Sarah Rash (1748-1829), Church Founder and Grandmother of Nearly 100 – 52 Ancestors #276

While we have very few records about Sarah, directly, during her lifetime, we do know a substantial amount due to the Shepherd Bible that begins with her birth.

Shepherd Bible0004

Click to enlarge

Shepherd Bible0003

Click to enlarge

Shepherd Bible0002

Click to enlarge

Sarah’s Birth

The Bible says that Sarah Shepherd, formerly Sarah Rash, 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.

Thank goodness the family recorded this information because I don’t think we would have ever made this discovery any other way.

We don’t have any information about Sarah’s life in Spotsylvania County before her marriage to Robert Shepperd by the parson of the church, James Mcrae on October 1st, 1765. “The church” at that time in America would be the Anglican church. Everybody was required to attend, on pain of being fined for one’s absence.

Sarah was only just over 17 years old when she married Robert who was an “older man” at the advanced age of 26. At least he would be able to provide for his forthcoming family.

The Bible record goes on to tell us that Joseph and Sarah had several children. Given their first child’s birth date, they set about beginning their family right away.

The following children were reported to have been born in Spotsylvania County.

  • Elizabeth Shepherd, born July 23, 1766
  • James Shepherd, born March 8, 1768
  • Ann Shepherd, born March 8, 1770
  • Possibly space for a child that died
  • Mary Shepherd, born January 17, 1773
  • Agnes Shepherd, born February 8, 1775

The Bible states that the following children were born on the Reddies River in Wilkes County, NC – but I suspect either the year or location of Rhoda’s birth is in error, given that the Bible also says, in 2 places, that they departed for Wilkes County in December 1777, fully 9 months after Rhoda was born.

  • Rhoda Shepherd, born March 23, 1777
  • John Shepherd born August 26, 1779
  • Sally Shepherd born February 27, 1782 (Also noted in different writing, Sarah written in above Sally, Wm Judd’s mother, died November 1858)*
  • Possibly space for one child that died
  • Fanny Shepherd, born February 13 ,1785
  • Rebekah Shepherd, born September 26, 1787

*Note that the Bible descended through the Judd family to the person who owned it in 1991.

It looks like Sarah buried two, maybe three babies. It’s obvious that only the children that survived were recorded in the Bible. What is less obvious is when the Bible was written, or by whom. I wish the Bible front pages had been included as well, because the date that the Bible was printed might lend understanding to the provenance of the Bible itself.

Neither Robert nor Sarah could write, based on the fact that they only signed with Xs, so it obviously was not them who made those Bible entries. We know that schools existed in Wilkes County, so it’s possible that this Bible was the Bible of one of their children, possibly Sarah who married William Judd. However, it’s also possible that the minister or someone else who could write made these entries. Ot’s also quite possible that this information was written into THIS Bible years after those births and Robert’s death occurred.

Deaths

Robert Shepherd’s death is recorded, but Sarah’s is not, and neither are the deaths of any of the other children or grandchildren. Not even the two sons what we know died before their father’s death.

In the margins on the death page, we find the calculations for figuring the age at death of Robert. This strongly suggests that the 1817 entry was made at the time Robert died.

He was born in 1739 and died in 1817, so was just under 78 years of age.

Rash Shepherd death calc.png

Now that we know what was going on with the margin dates, what other clues can we find?

The calculation above Robert’s is for someone else who died in 1817 but was born in 1777. Was that Rhoda? Apparently not, given that she had children born after 1817. Who could that have been?

Rash margin.png

In the top margin are two additional calculations.

Sarah was born in 1748, and even though her death is not recorded in this Bible, I suspect strongly that she died in 1829 at age 81.

I’m confused by the calculation on the left, because no matter how I calculate this, it looks incorrect. My best guess is that someone was trying to “calculate how old Daddy would have been” when Sarah died.

We have no signatures of Sarah on deeds during Robert’s lifetime, nor other records, save one, so we have to infer what was happening in her life at that point based on what we know about Robert and their children.

Moving

In 1775, Sarah and Robert were celebrating their 10th anniversary with 5 children. An unwelcome intruder at their 10th anniversary was the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. What a frightening prospect. Perhaps after putting the kids to bed, they had time to sit beside the fire and talk about what the future might hold.

They needed to make important, life-altering decisions. Today we know they survived, but at that time, the future was uncertain and their family was young and vulnerable. One wrong decision or even a bad-luck turn of events and they might not survive, or they might lose their land or a million other bad things might happen during a war – an uprising no less – and the colonists were on the “mutinying” side. If the insurrection was “put down,” it had the potential to be quite violent and bloody. What was “right” and what was prudent?

The Revolutionary War was descending upon them. Times were uncertain. In July 1776, North Carolina would confiscate the King’s lands and make that land available to claim. Much land lay vacant in Wilkes County, just sitting there for the taking and building a cabin. Should they leave Virginia?

Virginia and North Carolina were both leading the way out of monarchy and into a democracy, forming a Bill of Rights. Yet, Robert and Sarah couldn’t be certain how this would unfold in the future. How would this chapter of history end? Which side would they be on? It was a gamble either way.

In November of 1775, Robert’s brother John Shepherd sold his land and the following November, in 1776, Robert Shepherd sold his land in Spotsylvania County.

The Bible tells us that the family removed from Spotsylvania County on December 7, 1777, 13 months later. I can’t help but wonder if they actually left in December 1776. Where would they have lived and how would they have earned a living for more than a year without land? They were certainly planning for this move for several months.

They set out in December, after the fall crops were harvested with the spring crops yet to be planted after their arrival in their new home. Sarah would probably have gone by the cemetery one last time to say a final goodbye to the child she most likely had and buried in the spring of 1772 in a now-forgotten place on the North Anna River, perhaps near a tract of land called Elk Neck, close to where her parents lived.

Sarah’s father, Joseph Rash died about 1767, so perhaps Sarah’s child would rest under the watchful eye of her father, buried side by side.

Rash Spotsylvania map.png

The North Anna River runs for almost 100 miles today, with present day Spotsylvania County being further north. At that time, Spotsylvania County was the western frontier and encompassed this entire area.

Rash North anna.png

This 1776 map shows the North Anna.

Regardless of whether they left in 1776 or 1777, as the Bible says, they set out for Wilkes County, North Carolina, probably in a slow wagon train with family members and neighbors. Had they selected Wilkes County as their destination before they left, and if so, how and why?

Reddies River

Sarah Rash and Robert Shepherd had settled on the Reddies River in Wilkes County, North Carolina by April 24, 1778 when Robert made a land entry for 200 acres of land near the ford of Reddis River bordering his brother, John’s line. George McNiel also accompanied the two brothers from Spotsylvania County. George McNiel either was or became a minister of the Baptist faith.

The Shepherd’s would build a meeting house on John’s land no later than 1783. The congregation met sometimes at Robert and Sarah’s house while a new meeting house was being built in 1797 and 1798. They then attended the new Reddies River Baptist Church until their deaths.

On the surface, Robert and Sarah’s lives appear to be fairly mundane and bucolic. They moved to the new frontier, claimed land, built a cabin, had children and lived happily ever after. Or that’s how it would seem on the surface. However, by reading the church minutes and filling in some blanks, that’s not exactly how life along the Reddies River unfolded.

Robert Shepherd and Sarah Rash had 10 known children, meaning 10 children who were recorded in the Bible. We don’t know if they had additional children who died at birth or very young and were not recorded, but it would seem so based on the birth dates and gaps between the known children.

As with mothers of that time and place, much of Sarah’s life was devoted to being pregnant, giving birth to and caring for her children – in addition of course to spinning, weaving cloth, making clothes, cooking, churning butter and pretty much anything else that needed to be done.

What do we know about Sarah’s children? Let’s look a brief summary of each child’s life to peek into Sarah’s activities.

Who Were Sarah’s Children

Elizabeth Shepherd, my ancestor and their first-born arrived on July 23, 1766, married William McNiel sometime prior to 1784 and died after 1830 in Claiborne County, Tennessee. Elizabeth and William moved from Wilkes County to Claiborne County about 1811. After their marriage, and before 1810 when they sold land on the Lewis Fork, they had moved to neighboring Ashe County which was formed in 1799. They are never found in the Reddies River Church minutes, which is a good indication that they had moved to Ashe County before 1798. In 1799, William McNiel received a land grant on the South Fork of the New River, so it’s safe to assume that Elizabeth and William had moved several miles west of Robert and Sarah’s homestead.

So Sarah’s firstborn child lived somewhat close, moved back and then removed far away where it’s unlikely that Sarah ever saw her or those grandchildren again.

