I’m incredibly indebted to a cousin, David Stielow, with whom I corresponded in 1991 about the Shepherd family. David proudly signed his correspondence with “6 great-grandson of Robert and Sarah (Rash) Shepherd.” Unfortunately, I lost touch with David decades ago. David, wherever you are – thank you!
David sent me a copy of the long-rumored but never-produced Bible record of Robert Shepherd including information that at that time, Mildred Judd Hodkins (1922-2015) who descended through Robert’s daughter, Sarah Shepherd, wife of William Judd was the then-current owner of the Bible.
The Shepherd Bible
It’s a beauty, that’s for sure!
The marriage or Robert Shepherd and Sarah Rash in Spotsylvania County, and their removal to Wilkes County 12 years later.
Births, including Robert and Sarah themselves. A spouse’s name and a death date sprinkined in for good measure.
The last child was born when Sarah was 43, then Robert’s death is recorded 30 years later.
The handwriting is ornate, rendered artistically in stunningly beautiful script. Was it Robert or Sarah who lovingly penned these entries by the light of candles in front of a fireplace? I would love to see the original Bible.
I’ve come to doubt that the handwriting is either Robert’s or Sarah’s. To begin with, the handwriting recording Robert’s death entry looks just like the first entry recording his birth. That’s pretty difficult to accomplish. Sarah’s entry refers to her as “now the espoused wife,” which suggests that Sarah and Robert are living, and that it’s after 1765 when they married.
Robert’s wife, Sarah Rash’s death is not recorded for some reason, so perhaps the handwriting is actually hers – except that in 1819 records regarding Robert’s estate, Sarah signed her name with an X. So the entries couldn’t have been written by Sarah unless something dramatic happened to her ability to write between 1817 and 1819.
This might be the “church Bible” that was sold at Robert’s estate sale, or perhaps a later Bible altogether.
It’s probable that this entire Bible record was recopied from an earlier Bible belonging to Robert and Sarah, because the entries all appear to be in exactly the same penmanship except for a couple obvious additions later. This wouldn’t be unusual if the old Bible wore out, burned or was sold at the estate sale, and a new Bible was purchased. It could also be expected if the original Bible descended to one child and another child copied the original records into their own Bible. Seeing the Bible printing information in the front might help narrow these possibilities.
My guess, and that’s all it will ever be, is that this Bible belonged to daughter Sally who married William Judd because it’s her descendant who had the Bible in 1991. Furthermore, William Judd’s name is written above Sally, along with her proper name, “Sarah” and a death month and year of November 1858.
I suspect that the original Bible was probably distributed to another family member after Robert’s death in 1817 – hence the last entry in the “original” handwriting is about Robert’s death.
There is a confusing date conflict which might be explained by recopying and adding a bit of information. Daughter Rhoda is reported to have been born in Wilkes County on March 23, 1777, which clearly could not have happened if the family didn’t leave Spotsylvania County until December of 1777. One of those two years or Rhoda’s birth location has to be wrong.
This amazing Bible doesn’t just tell us that Robert and his wife Sarah Rash were born, but when and where they were born, their parents’ names, marriage date and who married them, their children’s names, birth dates and locations, along with a couple death dates.
But it doesn’t end there either. The last page records Robert’s death:
“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 his family from Spottsylvania County, Virginia, December 7, 1777.
After 17 days illness with his old disorder the Stone and Gravel, 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.”
I initially thought that Stone and Gravel meant gall stones, but according to medical references, I suspect it was kidney stones. Gall stones appear to have been referred to as colic at that time. Regardless of which kind of stones – they had to be absolutely agonizing and probably became lodged where they shouldn’t, killing the man.
“His old disorder” tells us that Robert had suffered from this previously, probably repeatedly over a very long time. I’d guess he either died of uremic poisoning, if the stone lodged in the ureter between the kidney and the bladder, or sepsis if he developed an infection. Either would have been horrifically painful.
How much more could we ask of a Bible record? This is hands-down the most informative Bible record I have ever found in my family.
Joyce Dancy McNiel (1937-2003), another now-deceased cousin, transcribed the Bible record and sent me the following information from her files. I’m so indebted to these researchers from the generation that preceded mine. They were immeasurably kind when I was beginning.
Robert was born on June 17, 1739 in St. George’s Parish, Spotsylvania County, Virginia to George Shepherd and Elizabeth Mary Angelique (or Angelicke) Day Shepherd.
St. George’s Parish was formed in 1714, initially in Essex County until Spotsylvania County was formed in 1720.
In 1730, the parish was split with the new St. Marks Parish incorporating in the upper portion which was made into Orange County, and eventually Orange, Madison, Culpepper and Rappahannock counties, according to the book, Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia published by Bishop Meade in two volumes in 1861.
Spotsylvania County, where Robert was born, is located about 50 miles north of Richmond, near the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers.
In 1732, Colonial William Byrd visited, saying of the place, “Besides Colonel Willis, who is the top man of the place, there are only one merchant, a tailor, a smith, an ordinary-keeper and a lady who acts both as a doctress and coffee-woman.” What the heck else do you need?
I have to ask, what exactly is a coffee-woman? Susanna Livingston, a widow was indeed that person and you can read about her colonial Virginia coffee house here.
Keep in mind that this description was just 7 years before Robert’s birth.
The first church in Spotsylvania County was built in 1732. There was an earlier church near Fredericksburg built in 1728 and one near Mattapony as well called the Mother-Church.
In the 1720s and 1730s, Spotsylvania County was literally the unsettled frontier.
Robert Shepherd was married to Sarah Rash on October 1st, 1765 in Spotsylvania County by church parson, James Mcrae. Bishop Meade’s books don’t show a James Mcrae, but do include a Christopher Mcrae and someone by the initial of A.
Mcrae is a decidedly Scottish name, which might provide a hint as to the origins of the Shepherd or Rash families, either or both.
Spotsylvania County Deeds
Deeds tell more of the story of the Shepherd family in Spotsylvania County. The first record of George Shepherd is found in 1749, although he was clearly married prior to that time, given that son George was born about 1728, supposedly in Spotsylvania County as well. This suggests that the elder George, Robert’s father, was probably born about 1700.
On November 6, 1749, George Shepperd of St. George’s Parish of Spotsylvania County and Elizabeth Mary Angelicke Day, his wife, sold land to Benjamin Holiday of same parish and county, 25 pounds current money, 60 acres, part of the land whereon the said Shepperd lives, etc. Witnesses were Joseph Holloday, William Miller and Margaret Randolph. Everyone signs with an X except for Joseph Holloday.
In Deed books D and E, on August 31, 1751, we find a deed from Benjamin Holloday husband of Robert’s sister, Susanna, for her father George Shepherd’s land conveyed to Robert Shepherd and his brother George Shepherd.
On November 5, 1775, John Shepherd, Robert’s older brother by 5 years, sold his 500 acres of land to William Arnold, a transaction witnessed by George McNiel who also moved to Reddies River, settling land adjacent Robert and John Shepherd.
On November 20, 1776, Robert Shepherd (who signed with an X) and his wife Sarah, George Shepherd and his wife Mary, of Spotsylvania County sold to Benjamin Holloday of the same county for 54 pounds current money, 108 acres in Spotsylvania County. Witnesses: Charles Yates, Edward Herndon, John Chew, Jr, Anthony Gholston, Clayton Coleman, John Herndon and John Holloday. Recorded January 16, 1777.
It appears that Robert was laying the groundwork for their move to Wilkes County, along with his brother, John Shepherd and the George McNiel family.
Robert’s family, probably along with the others, made the journey from Spotsylvania County to Wilkes County, according to the Bible, on December 7, 1777 – clearly a turning point in the lives of these families. I’d wager there was a wagon train that “removed from” Spotsylvania County, pulling out on December 7th and hoping to reach Wilkes by Christmas. They were probably bumping along those rough roads until at least the second week of January. The average distance for a wagon was 10 miles a day, and that’s without problems.
The family had to decide which path to take.
A more westerly path, down the old wagon road through the Shenandoah Valley would have been slightly shorter, but much more treacherous through high mountains, especially in the slippery winter.
I believe they chose the route shown above that took them through South Boston in Halifax County. Not only is this route flatter, James Shepherd, brother of Robert Shepherd settled in Halifax County for several years before moving on to Wilkes County to join the rest of the family.
For all we know, the entire group could have stopped there for some time, either to rest or to evaluate Halifax County as a place of settlement. It’s ironic that a few generations later in Claiborne County, Tennessee, the McNiel/Shepherd/Rash descendants of Wilkes County, NC would intermarry with the Estes/Moore/Dodson/Younger lines of Halifax County, VA.
Halifax County, like Wilkes County, was on the generational migration path westward for many families.
Robert Shepherd and George McNiel were more or less contemporaries. George was somewhat older, born about 1720 as compared to Robert born 19 years later.
About 1784, George McNiel’s son, William McNiel would marry Robert Shepherd’s daughter, Elizabeth Shepherd, born in 1766. Clearly, they knew each other from Spotsylvania County and undertook the overland journey to Wilkes together, but she was a bit young to have been flirting on that journey. The Rash, Shepherd and McNiel families have been hopelessly intertangled since they arrived in Wilkes County and began intermarrying. For all we know, they could have already been somehow related in colonial Virginia and before.
