SHEPPARD, WILLIAM, businessman and member of the Executive Council of Lower Canada; b. 16 Aug. 1784 in England, son of William Sheppard and Sarai Maxfield; d. on the night of 1–2 July 1867 at Trois-Rivières, Que.
Little is known about the first 25 years of William Sheppard’s life. He arrived in Canada with his father in 1792, and by 1809 was a merchant living in Montreal. On 28 September of that year he married at Quebec Harriet Campbell, daughter of the king’s notary, Archibald Campbell. Sheppard settled in Quebec and accumulated a fortune as a timber merchant. He also took an interest in shipbuilding, since in August 1826 he launched a brig and another vessel.
In 1816 Sheppard acquired at Sillery a magnificent villa surrounded by 100 acres of park and orchards. This estate had been created and named Samos by Bishop Pierre-Herman Dosquet* (Dosquet was bishop of Samos in partibus); Adam Mabane*, leader of the French party after the conquest, renamed it Woodfield. Sheppard installed there a library of 3,000 volumes, a picture gallery, and a small museum of natural history; he built aviaries and greenhouses, and took up gardening. Sheppard and his wife, who was a friend of the Countess of Dalhousie, were highly esteemed in Quebec intellectual and social circles. In 1824 he took part in the organization of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, as did the governor general, Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay*]. Sheppard was its president in 1833–34, 1841, 1843, and 1847. He and his wife read several papers to the society on natural history, applied sciences, and archaeology, in which he showed his interest in the plants of the region. From 1827 to 1829 Sheppard was also a member of the short-lived Société des Arts, whose members were mostly French Canadian.
On 22 Aug. 1837 he was appointed to the Executive Council of Lower Canada, of which he was a member until 1841; he seems however to have had little enthusiasm for the great game of politics. In 1847 Sheppard, who had invested the bulk of his fortune in the timber export trade, experienced a serious financial reverse. He had to get rid of Woodfield (which he had rebuilt after a fire in 1842), and he retired to his residence of Fairymead at Drummondville. He spent 20 years there, more or less forgotten by all but his old friends. Each year he returned to Sillery to collect rents from the villagers of Sheppardville, which he had founded and which the inhabitants later called Bergerville (now Sillery). Sir James MacPherson Le Moine*, who knew him, described Sheppard at this time as a tall, handsome old man with white hair, a pensive look, and hands full of flowers and ferns, a melancholy wanderer in the haunts of yesteryear.
Stricken by apoplexy while on his way to the Anglican synod at Quebec, Sheppard died on the Trois-Rivières dock around midnight on 1 July 1867. He left a large number of descendants.
[For a complete list of the papers William Sheppard and his wife published in the Literary and Hist. Soc. of Quebec, Trans., between 1829 and 1843, see Index of the lectures, papers and historical documents published by the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec . . . 1829 to 1891, comp. J. W. Strachan and F. C. Würtele, (Quebec, 1927). p.s.]
ANQ-Q, AP-G-239/94, Sheppard; État civil, Anglicans, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Quebec), 28 Sept. 1809. Le Canadien, 12 juill. 1867. P.-G. Roy, Fils de Québec, III, 18–20. George Gale, Historic tales of old Quebec (Quebec, 1923), 245. J. M. Le Moine, L’album du touriste . . . (2e éd., Québec, 1872), 80–85.