Elizabeth Shepherd (1766-1830s), Frontierswoman, 52 Ancestors #79

Elizabeth Shepherd was born July 23, 1766 in St. George Parish, Spotsylvania County, Virginia to Robert Shepherd and Sarah Rash.

We are extremely fortunate to have the Robert Shepherd Bible pages, still in existence in 1991.  A sixth great-grandson of Robert and Sarah Rash Shepherd was kind enough to copy and transcribe them, and they have been sitting in my “to do” file, which became a “to do” pile, long enough.

The cousin who so graciously sent the pages also said that he couldn’t capture the entire page in the copy because the pages were bound in the Bible.  He provided the transcription following each page – taken from the original Bible.

I am struck by the beauty of these Bible pages – the lovely calligraphy style handwriting.  I’ve also noted that the handwriting is all the same, including the death information for Robert – except for the 1858 death note about Sally.  Given that Sally is the only child with a death date, and there is also a rather illegible note about her name that looks like it notes someone’s mother – I’m surmising that this Bible was a copy of Robert’s original Bible that was passed down in the Sally Shepherd family line and her death date was of course added sometime after her passing.

The identical handwriting is a dead giveway (pardon the pun) and nobody so far as I know can record their own death after the fact – so this isn’t Robert’s handwriting.  If we had the front page of the Bible, we could look at the date the Bible was printed and I’m sure it would be after some of these events occurred.  That doesn’t diminish the value of the Bible, just lets us know more about the provenance of the information it holds and alerts us that transcription mistakes could have occurred – since the information we’re seeing has been copied, at least once.  But, I must say, copied beautifully and in the old style where the s looks like fs. Known as the long s, this practice fell out of practice in printing in the first part of the 1800s but lasted in handwriting into the second part before dying entirely.

Based on the script, whoever figured and recorded Robert Shepherd’s death date in 1817 is likely the transcriber of the rest of this document.  Given that the calculations are in the margin, this Bible was likely in use at that time, so perhaps the earlier information had already been copied into this Bible.

Just take a look at this beautiful script.

Shepherd Bible1


Robert Shepherd and Sarah Rash were married in Spotsylvania County Virginia by James Mcrea Church Parson on October 1, 1765.

Robert and Sarah aforesaid removed from Spotsylvania County Virginia to Reddies River Wilkes County, North Carolina on the 7th of December Annoque Domini 1777.

For all the world, it looks like something was written on the right hand side of the paper too, and has faded to the point where it is no longer legible.

Shepherd Bible2


Robert Shepherd son of George and Elizabeth Shepherd was born in Spotsylvania County and State of Virginia June 17, 1739.

Sarah Shepherd formerly Sarah Rash and daughter of Joseph and Mary Rash was born in Spotsylvania County Virginia State 23rd of April Annoque Domini 1748, and is now the espoused wife of Robert Shepherd aforesaid.

Their Genealogy born in Spotsylvania County Virginia

1. Elisabeth Shepherd born July 23rd Anno: Dom: 1766
2. James Shepherd born on March 8th A:D: 1768
3. Ann Shepherd born on the 8th of March A:D: 1770
4. Mary Shepherd born on January 17th A:D: 1773
5. Agnes Shepherd born on the 8th of February A:D: 1775

Their following children were all born on Reddies River Wilkes County No. Carolina

6. Rhoda Shepherd born on the 23rd of March A:D: 1777
7. John Shepherd born on the 26th of August A:D: 1779
8. Sally Shepherd born on the 27th of February A:D: 1782 Died November 1858
9. Fanny Shepherd born February 13th 1785

Shepherd Bible3

10. Rebekah Shepherd born on the 26th day of September in the year of our Lord 1787


Robert Shepherd father of the aforementioned family deceased June fifth one thousand eight hundred and seventeen 1817 – at his own house on Reddies River, Wilkes County, North Carolina State where to he removed and settled with his family from Spottsylvania County Virginia December 7, 1777.

After 17 days illness with his old disorder the Stone and Gravel and after residing about 40 years in the aforesaid spot.

Aged according to this record exactly seventy seven years eleven months and seven days, subtracting elven days for his Old Stile birth.

