One of my paternal great-grandfathers, James Shepheard, was born in Cornwood Parish, Devon, England, on August 13, 1865. A copy of his birth certificate was what led me to find many generations of the family in that region.
James came to Canada in 1913, aboard the SS Ascania. In England he had worked as a gentleman’s servant, a footman and a ship’s steward for commercial passenger and other ships. His personal bible, in which he lists the names and birth dates of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren was purchased in New York USA, on one of his voyages, in 1912. He was then on one of his voyages, on the ship, SS Usk, probably one of the last trips he made before he emigrated from Britain.
James had lost his wife, Mary Elizabeth (Pearson) in 1891, of phthisis (tuberculosis) only a few months after the birth of their son, James Pearson Shepheard. Following that unfortunate event, his son was mostly in the care of relatives while James was away at sea.
James Pearson immigrated to Canada in 1907 and, after a brief sojourn in Ontario, settled in southern Alberta working as a ranch hand. His father followed him to the prairies. For many years James worked as a farm labourer near Irricana, about 40 miles northeast of the City of Calgary.
Map of Southern Alberta showing locations of cities of Calgary and Edmonton and the villages of Irricana and Carwnood
The 1921 Canada census, taken in June, records James then living on farm lands in northwestern Alberta, near a place called Carnwood, curiously enough, which is about 65 miles southwest of Edmonton, Alberta. He had just recently arrived in that community and taken up possession of homestead lands in the Southeast Quarter of Section 3, Township 49, Range 5 West of the 5th Meridian. He was actually living a few miles to the north while he worked to improve the land.
In 1926, at the age of 61, he was granted title to the homestead. By then he had built a log home (16’ x 18”) worth $100, and a log barn (22’ x 32”), worth $200, according to the homestead application document. He had also cleared the brush and trees from 1 ½ acres, had a well dug and put up 2 ½ miles of rail fence all the while farming the property as well.
James Shepheard at his homestead near Carnwood, Alberta – ca 1936
James Shepheard outside the barn he built on the Carnwood homestead lands – ca 1936
James worked the lands for at least sixteen years before he moved back to Irricana to live with his son and family. Today much of the quarter-section is covered again by brush which James may have originally cleared in order to farm the land. In addition a highway runs through the middle of the property.
Portion of Southeast Section 3-49-5W5 (photo taken by Wayne Shepheard, 2009)
James Shepheard died on October 30, 1940, at the age of 75, and was buried in the Irricana cemetery.
Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.