Charles Shepard Papers, 1850-1958


Summary Information
Title: Charles Shepard Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1850-1958

Creator:
  • Shepard, Charles
Call Number: Micro 78; Platteville Micro 2; Platteville SC 91

Quantity: 1 reel of microfilm (35mm) and 0.1 c.f. (1 folder)

Repository:
Archival Locations:
UW-Platteville Karrmann Library / Platteville Area Research Ctr. (Map)
Wisconsin Historical Society (Map)

Abstract:
Papers of Charles Shepard and other residents of the African American settlement of Pleasant Ridge (near Beetown), Wisconsin, including letters, tax receipts, an emancipation document, and community histories. Shepard (Sheppard) was the head of the first African American family to settle in what became a pioneer black community about five miles west of Lancaster, Wisconsin, in 1848. The letters are chiefly communications between the Shepards in Wisconsin and their relatives in Virginia and Washington, D.C. Other letters are those of Thomas and John Greene, other settlers of Pleasant Ridge. Typed transcriptions of the letters are also available in paper form.

Language: English

URL to cite for this finding aid: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-micr0078
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Biography/History

Charles Shepard was the first African-American to settle in what became a pioneer Black community about five miles west of Lancaster, Wisconsin. In 1848, the family of William Horner, a Virginia planter, moved to Wisconsin, bringing with them their freed slaves: Charles and Caroline Shepard (nee Brent), their three children, Harriet, John, and Mary, Charles' brother Isaac and Sarah Brown, who was still a slave. Later, Isaac returned to Virginia and paid for Sarah Brown's freedom. The two then married. Charles and Isaac left a mother and several brothers and sisters in Virginia who planned on heading west at a later date. Eventually these individuals migrated to Washington D.C. A few years later the Shepards purchased land from Horner in the northeast corner of Beetown Township, Grant County.

To this same area other freed slaves later came, among them the Grimes, Greens, and Richmonds from Missouri and Arkansas, and Samuel Gadlin from Tennessee. Illinois and Missouri seem to have furnished most of the settlers for the new colony. At one time the Black residents in this Pleasant Ridge colony were thought to have numbered 100, and they shared school (Beetown, District 6) and church facilities with the whites in the area. But marriage was difficult in so small a community, and the young people gradually drifted to the cities. In February, 1959 the last Black inhabitant, Ollie Green Lewis (Mrs. Dick Lewis), a descendant of the Green and Shepard Families died. [See Grant County Herald, Lancaster, Wis., Feb. 25, 1959.]

Durin the Civil war both Charles Shepard and his son, John, served with the Union Army. Charles was with the 50th U.S. Infantry Regiment and died at Vicksburg. John (listed as John N. Shepard), a private in Company K, 42nd Regiment, died of disease March 28, 1865, at Cairo, Illinois.

Scope and Content Note

These letters are chiefly communications between the Shepards in Wisconsin and their relatives in Virginia and Washington, D.C. Although they are not very revealing they do indicate the way in which these freed African-Americans were living, their concern for each other, and their strong inclination toward religion. Also present are letters of Thomas and John Greene, other settlers of Pleasant Ridge.

In addition to the letters, two other manuscripts and a clipping relating to the Pleasant Ridge community are filmed: a “History of the Negro Pioneer Settlers of Grant County,” “The Shepard Family History.” and “Only One Survivor of Negro Colony” from the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 1, 1958.

The contents of this collection are available online.

Administrative/Restriction Information
Acquisition Information

The originals of the Charles Shepard Papers were loaned to the State Historical Society for microfilming by Mrs. David Crichton in October, 1959. The collection in 1960 was given to the Grant County Historical Society where it referred to as the “Lewis Papers,” because they came from the estate of Ollie Lewis.