An American Family History

Ralph and Thanklord Shepard


“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists."
― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Charlestown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Dedham, Norfork County, Massachusetts
Weymouth, Norfork County, Massachusetts
Malden, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Ralph and Thankful Shepherd and their children and Henry and Ann Collins and their children came to America together on the Abigail. She arrived in Boston about October 8, 1635. The passengers were infected with smallpox. 
Middlesex County, Massachusetts was created on May 10, 1643. The county originally included Charlestown, Cambridge, Watertown, Sudbury, Concord, Woburn, Medford, Wayland, and Reading.

Colonial legislatures granted land to a group of settlers (proprietors) who chose how to divide the land. They had some rights of governance.

Chelmsford, Middlesex County, Massachusetts was incorporated in May, 1655
Rehoboth, Massachusetts was settled in 1643. It originally included included Seekonk, and parts of Attleboro, North Attleborough, Swansea and Somerset in Massachusetts, and East Providence, Barrington, Bristol, Warren, Pawtucket, Cumberland, and Woonsocket in Rhode Island.
During the Indian wars, some colonists were taken captive. They were killed, ransomed, or adopted into the tribe.

The rod or perch or pole is a surveyor's tool equal to 5 1⁄2 yards.

Ralph Shepard and his wife, Thanklord, married on May 21, 1632 in Saint Bride’s Church, London, England.

Their daughter, Sarah Shepard was born on August 6, 1633. 

The young family left from Stepney, England and arrived Charlestown, Middlesex County County, Massachusetts in 1635. Ralph was 29, Thanks was 23 and Sarah was only three. They sailed on the Abigail.

Thomas Shepard was born on April 5, 1635.

The year after they arrived in Charlestown, they moved to Dedham where they lived for a short time. Ralph (Rafe Shepheard) attended the first town meeting which was held August 18, 1836. He received twelve acres of land. He signed the Covenant of Dedham in 1636.

John Shepard was born about 1637.

On March 23, 1636/37 Ralph was granted a parcel of meadow in Dedham. On May 11, 1637 he received four acres of swampland.  On July 28, 1638, he received additional land in Dedham to make up for his half lot.

They relocated to Weymouth where Isaac Shepard was born on June 20, 1639. Trial Shepard Powers  was born on October 19, 1641. Abraham Shepard was born on March 7, 1642.

July 23, 1643, Ralph Shepard is record as one of the original proprietors of Rehobeth, Massachusetts, but he was one of those who forfeited lots in Rehoboth for not fencing them or moving their families there.

On June 31, 1644, Ralph received a share of woodland at Weymouth. On June 9, 1645, he was granted a lot on the great plain. 

The family moved to Malden, Massachusetts by 1650.

Thankful Shepard Dill was born on February 10, 1650.

On April 19, 1651 Ralph bought an upland lot “lying by the Nort Springe on Mistik Syde" of five acres and four cow lots in Malden.  He bought it from Dr. Richard Palgrave. 

Jacob Shepard was born on June 16, 1653. Thomas married in 1658 in Malden, Tryal married in 1660 and John married in 1661 at Concord.

On March 5, 1664 they sold some land at Malden to Abraham Hill. In 1666 he bought 610 acres in Concord from Lt. Joseph Wheeler.

On March 25, 1666 he deeded 60 acres in Concord to Walter Power.

On July 7, 1666 they sold land some in Malden to Benjamin Bunker.

Isaac married in 1667 at Concord, Thanks married in 1669 at Chelmsford, and Abraham married in 1673.

In 1676 two of their sons, Isaac and Jacob were killed by indigenous warriors during King Philip’s War.

On Saturday, Feb. 12, 1675, the sons Isaac and Jacob were killed by the Indians on the south side of Quagana hill. They, at the time, were threshing grain in the barn on the Shepard homestead. Being aware of the perilous times,—this was during King Philip’s War—the sons had set their sister (niece?) Mary on the summit of the hill to watch for Indians.

The ground was covered with deep snow and the Indians traveled with snowshoes. Eluding the vigilance of Mary who was only about thirteen years old, they swooped down up on the Shepard barn before she was aware of their presence and slew Isaac and Jacob.