Sarah’s death date is not recorded here, but I think we have evidence of when it occurred in the notes.  Sarah was born in 1748, and on this last page,  in the upper right hand corner, someone was subtracting 1748 from 1829.

Moving to Wilkes County

According to their Bible, “Robert and Sarah aforesaid removed from Spotsylvania County to Reddies River, Wilkes County, NC on the 7th of December annoque domini 1777.”

I don’t know if they left on December 7th for Wilkes County, or arrived on December 7th, 1777.  Looking at the notes about the births of their children, it appears that Rhoda was born in Wilkes County in March of 1777 – so there is a conflict in the record.  However, given that this Bible is a copy of the original, perhaps a transcription error occurred.  Perhaps December is when they found a place to settle permanently in Wilkes County.  Regardless, they were moving about that time.

Hopefully December is when they arrived, as the 340 mile trip, on today’s roads, would have taken more than a month in a wagon in 1777, and certainly in December and January, snow and cold weather could be encountered.  It’s actually quite remarkable that the date of their journey is recorded in the Bible.  It was obviously seen as quite a turning point and major event in their lives.

Spotsylvania to Wilkes

Elizabeth would have just turned 11 that summer, old enough to help care for the younger children on the journey.  She was the oldest child.  Her parents, like normal pioneer parents, had a baby about every other year, so by 1777, Elizabeth had 5 younger siblings to help care for.

While Spotsylvania County had at one time been the frontier, in 1777, the county was more than 50 years old.  Wilkes County, however, was indeed the new frontier, with lots of available land, opportunity and adventure galore.  Land was almost free for the taking plus a little sweat equity.  Ok, if you’ve seen those mountains…a lot of sweat equity.  But back in Spotsylvania County, they hadn’t seen the mountains of Wilkes County – but they surely had heard about the land grants.  In fact, staking out land is just about the first thing new settlers did.

Robert Shepherd entered land in 1778 near the ford of “Readys River” on John Shepherd’s line.  On the same day John entered land on Deep Ford of Reddis River.

The Shepherds lived in what is known as the Reddies River and Purlear section, west of North Wilkesboro about 12 to 14 miles.  John Shepherd’s entry number 64 claimed 405 acres at the Deep Ford of the Reddies River.  Robert’s entry was next for 200 acres.  The Reverend George McNiel, William McNiel’s father, was also a neighbor.

The http://www.danielprophecy.com/map.html website shows the location of the various Shepherd land.  Notice Vannoy road and old Highway 16.  You’ve seen these same roads in the Elijah Vannoy story.  Elijah married Lois McNiel, daughter of Elizabeth Shepherd and William McNiel.

Shepherd land locationSometime prior to 1784, Elizabeth Shepherd married William McNiel, the son of Reverend George McNiel, probably in Wilkes County.  You might have noticed that this was in the middle of the Revolutionary War, and in many counties, not much was getting registered about that time, including marriages.  Their first child, at least the first child that survived, arrived on October 26, 1784, which would suggest that they were married probably sometime in 1783 or maybe early 1784 – although unsourced family history shows the marriage as occurring in 1781.

Elizabeth’s husband, William McNiel, was also from Spotsylvania County, Virginia, enlisting in the Revolutionary War from there in 1777.  Did she know him before they moved to Wilkes County?  It’s quite likely she did. It’s probable that the Reverend George McNiel recruited a number of Spotsylvania County families to undertake the move to Wilkes County.

Life in Wilkes County

The first church established on the Reddies River was located on the crest of Deep Ford Hill.  The name was derived from the fact that the original road leading from New River in what is now Ashe County to the Yadkin Valley crossed the Reddies River at the foot of this hill, and that the ford at this crossing was unusually deep – thus the name Deep Ford Hill.

This Baptist church was established as early as 1783 according to the records of the Flat Rock Church.  The Reverend George McNiel was the preacher and the Shepherds made up most of the congregation along with their immediate neighbors, the Rowlands, Judds and others.

