Texas History Page

 

W. W. Shepperd

Founder of the Town of Montgomery, Texas

by: Kameron Searle

Shepperd, W. W.  William Watters Shepperd (W. W. Shepperd) was born in North Carolina.  The son of Jacob Shepperd and Pamela Pines Shepperd, W. W. Shepperd lived for many years in Surry County, North Carolina.  When his father died in 1807, W. W. Shepperd was named as an executor of Jacob Shepperd's will.  Other children named in Jacob Shepperd's will were Augustine Henry Shepperd, Wesley Shepperd, Elizabeth Shepperd, Martha Shepperd, Ann Pines Shepperd and Charity Shepperd. 

[Add W. W. Shepperd's Autograph from the Appraisal of Owen Shannon's Estate Here]

   W. W. Shepperd's brother, Augustine Henry Shepperd, was a lawyer and a United States Congressman from North Carolina for two decades.  It is interesting to note that Augustine Henry Shepperd's daughter, Mary Francis Shepperd, was married to famed Confederate Major General William Dorsey Pender.

Autograph of A. H. Shepperd, Salem N.C., from a Registry Book of 31st U.S. Congress

Autograph - Augustine H. Shepperd

Collection of K.K. Searle

   W. W. Shepperd married Mary Steptoe Shepperd.  Little is known about Mary before her marriage to William, But many legal documents and deeds in the Montgomery County courthouse indicate the name Mary Steptoe Shepperd.  Her maiden name may have been Steptoe.  In her family history, Shepperd and Palmer, 1985, Valma Dorrell Fischer gives the name Mary L. Steptoe as her maiden name. W. W. Shepperd and Mary Steptoe Shepperd had at least eight children.  There Children were William W. Shepperd, Sidney Shepperd, Augustine C. Shepperd, Jacob H. Shepperd, Parmelia Shepperd, Julia Shepperd, Wesley A. Shepperd, and Henry Shepperd.  For more information about Jacob H. Shepperd, see article on the Jacob H. Shepperd Family.

   The Shepperds moved to Texas in 1831.  W. W. Shepperd received a Mexican land grant in Austin's Second Colony on April 16, 1831 for one league of land (4,428.4 acres).  Shepperd's Mexican land title is located in Box 9, Folder 38 in the Texas General Land Office.  The W. W. Shepperd league straddles the boundary between present Fayette and Austin Counties.  In 1834, W. W. Shepperd sold his league to Leonard Groce.  See Volume C, Page 50 of the Deed Records of the Fayette County, Texas.  W. W. Shepperd and his cousin Jared Groce had numerous business dealings with each other. As evidenced by the advertisement below, Shepperd and Groce eventually had a falling out over a business deal which involved a thousand dollar note.

W. W. Shepperd in Lake Creek

   Years later on February 15, 1838 the Montgomery County Board of Land Commissioners issued W. W. Shepperd a first class headright for an additional labor of land (177.1 acres) in Montgomery County.

   Though W. W. Shepperd was the proprietor of the first store in the Lake Creek Settlement what would later become the town of Montgomery in July of 1837, his primary occupation was that of land speculator.  W. W. Shepperd founded the Town of Montgomery.  He purchased 200 acres that had been part of the John Corner League for the purposes of developing the new town.  These 200 acres were located in the northwestern most corner of the John Corner League located in Austin's Second Colony. See Book A, Page 21 of the Deed Records Montgomery County, Texas.

 

Saturday, July 8, 1837, Telegaph and Texas Register, Vol. 2, No. 25, p. 3

July 8, 1837 - Advertisement for the Town of Montgomery

   On Saturday, July 8, 1837, in the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper, W. W. Shepperd and J. W. Moody advertised lots for sale in the "town of   Montgomery."  Until July 8, 1837, the area had been known as Lake Creek or the Lake Creek Settlement and the spot where the town was founded had been known as "the store of William W. Shepperd on Lake Creek."  This was the first time the name of the town of Montgomery had appeared in the Telegraph and Texas Register.  Montgomery County was created on December 14, 1837.  Montgomery County is named for the town of Montgomery.  W. W. Shepperd prepared a plat of the Town of Montgomery.  The original Plan of the Town of Montgomery, prepared by W. W. Shepperd and dated January 1, 1838, is still in existence and is located in the Hart Addison Collection in Conroe, Texas.

