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Shepard Family Papers

Identifier: mss-808

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the Civil War letters of Harvey Shepard, his son Fenimore Shepard, and Fenimore's eventual brother-in-law, Joseph S. Perkins. There are 43 letters written by Harvey Shepard, most often addressed to his wife Clara with some written to Fenimore. Fenimore's letters too were frequently written to Clara, his mother, with a few to Harvey, and some to both parents. These number 73 in total. Two letters from Clara are present and are addressed to Harvey and Fenimore together. The letters date from the Shepherds' second enlistment when they served in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas.

There are also 25 letters written by Joseph Perkins, mostly to his sister Elizabeth or "Lib" with a few to his sister Sarah. They date from 1861-1864 which includes his life in Michigan before the war, military training in the Burlington, Vermont area, and service in Virginia.

A small number of letters from extended family members (such as Clara's sister Juliette Kent and an author identified solely as "Father") are included.

An inventory of the letters is included with the transcriptions and gives author, recipient, date, and location. A family history by Fenimore's granddaughter is included as well (handwritten photocopy).

A few pieces of post-war correspondence are present but have not been transcribed. Additionally, Fenimore's historical review of the Seventh Regiment and addresses given at veterans reunions are included. These are titled "Address on Gettysburg" and "The Seventh Vermont."


  • 1861-1918


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Biographical / Historical

Harvey Shepard was born in Cooperstown, New York in 1816. In 1837 he married Clarissa "Clara" Kent (1814-1887) of Benson, Vermont. He worked as a tailor in Castleton, Vermont by 1846, in business with J. A. Harrington. It appears that this business developed into a grocery store, a trade shared by members of the next few generations of Shepards. A tribute after Harvey's death recalls the shop as "headquarters for fun, wit, musical critics and good fellows of every variety" ("Castleton Casuals", The Fair Haven Era, 1879 April 11, page 4). Harvey and Clara had one son, Fenimore Hastings Shepard (1844-1924).

On September 3, 1862, Fenimore and Harvey enlisted as Privates in Company F of the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment of Vermont Volunteers. According to family lore, Fenimore enlisted and Harvey followed for fear of his only son's safety. Their residence was listed as Castleton, Vermont. They were mustered in on October 21, 1862 for a nine month term of service. The regiment was engaged in Virginia at a skirmish near Fairfax Court House and at the Battle of Gettysburg. Harvey and Fenimore were mustered out on July 30, 1863. (Note that the letters in this collection do not document their time in the Fourteenth Regiment; they may have been destroyed in a house fire.)

The Shepards re-enlisted less than five months later, on December 21, 1863, again at the rank of Private, in Company A of the Seventh Vermont Infantry Regiment. At this time, their residence was listed as Castleton, Vermont. They were mustered in on December 30, 1863 for a three year term. The regiment was engaged at the siege of Vicksburg, Baton Rouge, Gonzales Station (Louisiana), the Mobile (Alabama) Campaign, and Whistler (Alabama). The letters from this time were written in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama. They were officially mustered out on March 14, 1866.

Harvey died from an enlarged heart in 1879. Clara was granted a pension and arrears on appeal, with the help of a Montpelier lawyer, in 1886 after it was determined that this condition was caused by his military service. Clara died the next year.

In 1871, Fenimore married Sarah Perkins (1843-1912) in Fair Haven, Vermont. Fenimore was active in the YMCA and in veterans' societies, including the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). He worked as a grocer and opened his own local chain. He was also a Congregational Deacon. When he died in 1924, the newspapers called him the oldest businessman in Fair Haven, having been in the same occupation from 1866 to 1924. The family included five children: Iola Denison (1872-1944, married Edwin Hanford), Joseph P. (1873-1920, married Eva Frances Baker in 1910), Mary Kent (1875-1957, married Clayton Parker), Charles Herbert Hastings (1879-1951, married Nettie Doxie in 1909), and Gertrude E. (1881-1958, married Eugene "Gene" Ward). Sons Joseph and Charles worked in the family business, as did Charles's son Fenimore Hastings (1913-2004), until the 1960s when the stores closed.

Sarah Perkins was the daughter of Joseph Perkins (1798-1872), a doctor, President of Castleton Medical College, and professor of Obstetrics and of Materia Medica. He later taught at the University of Vermont College of Medicine until 1868. He was also a founder of the Vermont State Medical Society. Perkins was married five times and suffered many family deaths: four sons, four daughters, and four wives predeceased him (see Bibliography). His fourth wife, Cynthia Claghorn (1807-1849, m. 1837), was Sarah's mother. Cynthia had three children before marrying Perkins. Sarah's siblings Joseph (1841-1868) and Elizabeth "Libby" (1840-1899) appear most prominently in the collection from the Perkins side. Sarah was mainly raised by Iola Denison Guernsey Perkins (1808-1888), her father's fifth wife and first cousin (his mother and her father were siblings). Iola had a daughter, Lucy Guernsey, with her first husband who died in 1834. Iola's brother Edward Higley Denison (1817-1864) is referenced in the letters present in this collection.

Their oldest half-sibling, Selah Perkins (1829-1862) was a doctor who served as a Captain of Company H in the First Vermont Cavalry in the Civil War. Selah was commissioned in from Castleton on October 19, 1861 and mustered in November 1, 1861. The unit spent its time in Virginia. On September 22, 1862, Selah was killed when engaged at Ashby's Gap in the Shenandoah mountains. Joseph Perkins (Sarah's brother) served too, as a Private in Company K of the First Vermont Cavalry Regiment. He enlisted from Burlington on August 29, 1862 for a three year term. He was mustered in on September 29, 1862 and the company was engaged at several sites in Virginia, as well as Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia. Joseph was promoted to Sergeant on February 14, 1865. He was mustered out on June 21, 1865. He died of consumption in Castleton, Vermont in 1868.


0.2 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Collection contains the Civil War letters of Harvey Shepard and his son Fenimore Shepard. Both served as Infantry Privates. Some letters of Joseph S. Perkins of the First Vermont Cavalry and Fenimore's eventual brother-in-law, are also present. There are a few additional addresses and regimental reunion materials.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex; contact for access.


  • Kelly, Howard A. A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography, Volume 2. W.B. Saunders Company. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1912

Processing Information

A record for Sarah Perkins Shepard's marriage gives her mother's name as Eunice. Her death record says Cynthia (which agrees with life dates from for both Sarah and Cynthia).

The extended family members on the Perkins side were very interconnected. Dr. Joseph Perkins's third wife Zilpah Higley Perkins was the daughter of Erastus Higley and Esther Anne Guernsey. Perkins's fifth wife, Iola Denison Guernsey Perkins, was the daughter of William H. Dennison and Iole Higley. Her previous husband was Hoit Guernsey; his father was Chauncy Guernsey. Erastus Higley and Iole Higley were siblings. Esther Anne Guernsey and Chauncy Guernsey were siblings. As alluded to in the Biographical Note, Dr. Joseph Perkins's mother, Patience Denison Perkins, was the sister of William H. Denison.

Guide to the Shepard Family Papers
2018 August
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)