The Abstract of the Reddies River Church Membership 1798-1889 by Paul Gregory shows that charter members that were members in 1798 include Robert Shepherd and wife Sarah along with Robert’s brother John and his wife Sarah and their black woman, Grace.  It does not include William McNiel or his wife, which is probably a good indication they were living in Ashe County by this time, or that the original membership, even though listed in 1798, was actually from an earlier date.  The actual title says “Charter Members” but the date on the page is 1798, which could mean that these are the charter members still attending in 1798.  I have seen in other churches where they listed charter members, almost as a retrospective, at a later date

It is also mentioned that some of the Reddies River people buried their dead at the church, probably not much later than 1825.  There is no exact census of this cemetery and it may very well simply have been the Shepherd family cemetery.

I visited George McNeil in Wilkes County in 2007 and he was gracious enough to show me all of the early family cemeteries and homeplaces.  George and his wife, Joyce, then deceased, are both my cousins on different family lines, and I had known them through genealogy research for more than 20 years.  It was wonderful to meet George, but sad to have missed Joyce with whom I exchanged pen and ink letters for years.  George and Joyce spent much of their married life visiting the various Wilkes County cemeteries and cataloging the graves.  What a wonderful legacy to leave.

George took me to the location of the Deep Ford Church and cemetery, across the road from the church.  Nothing remains today of either, sadly.

According to George, the location of the Deep Ford Church was at the intersection of Shingle Gap Road and NC 16 and the cemetery was directly across the street where a trailer today sits on the former cemetery.  Locals recalled seeing the original stones when George McNiel was doing the cemetery census.

Years ago, probably 40 now, the landowner used the gravestones to construct a chicken house.  Yes, a chicken house.  Then, he later bulldozed the chicken house including all of the gravestones into the creek.  Would it be evil of me to hope they have all haunted him?  I just so desperately wanted to go wading in that creek to see if I could find those stones.

Deep Ford cemetery

This is the land where the mobile home sits where the cemetery once stood, and across the road the church was located about where the gas station sits today.

What we do know is that Elizabeth’s father, Robert Shepherd died on June 5, 1817 and was buried in this cemetery.  In addition, Robert’s brother John died on June 11, 1810 and is buried here as well as is Elizabeth’s mother who died sometime after 1816, possibly in 1829.  Sadly, Elizabeth would have already been in Claiborne County Tennessee when her parents died, although she would have stood here to bury her uncle, John, knowing full well that her parents would one day rest here too.  If Elizabeth did marry William McNiel in 1781, then she may have buried a child here as well, as their first known child was born in 1784.

William McNiel first shows up on the 1786 Wilkes County tax list and is living 3 houses away from his father, George McNiel.  William and Elizabeth own no land until 1792. In 1792-1793 they own 60 acres, but then go missing from 1794-1796.  In 1797, they have 530 acres and are now living by Nathaniel Vannoy.

When I originally found William McNiel living beside Nathaniel Vannoy, I thought sure I had hit pay dirt, because Elizabeth’s daughter, Lois, married Elijah Vannoy about 1807 and we didn’t, at that time, know who Elijah’s father was.  As it turns out, Nathaniel Vannoy was not Elijah’s father, but his uncle.

The book “Early Settlers of Reddies River” by Paul Gregory tells us that Elizabeth’s family lived on Deep Ford Hill, but that William McNiel moved either before 1800 or about 1803, depending on which of his statements you use, to what is now Ashe County and then to Claiborne County, TN about 1810.

It’s obvious that William McNiel and Elizabeth moved around a bit.  Was she pleased with that arrangement, or did she just want to settle in one place and be done with it?  I’m guessing she had her hands full with a new child arriving every other year and the last thing she wanted to do was move back and forth over the highest mountain range within hundreds of miles.

They last record we have of William and Elizabeth in Wilkes or Ashe County is in 1810 when they deed land to Elijah Vannoy and his wife, their daughter, Lois.

Judging from these two deeds from Wilkes County Deed Book GH, Elizabeth and William moved back from Ashe County in early 1810 and then sold that land to their son-in-law, Elijah Vannoy the last day of the year.

Page 178 – February 3, 1810 from James Steward and William McNiel of Ashe County NC for $200, 150 acres on the waters of the North fork of Lewis Fork, it being the place where William Yates now lives.  Signed by James Steward and witnessed by Alexander Brown and Thomas Brown.