James Shepherd, Sarah’s second-born child arrived on March 8, 1768 and died sometime between 1800 and 1810 without marrying. I have always wondered if this child had a disability of some sort. It’s unusual for a man in his 30s or 40s to never marry or purchase land.

It’s certain that James’ death weighted heavily on Sarah’s heart, especially if he was a child with special needs.

Nancy Ann Shepherd, their third child was born March 8, 1770, exactly two years to the day after her brother’s birth. Nancy married William McQueary in 1787 in Wilkes County and they are definitely found in the church minutes. William is shown in the census in Wilkes County in 1810, but not 1820. They moved to Pulaski County, Kentucky, apparently before 1820, where Nancy died on July 12 in either 1833 or 1835. The Reddies River church minutes shed a lot of light on their lives.

From reading the church minutes, as a mother, I can assure you that Sarah worried about Nancy.

It’s likely that a child was born to Robert and Sarah and died between daughters Nancy and Mary, probably in 1772. This would be the child that Sarah left behind when the family moved to Wilkes County, buried in a grave, probably near to her father. Leaving the grave of a child behind is difficult, even though that makes no logical sense. It may be a mother thing.

Mary, also known as Polly Shepherd, the fourth recorded child was born on January 17, 1773 and married James McNiel about 1790, brother to William McNiel who had married Mary’s eldest sister a few years earlier. They too moved to Ashe County initially, but in 1802, Mary’s father, Robert, sold land to the young couple. Mary and James were close to Mary’s parents, as Sarah requested that James administer Robert Shepherd’s estate at his death in 1817. I’m surprised that we don’t find Mary and James in the church minutes, but they are absent. I suspect that perhaps they lived closer to the Lewis Fork Church where George McNiel, James’ father, was the minister until George’s death in about 1805. Reddies River and Lewis Fork Church shared both a minister and a moderator for many years, so clearly they were closely affiliated as sister-churches.

Sarah was clearly very close to this couple. I wonder if this is why Robert sold them land, to entice them back to the Reddies River. Once back, they never left.

Agnes Shepherd, the fifth child was born on February 9, 1775 and married Thomas Irwin in 1791 or 1792. They had a dozen children and moved to Russell County, Kentucky in 1829 where he died in 1853 and Agnes in 1856. They too are found in the church records.

Since this couple didn’t remove until after Sarah’s presumed death, she would have been close to these grandkids.

Rhoda Shepherd was born sixth on March 23, 1777. There is some discrepancy about whether she was actually born in Virginia or North Carolina. She married John Judd and in 1827 or 1828 moved to Ohio where they become Mormon, then moved on to Wayne County, Indiana where John died in 1838. Rhoda moved on west, living on the DesMoines River in Iowa when her daughter Margaret married Eller Stoker in 1839. John Judd was very active in the Reddies River church, appointed as a Wilkes County Justice in 1816, and is regularly found in the court minutes.

Sarah would have been Rhoda and family regularly at church as well as in the community. It looks like Rhoda and John waited until Sarah’s death to move on.

John Shepherd, the seventh child was born on April 26, 1779 in Wilkes County. He married Mary Kilby on October 13, 1802, but probably died a few weeks later in December. In any case, his death occurred before Mary became pregnant. In January, Mary requested bond as John’s administrator. I surely wonder what befell John.

We don’t know what caused John’s death, but his untimely death right after his marriage when he had so much to live for has tragedy written all over it.

A child was likely born to Sarah Rash Shepherd and died in 1781. Was this the first grave in what would become the Deep Ford Hill cemetery?

Sarah, known as Sally Shepherd, the eighth recorded child, was born on August 27, 1782 in Wilkes County. She married William Judd about 1802, brother of John Judd who married her sister. In 1805, Robert Shepherd sold land to the young couple who eventually had 10 children. In 1829, they removed to Wayne County, Indiana, then to Madison County, Indiana, and on to Newtown, Sullivan County, Missouri where Sarah died in November 1858. The Shepherd Bible descended through this line.

It appears that Sarah lived with this couple for the last dozen years of her life.

It’s likely that another child was born to Sarah Rash Shepherd and died in 1784. Another tiny wooden casket. Another funeral.

Frances, known as Fanny Shepherd, Sarah’s ninth child, was born on February 13, 1785 and married Larkin Pumphrey about 1803. They had 9 children and removed to Pulaski County, Kentucky between 1814 and 1816. By 1830, the family was in Fayette County, Indiana with 7 children where I lose Frances’s trail. She and Larkin are found in the Reddies River church minutes.

Larkin had some challenges that are revealed in the church minutes as well, and I can assure you that Sarah worried about Fanny. She may even have had a “chat” with Larkin at some point.

Rebecca Shepherd, the eighth and last child was born on September 26, 1787 when Sarah was 39 years old. Rebecca married Amos Harmon in 1806, having 13 children. They moved to Richmond, Indiana between 1826 and 1831, then about 1835 on to Somonauk, DeKalb County, Illinois as one of the first settlers where Rebekah died in 1836.

Rebecca may have left Wilkes County before her mother’s death, or she may have postponed that decision until after Sarah passed over. It would have been very difficult for Sarah to say goodbye, forever, to yet another child as approached and then passed her 80th birthday.

It’s possible that additional children were born to Sarah after Rebecca and subsequently  died. In 1789, when the next child would have been born, Sarah would have been 41 and could have potentially had one or two more children.

The Reddies River Church

Robert and Sarah, along with some of their children are listed in 1798 among the founding members of the Reddies River Church. Note that Robert’s brother, John’s wife, was also named Sarah. Robert Shepherd and Sarah Rash did not own a slave in 1798, so Grace belonged to John and Sarah Shepherd.

Shepherd Reddies River 1798 charter membership

Two of Sarah’s daughters, both married to the McNiel brothers, were already living in what would become Ashe County by 1798 so they are obvously not founding members of the Reddies River Church.

Daugher Nancy McQueary and husband William McQueary are both listed as church members.

Daughter Agnes Irwin is listed too, but where is her husband, Thomas Irwin?

Sarah’s son, James Shepherd, is listed, but would perish soon after. I surely wish those church minutes would have recorded deaths.

Children, meaning those undersage, seems to be omitted.

The church minutes reflect the principles of their Baptist faith when founding this church along with the Shepherd family’s continued involvement with the fledgling church over the years. What we don’t know is why the group abandoned the Deep Ford Church, reportedly at the top of Deep Ford Hill, although I’m not at all convinced that it wasn’t at the bottom of that hill, at or near the actual “Deep Ford” of Reddies River, probably on John Shepherd’s land.

The congregation left both the building and the name behind. Did the church burn perhaps, or was it something else? If so, what?

Rash Principles.png

After this initial formation, Robert is next mentioned on December 1, 1800 when two members (not Robert) came forward to confess that they had drank too much. Not only that, but Lewis Fork Church where George McNiel was minister sent Reddis River a letter stating that no pastor should have to care for more than one church because the other churches were destitute for a pastor. Reddies River Church members would pray about this and look to the Lord for a Minister and Deacon.

By this point in time, George McNiel whose family had journeyed with the Shepherd family from Spotsylvania County was 80 or perhaps even slightly older. He was no young man to be preaching every Sunday in a different church and ridng horseback between them in all types of weather, in addition to being the County Register of Deeds.

Church on the first Saturday of January 1801 was to take place at Robert Shepherd’s, but “fell through” on account of bad weather. They met the first Saturday in February instead. Today, church services are typically held on Sunday and weekly, not monthly.

The transporation to and from church, based on the church location and their land, could have taken an entire day using a farm wagon pulled by the horses.

On April 18th, the church members again met at Robert Shepherd’s and “at a call meeting after divine service opend a door for admision and received Thos Irwin by expereance.”

This was daughter, Agnes’s husband, now brought into the fold. He wasn’t on the original list because he had not yet joined the church.

This does make me wonder if Robert had a home more substantial than the typical log cabin. Assuming that the church membership didn’t dwindle from the original 23, and people brought their children along, Robert and Sarah’s house would have had to be large enough to hold at least 50 people, if not substantially more. Or, perhaps they met in the barn – but surely not during the winter months. Those would have been short services, indeed.

In May of 1801, “brother Robert Shepherd’s sister Sarah Jinnings joined by letter,” which means she had been a member in good standing of another church.

This tells us that at least 3 of Robert’s siblings wound up in Wilkes County.

The same day, “Brother Thomas Irwin was baptised but Ben Darnald refused to be baptised.” Why would one “confess their sins” before the entire congregation, but then refuse baptism? This is a bit confusing. A great deal of pressure was likely leveraged against Ben.