The Revolutionary War
The War wasn’t far behind these families. In fact, that could be part of what encouraged the Shepherd family to pull up stakes and move. Robert’s future son-in-law, William McNiel, served in Virginia from June through November 1777, fighting in the Battle of Brandywine. By this time, the Revolutionary War was in full swing.
The Revolutionary War began in April of 1775 when shots were exchanged at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. Shortly, both Virginia and North Carolina had joined the war. For the next 8 years, the residents of both Virginia and North Carolina would suffer from warfare, deaths and injuries, shortages of food and clothing, destruction, loss of property and constant fear.
But Virginia and North Carolina, as states, would also lead the way. In May of 1775, the King’s Governor in North Carolina fled the palace and the seat of government in New Bern was taken over by Abner Nash, the eventual governor, leading the Whigs.
North Carolina proceeded to create a Bill of Rights, placing the power with the people instead of a king, providing for independent branches of government. In other words, they voted for a form of democracy that would be mirrored on a national level a few years later.
Similar events occurred in Virginia, with independence from England declared in May of 1776 following the Battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775, about 150 miles south of Spotsylvania Courthouse, near Norfolk.
Of course, Robert Shepherd couldn’t know how things would eventually work out in November of 1776 when he sold his land, nor in December of 1777 when he left for North Carolina, probably via Halifax County, Virginia. He may have anticipated a great deal more warfare with accompanying devastation to land and crops. Or, the move may have had absolutely nothing to do with the war. Regardless, these families moved during the war, while a literal revolution was occurring. I have to wonder what types of precautions they put in place to attempt to stay safe, and why they chose that time to migrate westward into an area plagued by Tories and Cherokee uprisings.
There’s no record of Robert Shepherd actually serving as a soldier, but he did provide supplies according to North Carolina Army accounts, in the form of a horse and 13.5 bushels of corn, or about enough corn to feed a horse for 54 days at 8 quarts of corn per day.
Life on the Reddies River
Cousin Joyce’s handwritten letters provide both general and specific information about the Shepherd family.
They lived in what is known as the Reddies River and Parlier section, west of North Wilkesboro some 12 to 14 miles. John Shepherds’s entry no. 64 called for 405 acres of land at the Deep Ford on Reddies River. Robert’s entry was next, #65-B-1-M188 for 200 acres and Rowland Judd’s entry #145-A-!-M276 was for 514 acres. John Shepherd also owned A-1-#233 calling for 333 acres on the north side of the Yadkin. George McNiel was a neighbor too, his line joined Rowland Judd’s line.
The name Deep Ford was derived from the fact that the original road leading from New River in what is now Ashe Co 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 that remains today; Deep Ford Hill.
Paul Gregory in his book, The Early Settlers of Reddies River tells us that:
When John arrived on Reddies River, only a few scattered families were living there. It must have been a highly satisfying experience for them to find that the fertile bottom land on both sides of the stream beginning ‘at the bend in the river’ and extending Northward to the forks of the river was still uninhabited and unclaimed. The place where the wagons crossed the river was just north of the bend in the river. The water was unusually deep at this crossing, hence the name deep ford. The crossing was also located at the base of a hill, giving the name Deep Ford Hill. It is here that John settled.
Reddies River was flanked on either side not only with wide, fertile bottom land but also with mountain land covered with heavy timber, abounding in an assortment of wildlife. The waters of Reddies River were clear, clean, swift, and cold. This is the place that John sank his roots never to move again.
When John arrived on Reddies River, most land of this area belonged to Earl Granville, Lord Proprietor for the British Government. Furthermore, no land was available for sale or lease, as the British land office had been closed several years prior to this date. Only a very few settlers actually owned the property on which they lived. Thus, more early settlers took possession (squatted on) land of their choice, with the idea of later buying or leasing the property when the land office was reopened. This is what John did.
On July 4th, 1776 all land was confiscated and all land transactions with the British Government were invalidated. The confiscation act provided a way for the early settlers to own the land they had improved and to which they laid claim. The settlers were required to register their land with the local government as a basis for subsequent land grants. On April 24th, 1778, John entered his land, claiming 405 acres, beginning at the bend in the river near Deep Ford and extending northward to the forks of the river, including property on both sides of the river. Although John later bought many additional acres of land, it was here that he reared his family, and it is here that John and his wife, Sarah, lived for the rest of their lives.
John’s land provides an important clue about Robert. Cousin Broderick Shepherd has been compiling information about the older generations of the Shepherd family for years at http://www.reddiesrivershepherds.com/ and more recently on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Reddies-River-Shepherds-363723261156/
According to land grants, Robert Shepherd lived adjacent his brother, John Shepherd, on the Reddies River.
In 1775 Robert applied for 200 acres and in 1788 obtained 199 acres of land on the Reddies River.
This document says that Robert is already living on this land, “for comfort.” There is no record that he ever lived elsewhere in Wilkes County.
Robert applied for 200 acres but was actually granted 199. This made me wonder if an acre was set aside for either a church or a cemetery or if that’s just how the survey fell. Robert’s land is very irregularly shaped.
Looking at this survey, grant and map, John Sheppard’s line is shown below. A pole is 16.5 feet, so their joint line is 2145 feet, or about half a mile.
The land grant process took several steps and each step had an associated fee.
According to A. B. Pruitt, in 1777, North Carolina passed a law allowing people to take over the title to all “vacant” land in the state, meaning the land formerly the property of the King or his representative, the Earl of Granville, in addition setting forth the process, grants, for land to be sold to anyone who could pay the fees.
Land was located by prospective owners and claims were entered into books, with associated fees paid. After a waiting period, in case someone else claimed the same land, a warrant was issued which meant the county surveyor would survey the claimed land. Of course, the surveyor needed to be paid. After the survey, shown above, the survey and associated information was returned to the Secretary of State. Beginning in 1783, the state charged 10 pounds per hundred acres, or less if the land was somehow substandard and included swampland or was mountainous. In other words, if the land couldn’t all be farmed. Prior to 1783, only 50 shillings was charged per hundred acres. With Robert’s 199 acre grant, he would have paid 1990 pounds if every acre was deemed farmable.
Next, the governor would sign a land grant, attaching one of the two copies of the survey which was sent to the grantee in one way or another – sometimes being delivered to the local courthouse where ads were placed stating that the grant could be picked up.
At the same time the governor wrote the grant, it would be recorded in a grant book, shown above. That wasn’t the end of the process though, because the grantee only had a year in which to register their new grant with the Register of Deeds in the county where the land was located. That filing also cost a small fee, but no one checked to assure that registering of grants in the deed book was ever actually done.
I’ve seen cases where patents and grants were sold at these various steps, possibly because the man couldn’t pay the upcoming fees and wanted to recover his initial investment. Often, he had staked the land out and already made improvements by clearing land, planting crops, adding fences and building a cabin and outbuildings.
Robert’s actual grant in the land patent book occurred three years after the original application. I’m sure the offices and surveyors were absolutely swamped initially. Robert probably didn’t care, because he had been living there and farming the land all along. The grant was just making things official.
In 1796, Robert obtained another 50 acres abutting his original 199 acres.
Notice on the survey that north is not at the top.
Robert’s brother, John’s land grant is shown below, a total of 405 acres, 180 by 360 poles, or 2970 feet by 5940 – a little over half a mile east to west by a little over a mile north to south.
Note that west is at the top, so north is to the right on the survey.
Aligning the two surveys, along with the marker for the location of the old Deep Ford Cemetery with the red pin, we see the following.
George McNiel’s survey was adjacent the land of both brothers.
By comparison, here’s the first official NC map by Strother in 1808.
Church and Cemetery
Fortunately, there are contemporary roads that we can “drive” down using Google Street view.
At the top of Deep Ford Hill, the cemetery was located where these mobile homes are today, according to George McNiel during a 2004 visit when he took me to visit these sacred ancestral locations.
George and his wife, cousin Joyce Dancy McNeil, spent their lives documenting both history and cemeteries in Wilkes County. George and Joyce are both descendants of the McNiel, Vannoy, Shepherd and Rash lines. Our collective roots and blood run deep in this land.
In the early 1900s, the Deep Ford cemetery was abandoned by the families. The landowner used the gravestones to build the foundation of a chicken house, then the chicken house was bulldozed sometime later, reportedly in the 1960s or 1970s. George McNiel was just sick about this.
George stated that, “there was a cemetery just over from the church where Vance Lovett in the 1930s took the stones to build a chicken house, then years later bulldozed them into a ravine.” He took me to that location and showed me the 2 or 3 trailers there in 2004. I can’t help but wonder if they are haunted.
According to Brodrick Shepherd, family members believed to be buried in this lost cemetery include:
- John Shepherd Sr. born August 10, 1734 and died June 11, 1810, married to Sarah Jennings 1738 – >1810
- Robert Shepherd born June 17, 1739, died June 5, 1817, married to Sarah Rash born April 23, 1749. Her death in unknown.
- John Shepherd Jr., c1760 – May 7, 1812, son of John Sr.
- Phoebe Shepherd c1770 – >1812
I’d wager that there are more, including Sarah Rash and one if not both of their sons, James and John.
The cemetery isn’t the only thing that’s missing today.
According to historian George McNeil, one of the very early churches was established before 1800 on the top of the hill at Deep Ford. It would make sense that the church and cemetery were very close or adjacent.
If the church was located at the top of Deep Ford Hill, the area across from the cemetery is flat, where a gas station is located today.
The only other location would be the northwest quadrant of the intersection, below.