Page 175 – December 31, 1810 between William McNeel and Elijah Vannoy for $250, 150 acres on Boller Creek, a fork of Lewis Fork, place where William McNeel now lives.  Witness John Forrester and John Forrester Jr.  Signed by William McNeel

Apparently at that time, Lois and Elijah were not planning their migration to Claiborne County, or they probably wouldn’t have purchased the land from her parents.

Perhaps there were discussions wherever people gathered, at the church, at the mill and at the courthouse, about Claiborne County, Tennessee, because what I would term a massive exodus of Wilkes County residents occurred about this time, with many settling together in the northern part of Claiborne County, near the Lee County, VA border.  Some spilled over into the part of Hawkins bordering Claiborne and the Lee County border.  This area could have been called “Little Wilkes.”  Eventually, all of this land would become Hancock County in Tennessee

Claiborne County, Tennessee

By about 1811 or so, William McNiel and Elizabeth Shepherd McNiel would leave Wilkes and Ashe County forever, moving to Claiborne County, Tennessee.  Elizabeth, now age 44 or 45 would have her last child about the time they set out on their journey.  Elizabeth’s oldest child, Lois, would already have been married to Elijah Vannoy for 3 or 4 years by this time and they would accompany Elizabeth and William.

There is a very interesting story about how this caravan of settlers got to Tennessee.  Elijah Vannoy’s daughter said they traveled by flatboat and the journey took two years.  This story is told in detail in the Elijah and Joel Vannoy stories, as Joel, Elizabeth’s grandson, was reportedly born during this journey.

We know William made it to Claiborne County and lived to at least 1816 because he witnessed a deed.  This William McNiel has to be the husband of Elizabeth because their son, William was only born about 1810 and there were no other McNiel families, by any spelling, living in that region.

In 1816 Levi Carner sells to George McNiel a tract of land lying on the North side of Powell Mountain near Mulberry Gap containing 69 acres for $525.  Signed in the presence of William McNiel, James Anderson and Burrell G. Sullivant.

I’m fairly certain that Elizabeth’s husband, William, was gone by May of 1823 when William Inglebarger sells land to Neal McNeal and the transaction is signed by his mother, Elizabeth, his uncle, John McNeil and Joel Fairchild.  None of the witnesses can write and all signed with an X, including Elizabeth – so she cannot write.

Unfortunately, there is no 1820 census for Claiborne County, and by the 1830 census, shown below, William McNiel was gone.  Elizabeth McNiel is listed on the census however, living adjacent her son Neal or Niel or Neil, depending on how the name was spelled that day.  The last name was also spelled in a wide variety of ways, and Neal and McNeal, first and last name spellings, don’t always match either.

Elizabeth also lives just a few houses away from her daughter and son-in-law, Elijah and Lois McNiel Vannoy, spelled Vernoy here.

1830 Claiborne McNiel census

In 1830, Elizabeth is a widow.  There are no records of any deeds showing that William McNiel purchased land.  It’s worth noting that Elizabeth also lived adjacent Eli Davis, because Elijah Vannoy’s son, Joel, would marry Phebe Crumley and in 1840, Phebe’s father, William Crumley (the third) is living beside Eli Davis.  This family that makes up my ancestors is being woven together in place and time one strand at a time.

Also note that Elizabeth lives 2 houses from Josiah Ramsey.  We’ll need that in a minute too.

I wonder if William McNiel passed away about 1816, because Lois’s son, William is born about 1816 and she may have named the child after her father if he was ill.  The last sighting we have of William is when he witnessed an 1817 deed.  Given that William never owned land, he would very likely have qualified as an impoverished Revolutionary War veteran and might have applied for benefits in 1818, were he alive.

In 1840, Elizabeth is no longer listed on the census, nor is a woman of her age listed living with any of her children.  Elizabeth passed away sometime between 1830 and 1840.  I’m inclined to think she passed away between 1830 and 1832, because I have never been able to find any records that she applied for a Revolutionary War widow’s pension.  That act was passed on June 7, 1832 and while these people may have been distant and lived back in the mountains, applications were being drafted and sent from this area within a month of that legislation.  The grapevine was a powerful communications medium, especially when it involved either juicy gossip or money.