The Darnell’s lived “up the mountain” near the Vannoy family. In 1787, Benjamin and Joseph Darnell, born in 1780 according to court records, orphans of John Darnell and Rachel Vannoy were bound to Andrew Vannoy to learn to farm.

In August 1801, it was stated in the church minutes that Brother John Judd would attend the association in the room of brother Robert Shepherd. I wonder why Robert couldn’t attend and where the association met.

On December 5th, the church met at Robert Shepherd’s house and “concluded it was necessary to have a stock laid up for the expense of the church and that brother Robert Shepherd and brother John Shepherd were to receive produce and turn it into money and keep the money in their hands until called for by the church.”

I have to laugh, because I clearly know what is meant, but I can’t help but imagine Robert magically “turning produce into money.” Other than paying the minister, I wonder why the church at that time needed money.

On February 6, 1802, church met at Robert Shepherd’s again, and the minutes reflect an ongoing close alliance with Lewis Fork Church.

In 1803, Larkin Pumphrey and his wife joined the church, but left permanently in 1814. Larkin of course was married to Fanny Shepherd in 1803 so they joined about the time they married. Joining a church as “man and wife” instead of as someone’s child who was “brought to church” was probably a rite of passage. Besides that, you got to be called, “Mrs. Pumphrey” or “Sister Pumphrey” instead of “just” Fanny Shepherd.

On January 3, 1803, the church appointed both Robert and John Shepherd to “sight Brother Larkin Pumphrey to come to meeting.” Larkin came forward at the next meeting and “gave satisfaction for some misconduct.” In 1811 he was again repremanded about “his fighting” which may be a clue about his issue in 1803.

This entry in January the same year that Larkin and Fanny married causes me to wonder if Robert and Sarah may have had some misgivings about this marriage.

Saturday, February 5th, 1803 was apparently quite the day.

Rash 1803.png

Two of Sarah’s son-in-laws were called to answer for their behavior – having rude company and allowing dancing in one’s house. IMAGINE!! This must have been scandalous!

Two church services later, on April 2, 1803, John Pumphrey was brought before the church for profane swearing. William McQuary and brother Robert Shepherd were nominated to “stand in the place of deacons,” giving them until next December to look for a deacon.

Also in April, Rhody and John Judd “tuck letters of dismission,” meaning they were joining a church elsewhere which can sometimes signal a move.

Did Sarah feel a bit like she was trying to herd cats, keeping her kids in line with the church’s view of how life was supposed to be led, and trying to keep her sons-in-law out of trouble too?

On July 2nd, Robert Shepherd was chosen to “stand in that place of a Deacon.”

In December 1803, William Judd (no mention of wife) petitioned for dismissal.

In February 1804, Larkin Pumphrey and Fanny “took letters” meaning they were leaving the church and moving their membership elsewhere.

This could well signal a rift in the family.

On July 1, 1804, Robert Shepherd along with Thomas Johnson and John McQueary were chosen as delegates to the association. Knowing the name of the association would give us insight into where Robert traveled and how long Sarah might have been tending the homeplace by herself.

Perhaps her children or sons-in-law looked in on her and helped when necessary.

In the book, History of North Carolina Baptists by George William Paschal, he states that Flat Rock Church assisted Deep Ford or Reddies River church with its constitution. In 1792, the Reddies River church was a member of the Yadkin Association which met at the “Deep Ford on Ready’s River, Wilkes County,” but by 1801 they were in the Mountain Association of which the author finds no mention. However, the Brushy Mountain Association is mentioned multiple times.

On Saturday, February 2, 1808, sister Phebe Shepherd, a member of Brier Creek Church confessed that she was not in fellowship this church nor could she take a seat with them. The church appointed Robert Shepherd and Brother Johnson to request her “to come to our next meeting and tell the cause…”

In March 1808, Rhody and John Judd joined the church again by letter.

Amos Harmon joined the church in 1808 as well, and left in 1830.

In June 1808 the church decided that the male members would pay 1.00 each to pay brother James Parson to “attend them onst a month yearly.” It’s odd, today, to think of a church only meeting 12 times per year.

On Saturday, January 1809, William McQueary was drinking to much again and was excluded. John Judd was made a deacon and Robert Shepherd “shall be the Elder of the church the church appointed him to be the man.” An elder is similar to a Deacon who can sometimes function as a pastor as well. Elders participate in the “presbytery” which denoted their ordination council.

In November 1808, Amos Harmon was appointed to “site” William McQuary to come to the next meeting. Apparently the church had requested William’s appearance and he had not complied. “A rumer was about has come forrod…allegation laid into the church against William McQuary for his drinking two much referred till next meeting.”

In February, 1809, “Robert Shepherd was chargd to the work of the Eldership.”

Rash 1809.png

The “Imposition of Hands” is more typically called the “laying on of hands” today, and it part of the ritual of ordination, the act of giving a blessing or healing. Does this mean that John Judd was something akin to a “lay minister?”

Agnes and Thomas Irwin had apparently left and came back, joining by letter in 1809.

This was a big day for the family. Were old rifts being healed or was this just normal expansion and shrinkage?

In March of 1810, Larkin Pumphrey was acknowledged into their Christian Fellowship.

In June of 1810, Nancy McQuary was sited to come to the next meeting to explain why she had not been attending monthly meetings. The next month, she came forward and gave satisfaction. Clearly, if she had simply been ill or pregnant, everyone would have already known that, so something else was going on. I wonder if this had something to do with William’s drinking. I surely hope she was not being abused.

In February 1811, Larkin Pumphrey came forward to talk to the church about his fighting. The next month, he was received into Christian fellowship. In August, he is summoned again but in September gave satisfaction for his fighting. It seems that Larkin had a chronic “fighting problem,” which maked me wonder if he had a chronic alcohol problem too.

In October of 1811, William Judd is vistiing the church at Old Fields on behalf of this church.

In November 1812, Agnes and Thomas Irwin received a letter and left the church but were back again in November of 1813.

On the second Saturday of December, Thomas Irwin was to “site” Amos Harmon, his wife’s sister’s husband to come to meeting “to answer to some things about his conduct at Muster,” but the church acquitted him.

This tells us, at least, that the men did attend muster. I wonder when that practice stopped.

In January 1813, a report was taken up against Amos Harmon and referred to next meeting, but in January 1814, “the affair of Amos Harmon taken up,” the church acquitted him. I wish they had told us more.

Sally Judd joined the church in September 1813 by baptism. She was about 31 years of age and the fact that she had not previously joined the church was probably weighing heavily on the minds of both of her parents.

In 1814, William Judd along with his brother John, Thomas Johnson and Amos Harmon were to determine if a member should be excluded or not.

In October 1815, Amos Harmon was excluded from the church, “concerning his loos way of living” but joined again by acknowledgement in August 1816. I surely would like to know what was considered “loose living” by this church at that time. It could have been allowing rude people to visit or dancing, or something much worse.

In June 1816, a rukus was caused by an allegation against Thomas Johnson by John Judd that Johnson had “moved his fence to stop up George Taylor’s pasway with a wagon.”

This smells very much of local high drama! You immediately know there’s a whole lot more to this story.

In August 1817, Thomas Irwin along with William and John Judd are called upon for a contribution of 25 cents each.

In October 1817, Thomas Irwin is once again to “site Amos Harmon to meeting to answer for some of his misconduct and different reports that is out in the world against him.” He was excluded from the church.

In November of 1817, “a reference from the last meeting was taken up concerning Amos Harmon and for refusing to hear the church and his disorderly way of living in many cases the church has excluded him from thee Christian fellowship.”

In March of 1818, the affair of Noah Vannoy was taken up and Thomas Irwin and John Judd were “to site him to come to our church meeting.”

In September of 1818, three members were sent to “investigate the matter at William Judd’s on Reddies River.” I would surely love to know what that “matter” was.

In 1821, some major issue involving Noah Vannoy and the Lewis Fork church needed to be unraveled, taking several months apparently. William and John Judd were both involved attempting to straighten this out. The Vannoy family lived in this area and intermarried with the McNiel family as well other neighbors.

The last mention of William Judd is in August 1825 when the church is indebted to him for covering the meeting house $1.20. John Judd on the same day was allocated money for the association.

In November 1827, John Judd came forward with acknowledgement for some misconduct but the chruch forgave him. Given his long unmarred active church involvement, I wonder if this was another man by the same name and not the husband of Rhoda Shepherd. In July of 1826, John was still a delegate attending meetings on behalf of the church. In June 1828, John is cited to church again for misconduct. I wonder what happened.