   The fact that the area around Montgomery was known as Lake Creek or the Lake Creek Settlement cannot be disputed.  Many early deeds and other records prove this conclusively.  See Washington County Deed Book A1, page 36, where Samuel McCombs signed a bond on January 7, 1837, "at the store of W. W. Shepperd on Lake Creek." See Washington County Deed Book A, page 241, as another example where W. Buchannon conveys 1/2 League of land to C. B. Stewart by a deed signed on August 2, 1837.  Harrison signed the deed at the store of W. W. Shepperd "on Lake Creek in the Town of Montgomery."  For another example that the area had been known as the Lake Creek Settlement, see A. M'Cown's advertisement for the sale of lots in the Town of Montgomery on page 4 of the July 2, 1845 issue (Volume 1, No. 10) of the Montgomery Patriot published by John Marshal Wade in Montgomery, Texas.  "The lands surrounding Montgomery, known as the Lake Creek Settlement, being of such a rich and fertile character, and having a rich and industrious population, it is destined to be, in a short time, a town of considerable importance.  Montgomery is the county site of the most flourishing, populous and intelligent county in the Republic.  It is situated on an elevated ridge, which divides the waters of the San Jacinto River and Lake Creek."

W. W. Shepperd

   As seen in the advertisement above and shortly before Montgomery County was created on December 14, 1837, W. W. Shepperd offered "his remaining stock of Liquors, Dry Goods, &c." for sale.  This advertisement ran in the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper published in Houston, Texas on December 9, 1837. On December 14, 1837, Montgomery County was created when Republic of Texas President Sam Houston signed the congressional act that created the county.  The Town of Montgomery was selected as the first county seat of Montgomery County and was already serving as the county seat as early as February of 1838.

 

Montgomery, Texas Becomes County Seat

   W. W. Shepperd induced the Montgomery County Commissioners' Court to move the site of the town of Montgomery and the county seat to a new location on March 1, 1838.  This new site was on land Shepperd had purchased from John Corner on February 26, 1838 and was located due south of the original site of the town of Montgomery. He induced the county Commissioners to move the location of the town and county seat by offering to donate a portion of land at the new site to the County.  Later residents of Montgomery would refer to the original site of the town as the "old town under the hill" and to the new site as "the town on the hill." 

   In the minutes of the first Montgomery County Commissioners' Court meeting, "The president placed before the board the written act of donation of W. W. Shepperd to the County of Montgomery of an equal half undivided interest in the Town of Montgomery and sixty acres of pine land adjoining - donated for County purposes and it being put to question whether said donation should be accepted it was unanimously received - and the question being also whether the place of the Town presented by C. B. Stewart as agent for W. W. Shepperd should be received the same was also unanimously received and adopted."   Also see Book E, page 285 of the deed records of Montgomery County, Texas.  

   In April 1838, W. W. Shepperd entered an agreement to lease or sell a house to Montgomery County.  This house was the first courthouse of Montgomery County.

Montgomery, Texas Centennial Monument - W. W. Shepperd

   There is a historical marker in front of the community center in the town of Montgomery that was erected by the State of Texas in 1936 for the Texas Centennial.  This marker reads in part, "TOWN OF MONTGOMERY - FOUNDED IN JULY 1837 BY W. W. SHEPHERD."  Shepperd's name is misspelled on this marker.  W. W. Shepperd always spelled his name SHEPPERD on all documents.  Shepperd later sold his interest in the town of Montgomery to James McCown for eight thousand dollars on October 22, 1839.  See Book E, page 184, Montgomery County Clerk Deed Records.  Also, the minutes of the April 1840 meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners  Court provide, "Wm. W. Shepperd the original proprietor of the Town of Montgomery who donated a portion of said town to the County of Montgomery under contract made and entered into between the said Wm. W. Shepperd and the board of said County Commissioners bearing the date of the [1st] day of [March] 1838 made showing that he had sold and conveyed to James McCown his portion of said town tract together with the house occupied as a Court house."

