Category Archives: Shepley

Petition of John Shepley of Groton, MA in 1704

My Heritage recently added a huge digitized book collection to its website. Although I have a subscription to My Heritage, the best thing about this collection is that My Heritage has pledged to keep it free for all to access.

I have many colonial New England lines, so I imagine I might find some undiscovered gems buried here. I decided to start the hunt by looking for “Shepley” in Groton, Massachusetts.

Back in March of 2015, I wrote about Susannah Wheeler Shepley, wife of John Shepley. The Shepleys lived in Groton at the time of the 27 July 1694 Indian raid that devastated the little town. Their son, John, was the sole family survivor of this attack. John, born about 1678, was captured and taken to Canada. About 1698, he returned to Groton, married and had a family. John born c1678 is my 8X great grandfather. and I am descended from him a couple of times. He married Lydia Lakin, the daughter of Ensign John and Mary (Bacon) Lakin about 1699, possibly in Groton.

John and Lydia Shepley had six known children, although there are significant gaps which might indicate the loss of young children or possibly some unidentified children. Groton was definitely a town on the frontier and there seem to be some missing records.

Children, births all recorded at Groton:

Jonathan, born 1 September 1700; died 4 November 1744 in Groton; married Lydia Lakin, daughter of William Lakin and Elizabeth Robertson, 26 December 1728.
John, born 1 April 1703; married Elizabeth Boyden on 16 February 1725/26.
Jane, born 6 April 1705; no further record
Mary, born 20 December 1712; married Jonas Varnum, 28 Janaury 1730/31
Nathaniel, born 16 November 1714; no further record
Joseph, born 22 May 1721; no further record

Given the years between some of these births, one would think that John might have married twice, but Lydia survived him, so it is more likely that this list of children is incomplete.

In my first search of the My Heritage book collection, I came across the Proceedings of the Centennial Celebration at Groton, Massachusetts, 1876 and I found the following petition to His Excellency Joseph Dudley in 1704:


1704 Petition of John Shepley

I know that money was paid for Indian scalps and, normally, I wouldn’t even be commenting on this topic. However, knowing that John saw his family slaughtered – his mother, his father, his sister and one other unidentified sibling – and that he spent four years in captivity himself, I can only imagine the feelings he had when he made this petition. He and Samuel Butterfield were each paid the sum of four pounds for killing this Indian.

This discovery is okay – perhaps I will find some treasures if I keep digging.

New eBay Genealogy Finds

A few months back, I wrote a post about using eBay as a source of genealogical finds and mementos. Since eBay is a constantly changing database of sale items, it is worth revisiting regularly.

eBay crossed my mind today so I decided to see if I could find any treasures. Here is what turned up:

1. Postcard of Calais Avenue, Calais, ME, c1907, $4.20

Calais Avenue

My 2x great grandparents lived on “the avenue,” as it was called in the early 1900’s so this is the view they had from their porch. I actually have a photo of them sitting on that porch. This is a fun find.

2. Original list of the 8th Regiment Of Maine Commissioned Officers, $77.48

8th Regiment, Commissioned Officers List, May 1865

None of my Maine family fought in the Civil War, but if one was an officer in the 8th Regiment, this would be genealogical gold for me.

3. Taylor Douthit, 1933 baseball player, Cincinnati Reds card, $6.00

Taylor Douthit Card

I had never heard of Taylor Douthit, but a quick check shows that he was the son of Abraham Lee Douthit, born in 1873 in Missouri. Dave’s 2x great grandmother, Susannah Douthit Alberty is related to this family. Abraham was the son of Andrew Douthit living in Newton County, MO in 1880. Two doors away are “Bige” (Abijah) and (Martha) Susan Alberty “Sturgil.” Andrew Douthit was the brother of Susannah. “Susan Sturgil” was the first cousin of Abraham Lee Douthit so a first cousin once removed of baseball player Taylor Douthit.

4. Photo of Brig. General George Foster Shepley, $6.62

Right, George Foster Shepley

These look like they came from a page in a county history. George F. Shepley attended Harvard and Dartmouth, was a brigadier general and served in the Maine House of Representatives and as a circuit court judge. This distinguished gentleman is the great grandson of John Shepley and Lydia Lakin, my 8x great grandparents. Not too close of a cousin, but it is interesting to see what a member of the Shepley family looked like.

Except for the Calais Avenue postcard, I wouldn’t be bidding on any of these items. However, I did learn a few things about my family while searching the auctions – we have both an early American baseball player and a brigadier general-U.S. Circuit Court judge in the family and I now know what both of them look like.

