The bulk of the collection reflects the nature of Shepard's diversified business activities: farming; brokering cotton, peanuts, and truck crops; and selling insurance, fertilizer, and fish. In his later years Shepard invested in several banks and textile mills and built up a substantial insurance business. These pursuits are documented in correspondence (1876-1894), daybooks, cashbooks, and ledgers (1868-1913), and financial papers (1866-1884, 1890). To a lesser extent, these materials pertain to Shepard's personal and civic affairs.
The Shepard Papers contain limited material concerning other members of the family, including Camerons, Pages, Collinses, Warrens, Louise Harrison Shepard, and Thomas H. Shepard.
The major portion of Shepard's business enterprises in the 1870s and 1880s involved growing cotton and selling cotton for other farmers. He dealt with such commission merchants as Whedbee and Dickinson and Elliott Brothers of Baltimore and Pearce, Allen & Borum; J.W. Perry & Co.; Louis Hilliard & Co.; and Adam Treedwell & Co. of Norfolk, Va. Letters from these and other firms, copious through the 1890s, describe the quality and quantity of cotton and the availability of markets as affected by national (Feb. 1, July 11, 1877; Aug. 27, 1878; Nov. 20, 1890; June 20, July 7, 1891) and international (April 12, May 3, 1877; May 11, 1878) events. The letters also quote prices per pound and advise Shepard on the market and crop potential (Nov. 10, 1890; Dec. 3, 1891; July 7, 1892). Letters from Shepard's step-uncle, William A. Stickney of Faunsdale, Alabama (Nov. 24, 1876; Nov. 17, Dec. 10, 1877; Jan. 28, April 15, Dec. 31, 1878; Nov. 25, 1883; Dec. 11, 1884; and Nov. 23, 1892) give a planter's account and analysis of the problems associated with growing cotton in the post-Reconstruction South and discuss the financing of mortgages on his farm.
Other principal crops Shepard grew and brokered were peanuts, which he marketed through the Norfolk Storage company; such truck crops as potatoes and peas; and some wheat, corn, and tobacco, which he sold to factors in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Norfolk. This correspondence details how to ship wheat (Jan. 19, 1878), recommends types of peas to grow in the South (Feb. 8, 1877), and discusses the return of low grade peas (Aug. 18, 1888), as well as the prices and conditions of northern markets for potatoes, peas, wheat, and berries (April 9, 1879; Jan.-June, 1887; June 16, 1891).
Dealings in fertilizer and fish constituted a part of Shepard's enterprise. He became a fertilizer distributor for the Baltimore Guano Company (1882) and the DelawareRiver Chemical Works (1887). Correspondence reveals that fishing operations included harvesting, processing, and selling to national markets large quantities of salt herring, roe herring, and shad (Mar. - Nov., 1887; May - July, 1888; Jan. - Feb., 1889; April - Oct., 1890; Mar. - June, 1891; Dec. 29, 1894).
Additional correspondence pertains to a U.S. Department of Agriculture experiment with growing sorghum cane in the Tidewater region of Virginia and North Carolina (Mar. 24, April 25, 1888), and exchanges of information with Bennehan Cameron on growing "upland" rice (April 14, 1882) and J. Bryan Grimes on growing peas (June 7, 1890).
The second major business activity of William B. Shepard was underwriting insurance for numerous companies from all parts of the country. During the 1880s and 1890s he dealt with such firms as Virginia Fire and Marine Insurance Company, North Carolina Home Insurance Company, Greenwich Insurance Company, the Pennsylvania Fire Insurance Company, The Hartford, and Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Co., among others. There is much correspondence from district managers in Raleigh and Atlanta discussing policies, terms, and commissions. Samuel Douglas Wait of Raleigh corresponded frequently. Two letters (April 7, May 20, 1891) discuss action taken by the South Eastern Tariff Association concerning regulation of the insurance industry.
Additional business correspondence pertains to the purchase and sale of stock in several banks (May 1, 1890; Mar. - July, 1891; Jan. 1, Oct. 16, 1894) and textile mills (April - May, 1891; Oct. - Nov., 1894), and miscellaneous investments (Feb. 9, April, 1891; April 30, 1892; July 29, Nov. 30, 1894).
Shepard's financial records largely parallel the business correspondence in content. Bills of lading comprise a significant portion of the financial papers (1866-1884, 1890). Daybooks (1873-1913), ledgers (1868-1908), and cashbooks (1876-1913) reflect Shepard's trade in cotton, truck crops, and fish, as well as his farming operations, labor costs, and other business expenses. Among the financial records are references to Somerset Place in Washington and Tyrrell counties, which Shepard owned by the 1870s. Shepard's fire insurance record book (1869-1871), recording his sale of insurance to homeowners and businessmen in Edenton and surrounding communities, contains such information as locations of property; types of structures, including outbuildings; and property values, including furniture.
