Jack Sheppard came to the Fulton Chain region of the Western Adirondacks after roaming the West as a youth and then served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
These experiences equipped Sheppard with the knowledge, skills, and social network to become a successful guide and enabled him to shift his occupation from guide to innkeeper, to builder, to businessman. He never married or raised a family, but when he left the Adirondacks in 1892 he left behind a long list of devoted friends that reads like a virtual who’s who of Adirondack history.
Sheppard was born Edwin Lee Sheppard on March 21, 1837, in the Town of Greene, Chenango Co., NY. Childhood friends gave him the nickname “Jack,” an allusion to the English outlaw Jack Sheppard, the subject of numerous stories and stage plays. Friends and associates called him Jack into adulthood, but he signed his name “E. L. Sheppard” on legal and other important documents.
Jack’s father was Hiram Sheppard (b. c.1810), a clothier who owned a store in Greene. Jack’s mother was Betsey Cowdrey (b. c.1817), who kept house for Jack and his three siblings: Aurora Sophia Sheppard (1838-1919, married Samuel Naramore), William Adalbert Sheppard (c.1844-1899), and Rosa Ameliza Sheppard (1846-1917, married Nathan F. Root).
According to the census of 1850, thirteen-year-old Jack attended school at Lisle, Broome Co., NY, where his family had moved. This is the only record of his formal education. By his late teens, Jack was traveling west through Ohio, Tennessee, and Missouri. He was reportedly in Kansas during the unrest in 1856 and was at the Pike’s Peak gold rush in Colorado around 1858 before returning to New York for health reasons. Jack arrived in Boonville, NY, in 1859 and walked into the Adirondacks to Old Forge. There he earned a living as a hunter and wilderness guide.
The Civil War
During the early 1860s, the Civil War interrupted many lives, including that of Jack. Early Union defeats at Bull Run and the Peninsula Campaign led President Lincoln to call, on July 1, 1862, for 300,000 more Union soldiers. On August 15, 1862, Jack traveled to Remsen, NY, and enlisted for three years in Company K of the 117th NY Volunteers. His motivations are unknown, but money was probably a factor. He received a $50 bounty from Oneida County, $50 from New York State, and a $100 bounty from the federal government.
Twenty-five dollars of the federal bounty was paid the first month, the remaining $75 was due at the end of service. At enlistment, Jack was single, 25 years old, 5 feet 11 inches, and had fair complexion, blue eyes, and light color hair. He listed his residence as White Lake Corners with a post office at Forestport. His occupation was “hunter.”
Jack appears on the rolls of Company K under his nickname “Jack Sheppard,” instead of his actual name, Edwin Lee Sheppard. That nickname would later cause trouble when Sheppard applied for an army pension. The regiment mustered at Rome, NY, on August 20, 1862, and left for Washington, DC, on August 22.
Many of the soldiers had been given short furloughs to wrap up their affairs and Jack was evidently one of them. Jack’s service record shows he was not included on the company muster-in roll. Instead, on August 27, 1862, he signed into the Lawrence Hotel in Moose River Settlement on the edge of the Adirondacks. The entry shows Jack was a guide with a group headed home to Hamilton, NY. The group included S. Wilson Parker, E.W. Scott, and M. Hubbard.
Jack soon caught up with his regiment and was marked present on the muster roll in September 1862 when the 117th was stationed in the defenses around Washington. He was promoted to corporal on October 2, 1862, and to sergeant on June 19, 1863. When Lee invaded the north at Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), the 117th was ordered to make a feint against Lee’s communication lines by advancing to Hanover Court House, VA.
The 117th fell back from Hanover Court House to Fortress Monroe on July 5, 1863. On July 14, 1863, at Camp Haskins, VA, Sergeant Jack Sheppard and two others wrote a set of resolutions in memory of their comrade, the late Nathaniel B. Hinckley of Clinton, NY. The resolutions were published in the Clinton Courier and Utica Morning Herald.
