Tombstone Tuesday: William Shepard and His Many Wives

I returned to Spring Hill Cemetery in Easton, Md., over the weekend and happened upon a row of graves that turned out to be for one man, his three wives and one of his sons:

William H. Shepard (Jan. 28, 181?-Jan. 8, 1869)

Rebecca A. Thompson (Jan. 21, 1819-Aug. 14, 1849)

Isabella V. Thompson (Jan. 20, 182?-March 21, 1858)

Elizabeth A. (Aug. 12, 182?-Aug. 11, 1892)

William W. Shepard (July 31, 184?-June 4, 187?)

Unfortunately, many of the dates are wearing away and were too difficult for me to discern. I haven’t been able to find much out about the Shepards and the Thompsons. In the 1850 U.S. census on Ancestry.com, Isabella appears in William H.’s household with two other Thompson women and his children. I don’t think she is William’s wife yet (it’s only a year after Rebecca passed away) — Isabella’s name isn’t immediately after his in the schedule, as one would expect if she were the wife. Her last name is listed as Thompson and not Shepard.

I find it interesting that the Thompson women have their maiden names listed on their tombstones. I wonder if Rebecca and Isabella were sisters. It is probable that they were related in some way, and I don’t think that was unusual back then. My guess is that when Rebecca married William, she brought family members with her to live with them. When Rebecca passed away, William married one of those relatives (I haven’t been able to find proof any of this yet, it’s just a hunch).

I’m wondering if Elizabeth A. took Shepard’s last name as her own and that is why there is no other surname on her tombstone. She was not one of the Thompson women living with Shepard up to this point. Even though she survived into the 1890s, I’ve been unable to find her in any of the censuses so far. She would have been in her 50s when William H. passed away. I don’t know how likely it is that she would have remarried, but I suppose it’s possible.

William (senior, I’m assuming) is listed as a slave owner in 1860 according to the slave schedules in the U.S. census that year. In that year, William H. is living with three daughters and still has a Sarah Thompson living with him. It doesn’t appear that Elizabeth was on the scene yet.

William W. can be found living with his father in 1850, but by the 1860 census he is apprenticed to a master painter and is living with him and his family instead.

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4 thoughts on “Tombstone Tuesday: William Shepard and His Many Wives

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Missy Corley, Sharondipity. Sharondipity said: RT @baysideresearch Tombstone Tuesday: William Shepard and His Many Wives http://bit.ly/5S0D1D #genealogy #cemeteries #familyhistory [...]

  2. Bill Smith says:

    Thank you for sharing this most interesting set of stones. They each have quite a story, don’t they.

    Bill ;-)

    http://drbilltellsancestorstories.blogspot.com/
    Author of “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories”

  3. Lori says:

    Unfortunately, this seems to have been all too common. I have run into several of my ancestors that married numerous times due to the death of a spouse, and in many instances it was the sister of the previous wife. So many of the women died so young; oftentimes in childbirth or shortly thereafter. It makes me so thankful for modern medicine!

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