An aerial shows the location of the old destroyed cemetery along with the possible church site at the top of the hill.
However, a map drawn by George shows the possible old church site at the base of Deep Ford Hill, marked with the red star below. I notice the road today crossing the river is called “Old Campground” and “camps” were held at revivals, which could have been held at the location of the old church. People came tp “camp meetings” from miles in any direction, staying from days to a few weeks as preachers cycled through, stood on stumps, and whipped up religious fervor in the audience, hoping to save souls. Baptisms took place immediately in the adjacent streams.
The old cemetery location is marked with the gold star.
Regardless of where the original church was located, George McNiel who accompanied the Shepherd family from Spotsylvania County was the preacher and the Shepherds and McNiels made up most of the congregation along with their immediate neighbors, the Rowlands, Judd family and others.
According to Brodrick, Robert Shepherd, along with his brother John, and George McNeil, established the first church in Reddies River which was located on the crest of Deep Ford Hill, just above lands owned by John Shepherd, Sr. The Deep Ford Hill Church was established as early as 1783 and was in existence as late as 1796.
The location of the original church has been lost to time.
Following the church at Deep Ford Hill was the Reddies River Baptist Church that was constituted on April 7, 1798. Robert and Sarah Shepherd were founding members of this new church.
Robert assuredly attended and probably helped built this church. It’s possible that he’s buried in the yard here as well given that he had been attending this church for 19 years when he died.
When the Reddies River Baptist Church was created, its members gathered for services alternately at the Deep Ford Meeting House and Brother Robert Shepherd’s house. This probably answers the question about whether the missing acre in Robert’s land was for a church – it clearly wasn’t if churchgoers were meeting at his house.
The Reddies River Church is shown with the red pin at the top, above, the location of the now-destroyed cemetery with the gold star, and the general location of the Deep Ford Meeting House at the base of the hill with a red star, according to George’s map. Robert Shepherd’s land was at the branching of the North Fork and South Fork of the Reddies River, almost exactly at the half-way point beneath the white mileage text box.
The church is shown from the road, above, although there’s a bend in the road that leads directly to the church. A cemetery was established at the new church, of course, with the list of burials here and here. Unfortunately, few are documented on FindaGrave.
Paul Gregory provided the Reddies River membership list, here, in which he says that the original Deep Ford Meeting House was established as early as 1784 and that all members of the newly constituted Reddies River Church were members of the Deep Ford Hill Church when it closed its doors in 1797. Reddies River opened in 1798 with the following 24 charter members.
It’s worth noting that there are no McNiel’s on the list.
Deeds and Property
While Robert Shepherd’s land claims were first filed in 1785, according to files found at the North Carolina archives, he apparently entered land as early as 1778 according to the land entry books.
I’ve compiled related land information in date order. Eventually, Robert owned a great deal of land.
- March 12, 1778 – George McKniel entered 120 acres on the South Fork of Reddies River, side mountain, along Roland Jud’s line. Robert Shephard’s line.
Clearly, Robert was already living in this location by 1778 and George McNiel from Spotsylvania County was living adjacent Robert. Two of Robert’s daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, would marry George’s sons, William and James, respectively.
- April 24, 1778 – Robert Shepherd entered 200 acres near the ford of Readys River on John Shepherds line, including improvement where said Shepherd now lives. Entry 65
At that time, Reddies was spelled a wide variety of ways.
- December 26, 1778 – Barnard (Barnet) Owens entered 200 acres both sides Reddies River in Robert Shepherds line including improvement whereon said Owens now lives. Entry 614
- April 15, 1780 – George McNiel entered 100 acres on the south side of the south fork Reddeys River at his and Robert Shepherd’s corner. Entry 1769
In 1782, the tax list is quite interesting, both in terms of Robert and also of the men he is associated with in land transactions and on road crews, which reflect the men living along the road in question assigned as road hands and road jurors in the court records.
|Name||Acres of land||All negroes||Mules/horses||Cattle|
|Capt Cleveland’s District|
|Capt. Nathaniel Gordan’s Dist|
|Capt Rowland Judd Dist|
|James Shepherd (single man)||0||0||6||0|
|William Owens Sr.||250||0||3||5|
|William Owens Jr||530||0||5||6|
This tax record tells us that Robert was paying tax on 200 acres, which is likely the 200 that he does not yet own, but for which he has entered a claim. He has no slaves, thankfully, 3 mules or horses and a total of 8 cattle.
- October 23, 1782 – Grant to George McNiel 132 acres both sides south fork Reddis River…Robert Shepherd line, page 358
- November 9, 1784 – Grant to Barnet Owen 200 acres Reddis River…Robert Shepherds line, page 463
- Date obscured on my copy – Barnet Owen ? ac Reddies River…Robert Shepherd line, witness Rowland Judd and Elijah Denney, signed Barnet Owen page 127 in deed book
- February 21, 1787 – Deed between Josiah Sartain and Robert Shepherd, 40 pounds, 50 acres north side of south fork of Reddies River. Wit Alexander Buchanan, Andrew Baker and James Sartain. Signed Josiah X Sartain Page 114
|Date||Robert’s Land||Acres||Location||Running Total|
|1782||Entry (granted 199 acres in 1788)||+200||Near ford of Reddy’s River, joining John Sheppard||200|
|1787||Purchase from Josiah Sartain||+50||North side south fork Reddies River||250|
|1788||Grant||+100||Reddies River line between Shepherd and Barnet Owen||350|
|1790||Purchase from James Sartain||+70||Line between Sartan and Shepherd, both sides south fork Reddies River||420|
|1795||Purchase from Josiah Sarten (Sartain)||+50||470|
|1795||Purchase from James Sartin||+70||540|
|1799||Purchase from George McNiel||+120||710|
|1800||Sale from Robert Sheppard and Nathaniel to John Judd||-130||South fork Reddies River||580|
|1800||Sale from Robert Sheppard and Nathaniel to John Judd||-50||530|
|1800||Purchase from George McNeil||+100||Reddy’s River||630|
|1802||Sale to James McNeil||-50||North fork Reddies River, old wagon ford, south fork Reddies River||580|
|1802||Sale to James McNeil||-50||North fork Reddies||530|
|1804||Sale to William Judd||-100||South fork Reddies River, south side river upon the mountain Ridge formerly called Joes Hill||430|
|1814||Sale to William and Nathaniel Judd||-100||North side south fork Reddies River crossfence between Larkin Pumphrey and Shepherd, crossfence conditional line between John Judd and Shepherd, conditional line between Reuben and Humphrey Kilby and Shepherd. Road runs from head Sport Branch to the Mill, across top of ridge” Carrells old field, top main ridge between William and John Judds field||330|
Given that George McNiel sold his land in 1799 and moved to the Parsonville area, and the church building at the base of Deep Ford Hill was abandoned in 1797, with the new church opening in 1798, I have to wonder if George’s land sale and church closing were somehow related.
- July 10, 1788 – Grant to Robert Shepherd, 100 ac, Reddies River, line between said Shepherd and Barnet Owen, Page 188
- February 16, 1790 – Between James Sartain and Robert Shepherd, 75 pounds, 70 acres, Nathaniel Judds corner line, conditional line between Josiah Sartain and Robert Shepherd, both sides south fork of Reddies River. Wit William McNiel, Nathaniel Judd and William McQueary, Signed James Sartain page 115
- December 9, 1794 – Samuel Carter, Miller and William Kilby, yeoman, 300 pounds, 299 acres, two plantations or tracts of land with grist mill on the north fork Reddis River as appears by deeds from David Owen to Samuel Carter April 21 1791, Robert Shepherd’s line, William Owens line. Wit Nathaniel X Judd, Reuben Kilby and David James, Signed Samuel Carter page 412
- February 2, 1795 – Deed from Josiah Sarten to Robert Sheppard 50 acres, oath of Andrew Baker, ordered registered
- Deed from Joseph Sartin to James Sartin 70 acres, oath Robert Sheppard
- Deed from James Sartin to Robert Sheppard 70 acres, oath William Mcqeary
- February 3, 1800 – Between Robert Shepherd and Nathaniel Judd and John Judd, 50 pounds, 130 acres south fork of Reddies River…Shepherd’s line. Wit James Bunyard, Rowland Judd and Rowland Judd Jr. Signed Robert X Shepherd and Nathaniel X Judd page 109
Robert signed with an X, indicating he cannot write.
