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Biographical Sketch of Hon. William Shephard

Hon. William Shephard

Hon. William Shephard - was born in Markington, Yorkshire, England, August 10, 1816. He came to this countyr with his father, Wm. Shephard, when but 16 years old, landing in New York, June 1832, and settling first at Trenton, N. J. His early occupation was as a shoemaker, but he soon turned his attention to canal and railroad enterprises. He first began as a day laborer on the Raritan Canal in New Jersey. He soon became a contractor on a limited scale, and removed to Lancaster, Penn., where he remained about three years, when he built the tunnel on the Harrisburg and Lancaster road.

In the spring of 1838, he moved west and located at St. Louis, where he clerked in a livery stable for a short time. In the fall of 1838, he moved to Coles County, Ill., where soon after he became a contractor under the State Internal Improvement System on the Central Branch R. R., now a part of the Big Four System. His partners in this enterprise were Richard Johnson and David Dunsdon, both Englishmen and pioneers of Jersey County. His next contract was the Grafton Bluff excavation preparatory to making of it a county road. This was a contract under the United States Government.

In 1840, Mr. Shephard was married to Miss Anna Maria Gross of Dauphing County, Penn. She was the daughter of Adam and Elizabeth Gross. The fruits of this union were nine children, five of whom are now living. Wim. V., the oldest son, died Feb. 15, 1875, in the 31st year of his age. The third son, Francis B., died in St. Louis while attending law school, April 28, 1876, in the 24th year of his age. He was a graduate of Notre Dame University, Ind., and also a graduate of Polytechic Institute, Troy, N. Y., and was a young man of much promise.

Mr. Shephard in 1847, engaged in the mercantile business in Grafton where he continued until 1852, when he took a contract in connection with the building of the Missouri Pacific R. R. He was an original incorporator, and was for many years President ot the Jacksonville,, St. Louis & Chicago R. R., and built the Louisiana Branch of that road, and also an extension of that road from Dwight to Streator. Mr. Shephard was elected State Senator from the district composed of the counties of Greene, Pike, Scott, Calhoun and Jersey, in 1866, by the Democratic party, and was re-elected in 1870, but in resigned in 1871.

In 1866, he established a private banking house in Jerseyville, Ill., which he conducted successfully nine years, when he sold out in June 1875. In 1871, he took large contracts of R. R. building in Texas, in company with Col. J. A. Henry, of Joliet, and J. J. Mitchell of St.Louis, where they built 300 miles of the Houston & Great Northern R. R. It is due his for the writer to say, who has known Mr. Shephard since he first came to Illinois, he was a gentleman of rare intellectual endowments, sound judgment, honest convictions of right and wrong, having the confidence of all who knew him best, which made him an eminently successful business man. He resided in Jerseyville for 36 years.

He was always a devoted member of the Catholic Church and the first Catholic service ever held in Jersey County was held in his house. He amassed a fortune of $300,000. He died at his home in Jereseyville, Ill, surrounded by wife, children and friends, August 12, 1875. Mrs. Shephard also died at the same home March 18, 1890, surrounded by children, grand-children, and a host of sympathizing friends.

Source: [History of Jerseyville, Illinois 1822 to 1901, by Rev. Marshall M. Cooper, Jerseyville Republican Print. 1901]