On August 3, 1863, as part of the Union expedition against Charleston, SC, the 117th landed at Folly Island, SC, which was used as a staging area. They would stay encamped there without much action until April of 1864. Jack Sheppard escaped the boredom of camp life when he was assigned to recruiting service back in Utica from December 18, 1863, to February 1864. The assignment was a clear indication that the army thought Sergeant Sheppard possessed an outgoing personality and excellent communication skills.
In June 1864, Jack was back on duty as a sharpshooter when the 117th was called in to reinforce the Union lines at Cold Harbor, VA, after the failed Union assault. The 117th stayed at Cold Harbor a week trading sporadic fire with the Confederates. On July 30, 1864, the 117th supported the assault troops in the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, VA. When the Union assault failed, they advanced toward the crater with bayonets drawn to halt the fleeing Union troops and to stabilize the front line.
The 117th was part of heavy fighting during the attacks on Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, NC, in December 1864 and January 1865. Fortunately for Jack, he was on detached duty with the ambulance service of the 24th army corps from November 1864 to February 1865. This may have spared him injury or death.
In March 1865, Sheppard rejoined the 117th, which was tasked with building a pontoon bridge across the Neuse River north of Goldsboro, NC. Here they met Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union army marching north from Georgia.
Jack and the rest of the 117th were mustered out of service on June 8, 1865 at Raleigh, NC. At this point only 315 soldiers remained in the regiment, compared to the 1,020 who had joined up in 1862. The 117th returned by rail and foot to City Point, VA, and then by ship to Fortress Monroe and back to New York.
Adirondack Guide and Builder
After his discharge, Jack returned to the Brown’s Tract area around Old Forge and resumed his career as a hunter and guide. According the NY State Census of 1865, his father and siblings were living nearby in Westmoreland, Oneida Co., NY, in the household of Samuel Naramore, a farmer, who had married Jack’s sister Sophia. Jack’s mother, Betsey, was not listed and may have died prior to the census. Jack’s father Hiram Sheppard would follow the Naramores to Jackson County, Michigan and died sometime after 1880.
Jack’s choice to live in the Adirondacks was propitious. After the war, more and more people discovered the attractions of the Adirondack wilderness, and opportunities for guides increased dramatically. Wealthier visitors began to build more elaborate camps to which they would return each summer.
In 1869, Jack Sheppard teamed with Sam Dunakin (b. c.1835-1907) to build the Cold Spring Camp, located on the north shore of Fourth Lake opposite Alger Island. Dunakin, like Sheppard, was a veteran who served in the 92nd NY Infantry. The camp’s owner was Henry D. Snyder of Port Leyden whose family owned the Lyon and Snyder tannery at Moose River Settlement.
In 1870, Sheppard and Dunakin continued their camp construction with the Pratt Camp for Charles Pratt, an executive of the Standard Oil Company and founder of the Pratt Institute. This camp was located on the southeast shore of Fourth Lake in Hamilton County. The location later became the site of Holls Inn.
Meanwhile, Jack set up his own business on Fourth Lake. E. R. Wallace in his Descriptive Guide to the Adirondacks says Sheppard occupied a site on the north shore later used by Sam Dunakin near Minnow Brook. An 1869 photograph shows Sheppard’s early camp as a rustic lean-to.
In 1874, Sheppard built a more substantial structure at Pine Point on the south shore near where the Cohasset Hotel would later stand. Author A. Judd Northrup described a visit in the 1870s: “In the afternoon we went up through Second and Third, and into Fourth Lake about half its length, to Jack Shepperd’s [sic] camp, situate in a grove of small spruces, on the south shore. Jack is one of the noted guides of the region, and he has a most comfortable sportsman’s abiding-place.” Sheppard’s was a public camp “for the entertainment of all who would pay for it.”
During this time, Sheppard supplemented his income by selling provisions. Northrup stopped at Sheppard’s on the trip described above to replenish his supply of butter and Bermuda onions. In winter, Sheppard provided fish and game to customers in surrounding towns. In August 1874, he signed a contract with H. C. Anderson, an innkeeper from North Western, Oneida County, for two deer and 50 pounds of trout to be delivered in December.