- March 1, 1800 – Between George McNiel and Robert Shepherd, 25 pounds, 100 acres waters Reddys River…Robert Shepherds line. Wit Robert X Bingham, Joseph McNiel and Benjamin McNiel. Signed George McNiel page 836
- June 10, 1800 – Grant to William Kilby 50 acres on waters of Reddies River, his own line…Robert Shepherd’s corner, pages 285 and 286
- February 27, 1802 – Between William McQuerry and James McNiel, 25 pounds, 42 acres, branch Reddies River, Cane Creek branch, John Shepherd Sr.’s line, Robert Shepherds line. Wit George McNiel and Jonathan X Darnal, signed William McQuerry page 367
- March 13, 1802 – Between Robert Shepherd and James McNiel, 25 pounds, 50 acres, Reddies River said Shepherds line. Wit Squire Lowry and John Shepherd. Signed Robert X Shepherd page 368
- April 9, 1802 – Between Robert Shepherd and James McNiel, 100 pounds, 50 acres, north fork of Reddies River, John Shepherds corner, old wagon ford, south fork Reddies River, wit Squire Lowry and John Shepherd. Signed Robert X Shepherd page 368
- September 5, 1804 – Between Robert Shepherd and William Judd, Ashe County NC, $100, 100 acres south fork Reddies River, Robert Shepherds old line south side river upon the mountain Ridge formerly called Joes Hill, John Judd’s line. Wit Thomas Farmer. Signed Robert Shepherd, page 188
- February 4, 1805 – Between John Judd, Ashe Co, NC and William Judd, $250, 130 acres south fork Reddies River, Robert Shepherds line, Nathaniel Judds corner, Rowland Judd, Sr. line. Wit Robert Shepherd, Nathaniel X Judd, Rebecca X Shepherd page 187
- April 10, 1807 – Between John Shepherd Jr. and Amos Harmon, $200, 82 acres Middle fork of Reddies River both sides upper line of Esquire Judds old survey, side old road, conditional line made by Judd and White, wagon road. Wit Robert X Shepherd, Nathaniel X Judd, William X Felphs. Signed John Shepherd page 530
- April 10, 1807 – Between John Shepherd Jr. and Amos Harmon, $400, 5 2/3 acres middle fork Reddies River, Wit Robert X Shepherd, Nathaniel X Judd, William X Phelps, signed John Shepherd page 543
- April 10, 1807 – Between John Shepherd and Amos Harmon, $200, 37 acres middle fork Reddies River, Spencer White’s line, John Tirey’s line, David Owens line, Johnsons line. Wit Robert X Shepherd, Nathaniel X Judd, William X Phelps, signed John Shepherd Page 552
- May 9, 1809 – Between Henry Miller and James Welborn and Robert Shepherd, $545, negro woman named Rachel and negro boy named Jerry. Wit Nathaniel Vannoy signed Henry Miller and James Welborn page 3
My heart just sank.
While Robert had no slaves in the 1800 census, above, it pains me greatly to see that in the 1810 census, Robert Shepherd owned not just Rachel, but also Jerry. He still owned both of these humans at his death in 1817. In 1809, Rachel would have been about 42 and Jerry, about 11.
- May 1, 1810 – Between William Kilby Sr. and Humphrey and Reubin Kilby, 40 pounds, 340 acres, three tracts of land including 2 plantations where Humphrey and Reubin now live, north fork waters of Reddies River – first 200 acres in Robert Shepherds line, William Owens line…2nd 90 acres waters Reddies River, Owens line, head Top Hill Branch, Elijah Dennys line, 3rd 50 acres joining 1st above tract William Kilby’s own line and Robert Shepherds corner. Wits John Judd and Fanny X Kilby. Signed William X Kilby page 157
- October 28, 1814 – Between Robert Shepherd and William Judd and Nathaniel Judd Jr., $300, 100 acres north side of south fork of Reddies River, crossfence between Larkin Pumphrey and Shepherd, crossfence conditional line between John Judd and Shepherd, conditional line between Reuben and Humphrey Kilby and Shepherd. Road runs from head Sport Branch to the Mill, across top of ridge” Carrells old field, top main ridge between William and John Judds field “2 plum trees planted by John Judd and Larkin Pumphrey.” Wits Rowland Judd and Nancy Judd. Signed Robert X Shepherd and William X Judd page 542
Surveying the Land
This intersection of Shingle Gap Road with NC 16, where the cemetery and church used to be located, is the top of Deep Ford Hill. We know that John Shepherd lived someplace at the bottom of this hill, and his brother, Robert, did as well. Let’s take a drive.
Descending the hill, below.
It’s a long way down. You can’t see the bottom from the top, or even close due to multiple curves and lots of trees. This area is still heavily forested in many places.
The road curves around the mountain with vegetation on both sides for most of the distance.
At the bottom of the hill, we find beautiful, cleared flat land that belonged to John Shephard. The Deep Ford Meeting House may have been located in this area.
The old State Road turns to the right near where the Deep Ford itself was probably located. The exact crossing location isn’t known today.
At this point, perhaps we can see the Reddies River from the bridge on the right close to where Deep Ford would have been. We arrived from the right in the photo below.
Indeed, we can see the river. The original “deep ford” would have been someplace in this vicinity.
From the bridge, looking over John Shepherd’s land to the north.
Looking back south at Deep Ford Hill, above.
This view from the bridge is looking back towards the west at the mountain range. The Blue Ridge Parkway snakes its way along the top.
We are going to drive east, the other way, across the bridge, then north along the east side of the Reddies river.
On the map above, the original cemetery is marked with a red star, the bottom red arrow points to the bridge in the photos above. We will be driving along the road where the red arrows point to John Shepperd’s land. The gold arrows point to the road along Robert’s land.
The road continues for almost a mile shadowing the river, following the general curving river shape, but sometimes with fields between the road and river as shown below.
John Shepperd owned this land between the mountains, crossing the Reddies River located behind the bushes, through the field and across the road.
At the point at where the river curves left, marked by that first gold arrow, we find a house on a stream on the right and the Reddies River is evident on the left side (through the trees, above) as the small stream running beside the house empties into the river.
Pioneer cabins would have been located on smaller, clean streams, so I can’t help but wonder if this was Johns’ home. It’s also possible that the mouth of this stream was actually on the land that Robert patented. It’s very near the border of the boundary line between the brother’s lands.
The house on the stream is visible, below, at far right above the words “Old North.”
This begins the area where Robert’s 199 acre land grant can be seen from the road. In fact, according to the court notes, the road is likely driving across Robert and John’s land.
We know Robert owned a lot more land, a total of at least 789 acres at one point by adding other grants as well as purchasing additional acreage. Robert’s additional land abutted his original land. A square mile is 640 acres, so Robert owned more than a mile by roughly a mile and a quarter. His total land holdings were about twice the size of his brother John’s initial land grant.
In essence, it appears that Robert and John at one owned pretty much everthing along this part of the River from mountain to mountain. A few other men owned adjacent lands which were bought and sold over the years.
In this area, near the small stream in the upper right of the photo, above, you can’t see the river from the road. Trees line the riverbanks as you can see both above and below, probably providing stability during floods. This would have been part of Robert’s original land. I wonder if the part not cleared isn’t suitable for farming, or if it’s being harvested for trees and logs today.
Driving north, farmland lines the road on the west, and mountains form the east boundary.
The map below shows the junction of the north branch of Reddies River where it separates from the south branch.
We don’t know exactly where the roads today named old and new NC 16 ran at the time, but there weren’t a lot of options based on the lay of the land. The main road, according to the 1808 NC map may have run up the left side, but we know absolutely that there was a road on the right or east side too, because the hill and the ford to get there was named “Deep Ford” very early.
Today we can also see Robert’s land from NC Highway 16 on the west side of Reddies River as the highway cuts across the south branch of the river. George McNiel’s land would have intersected Robert’s in this area, and eventually Robert would purchase 100 acres of George’s land.
NC 16 is quite hilly until we cross the river at the bottom with the mountains in view ahead.
Robert’s land is the flat land to the right with several homes today.
This vista is incredibly beautiful. I see why Robert came, put down roots and never left.
As we drive away from Robert’s land, I couldn’t help but turn around and take one last look back across his land. Deep Ford Hill rises from the valley floor, a silent sentry marking the location where the earliest pioneers are buried in a long-lost cemetery. Robert traversed this hill innumerable times, on foot. on horseback and in wagons.
I have literally driven in his footsteps.
I love court records. They reflect both the ordinary life of being summoned and serving jury duty combined with the excitement of trials. Court was the entertainment of the day, aside from church of course. Men gathered in Wilkesboro in pubs and houses surrounding the courthouse for the week that court was in session. Only local men went home at night, and those men probably arrived very late and often intoxicated. Everyone else stayed someplace in the vicinity of the courthouse for the duration of the court session.
In the early days, not much of a town surrounded the courthouse, and there wasn’t even a proper courthouse. A lot of “make do” went on.
It wasn’t until 1800 that there WAS a town of Wilkesboro when the town was actually platted after land was deeded for that purpose. An actual town began to emerge around the old courthouse that was probably not much more than a log cabin.
In August 1801, court was held for the first time in the new courthouse. Three years later, there appeared to be some concern about the clerk, because the court appointed commissioners to assure that the “County clerk’s office was sufficient or suitable” for the court’s official records.
Three months later, in November the court ordered the former county officials to account for tax collection from 1778 through 1800, 22 years, which they completed satisfactorily in 1802. Most of us today would have trouble reconstructing 22 years worth of records.
The early Wilkes County records are not complete. Some omissions could be due to whatever caused the justices their concern in November 1801, but not entirely. When I first visited Wilkes County, in the 1990s, the courthouse employees quietly told me of old records being used for bonfires in the distant past, but not so long ago as to be purged from memory. From what they said, and George confirmed, back in the depression era no one thought that “old records about dead people” would be of interest to anyone, for any reason.
I. Was. Horrified!
During later visits, after Wilkes County transferred records to the North Carolina State Archives, there was still confusion in the modern-day offices about which records still existed and where they might be located.
Robert Shepherd in the Records
Shepherd was spelled a variety of ways in these early records. Shepherd, Sheperd, Sheppard and just about any way you could think to spell it and a few you probably can’t. There is no “right” way of spelling the name. It appears, based on “signatures” of both Robert and Sarah that neither could write, so the spelling was decided by whomever was recoding the record at the time. Spelling was not standardized at that point in history.
