Ancestry: David and Kesiah Sheppard

1st Generation

This exerpt borrowed from Island Studies: Black Islanders by Jim Hornby.

Several people who I’ve connected with the last while, do not have access to this book and there are some interesting ‘bits’ concerning these two.  I hope that this will be to some assistance in their research.  My thanks to Jim Hornby.  This information is eloquently shared on page 27.

Mr. Hornby tells us that it is almost a certainty that David Sheppard was brought to Prince Edward Island by Lieutenant-Governor Fanning.  Fanning was, at the time, a Loyalist who was forced to leave North Carolina after the Revolutionary War…and I believe (that is me) that he went on to the State of Virginia.  From there, Fanning “moved to Nova Scotia, and then Prince Edward Island.”  David Sheppard was one of at least four slaves owned by Fanning, who may have been part of the group that moved north to Atlantic Canada.  “Fanning complained, ‘It has actually cost me in removing my servants and baggage to this Island nearly 100 guineas.'”

As  I’ve been seeking information, I have found both a David Shepard and a Kesiah Sheppard on the ship, l’Abondance.  I don’t have any validations stating that these are my two.  It is a possibility.  Here, right out of the Book of Negroes.

“David Shephard, 15, likely boy. Formerly the property of William Shephard, Nansemond, Virginia; left him 4 years ago. GBC.”

Back to Jim Hornby’s narrative.

“David Sheppard’s life is recorded largely in court documents.  In February 1792, he was convicted of larceny.  On July 2, Executive Council accepted a petition that his punishment be remitted.  Supreme Court Minutes for July 14, 1792, note: ‘Davy, a black man, convicted of stealing a saw, was sentenced to receive 39 lashes – but was afterwards pardoned.’  It is possible that Davy was spared because he was the governor’s property.  Historian T. Watson Smith wrote in 1899 that Fanning had given ‘Shepherd’ a farm when he set him free, and while this statement has since been repeated, no corroboration has yet been found.

Sheppard and his wife Kesiah (or Kissy) had several children.  Benjamin (who might have been born before they arrived) was baptized on March 22, 1789.  Catherine was born to David and an unrecorded woman on July 4, 1791.  Anna Maria was born on February 13, 1794, to David and Kesiah Wilson and two more girls followed: Sarah (April 4, 1799) and Mary Millicent (January 23, 1803).

Sheppard’s relationship with his wife was perhaps rocky, because on October 28, 1802, he was brought to court and ordered to post a 20 pound bond to keep the peace – ‘particularly towards Kesiah Shepard, his wife.’ Whether David died soon afterward, settled on his supposed farm, or left the Island, is not known.  In any event, within ten years Kesiah Sheppard was married to another balck man and probable former slave, Samuel Martin, and together they helped to found the black district in Charlottetown.

While David Sheppard’s life remains obscure, his descendants became the most prolific black family name on Prince Edward Island.”

The book that I am referring to above is no longer in print and I am hoping that this offers some assistance.  I thank Jim Hornby for his thorough research as many families knit together their histories.  Given the huge struggles of both the French Acadians and the displaced Black families of early Canada, it is a marvel that we are able to put the puzzle together!

I also wish to thank the Black Islanders of PEI site (no longer linked), for sharing the schematic of the First Generation of David and Kesiah.  My readers will find some strong documentation for the subject here.

29 thoughts on “Ancestry: David and Kesiah Sheppard

  1. Nice write up ,,found this on Google..Personally, I am direct Descendant of David and Kesiah and there only boy, Benjamin..and I am of the early Acadian settlers on my other side.
    many of us still live or are from one of the early black settlements In Cardigan,Prince Edward Island.
    take care.
    -me.

    • That is amazing, Daryll. Lt. Governor Fanning is my first cousin nine times removed. Edmund Fanning may have been a slave owner of your ancestor, but I’m glad he saved your ancestor from the whipping post. It is pretty nice that we are able to talk about this. Everyone has a unique background. The reason Edmund enslaved your ancestor was that it was a tradition for the English. Slavery is wrong, but Edmund seemed that he treated your ancestor like a person by giving him a farm.