Never Underestimate Your Cousins

When I published the story about Joel Vannoy, my lovely cousin, Dolores wrote to me and asked how I knew the land on Mulberry Creek, across from the “bridge house” was the exact land Elijah owned?  To anyone familiar with this area, the house with the bridge in front, crossing the creek between the house and the road, is a landmark.  There is only one house fitting that description.

Mulberry Gap road and creek

I explained to her that cousin Dan had found the land based on the stream in Elijah’s land grant survey, and then the homeowner had Elijah’s original land grant from the state of Tennessee.  Dolores said she wondered, because the Ramsey family eventually came into possession of that land.  Nothing more was said, because while Dolores and I are cousins, it’s not through the Vannoy or McNiel lines or her Ramsey line.  Those lines did intermarry later, but are not our common ancestors.

Then, a couple weeks later, I happened across a piece of information that seemed important.

Niel McNiel’s land abutted that of Josiah Ramsey.  Josiah Ramsey is noted at being the progenitor of the Ramsey line in Claiborne/Hancock County, and, there is an old Ramsey Cemetery.  Now, the Vannoy Cemetery is “missing,” soooo, I had to ask Dolores if she knew exactly where the Josiah Ramsey Cemetery is located.  Sure enough, not only did she know where it was located, she sent me more than I asked for, including some important puzzle pieces for me that she didn’t even know she had.

Since William McNiel never owned land and Elizabeth is living beside son Niel in 1830, it occurred to me that I should see if I could locate the land that Niel patented in several land grants.  Sure enough, I did, and it’s just a couple miles north of Elijah Vannoy and Lois McNiel Vannoy’s land on Mulberry Creek.

Cousin Dolores sent two documents of primary importance.

Ramsey lands

On this map, note the Thomas Chapel Church, lower left, the Liberty School and Bales Gap.  They are and were important to finding locations on present day maps.  Josiah Ramsey’s land is noted as well.

On the 1830 census, Elizabeth McNiel and Niel McNiel live between Josiah Ramsey and Eli Davis.

Josiah Ramsey land division

On this map, Ramsey researchers have overlaid the Josiah Ramsey lands.  Two areas are of particular importance

First, Neil McNeil’s land, abutting Eli Davis, is shown on the upper right.

In the lower left, Daniel Rice’s land is shown where it would abut Elijah Vannoy’s lands, which confirms yet a third way that we indeed have located Elijah’s land correctly. Given that in the 1840 census, William Crumley (the third,) whose daughter Phebe would marry Joel Vannoy, son of Elijah Vannoy, is living dead center between Eli Davis and Littleton Brooks, we now know exactly where he was living and we can see how close he lived to Joel Vannoy’s land that abutted Elijah’s land.  Whohooooo…my lucky day!

Now, where is this land today?

McNiel Vannoy land

I mapped the location where Elizabeth Shepherd McNiel would have been living next to Niel McNiel on present day Turner Hollow Road at the far right end of the blue line.  At the far left end of the blue line, where the red balloon is located is near where Elizabeth’s daughter Lois McNiel lived on Mulberry Gap Road with her husband Elijah Vannoy.  Keep in mind that they would likely have taken the “back way since Rebel Hollow and Turner Hollow intersect and it looks like Joel and Elijah Vannoy probably owned the land between Mulberry Gap Road and the back side of Rebel Hollow Road.  The actual address of the Vannoy property is across the road from both 7321 and 6979 Mulberry Gap Road, today.

To go from Neal and Elizabeth’s to Joel and Lois’s you had to pass the Ramsey land and mill located about where the “8 minute” box is located on the blue line.

Niel McNiel land

On this map, you can see Bales Gap, then to the left you can see where Bales Ford either still does or once crossed the Powell River.  If you look at the Niel McNiel land, you can see that if you draw a line straight right from Bales Ford, it intersects the Niel McNiel upper land at the beginning, about the blue dot on Turner Hollow Road.

