Founding Towns 

A Shepperd Family Tradition

by: Kameron Searle

    In three consecutive generations, the Shepperd family of Surry County, North Carolina helped found at least three new towns in the North Carolina, the Republic of Texas and the State of Texas. Recent research suggests a fourth.

  • Jacob Sheppard (grandfather) - Rockford, Surry County, North Carolina
  • W. W. Shepperd (father) - Montgomery, Washington County, Republic of Texas
  • Jacob Shepperd (son) - Shepperd's Valley, Walker County, State of Texas

Jacob Sheppard - Rockford, North Carolina  

   In 1790, Jacob Sheppard was appointed a commissioner of the town of Rockford, Surry County, North Carolina.  Chapter LVIII of the Laws of North Carolina - 1790 provides:

CHAPTER LVIII.

   An Act to Establish a Town at the Place Fixed Upon for the Court-House in the County of Surry, and for Adding Two More Commissioners to Those Heretofore Appointed for Fixing the Public Buildings in Said County.

   Whereas, it hath been represented to this General Assembly that it is a pleasant healthy situation, and that Thomas Ayres and Moses Ayres have made a deed in fee simple of fifty-three acres of land to Micajah Oglesby, Edward Lovell, Charles Smith, Henry Speer, and William Tyrrell Lewis, Esquires, for the use of the said county:

   I. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That the lands so laid off be established a town, agreeable to the scheme and plan thereof, by the name of Rockford.

   II. And be it further enacted by the authority- aforesaid, That William Thornton, Stephen Wood, John Thomas Longino, Jacob Sheppard and David Humphries, be and they are hereby constituted and appointed commissioners and trustees for carrying on and regulating the said town; and they shall be seized of an indefeasable estate in fee simple in the said fifty- three acres of land, to and for the uses, intents and purposes hereby declared. And the said commissioners, or a majority of them, shall have full power and authority to meet as often as they shall think proper, to make such regulations as they shall judge most convenient.

   III. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That a majority of the commissioners aforesaid shall have full power to sell and dispose of the lots in the said town, make and execute deeds in fee simple to the respective purchaser or purchasers for the same.

   IV. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That respective purchasers of lots shall pay and satisfy the commissioners for whatever sum or sums they may severally incur by purchasing lots from the said commissioners, and in case of neglect of any purchaser to pay the sum or sums that may be incurred as aforesaid, that then in that case the commissioners or a majority of them may commence a suit or suits in their own names, and therein recover judgment. And the said commissioners as soon as they shall receive the money by the sales as aforesaid, shall pay the same into the hands of the commissioners for letting the public buildings in the said county, and be applied towards defraying the expence of the buildings aforesaid. Provided nevertheless, before the said commissioners receive the money aforesaid, they shall enter into bond with good security, in the sum of five hundred pounds, for their faithful application of the money so received by them.

   V. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That in case of the death, refusal to act, or removal out of the county, of any of the commissioners, the court of the county is hereby empowered to appoint some other person, being a freeholder, in the place of him so dying, refusing to act, or removing as aforesaid, which commissioners or trustees shall have the same power and authority as if he had been appointed by this Act.

   VI. Be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That William Cooke and Robert Harris, be and they are hereby appointed commissioners in addition to those heretofore appointed, for fixing and carrying into effect the public buildings in the county of Surry, who shall have the same power and authority, and exercise the same privileges in all respects, as those heretofore appointed by an Act for dividing the county of Surry.

   Note that later we will see a substantial number of similarities between this North Carolina legislative act and the legislative act creating Montgomery County in the Republic of Texas on December 14, 1837. The minutes of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court will also contain similar language.

Will of Jacob Sheppard

   As seen in the will of Jacob Sheppard, his sons William Watters Sheppard and Augustine Henry Sheppard were administrators.  Augustine Henry Shepperd was later elected a United States Congressman from North Carolina. William Watters Shepperd moved to Texas as an early settler in 1831 where he would found the Town of Montgomery, Texa in 1837.

[Scan Will of Jacob Sheppard]

 

William Watters Shepperd - Montgomery, Texas

 

   In the Republic of Texas, in July of 1837, William Watters Shepperd in partnership with John Wyatt Moody, the First Auditor of the Republic of Texas, founded the town of Montgomery, Texas. The new town was introduced in an advertisement that ran in July 8, 1837 edition of the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper published in Houston, Texas.  The advertisement had been placed with the Telegraph and Texas Register on July 4, 1837.

July 8, 1837 Telegraph and Texas Register 

Montgomery, Texas Advertisement July 8, 1837

   For more about William W. Shepperd's extensive role in the founding of the town of Montgomery, Texas see articles on the Indian Trading Post and the Lake Creek Settlement.  W. W. Shepperd later sold his interest in the town of Montgomery to James McCown for $4,000.

W. W. Shepperd - Carolina, Texas

   In Montgomery County Texas Deed Book F on page 411, W. W. Shepperd sold two thirds league and ninety acres of land that he bought at the estate sale of John H. Cummings to Edward Bailey and Thomas Gay for $1,140. The sale was witnessed by Charles B. Stewart and B. B. Goodrich on August 28, 1838. The town of Carolina was founded by Edward Bailey and Thomas Gay on this land purchased from W. W. Shepperd. 

