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Guide to the William Shepherd Diaries

MSN/EA 8005


Collection Summary

Title: William Shepherd diaries
Dates: 1851-1862
Collection No.: MSN/EA 8005
Creator: Shepherd, William, b. 1794
Extent: 4 volumes
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: Three diaries with daily entries for 1854, 1855, and 1859 kept by William Shepherd, a textile factory worker from Blackstone, Worcester County, Massachusetts. A fourth volume in the group is a sort of mourning notebook kept by Shepherd in the 1850s.

Selected Search Terms

Blackstone River Valley (Mass. and R.I.) -- History
Death -- Social aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century
Know Nothing Party
Textile industry -- Massachusetts -- History

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection

Preferred Citation: William Shepherd Diaries, Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The Shepherd diaries were purchased by the Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame in 2005, from Schmitt Investors Ltd. of Northport NY. They were initially arranged and described in 2006, by George Rugg. Finding aid 2009, by George Rugg.

Biographical Note

Little can be learned of William Shepherd beyond the evidence provided by these diaries. He was born on 14 June 1794, in Massachusetts. From 1851 he was employed at the Millville, Massachusetts textile factory of E. S. Hall & Co, a maker of fancy cassimeres. The 1860 U. S. Census identifies him as a wool sorter, living in Blackstone, Worcester County, apparently as a boarder. By the time he began these particular diaries he seems to have been a widower; grown children are mentioned. The prose preserved in the diaries shows him to have been a literate, politically engaged man, whose view of the world was profoundly colored by his Episcopal faith.

Scope and Content Note

Three of the four items in this group are pocket diaries of the daily calendar type, kept by Shepherd for the years 1854, 1855, and 1859. Shepherd maintained his diaries faithfully; taken together, the three volumes bear entries for all but 23 days. Individual entries typically run from 25 to 40 words, though many are shorter and a few longer. Many of the entries treat the immediate events of Shepherd's life: his health, work, and occasional trips to Boston; news of his children and other acquaintances; memorable local events; the weather and other aspects of nature. There are also a good many observations on state and national politics, informed as a rule by Shepherd's own sympathies (he aligned himself with the Know Nothings and later with the Republicans, and was an ardent Abolitionist). Much of this commentary is supplemented by clippings pasted or inserted into the volumes. Finally, the diaries contain a good deal that is essentially introspective; most of this content is of a religious nature, bearing on themes of sin, salvation, and death. The diaries were also used for accounts and other personal financial data. The fourth volume in the group (1851-56) seems to be a kind of mourning notebook, with entries and clippings on the deaths of local and national figures (including Henry Clay and Daniel Webster).

Arrangement Note

Items are aranged chronologically, one per folder.

Container List

  • Notebook. William Shepherd, 1851 to 1856. Folder 1 (MSN/EA 8005-01).
    AMsS, 1 vol. partly printed, 13 cm., 24 leaves, with 40 pages of manuscript entries in Shepherd's hand, and newspaper clippings tipped in.
    Much of the content of this notebook, written and printed, pertains to death, whether in the form of general observations thereon, or in the form of obituaries and commentary on the deaths of acquaintances and of local and national figures. There is much on Henry Clay (d. 29 June 1852) and on Daniel Webster (d. 24 October 1852).
    • Diary. William Shepherd, 1854 January 1 to December 31. Folder 2 (MSN/EA 8005-02).
      AMsS, 1 vol. partly printed, 13 cm., 75 leaves, with 132 pages of manuscript entries in Shepherd's hand, and newspaper clippings tipped and laid in.
      The diary contains brief entries for all but one day of 1854. Among the events commented on at some length are: the loss of the steamship Arctic; the apprehension of the fugitive slave Anthony Burns in Boston; political successes of the Know Nothings; and a sensational local double-murder case, perpetrated by a man named Hewitt. Most of the clippings probably derive from the Boston Journal.
      • Diary. William Shepherd, 1855 January 1 to December 31. Folder 3 (MSN/EA 8005-03).
        AMsS, 1 vol. partly printed, 14 cm., 72 leaves, with 131 pages of manuscript entries in Shepherd's hand, and newspaper clippings tipped and laid in.
        • Diary. William Shepherd, 1859 January 1 to December 31. Folder 4 (MSN/EA 8005-04).
          AMsS, 1 vol. partly printed, 14 cm., 201 leaves, with 367 pages of manuscript entries in Shepherd's hand, and newspaper clippings tipped and laid in.
          Unlike the daily calendars Shepherd used for the diaries of 1854 and 1855 (which were printed with three dates per page) this calendar was printed with a single date per page, allowing for longer entries. There is a good deal of commentary (and a number of clippings) on the trial and execution of John Brown.