize God’s blessing; however, in the majority of instances, the cup represents the Lord’s judgment and wrath on wickedness.”

Mark 10:38

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

A baptism by fire that was anything but civil would, unfortunately, await those who served their chosen side in America during the Civil War. The Kingdom of God played a significant role in the thinking of many that humanity should behave as they interpreted their comprehension of the Good Book. “The American Civil War was not primarily a war over the Bible,” writes James P. Byrd in the epilogue of his book A Holy Baptism of Fire and Blood: The Bible and the American Civil War, “but for many Americans, it was a biblical war.” Regarding the North and the South, President Lincoln spoke in his Second Inaugural Address (1865) of how “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any man should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

To be continued… by Mark A. Shephard

About the Holy Grail Tapestries

Outsider and ancestor visits with his Scottish Clan McCallum from Kirkhill, Inverness-shire, and seeks answers to many questions

The time-traveling character in the exciting historical and romantic drama Outlander series, Claire Elizabeth (Beauchamp) Randall/Fraser/Grey, is carried back to the Scottish Highlands in 1743, where she shares a similar joy that would be addressed by a famous 18th Century Scot 40 years later.

“The joy of my heart is to ‘study men, their manners, and their ways,’ and for this darling object I cheerfully sacrifice every other consideration.” So wrote Robert Burns —considered by many to be the national bard of Scotland — in a 1783 letter to schoolmaster John Murdoch.

For those of us who enjoy studying the lives of men and women, the chorus of Burns’ song-poem “Auld Lang Syne” has a spiritually relevant conclusion: “That thou canst never once reflect.” It is not easy to forget and ignore the past—especially one’s own and one’s kin—and if you have been transported as an outlander to a bygone time and place, where answers to your questions may never be revealed, it is best to take heed of the bard’s words.


Born in 1759 to poor tenant farmers, the beloved Burns lived a short life of 37 years. He played an integral part “in the ‘invention’ of Scottish national identity in the Romantic period and beyond, from the ‘romanticisation’ of the Highlands, which he toured in 1787), to the making of national symbols out of whisky and haggis,” wrote History Extra in an article entitled “7 facts about Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard.”

Having been to Scotland and the Highlands with the Ohio University School of Visual Communication, and later with my family, and now engrossed in the Outlander series—I now want to go back as far as possible in my quest to discover the history, genealogy and lore associated with my Scottish roots.

My DNA may only be 6.25 percent Scottish (I have yet to apply for a testing kit), but I don’t want to be an outlander when it comes to learning about my second great-grandmother, Elizabeth (McCallum) Shephard, and her  clan.

Elizabeth McCallum was born on December 13, 1832, to Mary (Wardlaw) and Alexander McCallum in Kirkhill, a parish, in the Mainland district of the county of Inverness, six miles west from Inverness, Scotland. Betsy, as the Scottish Births and Baptisms recorded, was the second-to-last of 11 children born to Mary and Alexander, who were 40 and 44 respectively at the time of her birth.


Betsy grew up in the Aird, or “High Place” (translated from the Scottish Gaelic), an area of Inverness-shire to the west of the city of Inverness. Situated “to the south of the River Beauly and the Beauly Firth, and to the north of Glenurquhart and the northern end of Loch Ness,” the area gives its name to a Highland Council ward — “Aird and Loch Ness”.

The Kirkhill, Inverness-shire, Scotland Genealogy Family Search page written in September 1841  describes the place as consisting of the two united parishes of Wardlaw and Farnua. “Kirkhill derives its name from the situation of its church on a hill; its Gaelic name refers to the dedication of its church to the Virgin Mary. The church, originally erected in 1220, on Wardlaw or St. Mary’s Hill, was taken down, and rebuilt near the former site, in 1791, and is in good repair. The members of the Free Church have a place of worship.  Wardlaw is a corruption of the Gaelic Bar-tla, that is, “kindly summit.” Farnua or Fearnaie, as it is called in Gaelic, is probably derived from the word fearn, signifying “allar,” because the parish did and still does abound with allar trees. The name of the united parishes in Gaelic is Cnoemhoir, or “Mary’s hill.” In the neighborhood, it is called, by way of eminence, the Hill: hence the English translation of it, Kirkhill.”

Wardlaw Mausoleum in Kirkhill
The Wardlaw Mausoleum in Kirkhill, Inverness-shire, Scotland

“The Wardlaw Mausoleum is an Outlander Site and Scottish historic site of interest. One of the key Lovat Outlander sites near Inverness and Loch Ness, in the little Scottish village of Kirkhill (near Beauly). The Wardlaw Mausoleum is the final resting place of the real “Old Fox” Lord Lovat of the Jacobite rebellion, and Jamie Fraser’s grandfather in the Outlander Series. A historic gem just outside of Inverness, Wardlaw Mausoleum is fast becoming a favorite with Outlander fans.

This popular Loch Ness Visitor attraction and Scottish Outlander site is set in the Wardlaw Graveyard at the top of Wardlaw Road in Kirkhill, just eight miles west of Inverness. It was built in 1634 as the burial place for the Lovat Frasers on the end of the original parish church. The roof of the mausoleum was raised and a tower added in 1722 by the then Lord Lovat, the ‘Old Fox’ of the Jacobite Rebellion who was later buried in the crypt.”

Elizabeth’s father, Alexander (born in Kirkhill on July 27, 1787) was a “sometime farmer and distiller at Drumriach, Aird. Who died at Inverness, and whose remains were interred here — Old High Church burial ground in Inverness, where his memorial was erected —  ‘by his sons in daughters in Philadelphia, U.S.’ on the 23rd January 1849, aged 61 years.

Alexander’s death when Betsy was 16, and her awareness that several of her siblings and her father’s younger siblings had emigrated to the United States and settled in Philadelphia likely figured in her decision to leave the Highlands and move to America. Her uncles William and Andrew, had emigrated to the United States in the 1820s, and by 1831 had begun to build-up what became Glen Echo Mills, a manufacturer of “carpeting, oil cloths, mattings, etc.”, in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth’s older brother Hugh had also emigrated and settled in Philadelphia County where he would eventually join the enterprise and become part owner. Hugh became a naturalized citizen on September 19, 1848.

Hugh McCallum
Hugh McCallum (1819-1891)

The Malcolm/MacCallum clan motto is “In ardua tendit” which means “He has attempted difficult things”. Elizabeth and her relatives did just that, as they braved the Atlantic, came ashore in a strange land, found their way in new enterprises and frontiers—and for a few of her brothers—served the Union to preserve the Republic that they had recently joined.