Sally Shepherd was married to William Judd, who became a deacon in February 1828, about a year before Sarah Rash Shepherd would have passed. It appears that she was living with this couple and they did wind up with the Shepherd Bible.

Rash 1829.png

John Judd was excluded in 1829 and his wife’s sister applies for letters of dismissal that same day. It sounds like drama of some sort occurred. It was about this time that Rhoda and John left for greener pastures in Ohio, then Indiana and Iowa where they converted to the Mormon faith along the way. There’s surely much more to this story too, especially considering his many years of active church service.

In December 1829, the matter of Amos Harmon was referred to the next meeting. At the following meeting in January 1830, the church “took up the reference of Amos Harmon and left as they found him.”

The notes show that Agness Irwin left the church in 1829.

In January 1830 Rebecca Harmon was “received by experience at an evening meeting at Aaron Churches.” She was also baptized.

On the second Saturday of March 1830, the church “dismissed Rebecca Harmon by letter.” A note of March 22nd says they dismissed Sally, Fanny and Rachel Harmon by letter.” This family too was headed north.

In October 1830, the church dismissed Fanny Judd by letter.

In November 1831, Fanny Judd returned her letter of dismissal.

In Feburary of 1837, Fanny Judd was dismissed by letter.

With this last entry, the half century of the Shepherd family’s involvement in the Deep Ford Church that transitioned to Reddies River Church drew silently to a close.

Robert and Sarah were long gone, and their children’s families, for the most part, had moved on too.

The Families

It seems that life on the Reddies River was anything but mundane. The church notes reveal the “sins” of various family members, at least according to the standards of the place and time in which they lived. It’s their various “falls from grace” that lend a face of humanity to these people who clearly struggled, just like people today.

I’ve attempted to document each of Sarah’s children and grandchildren, with the lines who carry Sarah Rash Shepherd’s mitochondrial DNA bolded. Sarah passed her mitochondrial DNA to both sexes of her children, but only daughter’s pass it on to future generations. You can read more about how DNA works, here.

If you are or know of an individual, male or female in the current generation, who descends from Sarah through all females, I have a free mitochondrial DNA testing scholarship waiting for you.

Sarah’s mitochondrial DNA can help us break through her brick wall. We have her mother’s name, but nothing more about her matrilineal ancestry.

The absolutely wonderful news is that Sarah had several daughters who each had several daughters, which increases the likelihood that someone who descends from Sarah Rash through all females to the current generation, which can be male, either has tested their mitochondrial DNA, or is willing to test.

Sarah’s Descendants

Sarah had an incredible number of descendants in just the first couple of generations. Some have slipped our grasp – perhaps their family line knows more.

Elizabeth Shepherd, Sarah’s oldest child born in 1766 was the first to marry. She tied the knot with a neighbor boy, William McNiel, the son of the preacher, George McNiel in either 1783 or perhaps early 1784, probably in the Deep Ford Meeting House. Elizabeth married at the same age her mother, Sarah had, 17 or 18. Reverend George McNiel, her father-in-law, likely officiated. The families were neighbors as well, so the entire valley probably attended.

Sarah became a grandmother in October of 1784 at the age of 36. Sarah had grandchildren older than her youngest children who weren’t born until 1785 and 1787.

However, 1784 may have been a sorrowful year for Sarah, because it looks like she buried another child of her own in February or March, probably in the now destroyed Deep Ford Hill Cemetery where these modular homes sit today.

Shepherd Deep Ford HIll Cemetery

By the time Sarah’s namesake granddaughter was born in October, Sarah was pregnant again with Fannie who would be born 4 months later. Perhaps Elizabeth was trying to make her mother feel better by naming her firstborn child, Sarah, after her grieving mother.

In the 1790 census, William McNiel, married to daughter Elizabeth Shepherd, lives 10 houses away from Robert and Sarah with 1 male over 16, 1 under 16 and 3 females.

Sometime before 1800, before the membership roster of the Reddies River Church was assembled in 1798, Elizabeth and William would move to neighboring Ashe County.

Elizabeth would bless her mother with 9 more living grandchildren, 10 in total, plus probably 2 more that died, added to the tiny graves in the family cemetery.

Elizabeth Shepherd and William McNiel moved to Claiborne County, Tennessee in about 1811 or 1812, so Sarah would never have known her grandchildren born after that time. That must have been one tearful goodbye, with Robert and Sarah watching their eldest pull away in a wagon, knowing they would never see her again.

Elizabeth wasn’t there to lay her father to rest 5 or 6 years later in 1817, nor her mother, probably in 1829. That sorrowful news would have arrived months later by letter.

Elizabeth died in Claiborne County sometime between 1830 and 1840, between age 64 and 74, perhaps not long after her mother’s death.

Elizabeth had 10 children including 4 daughters who lived to adulthood:

  • Sarah “Sallie” McNiel born August 26, 1784 married Joel Fairchild and died January 2, 1861 in Hancock County, TN. She had 5 children including:
    • Fannie Fairchild born about 1822, died about 1868
    • Elizabeth Fairchild born 1820-1825 who married Samuel McCullough, having daughters:
      • Sarah McCullough, born 1852
      • Elizabeth McCullough born 1864
      • Susan McCullough born in 1867
      • Cordia McCullough born in 1870
    • George McNiel born Sept. 21, 1786 in Wilkes County and died July 20, 1870 in Claiborne County, TN. He married Nancy Baker, having 10 children, then Matilda Yeary having 3 more children.
    • Lois McNiel born about 1786, married Elijah Vannoy and removed to Claiborne County, Tennessee about 1811 or 1812. She died in the 1830s, having had 10 children including daughters:
      • Permelia Vannoy born Feb. 21, 1810, married John Elijah Baker in 1838 and died in Washington County, Arkansas February 5, 1900. She had four known children, all daughters:
        • Luana or Luanda Baker born about 1836
        • Rachel Baker born about 1837, died March 25, 1925 in Springfield, Missouri. She married Larkin Brewer and had two daughters who died as children.
        • Sirena Baker born 1839 married Samuel P. Jones and died in 1862. She had daughters Mary Jones 1857-1913, Permelia Jones 1860-1907, Alice Jones, 1868-1945, Virginia Jones 1870-1831, Flora Jones 1875-1936, Leticia Jones born in 1877.
        • Nancy Jane Baker born in 1845.
      • Mary Vannoy born about 1815 married Isaac Gowin
      • Elizabeth Vannoy born about 1817 married Elisha Bishop, died after 1880 and had two known children, including one daughter:
        • Levina Ann Bishop (1843-1925) who appears to not have had children.
      • Nancy Vannoy born June 19, 1820 married George Loughmiller, died April 29, 1896 in Washington County, Arkansas. She had 8 children, including 6 daughters:
        • Mermelia Loughmiller 1839
        • Mary T. Loughmiller 1843-1946 married John H. Jones and had daughters Laura Myrtle Jones (1872-1930) and Permilia E. Jones born in 1876.
        • Elizabeth Loughmiller 1848
        • Sarah E. Loughmiller 1850
        • Martha “Marty” Loughmiller 1852
        • Lydia Loughmiller 1853 who may have died before 1870
      • Sarah “Sally” Elizabeth Vannoy born Oct. 17, 1821, married Joseph C. Adams and died October 14, 1892. They had 6 children, including 3 daughters:
        • Nancy Jane Adams (1849-1922) who married Franklin J. Skaggs and died in Huntsville, Arkansas. She had 9 children including three daughters, Ann Skaggs born in January 1875 married Thaddeus Brackston Jones and had daughter, Annie Jones born in 1908. Daughter Shadric C. Skaggs was born in December 1889 in Madison County, Arkansas. Daughter Lyda Mae Skaggs (1894-1969) married George Everett Clark.
        • Rebecca Elizabeth Adams born in 1853, married William Leroy Throckmartin Bee Boren. She had 9 children including three daughters. Julia Boren 1872-1945 married Randy Clinton Bolinger and had a daughter, Ruby Bolinger. Mary Lou Boren (1876-1950) married Andrew Jackson Hamilton and had daughters Elisa Hamilton, Cecil Hamilton and Gladys Hamilton. Laura Boren 1886-1990 married 4 times and may have had one daughter. Daughter Sally Ada Boren (1892-1978) married Earnest Welcome Hart and had two daughters, Lillie Hart and Irene Hart.
        • Margaret Ann Adams 1857-1923 married John Ward and died n Oregon. She had 9 children including two daughters, Mary Jane Ward born in 1881 and Sarah Emma Ward born in 1887 or 1888.
      • Angeline Vannoy born about 1825 married Sterling Nunn in 1949 and died before October of 1850, probably in childbirth.
      • Lucinda J. Vannoy was born March 15, 1828, married Col. Joseph Campbell in 1886 with a prenuptial contract and died April 2, 1919 in Washington County, Arkansas.
    • Niel S. McNiel born about 1792 in Wilkes County, died September 10, 1839 in Claiborne County and married Elly Ramsey. They had 3 children, two girls and a boy.
    • Mary McNiel born about 1792 in Wilkes County, married Robert Campbell in 1817 in Claiborne County, TN and died on August 10, 1874 in Bradley County, TN. She had at least one child, a son, but it’s unclear whether she had other children, although it’s certainly probable.
    • Nancy McNiel born March 22, 1794, married Alexander Campbell and died on November 30, 1839 near Sneedville, TN. She had three sons.
    • John McNiel born July 1, 1803, married Elizabeth Campbell, sister to Alexander and Robert, and died on October 8, 1883. They had 8 children.
    • Betty (probably Elizabeth) McNiel born 1800-1810 and may have married Andrew McClary.
    • Jesse McNiel born 1806, married Bettie Campbell and died in 1890 in Claiborne County.
    • William McNiel, Jr., born 1810-1815 married Nancy Gilbert.