Susannah Wheeler Shepley

With St. Patrick’s Day this week, I have absolutely no Irish ties and couldn’t think of a single “lucky” event to associate with an ancestor. I decided to give the theme a twist so I am writing about Susannah Wheeler, born on St. Patrick’s Day – 17 March 1648/49 – in Concord, Massachusetts, but she and all but one child came to a most unlucky end.

Susannah Wheeler was one of eight children of Obadiah Wheeler and his wife, cousin Susannah Wheeler, both of whom were born in Cranfield, Bedfordshire, England. They settled in Concord, Massachusetts, where all of their children were born.

However, Susannah’s marriage to John Shepley is recorded in nearby Chelmsford – they married on 23 September 1672. In the 1670’s, the western area of Middlesex County was still sparsely settled land where plantations and villages were subject to Indian attacks.

The Shepleys likely had a somewhat difficult life.  After marriage, they removed to Groton, which encompassed a much larger area back then. The towns of Pepperell, Shirley, Dunstable and Ayer and even some land in today’s New Hampshire were part of the original Groton, but there were few settlers there.

The town of Groton was almost destroyed in a Native American raid on 13 March 1676 during King Philip’s War. Only four garrisons remained standing and the inhabitants fled to Concord. Two years later, in 1678, they returned to rebuild the town.

Unlike many other families of their time, the Shepleys had only two, and perhaps three, children surviving until 1694. Their son John was born about 1678, but his birth was apparently not recorded. John and Susannah also had a daughter, born 15 March 1681/82 in Chelmsford, but her name was not entered into the birth record. They may have had a third child, whose birth was also not recorded. The source for that information will become known a bit further along in this story.

John Shepley’s land was on Martin Pond’s Road, not too far from the village common. It was near the middle red arrow on the map below. The village common was the area that is a triangular shape, sitting at the intersection of two main roads and a smaller local street, indicated by the bottom red arrow. The arrow at the top of the map near Groton Cemetery, becomes Chicopee Row, where another ancestor, Lt. William Lakin, had his garrison house. His military title was not a courtesy title. He had an important job and that was to be vigilant about unfriendly intruders.

There is actually not very much written about the events of 27 July 1694. Groton native and well-known historian Samuel Abbott Green recorded what early descriptions he could find in An Account of the Early Land-Grants of Groton, Massachusetts, published in 1879, almost 200 years after the actual event.

From 1688-1697, settlers were on high alert, as King William’s War followed King Philip’s War. The French and English were again fighting and the French had allied itself with the Wabanaki Confederacy, five Native American tribes,  which included the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki and Penobscots.

On pages 29-33, Green begins the accounts of raids on the town:

These facts show that the early settlers were not leading a life of peace at this time. The orders and counter-orders to even the small garrison tell too well that the danger was threatening. The inhabitants had already experienced the cruelty of savage warfare, and knew it to their horror. For some eyars they had been n the constant alert, and held their lives in their hands. King William’s War was no begun. The second attack on the town came in the summer of 1694, and the account of it I prefer to give in the words of contemporaneous writers.

He then quotes Cotton Mather’s Magnalia:

Nor did the Storm go over so: Some Drops of it fell upon the Town of Groton, a Town that lay, one would think, far enough off the Place where was the last Scene of the Tragedy. )n July 27 (1694) about break of Day Groton felt some surprizing Blows from the Indian Hatchets. They began their Attacks at the House of one Lieutenant Lakin, in the Out-skirts of the Town; but met with a Repulse there, and lost one of their crew. Nevertheless, in other Parts of that Plantation, (where the good People had been so tired out as to lay down their Military watch) there were more than Twenty Persons killed, and more than a Dozen carried away.

Finally, Green reports:

The following list of casualties, in part conjectural, is given as an approximation of the loss sustained by the town:

John Longley’s family, 7 killed, 3 captured
Rev. Mr. Hobart’s family, 1 killed, 1 captured
John Shepley’s family, 4? killed, 1 captured
James Parker Jr.’s family, 2 killed, 3? captured
Alexander Rouse’s family, 2? killed, 1 captured

This is the source of a possible third child of John and Susannah Shepley, but nothing more is known about his/her existence. Not only did Susannah died, but her husband John, unnamed daughter born in Chelmsford in 1681/2 and possibly another child were all killed in the raid that morning.

History notes that all were scalped and reportedly their scalps were presented to the Governor of Canada, the Count de Frontenac.

Son John, born about 1678, was the sole survivor, but he was taken captive to Canada. Some four years later, he returned to Groton, married and raised his family. All Shepleys are said to be descended from him.

Samuel Abbott Green makes mention of the Shepley monument in Groton. I have been unable to find a photo of it, but apparently it is a memorial to the family killed in the attack.

Today, we often talk about Irish luck in a light-hearted manner, but Susannah Wheeler Shepley and her family led a difficult, dangerous life on the frontier of Massachusetts and paid with their lives.