Elizabeth may have emigrated to the United States as early as 1850, as recorded on the 1910 United States Census, but no immigration record has been discovered. An Elizabeth Collum, 25 (born in 1832), departed Great Britain on the New York American Line-Ship, Cornelius Grinnell, and arrived in New York City in 1857, the same year she married John Newbold Shephard, probably in Pittsburgh, where his family had settled. She may have first gone to Pittsburgh with her older brother Henry, who had petitioned for naturalization in 1844 in Philadelphia, and was a carpet dealer in Pittsburgh for his uncles’ firm.

By the time the 1860 United States Census was taken in Pittsburgh, Elizabeth’s mother, Mary (Wardlaw) McCallum had left Scotland and moved to America to be with her children. Son Henry and son-in-law John Newbold Shephard, who worked as a druggist at the time, were the only two that worked. Mary’s son William, and her daughters,  Catherine and Mary also lived in the 4th Ward, Allegheny City household in June 1860.

Elizabeth had six children with John Newbold Shephard (my father‘s namesake)—all born in Pittsburgh except Burdett—three who lived to be adults; my great-grandfather Percival Wardlaw, born on April 20, 1862; Thermuthis Burdett (Davis), born on February 28, 1867 in Cairo, Illinois; and Jessie (Campbell), born on May 20, 1871.

Cairo, Illinois
Elizabeth (McCallum) Shephard gave birth to daughter Thermuthis Burdett in Cairo, Illinois, at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, on February 28, 1867.

Son John Douglas Shephard (1865-1870) died as a child in Pittsburgh, son Charles Owston Shephard (1869-1884) died as a teenager from chronic inflammation of the stomach in Philadelphia, Pa., and daughter Mary Wardlaw Shephard (1873-1881) died from scarlet fever in Pittsburgh.

The widow Shephard had a winter home in Boerne, Texas, where both of her daughters had settled after leaving Pittsburgh.

Elizabeth (McCallum) Shephard died in 1918 at the age of 86. She was buried in the Shephard family plot in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Cemetery.

To be continued…

The life and times of an Ohio pioneer’s son, Albert Polk Kelley (1845-1928), my third great-uncle, who served the Union and believed in freedom and Manifest Destiny

Named after Democrat James K. Polk, who in 1844 defeated Whig Henry Clay to become the 11th President of the United States, Albert Polk Kelley was the youngest of my third great-grandparents’ seven children.

Albert’s father Thomas Kelley (1800-1887), one of Ohio’s early pioneers, was a “stanch Democrat having cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson,” wrote Michael A. Leeson in 1886, in his biographical sketch for a History of Seneca County, Ohio: Containing a History of the County, Its Townships, Towns, Villages … Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men; Biographies; History of the Northwest Territory; History of Ohio; Statistical and Miscellaneous Matter, Etc., Etc.

Thomas Kelley (1800-1887)
Thomas Kelley (1800-1887)

Catherine Sara (Lorah) Kelley, 35, gave birth to Albert on June 22, 1845, more than likely in Washington Township, Hancock County, Ohio, the township that Thomas, who was 45 when Albert was born, had the honor of naming in 1831, (according to a History of Hancock County, Ohio: Containing a History of the County, Its Townships, Towns … Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, Biographies, History of the Northwest Territory, History of Ohio, Statistical and Miscellaneous Matter, Etc) when he, his wife and three children moved from Wooster in Wayne County to the rural area near what would become the town and railroad hub of Fostoria, Ohio (located at the convergence of Hancock, Seneca and Wood counties.

The 1844 United States presidential election turned on the dividing issues of slavery and the annexation of the Republic of Texas, and the dark horse candidate Polk defeated Clay by strongly supporting westward expansion.


Polk’s website chronicles the election: “As the presidential election of 1844 approached, the Democratic party was split over the issue of Texas. The presumptive nominee, former president Martin Van Buren, came out publicly against annexation despite growing public support. Many in the party believed the only way to defeat the Whig candidate, Henry Clay, was to strongly support western expansion. At a raucous Democratic convention in Baltimore, it took nine votes to choose a nominee. When the dust settled, James Polk’s name sat atop the ticket.

Western expansion loomed large over the 1844 presidential campaign. The Democratic party platform advocated for the annexation of Texas and the acquisition of the Oregon Territory. But critics worried that aggressive territorial expansion would lead to war with England or Mexico and disrupt the balance of power between free and slave-owning states.

Despite losing his home state of Tennessee, Polk was elected the 11th President of the United States. In that role he turned his party’s vision of a continental nation spanning from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean into reality.”

As Albert grew into his teenage years as a farmer’s son in Northwest Ohio, during the antebellum years he was surely being influenced by his father’s politics, in addition to the sentiments of other family and community members. His older brother, Charles Crownover Kelley (1833-1912) had left Hancock County in 1854 and started a new life in Texas Hill Country, less than 10 years after Texas became the 28th state.

The two brothers would fight on opposite sides during the Civil War. Charles would serve the Confederate States of America in Texas.

72nd Ohio Regiment
The 72nd Ohio Regiment was raised between October 1861 and February 1862 and left the state under the command of Colonel Ralph P. Buckland, whose name is affixed to the broadside at left. On the right are the National colors of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Albert served the Union having enlisted with the 72nd Ohio Infantry on December 1, 1863, when he was 18. The regiment served with the Army of the Tennessee. He would be appointed corporal, and muster out on September 11, 1865.

After the war Albert married Helena Presida Richards (1844-1920) on April 30, 1868, in Seneca County, Ohio. Son John was born in 1869, and by the 1870 United States Census the young family had moved west, where Albert started farming in Spring Creek Township, Saline County, Kansas. The farming venture in Kansas did not last long, and a year or so later the family moved back to Northwest Ohio: the devastating dust storms that Kansas experienced were likely the reason.

When the 1880 United States Census was taken, Albert was the proprietor of a saw mill in Carey, Wyandot County, Ohio, and he would engage in manufacturing until 1890.

“To Mr. and Mrs. Albert P. Kelley were born seven children, of whom four survive,” wrote John Steven McGroarty in his California of the South Vol. II.

Daughters Valeria Inez (1871-1933) and Jessie Norine (1876-1955) followed their brother John. The baby of the family was Loyal Claire Kelley (1884-1950), who would go on to become the district attorney and then a prominent corporate lawyer in Riverside County, California. He was born in Carey, Ohio, six years before his family migrated to California and settled in Corona, Temescal Township, Riverside County, where his father would farm and ranch his property until no longer able.

