Our subject is the offspring of a fine old family, being the son of Thornton Sheppard, a native of North Carolina, who, when quite young, emigrated with his parents to Kentucky, and lived in what is now known as Russell and Adair Counties, until emigrating to Illinois and taking up his abode in this county, in October, 1829. The family consisted of four children, and the father purchased a small tract of land in Township 14, Range 10, giving in exchange therefor his team of oxen and wagon. The father proceeded with the improvement of his property, was successful as a tiller of the soil, and although a man singularly free from mercenary motives, accumulated a comfortable property, being at the time of his death the owner of a good farm of 240 acres. In connection with agriculture he also officiated as a minister of the Regular Baptist Church, being a faithful laborer in the Master's vineyard for a period of forty-nine years without receiving any remuneration. The good which he did during that length of time can scarcely be estimated, and under the circumstances his piety could not for a moment be questioned. He passed to his final rest at the homestead which he had built up, Nov. 9, 1874. The mother survived her husband about eight years, her decease taking place at the old home, July 11, 1882.
To the parents of our subject there were born eight more children after their arrival in this county, and their family in all comprises six sons and six daughters. With one exception they lived to mature years, growing up intelligent and worthy citizens, and doing honor to their parental training. Thornton Sheppard was a man more than ordinarily public-spirited and liberal, thoroughly honest in all his dealings and extremely kind to the poor, looking personally after their needs and assisting the unfortunate wherever they were to be found, without regard to color or religious denomination.
The subject of this sketch, who was the eldest son and third child of his parents, was born in what is now known as Russell County, Ky., Sept. 10, 1827, and spent his childhood and youth under the parental roof, occupied mostly in farm pursuits. He acquired his education in the district school, and also enough knowledge of the carpenter trade to enable him to build his own house and do considerable work for others. A few months before reaching the twenty-seventh year of his age, he was united in marriage with Miss Mary Elizabeth Coffman, the wedding taking place at the bride's home, in township 14, range 10, June 20, 1854.
Mrs. Elizabeth (Coffman) Sheppard was born in Rockingham County, Va., Dec. 16, 1832, and is the daughter of Abraham and Rachel (Houdershell) Coffman, who were natives of Woodstock County, that State. There also they were married and reared their family, then emigrating to Illinois in the fall of 1853, settled, the following spring, in Township 14, Range 10, this county, where the father died, oct. 29, 1860, and the mother April 3, 1874. They were the parents of six children, four of whom lived to mature years, and of whom Mrs. Sheppard was the fourth in order of birth. Mr. Coffman was a millwright by trade, but after coming to this county occupied himself at farming.
Twelve children completed the household circle of our subject and his estimable wife. The eldest born, a daughter, Emily J., died in infancy; George W. remains at home with his parents; John S. married Miss Mattie Parker, of Brown County, and resides in the southern part of this county; Irving D. married Miss Jennie Lynn, and resides in this county; Alice R. became the wife of G. H. Coons, of Sangamon County, and died May 16, 1884; Sylvester married Miss Mary Perkins, and resides in this county; Ulysses died in infancy; McClellan married Miss Lydia Parker, and is living in this county; Emeline, Luther, Clara and Lucy are at home with their parents.
Mr. Sheppard, politically, is an old Douglas Democrat - a man decided in his views and fearless in giving expression to his convictions. He has held some of the minor offices of his township, and is a man looked up to in his community. He is able to tell many a tale if pioneer life in the Prairie State, and, among other thrilling incidents, remembers well the winter of the big snow, when man and beast in many sections came very near the point of starvation, and undoubtedly many perished. Closely connected with the history of our subject is that of his estimable wife, who has shared his toils and also his successes for a period of thirty-five years, and has performed her full share in the accumulation of the property and in establishing the reputation of the family. She is a lady of more than ordinary intelligence, and deserves more than a passing notice among the pioneer wives and mothers of Central Illinois.