GaspeeVirtual Archives
Captain _______ Shepard

The Gaspee Days Committee at www.gaspee.COM is a civic-minded nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June. These events are all designed to commemorate the 1772 burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee, by Rhode Island patriots as America's 'First Blow for Freedom' TM.  Our historical research center, the Gaspee Virtual Archives at www.gaspee.ORG , has presented these research notes as an attempt to gather further information on one who has been suspected of being associated with the the burning of the Gaspee. Please e-mail your comments or further questions to
Evidence implicating Captain Shepard:

From: Williams, Catherine, Biography of Revolutionary Heroes: Containing the Life of Brigadier Gen. William Barton and also of Captain Stephen Olney. Providence, Published by the author, 1839, p21 in which she names those men known to have burned the Gaspee.
The names of those brave and resolute citizens, as far as they have come to our knowledge, are as follows:
Captain Benjamin Dunn,       John Brown,
Captain Benjamin Page,        Com. Abraham Whipple,
Captain Turpin Smith,           Colonel Ephraim Bowen,
Captain John B. Hopkins,     Dr. John Mawney,
Joseph Bucklin,                      Captain Harris,
Captain Shepard,                    Joseph Jenckes,
As Edward Field pointed out in State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century (1902) we can only guess were she got this information. Catherine Williams was referring to people she knew had taken part in the attack on the Gaspee many years before.  Her term of Captain may have been given to Shepard either before or after the attack. The fact that she did not give the first names of either Captain Harris or of Captain Shepard probably indicates that Williams did not know their first names; note that she did give the first names of others that were Captains. Note that in Williams' list she perpetuates the misidentification of Captain Samuel Dunn as Benjamin Dunn. There is no other Shepard listed as an attacker by any other primary resource.
Biographical Information:

A search of all other Gaspee Virtual Archives files is negative as of 4/2006. There are no Captain Shepards, Shephards, Sheppards, or Shepherds in the database

Per the RI Historical Cemeteries Database, is negative for all variations of Captain Shepard.

From files

North Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island 1777 Military Census
Shepard, William    16-50 A (between 16-50 yrs of age and considered Able-bodied)
Shepard, Benjman    16-50 A
Neither is listed as an officer.

Gendex is negative for a "(Capt.) Shepard" and name variations.

The 1770 List of Providence Taxpayers gives us a hit on a Benjamin Shepard (correct spelling) who owned property on the Upper East Side of Providence, but he's not located on the map. Using this info in gives us a potential suspect:

Benjamin Shepard b: 1732      d: 28 JUL 1792 in Woodstock, CT
Married Mary Whipple 24 Nov, 1757 in Providence, RI

William Shepard b: 15 MAR 1760

He's a potential suspect since he married a Whipple in Providence, but we don't know from this information where he was born.  The only Benjamin Shepard we find born in 1732 was born in Dartmouth, Bristol, MA and he's lost to further follow-up. Mary Whipple of those dates doesn't show up in the database. In Field, Edward, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century:  A History.  Boston, Mason Publishing Co. 1902. Vol II, p257, we get a hit on Captain Benjamin Shepard as a citizen who, along with others, was attempting to establish a school in the north side of Providence in 1768.

From the NEHGS service, HeritageQuest gives nothing in searching all variations of Shepard from Rhode Island in the Revolutionary War pension records. Nor do we find no particular items on a Capt.Shepard or a Benjamin Shepard in the Early American Newspapers collections. gives us:

Participants in the Battles of Saratoga
There were several Captain Shepards that served in and around the battle of Saratoga, in midstate, NY, with Massachusetts men: Captain Enoch Shepard, Capt David Shepard, and Capt. William Shepard.
William Hackett, in his 1941 radio drama "That Gaspee Affair" specifically gives the name of Captain John Shepard.  We do not know how he got the first name, but it is possible that he had sources 62 years ago that we haven't yet stumbled upon.

Wayne Tillinghast, in his genealogy work "The Three Captains Joseph Tillinghast of Providence". Rhode Island Roots 30:57-86, June 2004, p67 cites that a Ejijah Shepardson sponsored a privateering boat in 1776 along with known Gaspee raiders Joseph Tillinghast, John B. Hopkins, and others. This brings up the daunting possibility that Williams was referring not to a Captain Shepard, but a Captain Shepardson?

In the fall of 2008 we did stumble across a letter for sale on eBay from a James Shepherd who wrote to John Brown in 1761.  This James Sheperd was apparently acting as an agent of John Brown in attempting to collect a debt in Barbados owed by a Mr. Hothershall.

Until we get a more definitive first name to attach to Captain Shepard, this research will remain dormant.
While the Gaspee Days Committee recognizes Captain Shepard as a true American patriot for his role in attacking the HMS Gaspee, we admit to not knowing exactly who he was. At this point, it is most likely Captain Benjamin Shepard (1732-1791).
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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 8/2002    Last Revised 04/2009    CaptShepard.htm