James Shepherd is the next child in birth order, born in 1768 who should have married sometime around 1790, or after.

The 1790 census shows Robert Shepherd with a total of 2, 1 and 7, meaning 2 males over 16, 1 under 16, and 7 females. This tells us that James is still living and residing with his parents in 1790 at 22 years of age. Not terribly unusual

In 1798, a James Shepherd appears with Robert and Sarah on the list of Reddies River Church charter members. This James could potentially be Robert’s brother James, but I doubt that because there is no wife listed with James, and the only charter members are 20 or so neighbors who live very close by.

In the 1800 census, Robert reports 2 males 16-25, 1 male 45 and over, one female 10-15, 2 females 16-25 and one female 45 and over. This tells us that James is still living at home at 32 years of age and confirms that he was born between 1775 and 1784.

The 1810 census shows no children living at home. No James Shepherd shows up elsewhere, and no records referencing James are found, so it’s presumed that James died between 1800 and 1810, between the ages of 32 and 42. James is probably buried in the Deep Ford Cemetery too. Given that he never married, owned land or lived away from his parents, I can’t help but wonder if he was somehow disabled.

By 1790, another of Sarah’s daughters had also married.

Nancy Ann Shepherd, born in March 1770 married William McQueary on February 11, 1787, just a month before her 17th birthday. They lived in Wilkes County in 1800 and 1810, but then removed to Pulaski County Kentucky where she died July 12, 1833 or 1835, depending on which version of the story you believe.

Nancy had 12 children with William, including William McQueary Jr., shown below:

I have not documented Nancy’s children thoroughly, but according to the 1800 and 1810 census, it appears that she had at least 7 daughters and 3 sons, including:

  • John McQuery
  • Allen McQuery
  • Pleasant McQuery
  • Jesse McQuery
Rash William McQuery

William McQuery

  • William McQuery
  • Humphrey McQuery
  • Mary Polly McQueary 1789-1813 who may have married William Cash
  • Sarah McQueary 1802-1877
  • Rebecca McQueary 1804-1870
  • Nancy McQueary 1807-1852
  • Elizabeth Betty McQueary 1813-after 1870, married Wilson “Willis” Owens and had 9 children, including 5 daughters
    • Mary Owens born 1838
    • Paulina Jane Owens (1840-1866) married Mason Compton Miller
      • Emily J. Miller born 1864
    • Sarah Emily Owens, born 1841, married Edwin Shivel, had 4 daughters:
      • Catherine Shivel born 1862
      • Elizabeth Shivel born 1864
      • Emma Shivel born 1867
      • Manah Emily Shivel born 1869
    • Nancy Owens born Mar 23, 1843
    • Lucy Owens born July 31, 1853

Mary “Polly” Shepherd born in 1773 married James McNiel sometime around 1790. They lived in Ashe County for a while, but moving back to Reddies River where Robert Sheppard sold them land in 1802. Mary died June 7, 1869.

James NcNiel and Mary were clearly close to her parents, Sarah and Robert, as James was the administrator of Robert’s estate in 1817 when he passed away, at the request of Sarah.

Mary “Polly” Shepherd McNiel had 9 children beginning in about 1792, with the last one born in 1814. She probably buried 3 or 4 children, judging from their birth dates.

  • Larkin McNeil
  • John McNeill (1796-1877), married Rachel Eller and had 4 children, including at least one son.
  • Frances “Fanny” McNeil (1798-1856) married Simeon Eller in 1817 and then Isaac Brown in 1851. She had several children, with at least one daughter, America, and possibly more:
    • America Elizabeth Eller (1841-1903) married William Richard Whittington and had three daughters:
      • Nora Caroline Whittington (1864-1956)
      • Dora Whittington born in 1872
      • Almeda Whittington (1875-1938)
    • Mary Ann “Polly” Eller (1820-1894) married Allen A. “Squire” Whittington and had daughters:
      • Emily Caroline Whittington (1841-1910)
      • Nancy Elvira Whittington (1843-1931)
    • George McNeil
    • William McNeil
    • Oliver McNeil, born in 1805 and married Delilah Eller. They had 7 children.
    • Nancy McNeil (1812-1880) married Edward J. Dancy in 1836 and had at least 3 children:
      • Mary Dancy (1837-1893) married James Calvin McNiel and had 8 children including 2 daughters:
        • Eda Elizabeth McNiel (1865-1924)
        • Julia Emma (1869-1948)
      • James Dancy born1839
      • Amelia Dancy (1841-1861) married Joseph Nichols and had one daughter:
        • Anna Elizabeth Nichols (1861-1935) married Calvin Columbus Church and had at least one son
      • Rebecca McNeil (1813-1878) married John Humphrey Vannoy in 1833 and had 12 children, including 4 daughters:
        • Mary Ann Vannoy (1841-1888) married James Phillips and had 6 children including two daughters:
          • Laura Rebecca Phillips (1874-1955) married
          • Nancy Myrtle Phillips (1877-1911) married Joseph Franklin Blackburn and had daughters Loretta Blackburn, Ina Blackburn and Dollie M. Blackburn
        • Nancy Louisa Vannoy (1847-1929) married James Madison Eller and had 8 children including one daughter who survived and had children:
          • Rebecca Eller (1878- ) married Zollie Church and had 3 daughters, Estelle Irene Church (1901-1991), Beatrice Teresa Church 1904-1985), Florence Mae Church (1906-1992)
        • Carolina Vannoy (born 1851)
        • Frances Matilda Vannoy (1854-1925) married James Wilburn Hardin and had 9 children, but only 1 daughter who had daughters:
          • Hattie Mae Hardin (1875-1953) married George Maxner and had daughters, Kate Maxner, Lucille Maxner and Edith Maxner
        • Eli McNeil (1812-1881), married Fannie Eller, moved to Ashe County and had 10 children.

Agnes Shepherd born in 1775 married Thomas Irwin about 1791. She and Thomas had 12 children beginning with Elijah born in 1792 or 1793. In 1810, Thomas was granted land on the Reddies River. In 1829, they removed to Russell County, Kentucky where Agnes died on March 18, 1856.

  • Elijah Irwin (1792-1878) married Elizabeth Goodman and had 6 children.
  • Thomas P. Irwin
Rash Alley Irwin

Alley Irwin

  • Alley Irwin (1797-1879) married Larkin Shepherd her first cousin once removed, son of Robert’s brother, John Shepherd. Alley’s children might really have carried a “Shepherd” look. They had 11 children, including 5 daughters:
    • Lucinda Shepherd (1821-1867) married Nathan Weaver and had 3 children, including daughter:
      • Martha Weaver (1849-1894) married Lewis Dobson Williams and had daughters Lula Elizabeth Williams (1881-1929), Mary Frances Williams (1875-1958), Effie Clyde Williams (1886-1930) and Ruth Dell Williams (1892-1919). Martha had several female grandchildren.
    • Rebecca Shepherd (1824-1879) married Joshua T. Coffey and had 9 children, including 3 daughters who may have had female children.
      • Adeline Coffey born 1844 married Aldred Wyatt
      • Matilda Coffey born 1846 married Isham Patrick
      • Alice Coffey born 1852
    • Sarah Shepherd (1831-1862) married Rev. John Ennis Pierce and had 5 children including 2 daughters:
      • Martha Carolina Pierce (1853-1948) married Banjamin Azmon and had 4 daughters: Edith Azmon, Mary C. Azmon, Ellen Azmon and Julia Azmon
      • Mary Saphronia Pierce (1857-1928) married Leonard Bynum Church and had daughter Julie Church.
    • Martha Shepherd (1842, twin to Mary, died 1916) married John Edward Fouts (died 1862) with whom she had one son, and then George Washington Phillips with whom she had 4 children, including 4 daughters:
      • Elizabeth Phillips (1871-1952 married Cicero Nathan DeBord and had daughters Tena Ada Debord (1893-1968), Phoebe Ruth Debord (1895-1932), Mary Bertha Debord (1897-1983), Myrtle Debord born about 1905 married a Brown and lived in Darlington, MD.
    • Mary Shepherd (1842, twin to Martha, died 1908) married William Harrison Brown and had no children.