Albert’s wife Helena died when she was 75, three days before the 1920 United States Census was taken in Corona, in which he was listed as a retired rancher. My third great-uncle, Albert Polk Kelley, died on March 30, 1928, in Corona, California, at the age of 82, passing on the Kelley family legacy to his descendants.

The life and times of an Ohio Pioneer’s son, Charles Crownover Kelley, after his move from Fostoria, Ohio, to Texas Hill Country in 1854

One of Ohio Pioneer Thomas Kelley’s sons, Charles Crownover Kelley, decided to leave Northwest Ohio, and head south to Texas 18 years after the Battle of the Alamo was fought during the winter of 1836.

Born November 29, 1833, in Fostoria, Ohio, to Kelley, 33, and his wife Catherine (Lorah), 23, Charles’ middle name honored his grandmother, Jemima Crownover.

In 1854, at the age of 21, Charles moved south to Texas. At the beginning of the Civil War he joined the Confederate forces and served with honor until the close.

Charles married Lydia Jane Tedford on January 31, 1861, in Kerr County, Texas, and their first son, Thomas Milton, was born in their new home of Comfort, Texas, less than six weeks later. Including Thomas, Lydia and Charles were parents to four sons and three daughters, born between 1861-1882.

Charles Kelley had German-American bloodlines through his mother’s ancestors, and so when he had decided to start a new life in Texas Hill Country he probably knew that the town of Comfort had been established in 1854 by German immigrants, who were Freethinkers.

A plaque in Comfort honors The Founding Freethinkers (Deutsche Freidenker), and helps understanding the Freethinkers state of mind and the deep societal divisions in Kelley’s Texas community up to and after the state’s secession from the Union in 1861.

It reads: “From 1845 to 1861 large numbers of German Freethinkers emigrated to the Texas Hill Country. Freethinkers were predominantly German intellectuals who advocated reason and democracy over religious and political autocracy. Many had been active in the 1848 German Revolution and sought freedom in America. The Freethinkers established numerous Central Texas colonies including Bettina, Castell, Cypress Creek, Luckenbach, Sisterdale and Tusculum (Boerne). Settlements which conducted intellectual forums in Latin became known as “Latin Colonies.” Within a few years of the founding of Comfort in 1854, half the Hill Country Freethinker population was living in the area.

Freethinkers valued their newfound freedoms of speech, assembly and separation of religion and government. Instead of religious dogma, Freethinkers believed in individual philosophy. They advocated equal rights for all persons, and their moral values were dominated by respect for life and nature. Many were active in political issues of the day including the rejection of secession and abolition of slavery. Intellectual pursuits were shared with agriculture and other crafts of physical labor. Secular education and organizations (Vereins) provided social and cultural fulfillment. Existence was peaceful and their influence rapidly expanded.

Loyalty to the Union during the Civil War had cost many their freedoms and lives. Some Freethinkers relocated to nearby urban areas or other states, and a few returned to Europe. Arrival of the railroad in Comfort in 1887 and other outside factors largely influenced the construction of the first church in 1892. Freethinker origins continue to influence the spirit of the community and surrounding areas.”

A Washington Times article by Joe Holley describes the setting in 1860, when by then “some 30,000 German immigrants were living in Texas, making up 5 percent of the population. Many were small farmers who had fled endless wars and conscription in the Old Country, while others were highly educated Freethinkers who had immigrated to Texas after a failed democratic revolution in Germany in 1848. The Freethinkers helped found Comfort and Sisterdale, Hill Country communities free of organized religion, dedicated to civil liberties and committed to science and education.”

The Civil War brought division to the community, and in 1862, the Confederate States of America imposed martial law on Central Texas, due to resistance of the recently settled Freethinkers, who backed the Union, and were opposed to Civil War.

Southern "Volunteers"
“Come along you rascal! and fight for our King Cotton,” declaims the Confederate officer at left. “Let me go. I tell you I’m a Union man, and don’t believe in your Southern Confederacy,” responds the gentleman in trouble. “Blast your Union! Them as won’t go in for the war must be made to do it. Go ahead, or we’ll hang you on the next tree,” states the other southern man.

One leader of the German-American Freethinkers was Jacob Kuechler, who was one of the founders of dendrochronology (the study of tree rings), and a surveyor until 1861. Kuechler had been commissioned a captain by Governor Sam Houston to enroll state militia troops for Gillespie County. “He was viewed as a traitor, however, because he only recruited Unionist sympathizers of German descent,” according to a Texas General Land Office historical bio. After Houston was forced out of office in 1861, his successor, Governor Francis Lubbock dismissed Kuechler, who then attempted to guide sixty-one conscientious objectors to Mexico.

Jacob Kuetchler (1823-1893)
Jacob Kuetchler – (1823-1893)

Scottish born Confederate irregular James Duff and his Duff’s Partisan Rangers pursued,  overtook and massacred 34 of Kuechler’s German compatriots along the Nueces River as they attempted to make their escape, and eventually meet with Union forces. Some were executed after being taken prisoner. Kuechler survived the Nueces massacre.

The cruelty shocked the people of Gillespie County and surrounding areas. Two thousand took to the hills to escape Duff’s reign of terror.

The German-language Treue der Union Monument (loyalty to the Union), is located in Charle’s hometown of Comfort. It was dedicated on August 10, 1866 to commemorate those who died at the 1862 Nueces massacre.

Private Charles C. Kelley served with Company A of the 33rd Regiment, Texas Cavalry, which was organized in April, 1863, by using the 14th (Duff’s) Texas Cavalry Battalion as its nucleus. This unit served in Gano’s and Hardeman’s Brigade, Trans-Mississippi Department, and was active along the lower Rio Grande. In April, 1864, it was near Bonham, Texas and contained 23 officers and 307 men. On June 2, 1865, it was included in the surrender.

After the war, Kelley worked as a wheelwright, and farmed his land in Kerr County, Texas. He and Lydia Jane eventually moved and retired to Del Rio, Val Verde County, Texas, sometime prior to the 1900 United States Census.

