Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Memories of an Old Man: James Thomas Shepherd

A Shepherd Family Reunion in Richmond County, North Carolina.

Shepherd Edwin Carter Fannie 24 Dec. 1868 T. Covington JP
From:Early Marriage Bonds of Richmond County 1783 -1872

The story of James Thomas Shepherd began with the above marriage record. On Christmas Eve in the dark days of Reconstruction in the Sandhills of Richmond County, North Carolina, William Edmund Deberry Shepherd (sometimes seen as Edwin or Edward, the names seemed interchangeable), son of William Wilson and Emaline Shepherd; married Francis "Fanny" C. Carter, daughter of Marcus Princeton and Nancy Marks Carter. Marriages normally took place in the brides county of residence, but not this one.

James Thomas Shepherd, known as Tom, would be the firstborn.

In a nutshell, the following is the family tree of William Edmund Deberry Shepherd, a Civil War vet, as was his father Wilson.

Edmund Shepherd 1848- bef 1920  married Dec. 23 1868

1st wife: Fannie Carter born Nov. 20  1843 to Dec. 23 1873.

James Thomas Shepherd born Nov 7, 1869 to Dec 11, 1965
Lundy Cornelia Shepherd born Jun 27, 1872 to Mar 6, 1951
William W. Shepherd born Jul 1, 1873 to  Sept 11, 1873.

2nd wife Martha C. Ussery  1867 - 1932

Mary Shepherd  1890 - ?
Willie F Shepherd 1892 - ? Did grow up to register for draft.
Martha Emma Shepherd 1897 - married George Robinson
Nellie Shepherd 1899 - ? married William Roy Lee
James D Shepherd 1910 - likely died as an infant. 

In the old Stanly News and Press, a column was featured called "Fred Morgan's Musings".  Mr. Morgan often touched on local history and characters in that history, in his columns. In a latter issue in 1900, his subject was concerning a now defunct Post Office in a long abandoned community called "Rest".

This portion of a 1940 map of Stanly County shows the general area of Rest. It is said to have been located near the modern day area called "River Haven", south of Morrow Mountain and close to the Swift Island bridge.

According to Mr. Morgan, a post office for Rest was set up about 1890 in the home of Mr. Eli A. Forrest, a crippled man. Mr. Forrest, had with difficulty, tried to farm land in the rolling hills of the area that he had inherited from William Forrest, his father. As many families did in the hard times, Mr. Forrest sent his children to work in the growing cotton mills of the times, once they were old enough, to support the family. They moved to Concord in Cabarrus County for this purpose and left Rest without a post office.

After Mr. Forrest, Rest had a chain of postmasters and locations:

Next came the home of Dick Harris, who moved to Spencer for railroad work. The ball was then passed to John Frank Lilly. Mr. Lilly lived on the north side of Mountain Creek, while most of his patrons lived on the south side. Any rise in the water of the creek made it difficult to cross for the patrons to get their mail, so again they wanted a different location for the post office.

After that meeting, Mrs. Mary Hinson was chosen as postmistress and her home was located at the Crossroads where the Norwood - Palmerville Road crossed the Salisbury- Rockingham Road.  The Norwood - Palmerville Road probably ran the route of Valley Drive, picking up around Green Top, or the current Indian Mound Road.

This link to a 1916 soil survey map shows a school called "Forrest School" near a crossroads which may have been the two roads they referred to near the Swift Island Ferry.

1916 Stanly County Map

After Mrs. Hinson gave up the position of Postmistress, the job was taken over by a Mrs. Louise Underwood. The article concludes " Mr. James Thomas Shepherd was appointed to suceed her. He served as postmaster until  the establishment of Albemarle R. F. D.  number 1, which from then on until the present day has supplied mail services for the community. "

James Thomas Shepherd is buried at Anderson Grove Church cemetery, along with his wife and a son.

Anderson Grove Baptist Church Cemetery

Land records show interactions with W. W. Kearns, his uncle by marriage, of his portion of an inheritance of land from his grandfather, Marcus P. Carter. The Marcus P. Carter cemetery is located south of Hwy 24/ 27 between Indian Mound Road and McNeil Road. Marcus P. Carter purchased the land from Parham Kirk, administrator of the estate of Henry Harrison Melton (I). Henry Melton and Marcus Carter were good friends and neighbors, as proven in Henry's letters to him during the War between the states. It was in this area of the county that the Melton's all dwelled.