      • A pleasure to meet you, great write up and a very small world indeed. I thank his kindness for if not I wouldn’t exist to have such a neat family history.
        -DARRYL.

      • You are very lucky. Also if it weren’t for the Treaty of Paris, me and my family wouldn’t exist.

  2. What an awesome thing that this mode of communication can contribute to the reconciliation of families past and present. I am blessed to have met both of you and look forward to the continued journey in family history. Bless you.

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  4. I am a descendant of David and Keisha … When we speak of the ancestors we should speak with respect … Court documents is racial profiling. David was considered property by slave owners and the slaves were labelled trouble-makers, etc. by an elite colonial law. David was a good person/ a survivor of the slave trade. I grew-up knowing I am a person a mixed race … my Black ancestors were carpenters, bridge builders, farmers and fishers… they were good respectable people. None of my family was approached to tell their stories of our Black ancestors by researchers, We should be telling our stories with respect and dignity.

      • My ancestors were not trouble makers/ using court documents is racial profiling. My ancestors were victims of the slave trade. David had been labelled by social elite of the day/ who considered my ancestors as property. It’s bothersome court documents are used to characterize my ancestors. I am more than willing to share the stories of my ancestors / stories that are the People’s history and not the perspective of Colonial history. Court documents are racial profiling and it does not rightly describe the strong and surviving character of David Sheppard. We were called Black Shepards of Darkies Hollow / so / I am well aware of racism … My ancestors for generations lived in Darkies Hollow named by the locals because of Black people who moved to the area including David & Keisha. David is buried in Cardigan in an unmarked grave. He was a skilled carpenter / and a boat builder as my dad told me our ancestors were boat builders and skilled carpenters. It’s disturbing to have historians use court documents, racial profiling to describe my ancestors … Stella Shepard

    • I included a quotation from Jim Hornby’s work that made reference to court documents. I see that now. I felt important to give the accurate context. I agree with you regarding racial profiling. I am looking for any information I can and am trying to piece together my own history. None of that has been written yet, on this blog. If you have any information about either David or Kesiah, your help would be appreciated. I meant no disrespect.

      • Thank you, Painter Lady. I am sure you did not mean to be disrespectful… I appreciate this … My ancestors were survivors / false accusations / lynchings, beatings / whippings, etc.. were inflicted on Black People in the 1700s.. George Floyd ‘s family can attest to modern day lynchings.. A Black woman in Halifax was arrested and handcuffed in front of her children in Walmart by Police for a suspicion of stealing . I was told the salves, my ancestors, greatest fear was the selling of their children.. by the same people responsible for racial profiling of court documents. Racial profiling has been happening since the slave days to the present… Take good care. Stella

  5. As well, Painter Lady, The Black Cultural Society on PEI plans to write its own stories and history of Black Islanders.. talking with people who are descendants of slavery and people of colour. The colour has been washed out of me but the history lives inside.. right to the marrow of my bones. You should contact the Black Cultural Society of PEI … This is a link to their newsletter: Keep up-to-date on events by subscribing to our newsletter: https://gmail.us20.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=e2bfebad2a55c863507c22fa1&id=70f7d7d608&fbclid=IwAR3UDQX6rv0e6s_TkA2q2C8Q6aZZGjQq_ksBrCvzVZXc9QiPHoKaWa5xBSQ and this is their email address.. I suggest if you want to learn more about Black history of PEI contact the society at blackculturesocietype@gmail.com
    Stella Shepard

      • Dear Painter Lady, I have heard a good story told by Bennie Binns. I saw a clip in a film where he spoke about discovering his ancestral link to slavery. I loved the story about how every day he would go to the Priests’ residence and ask about his heritage. He said to Father Art , ‘every day I am going to visit at lunch time and ask about my family as Father Art had the information about who his biological parents were but would not tell him. Bennie Binns said, Father Art laughed and I laughed. But everyday I was at the priests’ residence at lunchtime and asked for Father Art until he finally told me to go visit this woman at the old Charlottetown Hospital, which was considered the Catholic hospital at the time. He went to visit this old woman and the first thing she said, you are the image of your father. Did you know your father was Black? It’s a great story. And one I will never forget. I probably didn’t tell it to you as well as it actually happened but I think you get the drift of it all.