My 3rd great-uncle, Charles Crownover Kelley died on December 2, 1913, in Del Rio, Texas, having lived a long life of 80 years, and was buried there. A local newspaper printed his obituary:

“Death claimed this honored citizen of Val Verde County, at the ranch home of his son Tom Kelley, six miles from Del Rio, last Monday morning, Dec. 2, 1912 at 4 o’clock. The deceased had been an invalid for a long time and for several months had been continually confined to his bed. Besides his wife, the following relatives survive him: Daughters, Mesdames L. U. Vasbinder, H. A. Stein and J. Sankey. Sons, Tom, Lora, Bert, and Frank Kelley. Sisters, Mesdames, Sidney Faulhaber of New Jersey, Minerva German and Amanda Cory of Ohio and one brother Albert Kelley of California. The last said rites took place at the Del Rio cemetery at 4 o’clock Tuesday afternoon Dec 3rd. A large concourse of friends being present. His four sons and two son-in-laws acted as pall bearers. The Herald extends true sympathy to the sorrowing ones in their hours of affliction.”

My 3rd Great-Aunt, Sydna Jane (Kelley) Faulhaber (1831-1919), and her husband, Philip Faulhaber (1830-1862), who was killed at Chickasaw Bayou, near Vicksburg, Mississippi

Phillip Faulhaber was born in Canton, Ohio, July 5, 1830, son of Louis and Louisa (Munsinger) Faulhaber, natives of Germany, and who came to Seneca County, Ohio, in 1838.

Louis Faulhaber died in 1839, and Philip moved with his mother to Tiffin, Ohio, and was there reared and educated. About 1851 he located in Fostoria, Ohio, and embarked on the clothing business.

On October 21, 1855, he was united in marriage with Sydna Jane Kelley (1831-1919), daughter of Thomas and Catherine (Lorah) Kelley, pioneers of Washington Township, Hancock Co., Ohio, and later of Fostoria. The couple is pictured above.

The issue of this union was three children: Alice (deceased), John L., and Kittie M.

At the breaking out of the late war of the Rebellion in 1861, Mr. Faulhaber sold his business, and in October of that year, he raised Company B, Fifty-seventh Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry, with which he went out as captain, and was killed at Chickasaw Bayou, near Vicksburg, Miss., December 28, 1862.

Mr. Faulhaber was a member of the German Reformed Church, a worthy citizen, esteemed by all who knew him. He was a member of the I. O. O. F. Politically he was a Democrat.” —History of Seneca County, Ohio: Containing a History of the County

Chickasaw Bayou
“Phillip enlisted in the Army on September 16, 1861, and “organized a company, with which he joined Colonel Mungen’s 57th” — the 57th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (or 57th OVI) — and was commissioned and officer on October 4, 1861. Captain Faulhaber, 32, was killed leading Company B on December 28, 1862, during skirmishes at Chickasaw Bayou during the Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi. The battle (December 26-29, 1862) was part of the operational campaign against Vicksburg (1862-1863), in which the principal commanders were Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman [Union States] and Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton [Confederate States] who led the Right Wing, XIII Army Corps [US], and the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana [CS] respectively. The estimated casualties during the battle were 1,983 [US] and 207 [CS]. The battle of Chickasaw Bayou played out as follows: On December 26, 1862, three Union divisions, under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, disembarked at Johnson’s Plantation on the Yazoo River to approach the Vicksburg defenses from the northeast while a fourth landed farther upstream on the 27th. On the 27th, the Federals pushed their lines forward through the swamps toward Walnut Hills, which were strongly defended. On the 28th, several futile attempts were made to get around these defenses. On December 29, Sherman ordered a frontal assault which was repulsed with heavy casualties. Sherman then withdrew. This Confederate victory frustrated Grant’s attempts to take Vicksburg by direct approach. Captain Faulhaber’s remains were sent home, and he was buried with honors in Fostoria, Ohio.”

The Legacy of my great-grandma, Anna Belle (German) Shephard, and her Ohio pioneer grandfather, Thomas Kelley

The two most prevalent bloodlines in the United States are Americans with Germany ancestry and Americans with Irish Ancestry.

The US Census Bureau conducted an American Community Survey in 2016, and of those citizens who reported, about 44 million of a population of 323.1 million (14 percent) identified themselves as having German ancestry. In 2017, about 33 million of a population of 325.1 (10.1 percent) declared an Irish lineage.

My great-grandmother, Anna Belle (German) Shephard (1872-1948) is the heterogeneous blend of a first-generation immigrant from Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany — her father Christian German (1835-1925) — and an Irish-American mother, Minerva Kelley (1838-1916), whose great-grandfather James Kelley II, in 1733, came to the American Colonies from Macroom, County Cork, Ireland, and settled in Baltimore, Maryland, where he married the daughter of an English immigrant, Prudence Logsdon. Minerva’s ancestors also include German-Americans and Swiss-Americans who settled in Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

Anna Belle (German) Shephard (1872-1948)
Anna Belle (German) Shephard – (1872-1948)

The families of Anna Belle’s mother’s ancestors help to form a diverse portrait of the United States from pre-revolutionary days onward. Especially interesting are the decisions of her grandfather Thomas Kelley’s progeny as to their destinations and purposes in America.

Anna Belle now has a special place in my heart, as my father, John Newbold Shephard, lies at rest next to her grave in Fountain Cemetery in Fostoria, Ohio, the community where Anna Belle’s mother, Minerva (Kelley) German was born on September 24, 1838, the youngest of Thomas and Catherine (Lorah) Kelley’s seven children.

Minerva (Kelley) German (1838-1916)
Minerva (Kelley) German – (1838-1916)

Fountain Cemetery is also where my third great-grandfather, and pioneer to Ohio, Thomas Kelley lies at rest. He was born on April 6, 1800, in Huntingdon County, Penn., son of Gemimah (Crownover), 33, and Charles Kelley, 46. His family moved west into the Connecticut Western Reserve and settled on a farm four miles from Wooster, Wayne County, Ohio, in 1811, and Thomas was reared and educated in Wooster from age 11.

Thomas Kelley (1800-1887)
Thomas Kelley (1800-1887)

In July of 1823, Thomas married Catherine Sara Lorah, whose father, Johannes (John) Lorah, was also one of the earliest pioneers of Wayne County, Ohio, having settled in Green Township prior to 1823.

In 1831, Thomas moved his family to Washington Township, Hancock County (“and entered 160 acres of land, which he cleared and improved”), and had the honor of naming the township. A history of Hancock County, Ohio, published in 1886 documented that: “In the fall of 1831, Thomas Kelley, of Wayne County, Ohio, built his cabin on the northwest quarter of Section 1, entered by him the previous April. The following year (1832), his brothers Ezekiel and Moses, settled in the township, the former on Section 4, and the latter on Section 2. Thomas served two terms as county commissioner, and now resides in Fostoria, but Ezekiel and Moses both died in the township.”