This picture, from an article in the Stanly News and Press  about 1954, shows Tom Shepherd looking much more like a Postmaster than a farmer. A distinguished looking fellow, donned in slacks and sweater, sitting in a rocking chair reading a book, on the porch of an old house that looks like it may have matched the Kron house in archetecture, is a back drop. The article explains Tom's early years, as well as his notice of the change of time.

The article states that Tom was living in the Stony Mountain section of the eastern side of the county and that he did not go to school until he was over 15 years old, and then he only attended the Ingram school for 3 winters. The article then proceeds, " Tom was born on that day in the year 1869 on a farm in the upper edge of Richmond county in the vicinity of Little River. His father was Edmund Deberry Shepherd and his mother was the former Fanny Carter of Stanly County. When he was 4 years old, his mother died and his father remarried in Richmond County. Tom came to Stanly County to live with his mother's people. His grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Princeton Carter reared him until Mr. Carter died in 1880. For the next 11 years, Tom was a hireling among the public."

Name:Thomas Sheppard
Age in 1870:1
Birth Year:abt 1869
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1870:Mineral Springs, Richmond, North Carolina
Post Office:Rockingham
Value of real estate:View image
Household Members:
Edmund Sheppard21
Fannie Sheppard25
Thomas Sheppard1
The 1870 census shows a year old Tom with his parents in Mineral Springs, Richmond County. His mother and infant brother were buried in Stanly County with his grandparents.

Name:J. T. Shepard
Birth Year:abt 1870
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1880:Albemarle, Stanly, North Carolina
Relation to Head of House:Grandson
Marital Status:Single
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Neighbors:View others on page
Occupation:At Home
Cannot read/write:


Deaf and Dumb:

Otherwise disabled:

Idiotic or insane:
Household Members:
M. P. Carter59
Nancy Carter63
Lucy J. Carter24
J. T. Shepard10
L. C. Shepard8
The 1880 census shows Tom and his sister Lundy Cornelia or "Nealie" in the home of his grandparents, along with their aunt Lucy Jane, who married W. W. Kearns.
Name:Edmond Shepard
Birth Date:Jan 1848
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1900:Black Jack, Richmond, North Carolina
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital Status:Married
Spouse's Name:Martha C Shepard
Marriage Year:1889
Years Married:11
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Occupation:View on Image
Neighbors:View others on page
Household Members:
Edmond Shepard52
Martha C Shepard28
Mary Shepard10
Willie F Shepard7
Martha E Shepard2
Nellie Shepard6/12
Edmond Shepherd disappears in the 1880 census, but reappears in 1900 and 1910 with his new family. He married Martha C Ussery on November 10, 1888. Martha, 20 years his junior, is a widow in the 1920 census, so he must have died in that decade between 1910 and 1920. No death certificate is to be found. 

The article continues: "For an 11 year old thrown out for hire among the money-shy public of 1880, it was a tough life to live. Farming was the only thing of  any economic importance going on in the county, and it was farming Tom did from then on. .........Some of the farmers he worked for during that time were John Underwood, Fannie Howell widow of Kearn Howell, Tom Laton, Whit Marks, A. J. Russell and Sid Smith. In 1891, the year he married, he said he was only being paid about $9.00 a month".

Name:J Th* Sheppard
[J Maud Shephard] 
Birth Date:Nov 1869
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1900:Albemarle, Stanly, North Carolina
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital Status:Married
Spouse's Name:Rose Sheppard
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Occupation:View on Image
Neighbors:View others on page
Household Members:
J Th* Sheppard30
Rose Sheppard25
Beula C Sheppard8
Virgil C Sheppard5
Alice Sheppard3
Wm E Sheppard1

Tom married Lucy Rosa Morton and by 1900, they had had 4 children, Beulah, Virgil, Alice and William E. Virgil is the son buried at Anderson Grove with them. 

In the article he states: "He was married to the former Rosa Morton, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Morton (John Allen Morton and Dovie Caroline Biles Morton). She was 17 at the time, he was 22. Her parents objected to the union and her father had forbidden the register of deeds to issue a marriage license to Tom. Through a friend in Mt. Gilead, Tom had sent the necessary information by mail to Troy, the county seat of Montgomery County and secured a marriage license from that county. 