        We are probably related. If you ever come to PEI I will show you a slave gave in Eastern Kings.

        Take good care.. Hugs.

        Stella Shepard: All my Relations

      • Thank you so much for this remembrance and the story, Stella. You wouldn’t remember what the film was, would you? Was it a museum archive? It would be amazing to see the clip! And yes, we are related, no doubt. Hugs returned. Kathleen

      • Yes, I believe the film was connected through Institute of Island Studies at UPEI / and the contact person would be Laurie Brinklow, with Institute of Island Studies at UPEI… Here is a link to a website that will connect you with Laurie.. She is a very lovely person. http://islandstudies.com/dr-laurie-brinklow/ His story stayed with me since I saw the film in the 90s before social media. Laurie would be able to direct you to where you can find a copy ..let me know how you fair out / if you have no luck I will contact Laruie and ask.. Take good care, Cousin.

  6. Hi all. I am the biological granddaughter of Mary Agnes Binns (Sister to Benny Binns) – Painter Lady, if you should find access to the link of the story Stella is referring to would you post on here? I would love to see it. Thanks!! Traci

      • I will send an email and see if I can find the information about the film. I do know Hattie Hughes got a copy as she loaned it to me. Hattie has passed away but she has grown children living in Cardigan who might be able to help you locate a copy. I will let you know what Laurie has to say. Take good care. Stella

      • Thank you, Stella! When was out in Cardigan, years ago, someone else had mentioned seeing a clip, but didn’t remember the source or where to access. Grateful for any help. Hugs for safety and September bliss!

  7. Painter Lady, I have emailed my friend Laurie Brinklow with the Institute of Island Studies and I will let you know when I hear from her.

    As well, I suggest you visit Web site: http://www.cardiganheritage.com
    the Cardigan Heritage Centre which is owned and managed by the Cardigan Area Heritage Association.

    Nora Macdonald will be able to assist you in your search. She will know where to find a copy of the film / interview with Benny Binns. There was a presentation at Cardigan / where I first saw the film the film in the 90s and Nora was one of the presenters at the event. You can reach Nora at macdonaldnora@hotmail.com or telephone 902-583-2253. The information is on the website but I have copied and pasted it for you.

    Nora is chair of Cardigan Area Heritage Association. She is a very lovely person and is very generous with her time in helping others/ she knows the history of the area. She is your best bet for locating a copy of the film. All the best and let me know how it pans out. Take good care. Enjoy the fall season. Your Cousin, Stella Shepard

    • Hi again, dear Stella. Nora and I are actually friends and she knows how in depth my search has been. I have actually been a guest teacher in the high school, here in Calgary, where her daughter, Patricia Macdonald teaches. When I was in Cardigan, she came down to the Heritage Center so that we could compare notes. I’ve put a lot of different people in touch with the Center because it is amazing! I haven’t asked her about the film, but she knows that I’m looking for history on Bennie and she’s never mentioned it. Hmmm….Sending appreciation for your support and your information, cousin! Kathleen

      • I just received a response from Laurie Brinklow / and she suggested to contact Simon Lloyd at the UPEI Library (slloyd@upei.ca).

        As well, I will contact a friend of mine who is a local film-maker and he might know.

        Laurie said she responded to your email through sending a message to me but I never received the message because it was sent to an email account I seldom use.

        Simon Lloyd might be able to help you as well Laurie suggested that I should contact Brian Pollard as he and I are Facebook friends. Brian knows the Island film industry very well.

        Keep searching/ you will find it.. and of course Jim Hornby would probably know where to get your hands on a copy. But I don’t have any contact information for Jim but he is out there somewhere in Charlottetown.

        I will send Brian a message tonight.

        Take good care.

        Cousin Stella

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