Thomas and Catherine had seven children together: John L. (1827-1848); Amanda (1829-1915), who married Ambrose Corey; Sydna J. (1831-1919), who married Philip Faulhaber; Charles Crownover Kelley (1833-1912), who married Lydia Jane Tedford; Sarah (Kelley) Ball (1836-1910), who married Thaddeus Ball; Minerva (1838-1916), who married Christian German; and Albert Polk Kelley (1845-1928), who married Helena Presida Richards. From Pioneer days through the Civil War, and into the first decades of the 20th Century, some stayed in Northwest Ohio, and some moved south and west.

Kelley and his family lived on their farm in Washington Township until 1856, when he sold their farm, and moved to Fremont, Ohio. His wife Catherine Sara passed away on January 25, 1861 at the age of 51. They had been married 37 years. He then married Emily G. Prebles (daughter of James Prebles and Hettie Culbertson), widow of Levi E. Boren) Kelley on June 26, 1862, in Fremont, Ohio. “Kelley lived in Fremont until 1866, and then moved to Fostoria. From 1866 to his death on December 30, 1887, Kelley was a prominent citizen in Fostoria. In politics, he was a stanch Democrat, having cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson,” published a History of Seneca County, Ohio. Thomas lived a long life of 87 years, and was buried in Fostoria, Ohio.

Anna Belle must have been proud of her grandfather Thomas. She probably heard many stories about her ancestors and their endeavors in Fostoria and Northwest Ohio. Her life in the community was first documented in 1880 United States Census, when she was going to school there as a seven-year-old, and living with her parents, sister Sadie, 13, and brother Charlie, 9.

She married my great-grandfather, Percival Wardlaw Shephard, in Fostoria four days before Christmas in 1893, and together they made it through the Panic of 1893.

Percival Wardlaw Shephard (1862-1924)
Percival Wardlaw Shephard – (1862-1924)

In the 1900 United States Census, Anna Belle is listed as a boarder, along with 12 other people including her husband, Percival, at Justice Precinct 6 in Kendall County, Texas.

Anna Belle followed her husband on his life journey, one that included residences in Boerne, Kendall County, Texas, and Pittsburgh, Penn., where Percival was president, treasurer, and editor of The Index, Pittsburgh’s Illustrated Weekly. Their only son, Alexander McCallum Shephard, was born in Pittsburgh on October 26, 1903.

“She taught me how to drive her 1940 Plymouth Business Coupe, which when she passed away she gave me,” said her grandson John, who lovingly called her “Oma.” “We would go out to the farms and houses she owned in town and collect rent, and we would play cards on the sunporch and the sleeping porch,” said John.

Anna Belle died on June 8, 1948, in Fostoria, Ohio, at the age of 75. Her obituary was published in the Fostoria Daily Review: Mrs. Anna G. Shephard, 307 N. County Line street, died Tuesday, 7 p.m., in Fostoria City hospital where she had been a patient since she suffered a heart attack Saturday night. Mrs. Shephard was born in Fostoria and was a daughter of Christian and Minerva (Kelley) German. She was married to Percival W. Shephard who died in 1924. She is survived by a son, Alexander M. Shephard, Cleveland; two grandsons, John and Thomas Shephard, Cleveland; and two nieces, Mrs. F. R. Bell, Bowling Green, and Mrs. Chester O. Smithson, Findlay. A son, John, died in infancy. A brother, Charles C. German, and a sister, Mrs. Frank M. Barnhart, also are deceased. Mrs. Shephard was a member of the First Methodist church. Burial will be in Fountain Cemetery.

From 17th Century Massachusets to 20th Century Cleveland, Ohio — the legacy of Cornet Joseph Parsons, his wife Mary’s witch trial, and their seventh great-grandson (and my grandfather), Harold Willis Parsons

When I look at side-by-side portraits of my grandfather, Harold Willis Parsons, and my 9th great-grandfather, Cornet Joseph Parsons, I’m amazed by the similarities in their benign gazes, aquiline noses, and gracious mouths.

I have great memories of my time spent with my mom’s dad. He was a beacon of comfort and wisdom in a sea of confusion and discord.


His eulogy captured his noble spirit and called to mind some of the stalwart qualities in his life: “Each of us had high regard for Harold, and for all of us, he made life worthwhile. Therefore, let us consider for a few moments three ‘F’s’ about his life: family, friends, faith. Hal was a lifetime resident of the Cleveland area. What a wonderful family was his. Hal and Clara enjoyed 56 wonderful years of marriage and to that union came two daughters. Diane and Cynthia and their husbands, Ken and John, who in turn brought wonderful grandsons into the family circle. To all of you, his family, he was a great influence. In effect, he ‘sculptured’ each of you. In addition to family loyalty, Hal had a keen ability to create wonderful friendships. There was something about his personality that fostered strong abiding friendships. Many of his friendships were created among his professional associates in banking — 39 wonderful years at Central National Bank. In talking to one of his banking associates yesterday, the person said very sincerely, ‘I always liked Hal. He was quiet and unassuming, always accomplishing his work.’ Hal was ordered, systematic, precise, steady in his work as a banker, and these traits spilled over into all aspects of his life as he lived it daily. This, in turn, helped create lasting and abiding friendships. Harold traveled much for the bank and accordingly he and Clara had many marvelous trips within this land and Europe. Not only was he well-traveled; but he was an outstanding history student always well-read and well-researched, sharing information that created friendships.”

I share my grandfather’s love of history, which since moving to Morgantown, W.Va., in 2015, has evolved into a discovery of my ancestry. The Parsons name in my American family history has a line that can be traced back to 1635 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when Joseph Parsons and his brother Benjamin arrived in America aboard a barque transport out of Gravesend, Kent, England. Various publications disagree as to whether they immigrated to America together or separately.

The first record of Joseph Parsons being in New England was when he was a witness to a land deal between the local Indians and his mentor William Pynchon on July 15, 1636.

“As he was only seventeen years of age when Pynchon founded Agawam, his name does not appear on the records of the early colony, except as a witness to the Indian deed given to William Pynchon and to others of the lands adjacent to the fork of the Agawam and Connecticut rivers,” wrote William Cutter.


The history of the Parsons name dates back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain. It is derived from a member of the family who worked as the parson or clergyman. This individual probably lived or worked at the parsonage. The leopards remain the theme of the Parsons’ herald, but the motto is now Mary’s “For God and Country to the Stars.”