   W. W. Shepperd and Mary Steptoe Shepperd's daughter, Julia Shepperd married C. B. Stewart.  In fact, on March 8, 1836, Judge James Hall, the judge of the municipality of Washington, authorized W. W. Shepperd to celebrate the contract of marriage between Charles B. Stewart and his daughter, Julia Shepperd.  The marriage was performed by W. W. Shepperd at the house of W. W. Shepperd on Lake Creek on March 11, 1836 while Charles B. Stewart was still serving as a delegate to the Convention at Washington (now Washington-on-the-Brazos).  See Volume A1, page 240-244 of the Deed Records of Washington County, Texas.

   Charles Bellinger Stewart is something of a celebrity in Montgomery County.  Stewart was the first Secretary of State of Texas.  While acting as the first Secretary to Governor Henry Smith, Stewart devised the first seal of Texas. Using an old button with the design of a single star upon it, Stewart would press the button into hot wax dripped on various official documents to make the image of a lone star.  Stewart signed the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico, which was approved on March 2, 1836 and signed on March 3, 1836. Stewart also served on the committee that drafted the Constitution of the Republic of Texas.  Some historians credit C. B. Stewart with having designed the Lone Star Flag of Texas and the Texas State Seal.  C. B. Stewart and W. W. Shepperd had extensive business dealings with each other for many years.

 

1837 W. W. Shepperd Agent for the Telegraph and Texas Register

Shepperd Agent for Telegraph and Texas Register

Enlarged

W. W. Shepard, Montgomery, Lake creek.

   August 12, 1837, edition of the Telegraph and Texas Register, Vol. II, No. 30, Whole No. 82, page 1, published by Cruger & Moore in Houston, Texas.  Just over a month after the July 8, 1837 advertisement for the sale of lots in the town of Montgomery was first run, W. W. Shepard [Shepperd] is listed in the masthead of the Telegraph and Texas Register as the agent of the newspaper in " Montgomery, Lake creek."

   On page 31 of Montgomery County History compiled and edited by the Montgomery County Genealogical Society in 1981, we find the following, "Montgomery, the first post office in the county, was established May 17, 1838 with W. W. Shepperd being appointed postmaster by the Republic of Texas." 

Post Office Papers No. 50

   On December 10, 1837, G. Brightman received compensation from Robert Barr, the Post Master General of the Republic of Texas, "for transporting mail from Houston to Shepherds Store.”  This was three months after W. W. Shepperd founded the Town of Montgomery in July 1837 and just four days before Montgomery County was created on December 14, 1837.

 

Transporting Mail from Houston to Shepherd's Store 

 

 

RECEIPT OF G. BRIGHTMAN

TO ROBERT BARR

 

Recd of R. Barr  Eighty Dollars for transporting the mail from

Houston to Shepherds Store              Houston   Dec. 10th  1837

G. Brightman

 

Receipt 76

 

Recpt.    G. Brightman   $80.00   Decr 10, 37    76

   W. W. Shepperd's store was the location of the post office.  For more information and primary sources about W. W. Shepperd as the first postmaster of Montgomery, see Post Office Papers of the Republic of Texas 1839-1840 by James M. Day, Austin, 1966, pp. 60, 71, 156, 168, 171, 181 and 217.

 

Route No. 1 via Shepherd's Store

 

 

General Post Office

Houston 

Sealed proposals will be received at Houston until the 20th of December next, for carrying the mails from the 1st January, to the 31st December, 1838; on the following routes, via:

 

No. 1.   From Houston to New Cincinnati, via Shepherds store, 100 miles; weekly.  Leave Houston on Monday 8 A M, and arrive at New Cincinnati on Wednesday at 8 P M.  Leave New Cincinnati on Thursday 8 A M, and arrive at Houston on Saturday at 8 P M.

 

Route No. 14 - From Shepherds Store to La Bahia Crossing

 

No. 14.  From Shepherds to La Bahia Crossing on the Colorado, via McGuffin’s, Fantharp’s, Washington, Independence, Mitchell’s, 110 miles; weekly.  Leave Shepherds on Wednesday 12 A M, and arrive at La Bahia Crossing on Saturday 8 PM.  Leave La Bahia Crossing on Sunday 8 AM, and arrive  Shepherds on Tuesday 8 P M. 