Wilkes County was formed from Surry County and Washington District (now Washington County, TN) North Carolina on April 20, 1778. If the Shepherd family left Spotsylvania County, Virginia on December 7, 1777, they would not have arrived in Wilkes County before January 1778, best case. I did not check Surry County records given that Robert would have only lived in that county for 3 or 4 months, max. My luck, the juciest record EVER is probably hiding there, mocking me.
Robert was first found in Wilkes County court records in December 1778, and thereafter regularly. One had to be male, white, 21 and a property owner to be a juror. According to deed records, Robert filed for land on April 24, 1778. His traveling comparison, George McNiel filed in March, so they arrived sometime between January and March 12th.
At that time, men would be “summoned” for jury duty at the end of one session, then serve at the next, 3 months later. Robert’s entries in the court records regarding jury duty begin in December of 1778.
- December 10, 1778 – juror
- March 5, 1779 – juror
- June 8, 1779 – juror
- December 8, 1780 – juror
- September 7, 1781 – juror
- July 31, 1781 – juror
- July 29, 1784 – juror
- April 11, 1784 – juror
- October 28, 1784 – juror
- January 28, 1785 – juror
- July 24, 1785 – juror
- July 25, 1785 – juror
Another type of court record, road orders, are just wonderful, because they tell us who the neighbors are and often included landmarks, some of which can be found today.
- January 24, 1786 – Ordered John Sheppard overseer of the road instead of Nathaniel Judd. Ordered William Nall, Morris Baker, James Baker, Martin Adams, John Read, Jesse Ray, John Robins, William Vias, James Sheppard, Barnet Owen, David Owen, Francis Vannoy, Martin Gambill, John Tyre, Nathaniel Vannoy and Robert Sheppard as a road jury from John Sheppards to the foot of the mountain at the head of Reddies River.
This is a very interesting entry. I found the head of Reddies River. Vannoy Road snakes it’s way along the entire branch of the north fork of the Reddies River, all the way to the top.
This is my Jeep a few years ago at the intersection with Vannoy Road where it crosses Reddies River at the gold arrow on the map below. It’s very rough terrain and the locals didn’t recommend trying this section of Vannoy Road, even with a Jeep. They said there are some places with switchbacks that only accommodate one car and they are dangerous in the best of circumstances, but treacherous if it rains or snows.
On this map, Thomas Shepherd’s land is the green arrow where the north and south forks of the Reddies River split. The red arrow is where Vannoy Road begins to climb the mountain, near the Reddies River Church.
I know beyond a doubt that the Owens and Vannoy families lived along the north fork of the Reddies River.
- April 27, 1786 – Ordered William Nall, Esq Thomas Dickson, Morris Baker, Martin Adams, John Reed, Jesse Ray, John Robins, William Owen, James Sheppard, Barnet Owen, Francis Vannoy, David Smith, John Tyre, Nathaniel Vannoy and Robert Sheppard as a road jury from Deep Ford at John Sheppards to foot of mountains at head of Reddies River.
This suggests that John Sheppard lived at or very near Deep Ford. I suspect that this road order was for this entire stretch of road.
- January 25, 1787 – Ordered John Owens, Thomas Owens, William Owens, David Owens, James Sheppard, Henry Woody, Francis Vannoy, John Robins, Nathaniel Judd, Rowland Judd, Josiah Sartin, Robert Sheppard, John Tirey, Peter Baker, James Sheppard appointed as a road jury road near Francis Kerby’s up north fork of Reddies River to Thomas Owens.
- April 28, 1790 – Whereas Jervis Smith hath in consequence of an Act of Assembly passed in 1788 to encourage building of Iron Works in the state, entered 2000 acres on both sides of Reddies River adjoining William Kilby, likewise 500 acres on north side Reddies River at line of said Smith adjoining lands of William Kilby and Justice Bowland, incl part of Bull Head Mtn, likewise 500 acres on both sides of Mulberry Creek adjoining land of John Robins and John Hawkins running down creek including vacant land between land of Isaac Perlier and Walter Brown, whereupon, court orders Adam Kilby, Jonathan Wall, Walter Brown, William Kilby, Samuel Carter, Michael Kilby, Justice Rowland, George Owen, John Sheppard, Robert Sheppard, John Hawkins, James Yates, Henry Adams, James Hays and Aaron Cannady to view whether lands above mentioned are fit for cultivation.
- July 26 1790 – Whereas Jervis Smith hath in consequence of Act of Assembly passed 1788 to encourage building of iron works in state, entered 2000 acres both sides of Reddies River adjoining William Kilby, likewise 500 acres north side Reddies River at line said Smith adjoining lands of William Kilby and Justice Bowland including part of Bull Head Mountain, likewise, 500 acres both sides of Mulberry creek adjoining land John Robins and John Hawkins running down creek including vacant land between land Isaac Parlier and Walter Brown.
Whereupon, ordered Adam Kilby, Jonathan Wall, Walter Brown, William Kilby, Samuel Carter, Michael Kilby, Justice Rowland, George Owen, John Sheppard, Robert Sheppard, John Hawkins, James Yates, Henry Adams, James Hays and Aaron Cannady to view whether lands above mentioned are fit for cultivation.
This huge grant was more than two miles by two miles and, I suspect, further north and east where Mulberry Creek and Bull’s Mountain are found.
- January 25, 1791 – Jury appointed at last court to view lands of Jarvis Smith as fit for cultivation report found they are not fit for cultivation. (Robert Sheppard included on jury list above.)
- Ordered John Robins Jr., Robert Sheppard, William McNiel, John Sheppard Sr., Rowland Judd, Esq, Rowland Judd, Nathaniel Judd, Asel Cross, Stephen Sheppard, John McQuary Sr., John McQuary, James McNiel, David Owen Sr., John Judd, John Tyre appointed as a jury to view a road from Deep Ford on Reddies River to Elijah Denneys over said River.
- October 31, 1792 – Ordered William Copeland, William Kilbee, James Kilbee, Michael Kilbee, Owen Williams, Thomas Owens, William Cash, Thomas Erwin, Benjamin Church, Francis Vannoy, William McNiel, James McNeil, Robert Sheppard, Joel Copeland, Jarvis Smith, Humphrey Smith, Horam Boon, a jury to view a road round Samuel Carter’s Mill pond where water overflows on Reddies River.
- Wilkes County Will Abstracts Book 1, 1778-1799 by Absher – Page 448 (orig book) page 41 extracted book – February 4, 1792 proved at May term 1795, Power of attorney from James Brown of State of Georgia to Robert Sheppard to convey unto John Forester 200 acres of land and 100 acres whereon Fielding Forister and Benjamin Bruce now live. Wit Rowland Judd, William McNiel, John Sheppard Jr., Stephen Shepherd, signed James X Brown
Did Robert Shepherd have a relationship with James Brown? If so, what?
- 8, 1793 – juror
- April 29, 1793 – grand jury
- November 7, 1793 – juror
- May 7, 1795 – Power of attorney from James Brown to Robert Sheppard, oath John Sheppard Jr
- Also, juror at same session.
- May 8, 1795 – Ordered William Cash, Nathaniel Judd, Thomas Owen, William Owen, Thomas Erwin, Robert Sheppard, William Colvart, James Sheppard, John Owen, Benjamin Pennell, Elijah Denney, Zachariah Denney, Johnson Owen, William Tyre to view a road from William Colvarts to top of Ridge above said Colvarts.
- February 4, 1796 – Ordered William McNiel, Philip Church, William Owen, Joseph Keslar, Rowland Judd, John Tyre, James Calloway, James McNiel, William Cash, William Colvard, Robert Sheppard, Francis Vannoy, Reuben Stringer, John Yates, John Sheppard to view and lay out a road from oldfields on New River to the Punchion Camp on the ridge.
I believe this is present day Ashe County.
- May 1, 1797 – Ordered William Colvard, William Cash, Robert Judd, John Judd, Benjamin Viers, Lewis Sheppard, Humphry Kilbee, Reuben Kilbee, David Owens, James Sheppard, Stephen Sheppard view road from Deep Ford of Reddies River to top of hill above John Sheppards.
This tells us that John lived at the bottom of the hill, not at the top. I wonder if this is the road that became Tumbling Shoals Road. I don’t see a lot of other candidates.
- April term 1799 – Robert Shepherd appraised estate of Michael Kilby
- November 1, 1803 – William Adkins and John Adkins bound to Robert Shepherd to learn the occupation of farmer until 21 years old. Signed Robert X Sheppard
This confirms that Robert was a farmer. The Adkins boys were probably orphans and Robert, now age 64 with his own children grown could use some extra help.
- February term 1805 – Deed from Robert Shepherd to William Judd for 100 acres land duly prove in court by oath of John Judd
- April 30, 1799 – Appraisement of Michael Kilby’s estate returned by William Trible and Robert Sheppard, appraisers.
- August 2, 1799 – Robert Sheppard summoned as juror to next session
- November 4, 1799 – Robert Sheppard sworn on grand jury
- November 8, 1799 – Deed from George McNiel to Robert Sheppard for 120 acres acknowledged in court by George McNiel
- February 7, 1800 – Ordered that John Forester, Jacob Robards, James Kilby, John Querry, William Querry, John Sheppard, Robert Sheppard, Lewis Sheppard, Nathaniel Judd, John Judd, William Vias, Henry Pumphry, William Trible and Jarvis Smith or any 12 of them be a jury to view a road from where the road crosses the branch at Ambrose Hammon’s house running through the field along a ridge into the old road near the Deep Ford and report the same to the next court.