She was taken captive and carried to Nashawa,—now called Lancaster, or some place in that vicinity. During the first night after her capture she escaped and reached home the next morning. In the dead of night, Mary took a saddle from under the head of her Indian keeper who was sunk in sleep increased by ardent spirits, put the saddle on a horse which the Indians had stolen at Lancaster, mounted it, swam it across the Nashawa river, rode through the forest to her home.The leader of the Indian band is supposed to have been Netus, sometimes called Nipmuck Captain.(Ancestors and Descendants of Albro Dexter, p, 27-28)

The History of Concord also told the story:

The place of the tragedy was on the south side of Quagana Hill, and the persons slain and captured were children of Ralfe and Thanklord Shepard who went from Malden near a place since called Bell Rock to Concord village, where he bought of Lieut Joseph Wheeler of Concord 610 acres lying in the form of a triangle between the Indian plantation of Nashoba and that part of Chelmsford which is now Westford; Nagog pond forming the base of the triangle, the apex being two miles one-quarter and sixty rods north from the southwest end of Nagog pond.

The names of the persons slain and captured were Isaac, Jacob, and Mary.Isaac was born June 20, 1639, and married Mary Smedley, 1667. Jacob was born in 1653, and Mary the youngest of the family was born in 1660 or 1662.

When the Indians swooped down upon the Shepard homestead the ground was covered with snow to such a depth that snow shoes were used. The event happened on Saturday, and Isaac and Jacob were threshing in the barn. Being aware of the perilous times, they had set their sister on the summit of a hill to watch for Indians; but the savages eluded her vigilance and before she was aware of their presence she was captured and her brothers were slain.

Tradition does not inform us just where the girl was taken to; some think it was in the neighborhood of Lancaster, others that it was as far off as Brookfield, but wherever it was she soon escaped and returned home. Hubbard in his narrative of the Indian wars says of Mary Shepard that she strangely escaped away upon a horse that the Indians had taken from Lancaster a little while before. Tradition asserts that she escaped during the night following the day of her capture and arrived home the next morning.

Rev. Edmund Foster a former minister of Littleton in a "Century Sermon" preached in the year 1815, stated concerning the event that tradition says the girl was carried by the savages to Nashawa, now called Lancaster, or to some place in the neighborhood of it.

Samuel Gardner Drake in his notes on the "Old Indian Chronicle" says that the leader of the band who slew the Shepard brothers is supposed to have been Netus, the same who attacked the Eames family, and who was sometimes called the Nipmuck Captain. Netus was slain the 22nd of March following, by a company of men from Sudbury, who with some soldiers from Marlboro found him asleep with a company of Indians around their campfire. Foster says that in the dead of night as related by tradition, Mary Shepard took a saddle from under the head of her Indian keeper when sunk in sleep increased by the fumes of ardent spirit, put the saddle on a horse, mounted him, swam him across Nashawa river, and so escaped the hands of her captors and arrived safe to her relatives and friends.

In 1681 Ralph deeded part of his Concord lands to Abraham and part to Isaac.

Four of their children (Isaac, Trial, Abraham and Thanks) lived on farms contiguous to theirs.

Ralph died in 1693 and Thankful died in 1681 or 1693.  They are buried in Bell Rock Cemetery.


Daniel married in 1701.
Old Style Calendar
Before 1752 the year began on Lady Day, March 25th,. Dates between January 1st and March 24th were at the end of the year. Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are used to indicate whether the year has been adjusted. Often both dates are used.

Dedham, Norfolk County, Massachusetts was settled in 1635 by English Puritans.
Malden, Massachusetts was first settled in 1640.  It was incorporated as a town in 1649 and as a city in 1881. Prior to 1649, it was part of  Charlestown called Mystic Side.
Read about the Wheelers on your Kindle.
European and indiginous American fought fierce battles as the Europeans expanded their territory.
Understand the Puritans better:
Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts was settled early by the English as a frontier outpost of  the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Some Puritans gave their children hortatory names (from the Latin for “encourage”) like Thankful, hoping that the children would live up to them. The names were used for several generations.



A Puritan was a member of the religious group in the 16th and 17th centuries that advocated "purity" of worship and doctrine who believed in personal and group piety. Puritans were persecuted in England and came to America so they would be free to practice their religion.

(from Commemorative of Calvin and Luther Blanchard, Acton Minute-men 1775 by Alfred Sereno Hudson

The causes that led Joseph to take up his abode there, were, we believe, two-fold, viz:
The purchase of a large land tract there by Ralph Shepard, a neighbor of his family; and the marriage of Joseph, his father, son of George Blanchard, to Hannah Shepard, who, we conjecture, was a daughter of Ralph Shepard, formerly an inhabitant of the territory of Charlestown, now Malden. As this conjecture, however, is not based directly on the data of record, but is the result of inference, it is proper to state our reasons for the inference, which are as follows:

1st. We are informed, as a matter of history, that Joseph, son of George Blanchard, born 1654, married Hannah Shepard.