The Forge House
When Edward M. Marshall, a retired merchant from Ithaca, NY, signed into the Forge House in Old Forge as its first guest in May 1871, Jack Sheppard was right behind as his guide. The Forge House would become a regular stopover for Jack and his clients as they came and went from more distant locations along the Fulton Chain. On May 18, 1871, Sheppard and guide E. O. Worden stopped at the Forge House with a party from Port Leyden, NY, probably heading for the Snyder Camp. The group consisted of S. D. H. Snyder, J. A. Wormouth, and George Hadcock.
The next year, Sheppard stopped at the Forge House on March 21 as guide for B. P. Graves, a hunter and clothing outfitter from Boonville. Graves noted in the register “Through to Long Lake and back on snow shoes…. dined mostly on Oat Meal & Panther meat—it’s good, try it!”
Jack was again the guide for Edward M. Marshall on May 7, 1872, when both stayed at the Forge House accompanied by W. Floyd Finch, a dry goods merchant, from Ithaca.
By this time, Jack had earned a reputation as an expert guide who knew where to find big fish, track game, and organize large hunts. These were all things sportsmen demanded for a successful trip. Jack’s travels and military service undoubtedly also served him well. Many of his clients were well-traveled hunters and like Sheppard, Civil War veterans. Campfire conversations probably included many tales from the Wild West and wartime remembrances.
On November 9, 1872, Jack was at Lime Kiln Lake hunting with Cyrus Sanford Sperry, proprietor of the Forge House. Sheppard, Sam Dunakin, and Daniel Sears were running deer with dogs for Sperry, who was positioned at the lake as a shooter. Sperry then fell out of a boat and drowned while trying to retrieve a deer. With Sperry was his ten-year old son, William, who struck out for help on his own in light snow. Fearing the boy would also die, Sheppard tracked William down at Fourth Lake and took him to the Pratt camp to thaw out. The next day, Sheppard, and guides Sam Dunakin, Ed Arnold, Gus Syphert, and others returned to retrieve Sperry’s body.
Colvin and the Adirondack Survey
In 1876, the Adirondack Survey led by Verplanck Colvin (1847-1920), arrived in the Fulton Chain region with guides Jack Sheppard, Mitchell Sabattis (1823-1906), and Alvah Dunning (1816-1902).
On October 12, 1876, after guiding the survey crew west from Blue Mountain Lake, Jack led them past the Pratt Camp and on to Sheppard’s Camp on Fourth Lake.
There Colvin made an interesting comment in his field notebook (#270) about Sheppard drawing a map:
“Mr. Shepard setts down with us after supper & maps his Queer L(ake) region.” Sheppard’s skill in mapping is evident in a later map of Big Moose Lake signed as “E.L. Sheppard,” found in Colvin’s papers.
By this time, Sheppard’s Fourth Lake Camp was a two-story structure with a boathouse and is credited with having the first library on the Fulton Chain. As host at the camp, Sheppard probably collected the books as much for his guests’ enjoyment and as for his own. But Sheppard appears interested in science of all sorts and in the work of the survey crew. Jack is credited under his real name “E.L. Sheppard” as a meteorological and rain fall observer on Fourth Lake in Colvin’s 1880 report. Sheppard’s camp was also listed as a trigonometrical signal station and a copper bolt (#19) was leaded into a rock at the camp.
Colvin woke up on October 13, 1876 and noted: “It is foggy on the Fourth Lake mist rising like snow – so that I mistook it at first – looking out of Shepard’s upper windows mistook the fog for snow on a roof.” That day, the crew climbed Bald Mountain, overlooking the Fulton Chain, to gather measurements.
A day later, on October 14, Colvin, Sheppard, and Alvah Dunning set out north to meet with another survey team led by Frank Tweedy in the Beaver River region. That day they went as far as the northern shore of Big Moose Lake and established a camp. The site of this camp, east of Echo Island, is shown on a map of Great Moose Lake [sic] published with Colvin’s 1891 Report on the State Land Survey. They then traveled north past Twitchell Lake before linking up with Tweedy. Colvin, Sheppard, and Dunning returned to Big Moose on October 20 and took survey measurements. The next day, they returned to Sheppard’s on Pine Point, Fourth Lake where the dogs, especially “Tiger,” welcomed them back.