Ironically, I see on the upper border of this photo Bartley Hollow which is the land that was owned by cousin Dolores’s family – downstream of the Speak line she and I share.  It seems it’s always a small world in these mountain communities.

Josiah Ramsey land - Niel McNiel

On this enlarged area of the property map, you can see the driveway or private road on Neil McNeil’s land.

Niel McNiel driveway

On this map, you can see where the current day driveway or road occurs on the Niel McNiel map and its branch into the Eli Davis land.

Niel McNiel land brackets

On this map, I’ve noted with arrows the approximate location of the boundaries of both of Niel McNiel’s parcels.

Given that we know that Elizabeth Shepherd McNiel lived by her son Niel, and now we know where Niel lived – we also know where Elizabeth lived – and probably where she died as well.

In fact, this might be Elizabeth’s house.  Family lore says that this is the house that Lois McNiel eloped out of to marry Elijah Vannoy.  However, this story came out of Hancock County, not Wilkes County and this house could be Lois’s parents’ house, but in Hancock County, not Wilkes.

McNiel cabin

Given that William died sometime after 1816 but before the 1830 census, he had to be buried someplace.  Son George McNiel also lived in this vicinity.  By the 1830s when Elizabeth died, surely there was an established cemetery for the McNiel clan in this immediate area – maybe in conjunction with Elijah Vannoy.  Maybe both families had a cemetery on their land.  In either case, both are now lost, so while we know that Elizabeth was likely buried someplace on this land, or perhaps on Elijah’s land where her daughter lived, we don’t know where that might be.

One thing these Ramsey maps did point out is just how many small, undocumented family cemeteries exist, or existed – and there are surely more that we don’t know about – especially early cemeteries abandoned when the original family moved away.

After Elizabeth’s death both the Vannoys and the McNiel’s would sell their land on Mulberry Creek and move down the road a few miles into Claiborne County on Little Sycamore Creek where they were all living in the 1870s.

A hundred years later, when I first visited the Claiborne County families, all knowledge of the location of the original land in Hancock County had disappeared into the mists of time.

Elizabeth’s DNA

In the Lois McNiel article, I listed her daughters that gave their mitochondrial DNA to their children in the hope that maybe someone descends from these daughters to the current generation through all females.  The current generation can be a male, since women give their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only the females pass it on.

Here, we list Elizabeth’s daughters, with the hope that we can find a descendant whose DNA we can test to add a chapter to Elizabeth’s story.  Where did her maternal line originate?

Elizabeth’s daughters who had female children who may have descendants today through all females are as follows:

  • Lois McNiel born about 1786 and married Elijah Vannoy about 1807 in Wilkes County. Lois died in the 1830s in Claiborne, now Hancock, County, TN. She had daughter Permelia born in 1810 who married John Baker and had daughters Sirena and Nancy Jane. Lois’s daughter Nancy also born about 1810 married George Loughmiller and had daughters Mermelia, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Marty and Lyda. Lois’s daughter Sarah born in 1821 married Joseph Adams and moved to Arkansas.  They had daughters Nancy Jane who married Franklin Skaggs, Rebecca who married William Leroy Throckmorton Bee Boren and Margaret Ann who married John Ward and moved to Oregon.
  • Sarah or Sallie McNiel was born about 1784 and married Joel Fairchild in Wilkes County. They moved to Claiborne County where Sallie died on January 2, 1861 and is buried in the Fairchild Cemetery in Hancock County. She had daughter Elizabeth Fairchild born between 1820-1825 who married Samuel McCullough and had daughters Sarah (b 1852), Elizabeth (b 1864), Susan (b 1867) and Cordia (b 1870).
  • Mary was born about 1792 in Wilkes County. She married Robert Campbell in 1817 in Claiborne County and died in 1881 in Bradley County, TN. I show only one child for her, Anderson, but I have a very difficult time believing she didn’t have additional children.
  • Nancy McNiel born in 1794 in Wilkes County married Alexander Campbell in 1815 in Claiborne County and is shown with only 3 male children. She died in 1839 in Hancock County. She likely outlived her mother, but not by long.
  • Elizabeth McNiel born between 1800 and 1810 married Andrew McClary. The 1840 census shows them with 2 daughters, but I can’t find the family in 1850.