2d. In 1635, Ralph Shepard, with his wife, Thanklord or Thankslord, aged 23, and his daughter Sarah, aged 2, came to America from Stepney Parish, London, England, on the ship Abigail, and after living for a short time in Dedham, Weymouth and Rehoboth, settled in Malden.

3d. The following record is found in the Proceedings of the Littleton Historical Society:
Sarah, born 1633;
Isaac, born June 20, 1639;
Triall, born December 19, 1641, married, 1660, Walter Powers;
Thankful, born February 10, 1650;
Jacob, born June, 1653;
(perhaps) Ralph, who died January 20, 1711 or 12;
(perhaps) Daniel ;
Mary, born about 1660-62.

4th. We are informed that the foregoing record is made up, at least in part, from tradition, and is not claimed to be complete.

5th. In that early period of our country, probably, a record of births and deaths was not so carefully kept as in an age which makes the keeping of records compulsory; and, as a matter of fact, as is well known to historians, omissions on public records, of names and dates pertaining to families, are not unusual.

6th. The sons, Ralph and Daniel, who have, by conjecture, been assigned to the years 1653 and 1660, may have been born between 1641 and 1650, and in the interim between 1653 and 1660 one or more children may have had birth and, if so, they would be of about the age of Joseph Blanchard, who married Hannah Shepard.

7th. We have found, upon examination of the genealogy of other Shepard families, no one, of which we consider it probable, that Hannah, the wife of Joseph Blanchard, was a member.

8th. The homesteads of the Blanchards and Shepards were not far distant from each other. Ralph Shepard's house was situated in what was called "Bell Rock pasture," which was, probably, in the vicinity of what is known as " Bell Rock burying ground," near which there is a station on the Saugus branch of the Boston & Maine railroad. This burying ground, and probably also the pasture here referred to, took their names from the fact that a bell was placed near there which, in the early settlement of the town, was used to call the inhabitants to meeting. The house of Ralph Shepard, and a lot of land, of about fourteen acres, which belonged to the homestead, was purchased in 1666 by the Rev. Benjamin Bunker, a minister, who was ordained in Malden, December 9, 1663, and who, at one time, owned land in Charlestown, about Bunker Hill. The Shepard homestead is described as lying north of the parsonage and meeting-house lots, on both sides of "Penny Ferry," which crossed the Mystic river, in the locality of the present Malden bridge.

9th. The location of the Blanchard and Shepard farms made the families, for those times, neighbors. They were probably worshipers at the little meeting-house near Bell Rock, where the children associated on Sundays, and, perhaps, they attended the same school, which may have been the one which Ralph Shepard petitioned might be kept at his house, but which petition was not granted. The marshes, outstretching between Blanchard's Point and the home of Ralph Shepard at Bell Rock, were only at times overflowed with the tide water, which came up the Mystic river, and the little estuaries, which may have run between the two places here and there on the marsh land, would hardly form a barrier, at low tide, to the neighborly visits of the two families.

10th. Ralph Shepard, some time subsequent to 1663, purchased a large land tract of six hundred and ten acres, of Lieutenant Joseph Wheeler, of Concord, who in turn received it from the government. This land lay in the form of a triangle, according to Mr. Harwood, the local historian, and was situated between the Indian plantation of Nashoba, and what is now Westford. It is stated, that in the tract of land, at or near the Elbridge Marshall farm, was the home of Joseph Blanchard.

Nagog pond formed the base of the triangle, and the apex was two miles one-quarter and sixty rods north from the south-west end of Nagog pond, which would bring it to a point on the Westford line, on or near the Deacon Manning farm, but south of the road.

11th. A large part of the Shepard family moved to the Littleton territory, and settled on land in the locality of the paternal purchase; and among these was Walter Powers the husband of Triall Shepard, who bought land of his father-in-law, and took possession of it as early as 1666.

In view of these circumstances, we believe the fair inference is, that Joseph Blanchard married Hannah, a daughter of Ralph Shepard, and that her name, like that of many another member of a large family, in that busy and practical period of colonial life, was not placed on record, as may have been the case with others of his children; and we believe that the prime cause of Walter Powers and Joseph Blanchard's going to Littleton territory was the land purchase of their father-in-law, Ralph Shepard.

Europeans who made the voyage to America faced a difficult journey of several months.

Boston was founded in 1630 by Puritan settlers from England.

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Watauga Settlement
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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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