- May Term 1800 – Deed from George McNiel to Robert Sheppard for 100 acres ack in court by George McNiel
- May Term 1800 – Deed from Robert Sheppard and Nathaniel Judd to John Judd for 100 acres proven by oath of Rowland Judd
- May Term 1802 – Two deeds from Robert Sheppard to James McNiel for 50 acres of land each proven in court by Squire Lowrey.
- August 4, 1803 – Ordered that Francis Vannoy, Esq., William McQuerry, John Sheppard Sr., Robert Sheppard, Nathaniel Judd Jr., John Judd, William Colvard, Jesse Busy, William Cash, James Hays, Leonard Whittenton, George Owen, Edward Dancy, Thomas Irvin and Zaceriah Denny or any 12 of them to be a jury to review and mark the road the best way from the ford of the river above Robert Sheppards to the mouth of the branch above where Thomas Farmer lived and report the same to the next court.
- October 31, 1803 – Apprentices rebound – ordered that the indenture binding William Adkins to John Jinnings dated April 30, 1799 and the indenture binding John Adkins aged 15 years the 31st of January last to Elisha Jinnings dated May 3, 1799 be rescinded and that they be bound unto Robert Shepard until they are 21 years old.
- May 1, 1804 – Jury on Reddies River – Ordered that Thomas Johnson, Nathaniel Judd, Robert Sheppard, John Owen, William Kilby, Nathaniel Judd Jr., William Cash, John Church, John Judd, William McNiel, James McNiel, John Vannoy, Joel Vannoy, James Kilby, Reuben Kilby, Humphrey Kilby, William McQuerry, Henry Pumphrey, John Sheppard Jr., Francis Vannoy, Edward Dancy, George Owen, John Dancy, William Jinkins, William Colvard, John Harmon and Robert Cleveland, or any 12 of them be a jury to view a road from the new meeting house on Reddies River by John Shepherd’s Jr. into the road that leads to New River and if they think it necessary to lay it out and report the same to next court.
We know the location of the new meeting house. I searched for the closest way to reach the New River.
This is really rough terrain, crossing the mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The view near the top of the ridge shows the stunningly beautiful country.
Robert cut this road or one similar and nearby. These men were made of steel, I swear.
- February 8, 1806 – Road jury to view the road from John Sheppards Sr. on Reddies River to Robert Sheppards on said River and report to next court. Jury James Hays, John McQuerry, Henry Pumphrey, Leonard Whittenton, William Judd, Nathaniel Judd Sr., Nathaniel Judd Jr., William Colvard, Jesse Berry, Thomas Johnson, William Cash, William McQuerry, John Sheppard Jr., Edward Dancy, James Woody, George Owen, Leonard Wingler, Johnson Owen, Francis Vannoy, Abraham Kilbey.
Obviously the brothers already had some type of road or path between their homes. Perhaps just a horse trail, and they wanted a wagon road.
- May 6, 1808 – Road jury to view and lay off a road from the ford of the (Yadkin? – the extractor called it possibly Yadkin, but it would be Reddies) River at John Shepherd’s Sr. to a branch at James McNeil’s and report the same to next court. Jury James McNiel, Reuben Kilbey, Henry Kilbey, William McQuerry, John Shepherd Jr, Thomas Johnson, William Covard, Nathaniel Judd Sr., Amos Harmon, Nathaniel Judd, Jr., William Judd, Robert Sheppard, John McQuerry, William Viars, Lewis Shepherd, Leonard Whittington
- May 10, 1806 – Report the jury appointed in February 1806 to view the road from John Sheppards to Robert Sheppards reported and say they find the say sufficient for a road on the foot of the hill round the bottom.
If only they had included maps with these reports.
- March 1809 – Robert Sheppard juror
- February Term 1809 – Road Jury to view and lay off a road from the ford of the creek where Stephen Viars lived last summer down to the schoolhouse and make report. Jury William Viars, Henry Pumphrey, John McQuerry, John Shepherd Sr., Robert Shepherd, William Judd, James McNiel, William McQuerry, George Owens, Johnson Owens, Nathaniel Judd, John Shepherd Jr., Andrew Shepherd, William Cash, Jesse Berry, Abraham Kilbey, Esq.
This is the first mention of a schoolhouse. This means that Robert’s grandchildren were probably being educated, at least to some level. It also tells us that the schoolhouse is not the same as the church.
- May 1, 1809 – Bill of sale from Henry Miller and James Wellborn to Robert Sheppard ack in open court by oath of Miller and Wellborn.
- January 29, 1810 – Jury to lay off road from the ford of Reddies River below John Sheppards Sr. to the road leading up Mulberry Creek by Ezekiel Browns. Jury Reuben Hays, William Adams, Charles Adams, James McNiel, Jarvis Smith, Joshua Smith, James Kilbey, Thomas Tinsley, James Hays, Reuben Kilbey, William McQuery, Robert Sheppard, Henry Adams, John Roades, Joseph Roberds, Larkin Cash.
- May 2, 1811 – Road jury to view and lay off road from the sign post at Sheppard’s Hill on Reddies River up the north fork of said river to Johnson Owens. Jury George Owens, James McNeil, Reuben Kilbey, Humphrey Kilbey, James Kilbey, John McQuerry, John Sheppard, Larkins Sheppard, William Viars, Abraham Kilbey, Francis Vannoy, Johnson Owens, James Woody, Benjamin Darnall, Edward Dancy, Aaron Wiatt, Nathaniel Juddy, John Judd, William Judd, Robert Sheppard.
- August 2, 1811 – Road jury to view and lay off a road from the Deep Ford on Reddies River to the fork of the road above Thomas Johnsons. Jury James Hays, William Viars, John McQuerry, John Sheppard, James McNiel, Humphrey Kilbey, Reuben, Kilbey, Larkin Pumphrey, James Kilbey, Leonard Whittington, Henry Pumphrey, Robert Sheppard, John Judd, William Judd, Nathaniel Judd Sr., Nathaniel Judd Jr., Francis Vannoy, Esq, William Colvard.
- November 6, 1811 – We the jury met and viewed and found a wagon road from the Deep Ford on Reddies River to the Fork Road above Thomas Johnsons and se we say. (entire jury list repeated, including Robert Sheppard).
- August 6, 1812 – Jury summoned to November term 1812 – Robert Sheppard
- November 3, 1812 – Ordered that jurors Robert Sheppard, Willis Alexander and William Mooney be fined the sum of 1-/- each. Sci Fa to issue.
Robert could have been having a bout of kidney stones. He seemed quite dependable, for years and years.
- February 1, 1813 – Fine remitted against Robert Sheppard at last term for nonattendance as a juror be remitted without costs.
- May 6, 1813 – Road jury to lay off the road from the Deep Ford of Reddies River by Mrs. Sheppards to James McNiels house or against his house. Jury James Hays, Robert Viars, Leo Whittington, Henry Pumphrey, John Judd, John McQuerry, James McNiel, Robert Sheppard, William Judd, Nathaniel Judd, Reuben Kilbey, Humphrey Kilbey, Johnson Owens, Benjamin Darnall, Stephen Viars.
- August 5, 1813 – Road jury to view and lay off a road from the ford of Reddies River by Mrs. Sheppards to James McNeil house, or against his house. Jury James Hays, Leo Whittington, Henry Pumphrey, John Judd, Robert Viars, Robert Sheppard, William Judd, Larkin Pumphrey, Reuben Kilbey, Humphrey ilbey, Francis Vannoy, Martin Maker, James Woody, Stephen Viars, Edward Dancy, Thomas Griffin, Aaron Wyatt, Vickory Wyatt.
- November 4, 1813 – Road jury report – we the jury met according to summons Aug. 5, 1813 and viewed and marked out a way for a road from the first ford of Reddies River above the sign post at the foot of a hill to or against James McNiels house and found no damage. (list of jurors repeated),
- November 4, 1813 – The following jury viewed and lay off a road near the old road from the foot of the hill by Sarah Sheppards at the sign post to the ford below Thomas Johnsons on Reddies River (list of jurors repeated).
- October term 1814 – Deed from Robert Sheppard and William Judd to Nathaniel Judd for 100 acres of land proven by oath of Rolin Judd.
- August 3, 1815 – The following be a jury to view and lay out a road from John Sheppard’s Sr. decd to the ford of Reddies River above William Colvards. Jury James McNeil, Robert Sheppard, James Woody, George Taylor, Thomas Johnson, Solomon Bolin, James Hays, James Fletcher, Larkin McNeil, Johnson Owens, Henry Miller, William Colvard, William Judd, Edward Dancy, Aaron Wiatt, Thomas Tinsley, Reuben Kilbey, Humphrey Kilbey, James Kilbey, John McQuerry, Thomas Griffin.
- July 31, 1816 – Jury to view and lay off a road from the sign post at John Judds on Lewis Fork road to the Deep Ford on Reddies River. Jury Presley Cleveland, Andrew Vannoy, Jesse Vannoy John Eller, John Harmon, Amos Harmon, Larkin McNeil, John Judd, Thomas Erwin, Henry Miller, Thomas Tninsley, Henry Kilbey, Joseph Baldwin, Henry Hambey, William Judd, Robert Sheppard, James McNeil, Humphrey Kilbey, John Viars, Robert Viars, Leonard Whittington, John Kilbey, Thomas Rash, Hugh Hays.