W. W. Shepperd - Danville, Texas

   I have read several histories of the town of Danville or "Old Danville" as it is often referred to.  Danville was located in Montogmery County, Texas.  Surprisingly, no one has actually nailed down the year that the town of Danville was founded.  One marker has been erected in recent years stating that the town was founded as early as 1833.  Other sources report 1838 and 1840 as the dates the town came into existence. There are no primary sources to support any of these dates.  Primary sources indicate that the town was founded around 1846.  As we will see below, primary historical sources exist to prove Danville was in existence by 1846. 

   The earliest mention of Danville in a primary source that I have been able to locate was in The Texas Democrat newspaper published in Austin, Texas on Saturday, March 21, 1846, Vol. 1, No. 12. page 2.  If you are aware of an earlier reference in a primary historical document, please let me know and I will be glad to add it to this page. Below is a scan of the article from The Texas Democrat.

Danville, Texas Mentioned in March 21, 1846 Newspaper

From the March 21, 1846 Edition of The Texas Democrat

Mr. M'Cown offered the following resolution:

   Resolved, That the committee on post roads be requested to consider the necessity of a mail route from Opelousas in La. to San Antonio de Bexar, via Salem, Taylor, Richardsons, Swartwout, Raven Hill, Caruthers, Danville, Lone Oak, Montgomery, Shannon, Rusk, Retreat, Fanthorps, Washington, Bren-[sic] Gonzales, Seguin to Bexar; and if they [sic] that they add such route to the bill now [sic] them.

   Resolution adopted

   So, the name Danville was being used to describe a place along a proposed mail route as early as March 21, 1846. The next primary source that mentions a place called Danville in Montgomery County was the Wednesday, April 8, 1846 edition of the Democratic Telegraph and Texas Register published in Houston, Texas. See Vol. 11, No. 14, page 2.

 Danville, Texas Mentioned in Democratic Telegraph and Texas Register - April 8, 1846

From the April 8, 1846 Edition of Democratic Telegraph and Texas Register

   The chart above which provided election results for a United States Congressional race was the earliest primary source that William Harley Gandy cited in his 1952 Master's thesis, A History of Montgomery County, Texas.  In this chart, a polling place named "Danville" was in existence by April 8, 1846.  Though the name Danville was in use in early 1846, there does not seem to have been a physical town in existence at that time.

   In 1845 and 1846 deeds executed for the sale of land where the town would later be located, there is no mention a town or of a place called Danville as one would expect to find in the deeds.  Mention of the town of Danville and lots in the town of Danville would appear in later deeds.  It would seem that Danville was a polling place and a post office before it was a town. On August 19, 1847, Daniel Robinson became the first postmaster of Danville, Texas. Daniel Robinson did not have a plat of the town of Danville prepared until July 10, 1848.

   W. W. Shepperd owned the real estate that contained the lands that became the town of Danville, Texas between 1846 and 1847.  See map prepared by Karen Lawless showing W. W. Shepperd's land transactions in and around the town of Danville.  Click here to read Journey to Danville by Karen Lawless.  This well researched article provides the exact dates that Shepperd purchased the lands in and around the town of Danville.

Old Danville Road

Old Danville Road Sign

   Many of the landmark's in the vicinity of what was Danville, Texas, still bear the Shepperd name including Shepard Hill Road, Shepard Hill Cemetery, Shepard Branch and Shepard Lake.  See Google map below.  The SHEPARD spelling fund in these palce names is a misspelling as W. W. Shepperd always signed his name with the spelling SHEPPERD.

 
View Larger Map

Intersection of Shepard Hill Road and Old Danville Road

 

Jacob H. Shepperd - Shepperd's Valley, Texas

   In 1853, William W. Shepperd's son, Jacob H. Shepperd, founded the community of Shepperd's Valley. As the advertisement below indicates, Shepperd's Valley was located 7 1/2 miles south-east of Huntsville in Walker County, Texas. This advertisement is from page 3 of the January 22, 1853 editon of the Huntsville Item newspaper.

Huntsville Item - January 22, 1853

Advertisement Shepperd's Valley

Improved or Unimproved Land for Sale

830 or a less number of acres of the very richest cane

upland and bottom, winter and summer range unsurpassed

by any in this part of the State, situated 7 1-2 miles

sout-east from Huntsville, on Shepperd's Creek, one of

the tributaries of East San Jacinto.  For more particular

information, apply to Messrs. J. C. & S. R. Smith, Col. H.

Yoakum, John McCreary, Chief Justice of Walker County,

all residing in Huntsville; Mr. B. A. Oliphant, living near

me: or to myself on the premises, Shepperd's Valley

ja 22 3m                                      J. H. SHEPPERD

 

   Note the name of Col. H. Yoakum listed in the advertisement. This was attorney Henderson Yoakum. Henderson Yoakum moved to Shepperd's Valley and built a home there. He also wrote his two volume History of Texas from Its First Settlement in 1685 to Its Annexation to the United States in 1846 there in 1854 .  Yoakum County, Texas, established in 1876, was named after him.

Shepherd's Valley

Dedication, Page 4, History of Texas, Vol. I, 1855, by Henderson Yoakum

   Because of the spelling used in Yoakum's History of Texas, Shepperd's Valley is often seen mispelled as Shepherd's Valley.  Jacob Shepperd fought as an officer in the Texas Revolution. He fought in the Battle of ConcepciĆ³n, the Grass Fight and the Siege of Bexar.