David Shepard (surgeon)

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David Shepard
Massachusetts House of Representatives
In office
1780 – Unknown
Town Clerk
Chester, Massachusetts
In office
In office
Chester, Massachusetts
In office
In office
In office
In office
Personal details
Born (1744-10-23)October 23, 1744
Westfield, Massachusetts
Died (1818-12-12)December 12, 1818
Amsterdam (town), New York
Alma mater Yale
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance United States United Colonies
United States United States
Service/branch Massachusetts Bay provincial militia
Continental Army
Years of service Militia: 1775
Continental Army: 1775–1777
Rank Captain
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War
 • Battles of Lexington and Concord
 • Siege of Boston
 • Battle of Bennington

David Shepard (October 23, 1744 – December 12, 1818) was an American doctor, a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives,[1] a Minuteman, and surgeon in the Continental Army. He was an early proponent of inoculation to prevent small pox.[2]

He was present at several key battles of the American Revolution, usually acting in a medical capacity, as a military surgeon.[3]

Early life (1744–1761)[edit]

David Shepard was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, to John and Elizabeth (Noble) Shepard, their eighth child of nine.[4]

Yale college (1762–1769)[edit]

A Front View of Yale-College, and the College Chapel, 1786. Yale students near the college President are seen removing their hats, a Yale custom of the era. The College Chapel (left), was a recent addition to Yale College when David Shepard arrived in about 1764, having just been completed the year before.

David attended Yale at a time when the student body was caught up in the rebellious spirit of the 1760s. The students stopped going to classes and prayers and generally abused the tutors, who resigned. They would frequently speak against the British Parliament in chapel, and petitioned the Corporation with their grievances, insisting on the removal of the disciplinarian president Thomas Clap. Things at the college had become so difficult the Corporation ordered an early spring vacation, and David Shepard was one of the few undergraduates that returned. Despite the reduced student body, things continued this way until the end of the term.

Commencements were usually celebrated with copious amounts of alcohol, despite the students resolving to drink no "foreign spiritous Liquors any more."[Notes 1] The diary of one of Shepard's classmates[Notes 2] records on September 9, 1766—the day before commencement—that they were examined for their degrees in the afternoon, but only after getting "Liquer (sic) in readiness for Commencement."[5]

Shepard graduated (B.A.) that September at what would be Yale president Thomas Clap's last commencement before resigning, Friday, September 10, 1766.[6] The next year David married Margaret Clap, daughter of Ezra Clap (Yale, 1740) on December 3, 1767.

In 1769 David is included in a list of Masters' Degree candidates, his thesis relating to the nature of slow versus acute disease.[Notes 3] This is the same year that his wife died, leaving him with one daughter, also named Margaret.

Murrayfield, Mass. (1770–1774)[edit]

He removed to Murrayfield, Massachusetts (now called Chester) and married a second time to Lucinda Mather on January 7, 1773. They had six children: Mather, David, Lucinda, Harriet, Fanny and Horace.

David Shepard was a Selectman of Murrayfield, serving throughout 1772–76, and for several years through the 1790s.[7][8]

American Revolution (1775–1783)[edit]

As Boston's conflict with the royal government came to a head in 1773–75, Shepard was appointed to the Chester Committee of Correspondence. And at the battles of Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775, he would serve as a volunteer surgeon.[3] Following the Lexington Alarm, Shepard went to Cambridge as captain of a company of Minutemen in the regiment commanded by Col. Seth Pomeroy. On arrival, April 28, 1775, he was appointed Surgeon of Danielson's Regiment[Notes 4] and remained at the fortifications in Roxbury, Mass. in that capacity through the remainder of that year. He later served with a detachment of the Third Hampshire County Regiment which marched to Ticonderoga to reinforce the army by order of General Schuyler,[4] and was present at the Battle of Bennington, August 16, 1777.

United States Constitution[edit]

Delegates proceeded to the Statehouse following their deliberations on the Constitution, depicted here (1793) much as it would have looked at the time.

At a town meeting on December 13, 1787, Shepard was chosen as Chester's delegate to the State Convention to meet at Boston in January.[9]

And, in January 1788, Shepard was recorded at Boston, Massachusetts where he served as representative of the town of Chester at a Constitutional Convention to consider a constitution reported in the summer of 1787 by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.[10] On February 6 they formally ratified the U.S. Constitution,[9] proceeding to the Boston State House for a reception.

Shepard was reimbursed for his time and travel to a total of £14.14.0.[9]

Amsterdam, N.Y. (1802–1818)[edit]

In 1802 Shepard purchased a farm near Amsterdam, N.Y., and resided there until his death. This farm later became the Fairview Cemetery (Amsterdam, New York).


  1. ^ A letter from Roswell Grant (Yale 1765) to his father, Capt. Ebenezer Grant, in Stiles, History, p311.
  2. ^ Joseph B. Wadsworth (Yale 1766)
  3. ^ David Shepard is listed as arguing for the affirmative, to the question, "An morbi Lenti, quàm Acutiores, magis sint periculosi?" in Yale College, Quæstiones.
  4. ^ David Shepard served in Danielson's regiment along with two of his elder brothers: John, serving as Lieutenant in Capt. Parks' company, and William, serving as Lt. Col. of the regiment, and who would later play an important role in Shays' Rebellion


  1. ^ Continental Journal. p. 2.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Copeland. Our County. p. 369. 
  3. ^ a b Gardner, Danielson's regiment." p75.
  4. ^ a b Jacobus, Donald Lines. The Shepard Families of New England. New Haven: New Haven Colony Historical Society. 1973. p104-105.
  5. ^ Stokes. Memorials. p. 118. 
  6. ^ Clap. The Annals. p. 80–103, 123. 
  7. ^ Everts. History. p. 1061. 
  8. ^ Copeland. A History. 
  9. ^ a b c Kaminski, John P.; et al., eds. (1997). The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Madison, Wisc.: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Retrieved July 4, 2013. 
  10. ^ Pierce, B.K. (1856). Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Held in the Year 1788, and which Finally Ratified the Constitution of the United States. Printed by Authority of Resolves of the Legislature. p. 36.