You can read more about Alley’s family, including photos of her children, here.

  • Squire Irwin moved to Russell County, KY.
  • Nancy Isabelle Irwin (1798-1857) married John Thomas Jennings in 1819 and died in Russell County, KY in 1857. They had 10 children including no daughters:
  • Andrew Irwin born about 1799 married Lucy Wyatt in 1828 and moved to Russell County, KY.
  • William Irwin born about 1800 and died before 1824.
  • Sally Irwin born about 1803, married John Shepherd in 1824 and died in 1831 in Wilkes County. John and the children moved to Kentucky in about 1829 according to Brodrick Shepherd, taking their 3 children:
    • Lynville Shepherd 1827-1880
    • Elizabeth Shepherd (1829-1860)
    • Nancy Shepherd born about 1831
  • Robert Irwin born about 1810 married Sally Lutteral in 1838 in Russell County, KY and in 1853, married Ann Vannoy. He died in 1872 in Russell County.
  • Larkin Irwin born about 1812 died in the 1840s leaving 4 small children in Russell County, KY.
Rash Franklin Irwin

Franklin Irwin

  • Franklin Irwin (above) born about 1814, married Elizabeth Spencer about 1840 in Russell County, KY. Brodrick Shepherd reports that he and 7 of 8 children moved to Indiana after the Civil War where he remarried to Mary Stewart.

Rhoda Shepherd born in 1777 married John Judd about 1790. In 1800, Robert Shepherd sold two pieces of land to John. Eventually, Rhoda and John moved to Centerville, Wayne County, Indiana in about 1829 and Rhoda died after 1839. They had 9 known children.

  • William Judd (1808-1881) married Malinda Jane Troxell
  • John Judd (1825-1889) married Jane Brown
  • Robert Allen Judd (1810-1896) married Hester Ann Burns
  • Sarah Judd (1813-1890) married Thomas Oler and had 8 children, including 3 daughters that survived to adulthood:
    • Margaret Oler (1840-1918) married Joseph Morrison and had 9 children including 4 daughters that lived to adulthood:
      • Sarah Alice Morrison (1866-1953)
      • Bertha May Morrison (1874-1952)
      • Caroline (Carrie) Athelia Morrison (1877-1963)
      • Essie Leona Morrison (1883-1961)
    • Martha Oler (1843-1911) married Peter Chenoweth and had 4 children including 2 daughters:
      • Sarah Olive Chenoweth (1865-1939)
      • Eva Chenoweth (1862-1923)
    • Lydia Ann Oler (1842-1895) married Rufus Williams and had one daughter:
      • Jennie W. Williams (1880-1977)
    • Thomas Judd (1815-1890) married Margaret Oler
    • Tabitha Judd (1803-1847) married David Eller and had 7 children, including 3 daughters:
      • Clarissa Eller (1829-1889) married William C Marion and had 7 children including 3 daughters who lived to adulthood:
        • Priscilla Marion (1850-1923) married Melville Whitmore and had 4 children, including daughters Viola Whitmore (1871-1934), Minnie Whitmore (1879-1954) and Clara Winifred Whitmore (1881-1966)
        • Collitta Marion (1855-1911) married Jacob Sirdoreus and had 9 children including daughters Bessie Maud Sirdoreus (1887-1979), Annie Mae Sirdoreus (1892-1974) and Cora Belle Sirdoreus (1895-1994)
        • Emma M. Marion (1863-1932) who married John Riley Sirdoreus and had 8 children including daughters Nora Sirdoreus (1878-1933), Rosa Sirdoreus born in 1880 and Edna Mae Sirdoreus (1893-1968)
      • Mary Eller (1820-1897) married Claiborne C. Tinsley and had 6 children, including daughter:
        • Mary Jane Tinsley (1847-1917) married James Allen Eller and had daughter Myrtle Lillian Eller born in 1885 who married John Pickerel and had daughter Verle Irene Pickerel (1884-1956)
      • Elizabeth Eller (1827-1897)
      • Martha Eller born in 1839
    • Mary Judd
Rash Margaret Judd

Margaret Judd

  • Margaret Judd (1822-1886) married Eller Stoker and had 8 children, including 6 daughters:
    • Orson Hyde Stoker (1843-1908)
    • David Allen Stoker (1844-1929)
    • Lavina Stoker (1846-1916) married William Spears and had three daughters:
      • Myrtle L. Spears (1878-1925) married Frank Wilson and had 9 children including daughters Gladys O. Wilson, Myrtle Wilson, Shirley W. Wilson, Crystle B. Wilson, Olive M. Wilson, Lynn B. Wilson, Ordie D, Wilson and Bernice B. Wilson
      • Eva S. Spears (1884-1969) married Charles P. Meadows and had a son
      • Cora Ethel Spears (1887-1960) married John William Meadows and had a son
    • Michael Eller Stoker (1849-1929)
    • Mary Elizabeth Stoker (1850-1936) was born and died in Pottattamie County, Iowa and married William Sheen. They had 3 daughters:
      • Elsie May Sheen (1887-1978)
      • Gestie Hezel Sheen (1889-1981)
      • Maude Lillie (1892-1972)
    • Margaret Calpernia Stoker (1854-1934) married Joseph George Spears and had 4 children, three of which were daughters:
      • Elva Spears (1972-1955)
      • Sarah Alice Spears (1874-1960)
      • Emily Caroline Spears (1877-1950)
    • Lucretia Stoker (1855-1914) married William Heileman and had two children, including one daughter:
      • Minnie Heileman born February 1880, married Louis B. Smith and had one son.
    • Melanda Stoker, reported to have died as a child
  • Elizabeth Judd (1817-1886) married Alvin Winegar and had 10 children including 6 daughters:
    • John Alvin Winegar (1838-1914)
    • Samuel Thomas Winegar (1840-1921)
    • Lucinda Winegar (1843-1844)
    • Alvin Judd Winegar (1846-1893)
    • Mary Winegar (1848-1848)
    • William Winegar (1849-1902)
    • Margaret Ann Winegar (1851-1906) married Peter Howell and had 8 children including 4 daughters:
      • Margaret Ann Howell (1871-1947) married Charles Henry Brown and had daughters Ruby Lilia Brown, Margaret Pearl Brown, Rosamond Mary Brown and Ethelyn Howell Brown.
      • May Howell born 1876
      • Mary Sterling Howell born (1879-1928) married Hugh Tierney
      • Sarah Howell (1881-1916) married Parley White and had two sons
    • Louisa Winegar (1853-1941) married Zadock C. Mitchell and had 8 children including 4 daughters
      • Florence Mitchell born in 1883
      • Mary Lavina Mitchell (1885-1978)
      • Ellis Mitchell born in 1888
      • Viola Mitchell (1892-1966)
    • Sarah Elizabeth Winegar (1856-1924) married Alexander Brown and had 4 sons

John Shepherd born in 1779 married Mary Kilby on October 13, 1802 at 23 years of age but died before January 31, 1803 when Mary requested bond as administrator. The had no children. On January 12, 1804, Mary married Jesse Vannoy. John was probably buried in the Deep Ford Cemetery as well.

There were two other John Shepherd’s living in Wilkes at the time, but John, Robert’s brother died in 1810, having been married to Sarah. Their son, John, married Sally Ervine in 1824.

John’s death must have been crushing for Robert and Sarah, to lose both of their sons within a few years, between 1800 and 1810. It’s unfortunate that his death date and cause was not recorded in the family Bible.

Sarah “Sally” Shepherd born in 1782 married about 1802 to William M. Judd, brother of John Judd who married her sister. In 1805, Robert Shepherd sold William 100 acres. Sarah and William had 10 children beginning in 1803. In 1829, they removed to Wayne County, Indiana, then to Madison County, then finally to Newtown, Sullivan County, Missouri where Sarah died in November 1858 and is buried in the Howard Cemetery. Sally appears to be the owner of the Shepherd Bible.

