William Shepherd
Stefan Bielinski

William Shepherd was an English-ancestry cutler who settled in Albany prior to the Revolutionary War. Previously (1772), he had been a "jobing smith and cutler" in New York City in partnership with an individual named Sebastian Lucas.

His wife was named Jane - the matriarch of their large family. William Shepherd was a member and vestryman at St. Peter's Church although the baptisms of his children have not been found in its extant records.

Initially petitioning for land adjoining (north east of) Rensselaerswyck, by the outbreak of hostilities he had established a residence on the hill in Albany. Over the next two decades, he became an Albany mainstay - although his conduct and fate during the Revolutionary War make him an early Albany enigma.

His ability to fashion swords and knives made him particularly valuable to the revolutionaries. Beginning in 1775, he was paid by the Albany committee for making and repairing bayonets. But in May 1776, he was identified by the Albany committee as "notoriously disaffected." Upon request, he refused to sign the non-importation "Association." He was ordered to be disamed and the weapons in his possession were seized. He was confined but later released after posting a bond.

In 1779, his named appeared on first ward assessment rolls.

In the years that followed, William Shepherd continued to fashion and fix knives, swords, and bayonets for the American cause. At one time he captained a company of "armourers" under Philip Van Rensselaer. He was exempted from military duty because he was employed in the public service. In 1780, he sought to be exchanged (sent to the British). But that application was denied. Afterwards, he was not among those granted a "bounty right" in conjunction with the Albany miitia regiment. Apparently, other same-named individuals were so honored.

With the end of the war, he resumed his trade. He also earned monies by performing services for the Albany government. During the 1780s, he resumed his quest for land near Hoosick. During those years, his first ward property was valued on the city assessment roll with a boarder noted in his house.

In 1790, he was listed on the census as the head of a household on upper State Street just below the stately home of fellow former loyalist John Stevenson.

William Shepherd filed a will in March 1794. It named his wife and seven children as his heirs. His estate included farm lands in Saratoga County and an extensive account of debts due him. He died in April and was buried from the Albany Dutch church. The will passed probate that December.

In 1834, the obituary of his daughter, Mary Clench, called her father "a distinguished armorer for American forces in the Revolution although himself a loyalist!"



the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of William Shepherd is CAP biography number 1155. This profile is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.

Printed in Annals of Albany, volume 10, p. 280.

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first posted: 12/15/02; last revised 3/2/12