If you descend from any of these women through all females, please contact me.  There is a DNA scholarship waiting for you.

In Summary

Elizabeth was an amazing lady, even though we only know her through the records of the men around her, except for the 1830 census.

She saw and lived through two wars fought on our own soil, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.  Her husband fought in the Revolution, although they weren’t married at that time.  Two of her uncles fought as well, one at King’s Mountain.  Her father was a patriot and provided supplies.

Elizabeth was a young teen at the beginning of the Revolutionary War and a young woman when it ended.  Life must have been interesting, listening to the talk of the war as news trickled in about battles fought and lost or won…and lives lost.  Those who farmed yesterday, fought today and would never come home.  All they could do was pray.

It was during this time that the family moved from Spotsylvania County, Virginia to Wilkes County, NC.  Was the war somehow part of the reason?  Was the journey more dangerous because of the war?  Surely it was, because the Indians had allied themselves with the British.

Elizabeth was involved with the formation of the first Baptist Church in Wilkes County.  Her parents were Baptist, the neighbors were Baptist…Elizabeth was going to be a Baptist and that’s all there was to that!  An entire group of Baptists moved from Spotsylvania County to Wilkes County, along with their preacher, Reverend George McNiel, Elizabeth’s future father-in-law – and Elizabeth was among them.

A few years later, Elizabeth’s sons were old enough to have served in the War of 1812, but I don’t have any documentation that says they did.  This was during the time they were migrating from Wilkes County to Claiborne County – and if it did take 2 years as family lore suggests, that might be why her sons never served.

Elizabeth lived in two centuries and survived in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee with children and without a husband.  She probably buried babies and children, possibly alongside the trail.  She raised ten children to adulthood.

Elizabeth left Spotsylvania County, Virginia and would ultimately live in three states and on two untamed frontiers.  At least twice, she pulled up stakes, packed up a wagon with all of her belongings along with a bounty of children, in the middle of a war, and set out for the unknown.

Indeed, Elizabeth was an amazing woman.



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

8 thoughts on “Elizabeth Shepherd (1766-1830s), Frontierswoman, 52 Ancestors #79

  1. If only more of us had access to old family Bibles, we could break down more walls. What a wealth of information………..

  2. What a coincidence to read your post about an old Bible’s birth dates perhaps being copied from an even older Bible. I was spending time looking at pictures of the two pages in the front of an old Bible, still in existence, supposed to have belonged to my 3 times great grandparents, Luke and Gracy Patrick. I was just realizing that the beautiful handwriting was all the same and that the recorded dates were before 1828 when the Bible was published. Then your post came telling about a Bible with copied information. I need to tell my cousins that this Bible did not belong to Luke and Gracy but to a grand daughter of theirs. That will be surprising news to them!

    You wrote about your ancestors going from VA to Wilkes County NC then to TN. There is also one of my Patrick ancestors that moved from SC to Wilkes County NC and wondered why they went there. Could be the same reason your folks did. For 35 years I lived in Transylvania County NC further south from Wilkes and yes it is mountainous! This ancestor moved to GA from Wilkes County.

    Thanks for these two tidbits of information today. Since 2011 I have been a regular reader of your posts and have learned so much. Keep up the good work.

  3. I have a very similar situation with ancestor headstones. After a local cemetery was closed in the late 1800s, it became common practice in the region to take the headstones to turn into doorsteps. The old families have now mostly moved out. As the old houses are condemned and bulldozed, no one thinks to turn the doorstep over to see what might be engraved on it (who would?). Hopefully someone does get them out of the creek in the end, depending on the type of stone they might be safe there for at least a century.

  4. Pingback: William Crumley the Third (c1789-1852/1859) and The Crumley Curse, 52 Ancestors #80 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  5. Pingback: William McNiel (c1760-c1816), Battle of Brandywine Survivor, 52 Ancestors #83 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  6. Pingback: What is a DNA Scholarship and How Do I Get One? | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  7. Thank you for posting this. Elizabeth would have been my 6x great-grandmother. Son George is my 5x great-grandfather.

Leave a Reply