Sarah and John had 10 children:

  • Perry Judd (1803-1844)
  • John Judd born (1806-1840)
  • Jeremiah Judd (1808-1867)
  • James Judd (1811-1854)
  • Larkin Judd (1813-1856)
  • William Judd (1815-1911)
  • Andrew Jackson Judd (1818-1854)
  • Linville Judd (1821-1858) married Sarah Muse, then Mary Collier and had 5 children.
  • Mary Margaret Judd (September 25, 1823-1924) married Jesse Tucker and had 10 children who lived to adulthood, including 4 daughters:
    • William A. Tucker born 1838
    • Linville Tucker (1839-1922)
    • Ferril Tucker born 1841
    • Sarah Louise Tucker (1844-1905) married Joseph Lacount Brackett and had 10 children including daughters:
      • Annie Brackett (1861-1904)
      • Mary Amelia Brackett (1874-1943)
      • Sarah F. Brackett (1879-1947)
      • Albina Brackett (1882-1918)
    • Amelia Tucker (1846-1921) married James Milton Pigg and had 10 children, including 4 daughters who lived to adulthood;
      • Sarah Elizabeth Pigg (1867-1925)
      • Margaret Lorena Rene Pigg (1879-1960)
      • Elsie May Anne Pigg (1884-1975)
      • Minnie Cedalia Pigg (1887-1939)
    • Jeremiah Tucker (1848-1924)
    • Nancy W. Tucker (1851-1940) married Jesse Lewis Pigg and had 8 children including 4 daughters that lived to adulthood:
      • Mary Ann Pigg (1871-1949)
      • Charlotte Lottie Ellen Pigg (1876-1930)
      • Malecta Frances Pigg (1879-1968)
      • Ida Mariah Pigg (1883-1968)
    • Mary Ann “Polly” Tucker (1852-1936)
    • Jesse Tucker (1856-1933)
    • John William Tucker (1863-1919)
  • Sarah Elizabeth Judd (March 29, 1827-about 1883 Henry County, Indiana) married Eli Trueblood, no known children

Frances, “Fannie” Shepherd born in 1785 married Larkin Pumphrey about 1803. They had 9 children and they too removed to Pulaski County, Kentucky between 1814 and 1816, before Robert Shepherd died in 1817. By 1830, they were in Fayette County, Indiana and had 8 known children, including 3 daughters:

  • Eli Pumphrey born April 23, 1806 in Wilkes County and died May 18, 1882 in Decatur, Indiana.
  • Martha Pumphrey born 1808.
  • John A. Pumphrey born about 1812 in Wilkes County and died in 1872 in Tipton, Indiana.
  • Delphia Matilda Pumphrey born in 1814 in Wilkes County and married Samuel Smith in Union County, Indiana, having one son.
  • Jackson Pumphrey born about 1816 in Pulaski County, KY.
  • Sarah Pumphrey born about 1819 in Pulaski County, KY and died n 1891 in Decatur, Indiana. She married Samuel Milton Burney had had 9 children, which included 5 daughters:
    • Malinda J. Burney (1840-1917) married Barney Markle and had 3 children, including 2 daughters:
      • Almira Markel (1867-1932)
      • Maude Pearl Markle born in 1874
    • Ann Burney born about 1853
    • Inas Burney born about 1855
    • Famson Burney born about 1859
    • Mary Tamson Burney (1862-1943) married Edwin Austin Jackson and had 2 sons
  • Joseph M. Pumphrey born about 1821 in Pulaski County, Ky and died in 1866 in Tipton, Indiana.
  • Andrew J. Pumphrey born about 1828 in Pulaski County, KY and died in 1875 in Decatur, Indiana.

Rebekah Shepherd born in 1787 married Amos Harmon on June 2, 1806. They had 13 children, moving with them to Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana between 1826 and 1831, then about 1835 on to become one of only 2 or 3 early settlers in Somonauk, DeKalb County, Illinois where Rebekah died on September 22, 1836 and is buried in the Oak Ridge, Cemetery.

  • Sarah Harmon (1809-1881) married Conway Rhodes in 1833 and had three sons:
    • James Rhodes died as a baby
    • Anthony Rhodes born in 1836 married Anne.
    • John M. Rhodes born in 1838, married Sarah Price.
  • Rachel Harmon (1811-1899) married William Poplin in 1831 in Tazewell Co., Illinois. The is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery near her mother. Rachel had 6 children:
    • Sarah Poplin (1832-1834)
    • Harriet Poplin (1836-1887), married Herbert C. Cotton and had two children, one of which was a daughter:
      • Eva Cotton
    • Mary A. Poplin (1838-1839)
    • Rebecca C. Poplin, born in 1840, married John V. Henry in 1865
    • Francis E. Poplin was born in 1842, married Charles V. Stevens in 1862 and had 2 children:
      • F. Stevens
      • Ida Stevens
    • Jesse F. Poplin born about 1845 died after 1910
  • Fanny Harmon (1812-1836) married William Alloway in 1831. She died in DeKalf County, Illinois and is buried in Somonauk, Illinois
  • John Harmon (1813-1837)
  • Anthony Harmon (1814-1892) married Elizabeth Wilcox and had 6 children
  • George Harmon was born about 1815
  • Mary Ann Harmon (1817-1897) married Major Dennis and had 4 children. She died in 1897 in St. Louis, Missouri.
    • Waitstill Dennis (1843-1906) married Joseph Baker and had 2 children, including one daughter
      • Mattie Baker born 1870
    • Shepherd Dennis (1844-1870)
    • Rebeca Dennis (1847-1911) married Charles S. Lewis in 1865, died in Joplin, MO and had one daughter who died unmarried
    • William Allison Dennis (1852-1913)
  • Amelia Elizabeth Harmon (1819-1905) married Michael Been Ward in DeKalb County, Illinois but moved to Walla Walla, Washington. Not only was Amelia a female county commissioner, something unheard of at that time, but as such she attended the 1885 World’s Fair. President Rutherford B. Hayes stayed with the family when visiting the area. She had one child:
    • Augusta Ward (1843-1920) who married Raymond R. Rees and had 4 children, including 3 daughters:
      • Eleanor Rees (1869-1880)
      • Elma L. Rees (1870-1939) and married Harry H. Turner
      • Lora A. Rees ((1875-1941) married Paul Compton.
    • Amos P. Harmon (1821-1897) married Mary, died in Amador County, CA and had 5 children.
    • Nancy Malinda Harmon married Daniel Beem in 1842 in DeKalb Co., Illinois and died in 1905 in Amador County, CA. They had 7 children:
      • Unknown
      • Unknown
      • Benjamin Beem
      • Elizabeth Beem married a Reed
      • Sarah M. Beem (1848-1850)
      • William Edward Been (1861-1891)
      • Isabella Beem (1864-1944)
    • David E. Harmon (1825-1902) married Mary Jane Norton and had 4 children:
      • Imogene Harmon born in 1865 in Ohio
      • May Harmon born in 1869 in Ohio
      • Charles Harmon died young
      • James A. Harmon
    • William Harmon (1826-1845)
    • James A. Harmon was born in 1831 in Richmond County, Indiana and died in 1910 in Shelby County, Iowa. He married twice and had both of his children by first wife, Miriam E. Hummell:
      • Alfred L. Harmon born in 1872 in Shelby County, Iowa
      • Henry E. Harmon born in 1873 in Shelby County

Cousin Brodrick Shepherd provides additional information about Sarah Rash Shepherd’s descendants, here.

After the Kids Left Home

Sarah’s children slowly left home. The census along with family histories helps to rebuild the progression of these families.

Child 1800 Census 1810 Census 1820 Census 1830 Census
Elizabeth Shepherd b 1766 married William McNiel c 1782 Ashe County, NC Wilkes County, NC Claiborne Co., TN Claiborne Co., TN
James Shepherd b 1789 Home Presumed dead Presumed dead Presumed dead
Nancy Ann Shepherd b 1770 married William McQueary 1787 Wilkes Wilkes Pulaski Co., KY Pulaski Co., KY
Mary Polly Shepherd b 1773 married James McNiel c 1790 Ashe County Wilkes Wilkes, 1 female over 45 which would be Mary herself Wilkes
Agnes Shepherd b 1775 married Thomas Irwin c 1791 Wilkes Missing on census, Wilkes land grant in 1810 Missing Russell Co., KY
Rhoda Shepherd b 1777 married John Judd c 1790 Wilkes Wilkes Wilkes, but no female over 45 Wayne Co., Indiana
John Shepherd b 1779 Home with parents Died 1803 Deceased Deceased
Sarah Shepherd b 1782 married William Judd c 1802 Home Wilkes Wilkes, female over 45, probably Sarah Rash Shepherd Wayne County, Indiana
Fannie Shepherd b 1785 married Larkin Pumphrey c 1803 Home Wilkes Pulaski Co., KY Pulaski Co., KY
Rebekah Shepherd b 1787 married Amos Harmon 1806 Home Wilkes Wilkes, no female over 45 Richmond, Wayne Co., Indiana

In 1790, only two of Sarah’s daughters had married, and they lived nearby. The census tells us that a total of 7 females lived in the Robert Shepherd household.