Joseph Parsons was born to Margaret (Hoskins) and William Parsons on June 25, 1620, in Beaminster, a small town and civil parish in Dorset, England.

There is a nine-year gap in Joseph Parsons’s life, where no records exist between 1636 and 1646, but he and his brother, Benjamin, went on to make significant contributions to their new communities. Also, there is no record as to the exact date Parsons moved to Springfield, Massachusetts.

The wealthy Pynchon may have sponsored Parsons in establishing himself in Springfield as well as in Northampton. Parsons was appointed, at a Springfield Town Meeting, to his first official public office on January 8, 1646, that of highway surveyor of Springfield.

On November 26, 1646, Parsons married Mary Bliss in Hartford, Connecticut. They became the parents of 13 children — five girls and eight boys. It seems probable their first three children (Joseph Jr., Benjamin, John) were born in Hartford, as their births were not recorded in Springfield.

According to the Springfield Town Tax Records in 1647, Joseph Parsons owned 42-1/2 acres of land and was taxed 11s 9d (1, 7). Springfield Town Records indicate that on November 5, 1650, Parsons and John Clarke were appointed Overseers of the Fences from the meeting house, downward. The Springfield Clerk’s Office states that in 1652, Parsons owned a parcel of land that his house was on. The parcel was 10 rods wide and 28 rods long, located between the Mill lot on the South and the George Colton property on the North.

Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy by British historian Andro Linklater is a good read that posits “American democracy was less a product of revolutionary war and constitutional ferment than it was of a particular way of measuring land.” 

Parsons was elected to the office of Selectman at the annual Springfield meeting on February 10, 1652. This was an office of great honor and trust. He held the office for five terms from 1653 to 1657. At the town meeting on November 1, 1653, Parsons was again appointed highway surveyor of Springfield, as was Miles Morgan.

Miles Morgan
Miles Morgan (1616 – 28 May 1699) was a Welsh colonist of America, a pioneer settler of what was to become Springfield, Massachusetts. Being one of the few settlers whose homesteads were successfully defended during the Attack on Springfield, Morgan was lauded as a hero of King Philip’s War in 1675 for providing shelter and successfully contacting troops in Hadley. Today, a statue of Miles Morgan stands in the city’s Court Square in Metro Center.

This was Parsons’ last public office in Springfield before moving to Northampton. The Northampton City Clerk’s Office states that in 1654, Parsons and four others were given a contract to build the Northampton Town House. There is no record as to the exact date that Parsons moved to Northampton from Springfield, only that it was in 1655.

One of the earliest known records concerning Parsons and his brother Deacon Benjamin Parsons was in Maj. John Pynchon’s account books (dated 12 March 1655/56) in a statement to Joseph Parsons, discussing a “10d payment for a half bushel over-shipment from your brother Benjamin.”

In December of 1656 in Northampton, Parsons was elected to the Board of Selectmen. Also, in 1656, almost 40 years before the witchcraft travesty in Salem, Mass., a slander suit was filed in Dorchester by Joseph Parsons against Sarah Bridgman, wife of James Bridgman. The accusation was that Sarah called Joseph’s wife Mary (Bliss) Parsons a witch.

Mary Bliss Parsons
Mary Bliss Parsons (1628-1712) was an American woman who was accused of witchcraft but was exonerated, in 17th-century Massachusetts.

Sarah Bridgeman’s child had died and she accused Mary Parsons of causing the child’s death. Other neighbors came forward with similar accusations. The quality of the evidence produced against Mary Bliss Parsons is indicated by testimony of Bridgeman on behalf of an older son, “whose knee, being fractured and it being set, the child screamed in great pain that Mary Parsons was pulling his leg off and that he saw her on the shelf; when she went away, a black mouse followed her.”

During the trial, Joseph’s brother Benjamin offered testimony in Mary’s defense. At a Northampton Town Meeting, in February of 1656, “it was agreed for 20s to free Joseph Parsons from any public office for the year.”

The trial resulted in a verdict for Mary Parsons, which prompted the suit for slander, won by Joseph and Mary Bliss Parsons. The defendants were ordered to make a public apology and to pay the plaintiffs’ costs: “seaven pounds, one shilling and eight pence.” But the matter did not end there.

Nineteen years later, in 1675, Mary Parsons was again accused of witchcraft when Sarah Bridgman herself died. These accusations, made by the father and the husband of the deceased, prompted the prosecution of Mary (Bliss) Parsons. Mary was indicted by a grand jury and imprisoned in Boston for several months and then put on trial.

Her ordeal included the examination of her person by “Soberdized, Chast women to make Diligent Search upon ye body of Mary Parsons, whether any marks of witchcraft might appear.” She was acquitted on May 13, 1675.

“Such allegations as were made against Mary Bliss Parsons, by neighbors of long-standing, living within minutes of one another’s homes, treating with one another virtually every day, parents of families, whose children would have know one another in every aspect of small-town life—such life-threatening denunciations must surely have sundered many friendships and provoked the deepest of bitter feelings,” wrote the children of Cornet Joseph.

Between the two witchcraft trials of his wife Parsons was involved in many different enterprises and undertakings including:

  • the fur trade in the Connecticut Valley. “Parsons was one of two persons of Northampton licensed to trade with Native Americans. It is supposed that this trade was primarily in furs. A common practice was for a trader to offer money or articles of value in exchange for the promised delivery of furs, which would then be sold at a great mark-up. If the fur delivery was defaulted, land would be exchanged for the debt. Parsons seems to have obtained much land by this means, including land upon which was established the town of Hadley, Massachusetts.”
  • keeping an “Ordinary, or house of entertainment (tavern) in the town of Northampton. (court records show that in 1661, 1662, and 1664 a license was issued to Joseph Parsons of Northampton authorizing him to “sell wines, strong liquors, and to keep good rule and order in the tavern.”
  • serving in 1661 as a member of a committee to “lay out the plans of the Meeting House and residence for the Reverend Eleazer Mather, first minister of Northampton.”
  • In this same year, Joseph was on a committee to meet with counterparts of Newtown, Mass., “to see to the establishment of a road between Newtown and Northampton.”
  • Northampton Town Records indicate that Parsons received several grants of land, dating from the December 1, 1657 to February 19, 1660. The Northampton City Clerk’s Office stated that on February 19, 1660, Joseph Parsons owned 81 acres of land in addition to the 4 acres that his house was on.
  • On March 26, 1664, at a Northampton Town Meeting, Joseph Parsons and three others were appointed “to run a boundary line between the town of Hadley and Northampton.”
  • On December 14, 1668, a Northampton Town Meeting appointed Parsons and two others to a committee “to study alternative plans concerning the proposed Connecticut duty on grain being shipped down the Connecticut River.”
  • In 1670, Joseph Parsons was made a member of the committee to construct a “Cart bridge” over the Munhan River.
  • On June 30, 1670, Joseph Parsons, Sr. and six others were chosen for a committee to “order the settlement of all highways to rectify errors in the meadow.”