- November 7, 1816 – Road jury to view and lay off a road from Robert Sheppards to William Colvards Mill so as not to run into the (Reddies?) River more than crossing the same from Robert Sheppards to said Colvards Mill the best way. Jury Edward Dancy, Vickory Wiatt, James Woody, Johnson Owens, Humphrey Kilbey, Henry Miller, Thomas Johnson, Aaron Wiatt, Reuben Kilbey, Thomas Rash, John Kilbey, Thomas Griffin, William Colvard, John Adams, Solomon Boling.
This is an interesting entry in that Colvard Road still exists today as a two-track between the South Fork and Middle Fork of the Reddies River, near Robert Shepherd’s land, marked with the red star.
- February 6, 1817 – Jury report from Robert Sheppards to William Colvards Mill as follows, begun at a stake near Fletchers house at the hill, then down to a stake, then keeping the road to a wash’d place to a stake, then down the river bank to a persimmon tree, then into the old road, then 20 foot to Robert Sheppards, the damage assessed at $$.75 (jury names repeated here.
Note – a November 23, 1812 deed, Deed book G-H, NC grant number 2860 Jesse Berry 100 acres the waters of the south fork Reddies River, William Colvard’s line, John Adams line.
This February 1817 entry is the last court note – at 77 years of age he was still riding a horse and laying out roads. He died 4 months later, and he was ill for at least 2 weeks before his death.
The next court entries regard Robert’s death and estate in August 1817.
- August 5, 1817 – Ordered James McNiel administer on the estate of Robert Sheppard decd who gave bond in the sum of $4000 with William Colvard and James Wellborn as security and qualified as the law directs.
- An inventory of the estate of Robert Sheppard decd was returned on oath by James McNiel, administrator.
- Commissioners ordered that Humphrey Kilbey, Leonard Whittington, Presley Cleveland and Joshua Smith, Esq be commissioners to lay off one years provision to Salley Sheppard, widow or Robert Sheppard, decd,
- Ordered that James McNiel, administrator, sell such part of the estate of Robert Sheppard decd as he thinks proper and make return to the next court.
- November 5, 1817 – Commissioners appointed to layoff one years provision to Robert Sheppards widow, returned their report which was received by the court.
- February 5, 1818 – Account of the sale of the estate of Robert Sheppard decd was returned on oath by the administrator, James McNiel (August 5, 1817 entry).
- February term 1818 – Bill of sale James McNiel, administrator of Robert Sheppard, to John Judd was duly proven in open court by the oath or Francis Barnard.
- August 3, 1819 – Commissioners ordered that Gen. Montfort Stokes, Hamilton Brown and Jesse Vannoy be a committee to settle with James McNiel, administrator of the estate of Robert Sheppard decd and report to next court.
- May 3, 1820 – Committee appointed to settle with the administrator of Robert Sheppard decd, James McNiel, returned a report which was received.
Unfortunately, the list of the estate inventory items wasn’t included in the court notes, but cousin Carol came to our rescue.
Thanks to the Bible, we know exact when Robert Shepperd died, June 5, 1817, and why – “the old stone and gravel” – known today as kidney stones.
Robert was not a young man. He was just 12 days short of his 78th birthday. One would think that he would have had a will, just based on his age alone, but he didn’t. Perhaps Robert was an optimist.
He didn’t die suddenly either. Robert was ill for 17 days, and clearly getting sicker day by day. I’m surprised that at some point, he didn’t construct a will, even a noncupative or spoken will. We know that he did not, not only because a will wasn’t wasn’t recorded or submitted to the court, but because Sarah approached the court and waived her right as administrator.
Entries in Robert’s probate file include Sarah’s petition on August 2nd waiving her administrative right in lieu of her son-in-law, James McNiel.
Note that Sarah signed with an X. The balance of the documents in his packet include James McNiel’s bond and a receipt for a payment of debt.
I absolutely love estates and estate inventories. They allow us a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors, much like walking through our houses today would tell someone a great deal about us. People wandering through my house would discover that I’m a quilter and a genealogist. Now there’s a surprise!
Robert Sheppard was not a poor man. He had done quite well for himself, amassing, and then selling most of his land except for 122 acres where he lived at his death.
I’m apparently missing a few real estate transactions, because I show Robert’s running total at his death as 330 acres.
What I didn’t have was any detail about the contents of his estate. Cousin Carol did me a HUGE favor, looked up Robert’s estate inventory on microfilm and sent those pages along to be transcribed. Thank you IMMENSELY, Carol!!!
What isn’t included in Wilkes County estate information is a list of purchasers at the estate sales, but we do have the complete inventory thanks to Carol.
In Robert’s estate inventory, his assets were apparently listed in the perceived order of their value. His land came first, and then, sadly, two slaves; Rachel who was about 50 years old and Jerry, between 17 and 18. One has to wonder if Rachel is Jerry’s mother. There is no list of purchasers at the estate sale, so we don’t know who purchased what, or whom, or what became of Rachel and Jerry. Jerry would have been born about 1800, or maybe 1801 and could have still been living in 1865 when the slaves were freed during the Civil War.
In Wilkes County Will Book 3, Robert’s estate inventory items are listed together in one long list, but I’ll transcribe, divide the list at intervals and interject some commentary from time to time.
Will Book 3, Page 154/155 – August term 1817
An inventory of the estate of Robert Sheppard decd:
- One tract of land containing 122 acres
- 1 negro woman named Rachel about 50 years of age
- 1 negro boy named Jerry between 17 and 18 years of age
I checked the 1850 and 1860 slave census in the hope of finding Jerry, but slaves first names were not recorded in Wilkes County. By 1870, there is no Jerry born about that time that is either black or mulatto in Wilkes County, so either Jerry had died, moved or was recorded under a different name. I can only hope that this information can somehow help Jerry’s descendants connect with their family.
- 1 black horse rising 5 years old
- 1 sorrel mare rising 4 years old
- 1 dark bay horse rising 3 years old
The horses would have been used for transportation and pulling the plows and wagons. Interesting that there were no mules. I’ve not seen the term “rising” in this context before, but would presume it means just under or just over.
- 14 head of cattle
- 19 head of sheep
- Between 20-30 head of hogs
Robert had enough livestock to feed his family and sell some to the neighbors too – for a long time.
- 1 curry comb
A curry comb is used in horse grooming.
- 1 waggon and hind gears
- 1 bar shear plow
- 1 half shear plow
- 1 double tree
- 2 shovel plows
- 1 swingle tree
A swingletree is a wooden bar used to balance the pull of a draft horse when pulling a vehicle of some sort. This would be used with a horse collar to attach harnesses to both sides of the horse and to the swingletree behind the animal.
- 1 pair of chins and hames? (chains perhaps?)
- 1 bark band
- 2 clwius?
- 3 axes
- 4 hacs
- 1 mattock (a combination of an ax and an adze)
- 1 cross cut saw
- 1 hand saw
- 1 frow
- 1 log chain
- 1 augers
- 2 chisels
- 1 foot adds (adze)
- 1 gouge
- 1 pair pinchers
- 1 jointer
- 1 jack plain (type of woodworking bench plane)
- 1 box of iron lumber
Robert had obviously been clearing land – probably constantly. That makes sense, of course, after he purchased land grants, meaning no settler had lived there before. The different types of plows tell us that he was a farmer, but the joiner and chisels suggest that he was also a carpenter.
Like many colonial settlers, Robert probably had to be a jack-of-all-trades.
- 1 grindstone
A grindstone, usually made from sandstone, is a round sharpening stone used for grinding or sharpening metallic tools or knives.
- 1 pair sheep shears
- 1 cutting knife and box
- 6 hogsheads
- 2 tight casks
- 4 tubs
Hogsheads were a type of barrel, so either Robert was also a cooper, or he purchased or traded for casks, barrels and tubs.
- 3 gums
A bee gum is a naturally occurring hive, often cut from trees with the hive portion of the tree intact by early settlers and brought home so that the bees could be cultivated, and the honey harvested.
- 1 fat tub
- 1 soap tub
- 1 washing tub
This looks like a production area for rendering lard and soap-making, assuredly outside.
- 1 canteen
- 2 pail and 2 piggins
A piggin is a pail with one stave extended upwards for a handle.
We’ve obviously moved into the kitchen area now.
- 1 churn
- 1 cubbard
- 2 tables
- 1 chest
- 1 small trunk
- 1 knife box
- Some knives and forks
- 4 dishes
- 6 plates
- 4 basons
- 6 tin cups
- 5 crocks
- 2 earthen pans
- 2 earthen dishes
- 2 mugs
- 1 jug
- 1 coffee pot
- 1 sadle
- 1 skimmer
- 6 spoons
- 2 wooden ladles
- 2 pots
- 1 gridiron
- 1 shovel
- 1 pair tongs
- 1 flat iron
- 2 pair of pot hooks
- 2 ovens
- 1 skillet
- 2 iron trammels
Except for the sadle, which could have been in the kitchen for some reason, everything here is kitchen-related. While Robert was not poor, the small number of plates and dishes tell a tale of austerity. 6 plates and 4 dishes wouldn’t even have been enough for each family member – Robert and Sarah had 10 children for a family of 12, assuming no one’s spouse, children or neighbors were visiting. Wooden trenchers were probably in use, although they aren’t listed. There also only 6 cups and 6 spoons.