By 1800, both of Sarah’s sons would have been strapping young men and good help on the farm. Three of her daughters were still living at home too.

In 1803, as the children grew up and married, Sarah and Robert apparently needed additional help, so they took two orphan boys, William and John Adkins, who apparently would have turned 21 about 1809. In any case, they are not with Robert in the 1810 census. In 1809, about the time the boys would have turned 21 and been released from their indenture, Robert bought two slaves.

By 1810, the landscape had changed.

Slaves Rachel and Jerry, probably Rachel’s son, purchased in 1809, live with Sarah and Robert until after Robert’s death in 1817. I must say, the purchase of slaves saddened me, and I hope they were treated as family.

Both of Sarah’s sons were presumed dead. John, we know for sure died in 1803, but James simply disappears entirely between 1800 and 1810.

All of Sarah’s daughters are married. Elizabeth and William McNiel moved to neighboring Ashe County, but then moved back again as did Mary and James McNiel. By 1810, Sarah had a passel of grandkids running around, and her daughters all lived nearby. With 8 daughters married and each having children every couple years, that meant that a new baby arrived every 3 months or so in someone’s cabin.

Just as assuredly as the stork arrived, death visited too, and the family would make their way to the church and the cemetery with a small wooden box riding on the wagon. There were probably already several graves in a row by the time Robert joined them in 1817, and even more when Sarah was laid to rest about 1829.

In 1817, Robert crossed over that great divide without a will, meaning that legally, Sarah was entitled to one third of his property and assets as her widow’s share. If he had made a will, he could have left her more.

Sarah’s petition to the court after Robert’s death declining her right to administer his estate in favor of her son-in-law, James McNiel is the only actual documentary evidence of Sarah in Wilkes County, aside from her name on the 1798 Reddies River church list of founding members.

Rash Sally Shepherd signature.png

Sarah’s signature with an X confirms that she cannot read and write. We may not have her actual signature, but we have her mark, which was the signature she was able to make.

In the fall of 1817, enough food and supplies were laid out from Robert’s estate to provide for Sarah “and family” for a year, as was the custom, although the only family living with her, as far as we know, were the slaves, Rachel and Jerry.

Robert Sheperd estate widow allotment

In 1818, Robert’s estate, including the remaining 122 acres of land, Rachel and Jerry, was sold. There is no record of purchasers or the amount of the sale. At this point, Sarah would have had to live with one of her children.

In 1820, several of Elizabeth’s children had moved on to more promising locations. Both sons were dead, Elizabeth and William McNiel moved to Claiborne County, TN about 1811 or 1812, Nancy Ann and William McQuery were in Pulaski County, KY, as were Fannie and Larkin Pumphrey. I can’t find Agnes and Thomas Irwin in the census although one Thomas Irwin purchases land in 1819.

That leaves Rhoda and John Judd, Sarah and William Judd, Mary Polly and James McNiel along with Rebekah and Amos Harmon in Wilkes County in 1820.

Of those families, only Sarah and William Judd have an “extra” female over the age of 45 living with them in the 1820 census, so I suspect strongly that Sarah spent the last dozen years of her life living with her namesake daughter, Sarah, who went by the nickname of Sally. That’s also the family who passed the Shepherd Bible from generation to generation, so this makes sense.

Ironically, Sarah and William Judd left for Wayne County, Indiana in 1829 or 1830, before the census – right after the time I suspect that Sarah died.

Perhaps Sarah’s death is what freed them to go.

By 1830, the year after Sarah’s presumed death, based on the Bible margin calculations, another 3 of Sarah’s daughters and their families pulled up stakes and left, leaving only Mary Polly Shepherd and James McNiel in Wilkes County.

The rest of Sarah’s children would be strewn across 4 states and 6 counties, like dandelion seeds drifting on the wind.

Lots of Grandchildren

Of Sarah’s 10 living children, her two sons didn’t survive to give her grandchildren. The 8 daughters combined blessed Sarah with 84 known grandchildren, and probably at least another 10 or 11 that died young. With nearly 100 grandchildren, or maybe even more, I wonder if Sarah could remember their names or who belonged to which parent. Holidays and picnics must have been interesting – and huge!

I can’t help but wonder if everyone got along.

While some of these grandchildren were born after their respective mothers left Wilkes County, so would never have known their grandmother, Sarah, many were raised right there along the Reddies River, on land that originally belonged to Robert and Sarah. Sarah was able to watch those grandkids and their children run barefoot through the freshly plowed fields, just as she had watched her own children blossom and thrive in the fertile valley at the base of Deep Ford Hill.

I’d wager that Sarah sat with their smiling faces gathered around her by the fireplace on chilly evenings as she told them stories about Spotsylvania County and their wagon-train adventures, in the midst of the war with the Tories, on the way to their haven on the Reddies River, a place that became the Shepherd sanctuary high up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

This three and a half mile stretch of road and river, from the Reddies River church to the Deep Ford Cemetery is where Sarah lived for half a century. She would have known every bend in the river and mountain ridge by heart.

Rash Wilkes aerial.png

Legend:

  • Red star – Reddies River Church established in 1798
  • Blue star – known location of Robert Shepherd original land
  • Green star – approximate location of the Deep Ford of the Reddies River, owned by Robert’s brother, John Shepherd
  • Purple star – possible location of the Deep Ford Meeting House, although I suspect it may have been at the base of the Deep Ford Hill, near the green star in the cleared fields
  • Yellow star – Deep Ford Hill Cemetery, now destroyed

It was for life in this valley that Sarah and Robert had risked it all, pulling up stakes and moving hundreds of miles away from everything and everyone they had ever known.

Sarah’s husband, Robert, contributed a horse and feed to the Revolutionary War effort, and her oldest daughter’s husband, William McNiel fought at the Battle of Brandywine. By the time Sarah was telling those stories, 30 years and a world later, nestled in a snug cabin along the Reddies River, that had all happened “long ago” and were distant memories from a place “far, far, away.”

rash children

Many locations where Sarah’s children were found, in addtion to Wilkes County, the red star.

Another quarter century later, Sarah’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be scattered to the winds too, many moving north and westward with the rapidly advancing frontier line, and facing yet another war that would tear at the seams of a frayed nation.

Thankfully, Robert and Sarah had given them a firm foundation on which to build, both a country and their lives.

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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 Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Fun DNA Stuff

  • Celebrate DNA – customized DNA themed t-shirts, bags and other items

8 thoughts on “Sarah Rash (1748-1829), Church Founder and Grandmother of Nearly 100 – 52 Ancestors #276

  1. Very interesting. There are many surnames I recognize, so I will have to look at them closer.
    Thank you for writing this.

  2. Roberta, The following comment is connected to your idea that James Shepherd might have been disabled. Another option when you are looking at men who didn’t marry is that some of these “bachelors” were gay and chose not to marry. Clearly some gay men married and lived a closeted life, but some did not. One of the clues in this regard for me are photos when they are available. Sometimes, my eyes see clues that are not noticed by lots of other folks. From another perspective, some lesbians chose to not marry and lived with their parents and helped on the farm. Sometimes, they were the chosen child to be a family caretaker. In Catholic families, gay kids were often the ones who later became priests and nuns.

  3. I never knew why my Caudill ancestors migrated from Virginia to Wilkes County North Carolina. Can you give me a source for the fact that they were able to claim land?

    • Check the North Carolina land claims at the State Archives web site to see if they are there. Also google the history of NC land in general. Dr. Pruitt has written a great deal.

  4. I always love reading and seeing all of the goodies you’ve found for your 52 Ancestors–and this one even more so–because as we know Sarah’s parents Joseph and Mary are our shared ancestors we realized when we were DNA matches. Sarah kept her children safe, and made sure they married–some of those 100 grandchildren needed to survive and have descendants, in order to pass down some of her DNA down to us! Yay!!

Leave a Reply to Barbara Mattoon Cancel reply