Parsons was in the Northampton court quite often. He also served multiple times as a juror in that court during the years 1682 and 1683. Besides being by Mary’s side during her ordeals, other court records state that:

  • On September 28, 1658, at the First Court held in Northampton, Parsons filed a complaint against John Webb for not delivering a cow and a calf. Joseph was demanding £4 owed him.
  • On September 30, 1662, the County Court in Springfield ordered Joseph Parsons and two others to conduct a study for a new highway and required bridges between the town of Hadley and Springfield.
  • In 1664, Joseph Parsons was charged with resisting a constable in his lawful duties. Court records indicate that the constable had meant to appropriate oxen belonging to Parsons for use on a public project, as decreed by county authorities. There followed “Scuffling in the busyness whereby blood was drawn between them.” The charge was not denied and Parsons sold an acre and a half to the town in payment of the fine, part of which was abated owing to Joseph’s apology.
  • Parsons was the plaintiff or defendant in several suits over money owed. Some of these were settled out of court; in some cases, payment was made through the court or a parcel of land would be sold to satisfy the debt. In 1665 at a Northampton court, Parsons filed suit against Prayserver Turner for non payment of a debt plus damage, £30. The action was withdrawn and both paid equal amounts for court costs. In a Northampton court, a suit was brought against Joseph Parsons by Peter Hendricks for the sum of £10 14s 6d. On September 26, 1665, the county treasurer reported that the Parsons fine was paid by the sale of an acre and a half of his land.
  • On September 28, 1671, at the Springfield Court, Joseph Parsons brought action against Edward Blake “for withholding a debt of £13 for a hogshead of flax.”
  • In 1672, the County Court appointed Parsons and four others “to lay out a highway from the town of Hadley, over the Fort River, and part way to the bay.”
  • On March 25, 1673, in a Northampton court, Joseph Parsons brought action against John Abbott “for fraudulent dealing concerning the delay, withholding, and not delivering a written lease or agreement.”
  • The last case Parsons filed in any Northampton court was on September 26, 1682. This was a suit against Benoni Stebbins of Northampton for a debt of about 50s.

Joseph Parsons was a successful businessman: Records of his business accounts from September 1, 1652, to June 28, 1671, exist on file at the Springfield City Library.

Like me, Cornet Joseph was a military man. Serving as such was a necessity on the colonial frontier. On October 7, 1678, the General Court appointed Joseph Parsons, Sr. to be Cornet of the Troop of Hoarse, Hampshire County, under the command of Maj. John Pynchon. This appointment made Parsons the color-bearer of the Hampshire Cavalry, third officer in command.

The 1834 Usher Parsons study reported that Joseph Parsons owned 100 acres at the foot of Mount Tom, at a place called Pascommuck, and “for half a century remained the richest man in the Connecticut Valley.”

Mount Tom
Mount Tom range’s peaks depicted in an 1865 painting by Thomas Charles Farrer.

Cornet Joseph Parsons, one of the founders of Springfield and Northampton, Mass., died on October 9, 1683, in Springfield, Massachusetts. “His exact place of burial is not known but is most likely in the Elm Street Cemetery in Springfield. When the land on the west side of the cemetery was needed for the Hartford-Springfield Railroad, most of the remains were removed and reburied in a single mass grave near the Pine Street entrance.”


Harold Willis Parsons passed away on April 9, 1987 (born on January 1, 1907): I was serving on the USS LaSalle in the Persian Gulf with Middle East Force when I received word.

The Navy let me have leave to fly home for his funeral, but unfortunately, I had one too many beverages in an airport lounge, got on the wrong airplane, and missed the connecting flight to Cleveland. I did make it in time for the post-ceremony family get-together, and will always remember the big smiles on my loved ones’ faces as I walked into the restaurant.

My grandfather had helped instill in me a love of history, and by his kindness and understanding, I came to realize the importance of family bonds, even when those bonds were under stress. We may not have talked about Cornet Joseph Parsons and his wife Mary, but I’m sure that even though Harold wasn’t a citizen of the internet, he could have told me their story in loving detail.

Quotations are found in Burt’s CORNET JOSEPH PARSONS (1898). See also PARSONS FAMILY, Henry Parsons (Vol 1, 1912; Vol 2, 1920). Additional data about the Parsons family may be found in the book ALL OF THE ABOVE I, by Richard Baldwin Cook (Nativa, 2007, revised 2008). See also: THE PARSONS FAMILY, Volume 1. The English Ancestry and Descendants to the Sixth Generation of Cornet Joseph Parsons (1620-1683), Springfield, Massachusetts, 1636, Northampton, Massachusetts, 1654. Compiled by Gerald James Parsons, A.B., M.S.L.S., Published by Gateway Press, Baltimore, MD, 2002.

By Mark A. Shephard

Christian and Minerva (Kelley) German—making a life in Fostoria, Ohio, during the Gilded Age

As I continue to learn about my relatives’ pursuit of the American dream, studying the events and people of the different periods in the history of the United States has proven to be an enlightening method for understanding my relatives’ lives.

My father was a Shephard, and my mother was a Parsons, and both of their fathers have American roots going back hundreds of years — 200 years for my Shephard line, and 400 years for the Parsons.

Recently, I’ve been reading about the thirty-five years after the American Civil War, and how they were vital to the transformation of the United States from the agrarian Republic it had been prior to the conflict, into the industrial and urban-based nation of regional interests the country would become as Progressivism emerged in the 20th Century.

“When in 1873 Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner entitled their co-authored novel The Gilded Age, they gave the late nineteenth century its popular name. The term reflected the combination of outward wealth and dazzle with inner corruption and poverty. Given the period’s absence of powerful and charismatic presidents, its lack of a dominant central event, and its sometimes tawdry history, historians have often defined the period by negatives. They stress greed, scandals, and corruption of the Gilded Age,” wrote historian Richard White for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

I inwardly chuckled after discovering that my great-grandfather, Percival Wardlaw Shephard, had listed himself as a capitalist in the 1900 United States Census. His grandson, and my father, John Newbold Shephard, never got to  meet his “capitalist” grandfather, but he did get to form a loving relationship with his grandmother, Anna Belle (German) Shephard.