Although Shepard was primarily a businessman, he also was involved in local and state government. Much of the correspondence of the period September - December, 1892, pertains to Shepard's nomination and election to the North Carolina House of Representatives as a Democrat. Additional correspondence (July, 1878 - July, 1879) reveals that he was instrumental in establishing the Albemarle guards unit of the NorthCarolina Guards. As evidenced by his docket book (1885-1886), Shepard served Edenton Township as a justice of the peace. The volume records defendants, plaintiffs, the nature of each case, and Shepard's judgments. Receipts interfiled in the docket book reveal that Shepard gave some of the fines to the local school board.
A relatively small but significant portion of the collection relates to personal and family matters. Among Shepard's kinsmen were the Collinses of Somerset Plantation; the Camerons of Durham County; and the Warrens, Bryans, Pages, and Daveses. The settlement of Cameron and Warren estates is accounted for in correspondence from George P. Collins (July 10, Aug. 5, 1878) and John W. Graham (Jan. - July, 1891), as well as in estate papers of Mildred Cole Cameron Shepard (1901-1906). A ledger (1868-1877) contains entries pertaining to the estate of Henrietta E. Page and Herbert H. Page (#448.10.a).
Additional personal and family correspondence pertains to Bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire's desire to help landscape the grounds of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Edenton (Dec., 1877), Charles Duncan McIver's opinion of teacher institutes conducted in Camden and Chowan counties (Mar., 1892), refinancing of the Rocky Mount Cotton Mills by Bennehan Cameron (Oct. - Nov., 1894), loans to W. B. Shepard from Paul C. Cameron (July 6, 24, Dec. 14, 1880; Jan. 29, 1883), grave monuments for Shepard's wives (Mar. 18, 1884; 1892; 1894); medical problems of relatives (Nov. 23, 1878; July 24, 1879; Dec. 14, 1880; June, Sept. 1887; Dec. 23, 1892; June 7, 1894); the Keeley Institute in Greensboro, N.C. (Nov. 28, 1894); and the education at Horner's School in Oxford, N.C., of Shepard's legal wards, Collins and Hugh Warren (Feb. 14, 25, 1882).
Financial papers, including bills and receipts, and Shepard's cashbooks, daybooks, and ledgers reflect the lifestyle, taste, and living standards of the Shepards. They document expenditures for furniture, clothing, carriages, gaslights, home repairs, groceries, and apothecary supplies. Also noted are donations to St. Paul's Episcopal Church and payments for medical bills and servants' wages.
The collection contains a small quantity of miscellaneous material. A typescript, "Diary of My Trip to the Triennial, Oct. 7-22, 1925," discusses in detail the activities of women who attended a convention of the Episcopal Church at New Orleans. Among scattered correspondence of Mildred C. Cameron and others (1892-1911, undated) is a letter of Mrs. Zebulon B. Vance (1892?) with an attached brochure, appealing for contributions for erecting a monument in memory of the mother of George Washington. Pamphlets pertain to education for Negroes, the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina and Episcopal churches in Washington and Edenton, and suggestions for bank directors in North Carolina. Additional pamphlets include
The Kappa Alpha Journal (Jan., 1888) and
The Roanoke Collegian (Nov., 1895). Also among the miscellany is a copy of the Grimes-Bryan family tree, photographs of an unidentified lady (undated) and the Church of the Savior,Jackson, N.C. (1900), and the inventory of the books and household furnishings of William Biddle Shepard's Edenton residence at his death in 1852.
In the oversize file are William B. Shepard's commission as a captain in the Albemarle Guards of the North Carolina State Guard (1878); plats or surveys (1830s) drawn by S. Phelps of land in Chowan County, one of which depicts the plantation house of the Norcum family; and copies of the
Fisherman and Farmer (Edenton, Nov. 8, 1895) and
Orange County Observer (Hillsboro, Feb. 20, 1913).
Several volumes used by members of Shepard's family are included. A "Book of Extracts" (1863) belonging to Louise C. Harrison of Faunsdale, Alabama, contains poetry and other writings. Three ledgers of Dr. Thomas D. Warren of Edenton (1873-1879), which reflect the nature of his medical practices, show charges for a variety of services and medicines. Two ledgers of T. H. Shepard of Edenton (1902-1912) contain a record of his fishing, farming, and other business dealings.
Of particular interest is a letter (1768) to Henry Eustace McColloh at the customs house at Roanoke, N.C., from the receiver's office of Greenwich Hospital, requiring the deduction of sixpence a month from the wages of British merchant seamen's wages for use by the "Royal Hospital at Greenwich."
For related material, see collections #449 and #457.