I have been wondering about the “fever” that killed Oliver and Mary Shepley, so I have dug around searching for Pepperell history. I discovered that Pepperell was part of Groton, although named Pepperell, until 1775. The fever was described in more detail – as a “burning ague”, which means a hot fever with chills, aches and pains – in the History of Groton, Massachusetts written by Caleb Butler in 1848. It contains the following items from Rev. Emerson’s notes about Pepperell:
Pages 349-350, Summer and Fall of 1756:
We of Pepperell were visited with grievous sickness. From August 5th to the last of October there were above 180 persons sick, of which number 18 died, chiefly of a burning ague.
We were visited again with grievous sickness in 1757, the same illness we had last year. From the beginning of July to the middle of October, there were 219 persons sick, of which 25 died, 17 heads of families.
In 1758, we were again visited with the same grievous illness we have been for two years before. From the first of August to the middle of October, there were 96 persons sick of the fever of which number 11 died, 7 of whom were heads of families.
In footnote 3:
Jan 3, 1760
In a sermon by Rev. Emerson “It pleased God in the summer of 1755 to visit us with that grievous fever by which we have suffered so much, and which hath from its beginning with us obtained the name of the Pepperell fever.”
Of the 90 families living there, it was estimated that 540 people caught the fever and that 103 of them died. It appears that many of the inhabitants of Pepperell caught this fever at some point and the mortality rate was probably 15-20% of its population.
I still need to search for documents which will link Sibbel to her suspected grandparents, James and Elizabeth Williams Lakin. However, while reading the History of Groton, I discovered one more clue. Ambrose was the third child born to this couple, while Mary was the 8th, but the last child was another daughter named. . .Sybel. born 2 Jan 1736/37! Mary may have been close to this sister and named her daughter for her.