After my dad passed away on January 26, 2020, my brother Scott and I granted him his wish to have his cremated remains placed on top of his beloved grandmother instead of next to his wife of 55 years.

Dad had talked about his fond memories of riding the Nickel Plate, or the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, from Rocky River, Ohio, to Fostoria, Ohio, to spend time with his grandma, whom he called Oma.

My father loved trains and model railroading, and the Nickel Plate was his favorite road. It was a profitable trunk line constructed in 1881 along the south shore of the Great Lakes. “In the early eighties all eyes were turned toward the Middle West and the West. The Civil War had been fought, the panic of 1873 had been survived, and business had recuperated. Railroads were planned and even built everywhere and anywhere… Their appearance in any locality was the signal for great excitement and unfounded gossip concerning a new line. It was said of some counties that they had more railroad surveyors’ stakes driven in them than a porcupine’s back had quills,” wrote Tyler Hampton in his The Nickel Plate Road: The History of a Great Railroad.

Nickel Plate in Fostoria, Ohio

My Shephard family tree grew roots in Fostoria, one of the lucky towns that prospered because of railroad connections. Today, Fostoria calls itself the “Iron Triangle” as three former mainlines — the Norfolk Southern (former Nickel Plate main), the CSX (former Baltimore & Ohio mainline), and CSX (former Chesapeake & Ohio, Toledo Line) — pass through town creating the shape of a triangle.

Over half a century prior to the construction of the Nickel Plate road, Charles W. Foster “had turned westward to settle in a part of Ohio that was little better than a wilderness dotted with a few log cabins. Being a practical man he turned cheerily to hew and plow, to sow and reap in an independent manner, living in a community where he had the respect and confidence of his neighbors; but he little dreamed that eventually that tiny settlement would become a flourishing town, named Fostoria in his honor, and that his son would occupy the highest position in his native state,” wrote Hampton.

Fostoria was created in 1854 from a merger of two smaller villages, Rome and Risdon. In 1832, Foster had opened a dry goods and general merchandise store in Rome, and by 1846 his 18-year-old son, Charles, had become a partner. Soon the son would have full responsibility of the store’s operations.

“Gradually his means were augmented, especially by successful investments in banking and in gas and oil securities. Foster seems to have been a composite of the business and interests of both segments of the promoting group,” wrote Hampton. “Fostoria benefited greatly from his energy, liberality and loyalty, for to him it was always home. Here he had many interests, friends, and a plain comfortable house built on the very spot where once had stood his father’s humble log hut. One of the benefits for which he was directly responsible was to secure the route of the N.Y., C. and St. L. through Fostoria, thus enhancing its importance as a railroad town and improving its business status.”

Charles William Foster, Jr.
Charles William Foster, Jr. (April 12, 1828 – January 9, 1904) was a U.S. Republican politician from Ohio. Foster was the 35th Governor of Ohio, and later went on to serve as Secretary of the Treasury under Benjamin Harrison.

Undoubtedly, as Foster’s life journey took him from a dry goods store in Fostoria to the U.S. House of Representatives (1871–1879), the governorship of Ohio (1880–1884), and Secretary of the Treasury under President Benjamin Harrison (1891–1893), one of those friends would have been my 2nd great-grandfather, Christian Christopher German, the father of Anna Belle.

Christian Christopher German was born on October 16, 1835, in Darmstadt, Hesse, Germany. Christian was either an orphan or adopted, as there are no records or proof of his prior ancestry. His obituary, which ran in the Fostoria Daily Review on the day of his death, March 10, 1925, stated that: “He came to America and direct to Fostoria in 1852 at the age of 17. After remaining here for one year, Mr. German went to St. Louis, Mo., where he stayed for two years before returning to Fostoria to make his permanent home.”

My 2nd great-grandfather became a naturalized citizen of the United States on December 16, 1856, in Seneca County, Ohio. On November 12, 1863, Christian married Minerva Kelley, in Sandusky, Ohio. Three of their six children would live to adulthood.

Minerva (Kelley) German (1838-1916)
Minerva (Kelley) German – (1838-1916)

Minvera was born September 24, 1838, about one mile west of Fostoria, and spent her entire life in the immediate vicinity. She was the youngest daughter of Thomas and Catherine (Lorah) Kelley—one of a family of seven children. Minerva took “an active interest in the various departments of the Methodist Episcopal church, of which she was for many years a member. She took an exceptionally active part in the Ladies Aid Society and the Home and Foreign Missionary Society, until failing health caused her to be an invalid the greater part of the time during the past ten years,” wrote the Fostoria Daily Review in her obituary. Minerva passed away just short of nine years before her husband.


His obituary published read: “Christian German Died This Morning — Heart Trouble Caused Death of Prominent Citizen — Christian German, vice president of the Commercial Bank and Savings company and one of Fostoria’s most wealthy and respected citizens passed away at 6:45 this morning at his home 307 North County Line Street. Death was caused by an asthmatic heart disease following a period of ill health for several months. His illness had been serious since Christmas. Mr German had lived a long life of constructive service in Fostoria and community as financier, farmer and in his younger days, as carpenter and contractor. For many years he was an active partner in the Koss & German Lumber company of Fostoria and at the time of his death was vice president of the Commercial Bank of this city. The deceased was public spirited and interested always in the growth, development and welfare of the city and community. He was one of the first water works trustees and assisted in erecting Fostoria’s water works system. Mr. German was a Democrat politically and for many years took an active part in party politics. He had been a member of the Methodist church here for the past fifty years and served a number of terms on the official board of that church.”

The dedication and hard work of men such as the Foster’s and Christian German would make better lives for their children and the residents in their community; and most assuredly their wives played a very important role. Christian German realized the importance of building, banking, farming and infrastructure — all extremely important to the future of the United States of America.

Those who lived during the Gilded Age witnessed a complicated era, but also a time in which the guidance of its leaders, and the toil of its citizens eventually helped to make the country more prosperous, and more conscious of accompanying environmental, financial and social problems, thus making the United States more powerful than it had ever been by the time the 20th Century brought forth the Progressive-era.

If you’re a relative of Christian or Minerva (Kelley) German, I’d love to hear from you.