- 1 looking glass
The looking glass is the only suggestion of luxury or any item that was not absolutely essential. I initially thought this would have been Sarah’s mirror, but then I realized it might have been Robert’s for shaving. If that’s the case, then it wouldn’t be a luxury at all. I wish we knew if this looking glass was hand-held or wall-mounted.
- 3 bedsteads with their cords
- 3 feather beds with their furniture
I wonder if Sarah and Robert had their bed, plus a “boys’ bed” and a “girls’ bed” where the kids slept until they married.
- 2 under beds and his wearing apparel
This seems to suggest that there was some unit for storing things under the bed – and that Robert’s clothes were stored there. Or perhaps I’m misreading this and an under-bed was a trundle bed. Regardless, I wish Robert’s “wearing apparel” had been detailed.
- 1 church Bible
- 1 testament
- 2 hymn books
I wonder about the definition of a “church Bible.” Compared to what other type of Bible? Does this mean that a “church Bible” is smaller than many of the big Bibles of the time, so transportable to church? Or maybe the opposite, a church Bible is large and therefore stays at church.
I’m also quite curious about the hymn books. I would expect even someone who couldn’t read might own a Bible – but why own a hymn book if you can’t read to sing along? On multiple documents, Robert signs with an X, never signing a signature, suggesting that he cannot write. Here’s an example of what might have been in a Baptist hymnal around 1800.
- 2 flax wheels
- 1 cotton wheel
- 1 counting reel
- 1 pair wool cards
- 2 pair cotton cards
- 1 pair cloth shears
“Woman’s work is never done.” Indeed, Sarah was clearly spinning flax, cotton and wool, probably weaving and assuredly sewing.” Yet, legally, Robert owned everything, so her spinning wheels and literally everything except her clothes were included in Robert’s estate sale.
- 1 half bushel
- 4 sides of leather
- 3 bells
- 2 collars
- Mans saddle
- 8 shears
- 1 woman’s saddle
- 2 bridles
- 1 head stall and bits
These items seem to be associated with equine or animal care.
The bells are probably cattle bells.
- Some wool
- Some cotton
- 1 crop flax
- 1 flax buck
- Some spun truck
Obviously wool, cotton and flax are to be spun, but I don’t know what “spun truck” or a “flax buck” is and google isn’t helpful. Any spinners out there?
- 1 pair of stilyards
A stillyard is a device for weighing things. They came in all sizes to weight a variety of items from small things like coins to large shipping containers using a crane. Scales with a counterbalance on which you’re asked to step at the doctor’s office, before groaning and removing your shoes, are a form of stillyard.
- Some wheat
- Some rye
- Some oats
- A crop of corn now growing
Crops, obviously. The corn would not be valued or sold until after harvest.
- Some salt
- Some bacon
- Some old corn
Salt was a valuable commodity, available only by mining or near the ocean from evaporation. Based on 1863 court minutes, it appears that salt in Wilkes County came from Saltville, Virginia, some 80 rough miles away, over the mountains. Salt was used for seasoning, but sometimes, more importantly, for the preservation of meats. Meats were also smoked in a smokehouse for preservation. Old corn would have been left from last year’s harvest.
- 1 bread tray
- 1 sifter
- 1 riddle
Obviously, we’ve moved to the oven area, either outside or beside the fireplace. A riddle is a type of sifter.
- 1 hackle
- 1 rasor
- 1 rasor case
The straight edge razor would have been Robert’s. This 1846 illustrates the art of shaving, and presumably, not getting cut.
- 1 pair horse fetters
Horse fetters are in essence horse handcuffs, chaining the horses legs together to restrict their movement. ☹
- 1 pair of saddle bags
Robert Shepherd had several debtors. However, a closer looks shows that many of these debts were owed by Robert’s sons-in-law (bolded below) and may have been a method to facilitate early inheritance. The $100 amounts often match the amount of a land sale exactly.
Accounts due by note, to wit:
- 1 note of William McQuerry for $100
- 1 note on James McNiel for $25
- 2 notes on Thomas Erwin for $110
- 1 note of John Judd for $100
- Note of William Judd for $100
- Note of Larkin Pumphrey for $10
- Note on Amos Harmon for $40
- Note on Lewis Cash for $22.50
- Note on John Adams for $15
- Note on James Persons for $8
Accounts due by book, to wit:
- Larkin Pumphrey – one tract of land $100
- William McNiel – $59.50
- Edmond Woods – $1.25
- William Wilson – $2
- John Viars – $24
- George Taylor – $1.75
- Alexander Brown – $1
- William Powell – $1
- William Nash or Mash – $7 desperate
- John Wauson – $24.90 desperate
- Thomas Erwin – $10
- James McNiel – 6 bushels of rye
- John Judd – $10.93 ¾
- William Judd – 15 gallons of brandy, 4 pounds of iron, one bushel of wheat
The William Judd entry is interesting, because no place in Robert’s estate inventory do we find brandy, iron or wheat. Brandy is one way of preserving fruits and alcohol was used medicinally, in addition to the obvious.
- Amos Harmon – $11
- Christian Miller – $1.50
- James Fletcher – $2
- Joseph D. Baldwin – 1 bushel of wheat
- Rowland Judd – $1
- Nancy Irwin – $4
James McNiel admin – Wilkes County, NC August Term 1817 – the above inventory returned on oath of the administrator
Next, we find Sarah’s widow’s allotment of food that was intended to maintain the widow and family during the time that the estate was in probate.
Page 167 – November term 1817 – An Allowance to Robert Sheppards Widow and family:
We the commissioners appointed by the county court of Wilkes on August term 1817 for the purpose of saying off one years provisions for the widow of Robert Sheppard decd have met on the 13th of September 1817 at the dwelling house of the said decd and after being duly sworn according to law do allow as followeth, to wit:
- One cow and calf
- One small beef
- Two choice hogs
- Two choice sheep
- 5 bushels of wheat
- 11 barrels of corn
- One small side of leather
- One bushel of salt
- 10 pounds of sugar
- 4 pounds of coffee
- And roughness sufficient to winter her cattle and sheep
- 6 gallons of spirits and all the cloth and spun truck she has in hand
- 2 pounds of wool
- Seven pounds of cotton
- What old corn and bacon that was mentioned on the inventory returned by James McNiel admin
The widow was granted enough to “keep her” for a year from her husband’s estate. In Sarah’s case, all of her children were grown and married, and the two remaining slaves would be sold in another month or two. I’d wager the commissioners were generous, granting perhaps more than they deemed necessary. No body wanted tales of a hungry widow and children reaching the court.
Looking at Robert’s estate inventory, Robert had more than 10 times this much livestock, so his family likely never went hungry. Coffee, sugar and spirits were not noted in the inventory taken the month before. All items were supposed to be included, so I wonder why these were omitted.
Page 167 – An account of the sale of the estate of Robert Sheppard, decd
- On the 19th and 20th of September 1718 was…..$1749.23 ¾
- On the 20th November 1817 was…..$272.83 ¼
- Total February term 1818 – $2022.07
Above amount of sale returned on oath by James McNiel, admin.
Thus ends the physical life of Robert Shepard on Earth, but pieces of him live on in me and others today, some 7 generations later.
Using DNAPainter, I can attribute 4 segments of my autosomal DNA to Robert Shepherd and Sarah Rash specifically. These segments match people who descend from Robert and Sarah through children other than daughter Elizabeth, my ancestor. Because we share these segments, and no other (known) ancestors, our common segments are then attributed to Robert or Sarah.
Of course, until someone matches me on these segments who descends through another child of Robert or Sarah’s parents, I won’t be able to determine whether these segments descend from Robert or Sarah.
It’s interesting to observe that the largest segment, slightly under 30cM, is a 5th cousin once removed.
Unfortunately, I have another 109 DNA matches to descendants of Robert and Sarah at Ancestry on ThruLines, but since Ancestry doesn’t provide segment location information, I can’t paint those☹
What I do have though, is ammunition. While today, I can only attribute these four teal segments DIRECTLY to Robert or Sarah, I have many McNiel, Vannoy, Shepherd and other downstream identified matches on these same segments.
Robert and Sarah’s DNA descended to me through the red-starred ancestors, above.
The ammunition is that I also have unidentified matches. It’s in those matches and their trees that the gold nugget I need to break through ancestral brick walls may be buried. What do these trees of unidentified matches have in common? Where do they lead? Their ancestors are clearly my ancestors too, somehow.
Take a look.
Every single one of these triangulated people in the red box match me on all or a portion of this same teal Shepherd/Rash segment on chromosome 3. Some matches descend through the Vannoy line, some through the McNiel and Shepherd lines – but some, the ones in dark blue are a bulk import of my paternal bucketed matches list at Family Tree DNA. These people may share an ancestor in their trees with each other that I don’t – who would be a huge hint for me.
But that’s not the only segment that holds hints for me.
Here’s another chromosome 3 segment match.
Chromosome 8 has 5 matches plus the teal Robert Shepherd/Sarah Rash match.
This segment on chromosome 15 has more matches than the others, but they are smaller and several only have a small overlaps. Still, the larger matches may yield valueable clues.
Indeed, I need to get busy. While I’ve found all the documentary records that I can for Robert Shepherd, my DNA matches hold the key for deeper discoveries. DNA isn’t limited. As more people test, new matches quietly arrive, waiting for me to notice, and I continue to have additional opportunities for new discoveries.
It’s like Robert is leading me back home by scattering a trail of genetic breadcrumbs.
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