 

Robert Barr - Post Master General

 

 

Bond and security will be required of each contractor, and the names of persons intended to be given will be sent with the proposals.

R. Barr, Post Master General.

Houston, October 25, 1837.                                              98-tf

 

   See Telegraph and Texas Register, November 18, 1837.  Robert Barr prepared this notice on October 25, 1837. Even though the town of Montgomery was founded in July of 1837, Barr is still referring to the post office located in the Lake Creek Settlement as Shepherds Store. When Barr makes his request for sealed proposals for 1838, he will refer to the post office as Montgomery.

   In 1838, James W. Parker sued W. W. Shepperd for libel and slander. Shepperd accused Parker of being a horse thief and a counterfeiter, and that the attack on Fort Parker was precipitated by James W. Parker' s misdealing with the Indians.  It was thought that Parker had paid the Comanches for stolen horses with counterfeit money.  The attack on Fort Parker occurred shortly after the Indians learned that they had been duped.  James W. Parker was the father of Rachel Parker and the uncle of Cynthia Ann Parker who were kidnapped by the Comanche Indians in the raid on Fort Parker in 1836.  Parker sued Shepperd for $10,000 in a suit originally filed as Case #25 in the Montgomery County District Court.   Fearing reprisals from vigilantes, James W. Parker moved to Houston shortly after filing his suit.  In 1839, James Parker published a booklet in Houston at his own expense in an effort to clear his name.

   James W. Parker was able to have the venue of the case changed from Montgomery County to Harris County.    There is no record of this case ever having gone to trial in Harris County.  The May 18th, 1842 Minutes of the Harris County District Court state that the case was "..Referred to Arbitration and leave was granted to Plaintiff to withdraw the papers"  In fact, the Court awarded court costs in the amount of $94.53 to the Defendant, W. W. Shepperd.  As late as 1845, court records filed by the Harris County Sherriff reflect that Shepperd was still unable to recover these court costs from Parker.  See Montgomery County District Court records, James W. Parker vs. William W. Shepperd, case No. 25, Montgomery County District Court Minutes, 1839-1841, James W. Parker vs. William W. Shepperd, Harris County District Court Case #863, 1840, Defence of James W. Parker, Against Slanderous Accusations, Houston, 1839 and Frontier Blood - The Saga of the Parker Family by Jo Ella Powell Exely.

   W. W. Shepperd registered his cattle mark on February 12, 1838.  See Montgomery County Brand Book, page 66, No. 3, located in the Montgomery County Clerk's office.  Shepperd only registered the ear mark for his cattle.  He did not register a brand.  See Montgomery County Texas Cattle Brands 1838-1902, Published in 1992 by Montgomery County Genealogical and Historical Society.

   Click here to read the excellent research by Karen "Candy" Lawless regarding the Shepperds' land holdings around the Shepard Hill Cemetery (Old Danville Cemetery) near Willis in Montgomery County, Texas. Also see her article "The Old Danville Cemetery on Shepard Hill Road." For more on the history of Danville, Texas, by Karen "Candy" Lawless, see "Journey to Danville."

   W. W. Shepperd executed his will in 1848.  Montgomery County Probate records indicate that W. W. Shepperd died in 1849 and he does not appear in the 1850 Montgomery County, Texas Census.  In 1852, the Montgomery County Court appointed C. B. Stewart the administrator of W. W. Shepperd's estate.  See the Huntsville Item, January 8, 1853, Volume III, No. 21.  It appears that the probate of Shepperd's estate was not formally concluded until 1857.  See Montgomery County, Texas probate records, "Black Box" documents, packet # 319.

   To read more about W. W. Shepperd, see Wm. Harley Gandy's thesis A History of Montgomery County, Texas, 1952 which thoroughly explores W. W. Shepperd's role as founder of the town of Montgomery. Special thanks to Mr. Gandy for his personal assistance and all of the information provided.  I could not have written this article without his help.  Also see pages 52-67 Early Settlers of Montgomery  County, 1987, Montgomery County Genealogical & Historical Society.