"Cost me three dollars, " Tom said with a chuckle, "I don't know what they cost now."

Since the license was issued in Montgomery County, the marriage had to be performed in that county, too, Tom said. And so it was performed within the statutory boundaries of Montgomery County, but not on dry land. 

On the day of the marriage, June 14, 1891, Tom got his bride-to-be and took her down to the old Swift Island Ferry, where the minister, Alec Whitlock, and a crowd of other folks were waiting. Everybody boarded the flat and it started across the Pee Dee River. A little over half way across, Mr. Whitlock told the ferryman that we were in Montgomery County and  asked him to stop the flat. Tom said, "So the flat stopped there, less than two-thirds of the way across the river and we were married right there on the flat."

"To this union 11 children were born".

The 11 children of Tom and Rosa (sometimes seen as Rosina or Rosana) were:

Beulah Catherine 1892-1961
Virgil Clarence 1894 - 1940
Alice 1897 - 1985
William Edward 1899 - 1943 
Fannie Caroline 1903 - 1988
Vera May 1905 -1983
Arabella 1907 -1997
Lorena 1910 - 1989
Martin Van Buren 1912 -1985
James Thomas Jr. 1915 - 1989
Alexander Louis 1917 - 1986

The newspaper lists them as "Mrs. Ben Hall, Virgil Clarence, Mrs Fred Hall, William Edmund, Mrs Louis Joiner, Mrs. Reid Harris, Mrs Homer Still, Mrs. Jack Covington, Van Buren, J. Tommy and Alexander. 

All of his children reached adulthood and he married off all of his daughters. At the time of the article, Tom estimated his grandchildren at 35 to 40. I suppose he had lost count. 

In the early days of the marriage, Tom continue to work as a laborer on other people's farms. At one point, he borrowed the money from his employer, Tom Laton, and bought the farm on which he raise his children and still lived. The old Laton cemetery in on a hill adjacent to the Marcus Carter cemetery, across the highway. All of the old cemeteries in the area, including the two Solomon cemeteries, have stones adorned with ferns and scrolls and other artistry. Being so near to one another, perhaps the same artist decorated these, or either it was a trend on the east end of the county. 

Tom Laton had offered to send Tom Shepherd to college along with his son, who became a doctor. It was an opportunity Tom knew he should have taken, but he was concerned with an unpayable debt, and had continued to farm. 

In the article he recalled the early days of farmers using oxen to pull plows and the first bicycle he ever saw. "It was ridden by Lawrence Fesperman of Wadesboro.....and it created a sensation among the folks at church." The church mentioned was Anderson Grove. 

He recalled keeping that fourth-class post office in his home, with mail being delivered twice weekly, and at 85, Tom Shepherd was still walking the mile from his home to the mailbox by the road. His home sat that far back from the street. Although Tom had lived through the great depression, he recalled the most difficult era in his lifetime as being from 1892-1896, when Grover Cleveland was in office. 

"Men were walking the roads and streets begging for work to do in return for food." This was also the era of the last great migration out of Stanly County and surrounding areas to Arkansas and Texas, or people congregating to the towns where mills and factories were being established. 

Tom ended his interview by revealing his love of reading, radio, hunting and fishing. He had no use for television and watched only one movie in his lifetime. 

Like his sister Nealie, whom I've posted on recently, Tom, the young boy who fought to survive in the difficult era of the end of the 19th century, succeeded in making his way in the world. And with the old man's memories, I end this tale of the grandson of Marcus Carter. 


  1. I can't thank you enough for posting this!! This is my great grandfather! My grandmother was Fannie Caroline Shepherd Joiner. It truly amazes me how he was able to survive without much formal education. Feel free to contact me at I would enjoy hearing from you and talk about what all you know about the Shepherds.

    1. This is so amazing to find! This is my great-grandfather also! Arabella Shepherd Still is my grandmother and I can't wait to tell my 3rd cousin, who is the granddaughter of Vera May (Mrs. Reid Harris). Thank you so much for posting this!

  2. I am delighted to find this wonderful piece of research. James Thomas Shepard was my great grandfather by his daughter Alice who married Fred Hall Senior. This was the base research that took me to a Rev. War ancestor. As a DAR member this has allowed me to identify a new Patriot. My thanks to you. Kathryn Anne Hall Bone