On October 26, with Sheppard as a guide, Colvin traveled southeast to Limekiln Lake. Sheppard pointed out the area where the Sperry tragedy played out four years earlier and they saw the remains Sperry’s boat. Returning by Fourth Lake, Colvin noted “Mr. Sheppard makes 267 strokes of his oars in coming from Gingerbread Pt. [near Inlet] to his boat house.”
Verplanck Colvin and his team returned to Sheppard’s camp in February 1877 to continue their survey work. During this stay, Sheppard led Colvin on a trip to Seventh Lake Mountain where Colvin famously shot a panther on February 15.
Like many others along the Fulton Chain, Sheppard did not own the land where his camp was located and was probably aware that he faced eviction at some point. Failing to purchase the land, he turned the camp over in 1877 to guide Ed Arnold (1829-1906), who ran the place for a number of years.
Sheppard’s name, however, lingered. As late as 1881, The Boonville Herald was still referring to the place as “Jack Sheppard’s camp (Arnold proprietor).” The building changed hands several times before it was demolished in 1898.
Meanwhile, Sheppard bought 16 acres on the eastern side of Lot #15 of the Woodhull Tract in Forestport from Theobald and Mary Dallarmi for $200 on July 3, 1877. This lot is to the east of present-day Route 28 near the hamlet of White Lake Corners. Jack’s plans for the property are unknown.
The Camp on Big Moose
Sheppard’s activity in late 1870s shifted to Big Moose Lake. Around 1878, members of the Union Club in New York City asked Jack to build a permanent camp on Big Moose.
Jack enlisted guides Richard Crego (1853-1925), Barton Halliday, and John Van Valkenburgh, to help in the construction. The camp was located on the West Bay, near the present estate called Tojenka (see A Short History of Club Camp on Big Moose Lake).
A trip to recover human remains in October 1879, likely began at the Club Camp. Sheppard led U.S. congressman Clinton L. Merriam (1824-1900) and his son C. Hart Merriam (1855-1942), a zoologist, on the expedition and successfully recovered the bones and personal effects of a person who appeared to be a wealthy man. C. Hart Merriam and other scientists returned to the Club Camp in October and November of 1881 to gather wildlife specimens.
In 1880, the U.S. Census, listed Sheppard in the Town of Wilmurt, which at that time included Old Forge, Big Moose, and the Fulton Chain. He appears as “Edward Shepard” in a group of ten men described as guides in the woods.
In June 1882, Sheppard again guided Colvin’s survey crew on the Fulton Chain and was assigned to Fred Mather (1833-1900), an expert on fish. Mather stayed at the Union Club Camp for a week with Jack. “We stopped a while on Big Moose Lake, where Jack had a cabin well stocked with canned goods and other stores for the Big Moose Club of twelve members, when they wished to visit the lake.” During this trip, Mather was surprised to hear that Sheppard had hunted the same area of northern Minnesota as he had, and that Sheppard had served in the same Army Corps.
Sheppard and Richard Crego continued building on Big Moose with a camp near the inlet of the lake for Frank Williams, a New York City coffee merchant. This camp was called Lakeview (not to be confused with the later Lakeview Lodge) and was later known as Deerlands. On June 26, 1882, a logbook from Lakeview names Sheppard and Crego as guides for a fishing expedition. On June 1, 1883, Jack guided a sportsman named John C. Lloyd to nearby Constable Pond.
Jack’s name became synonymous with the camps on Big Moose. Both the Union Club Camp and Lakeview Camp, appear on the map of Big Moose published in Colvin’s 1891 Report on the State Land Survey, and both are identified as “Sheppards Camp.” A newspaper article from August 1887, records that Jack was employed by E. L. Stevens of Grand Rapids, MI, at “Sheppard’s Camp” on Big Moose Lake – which camp was not specified. It’s worth noting that at the time, Sheppard’s wealthy clients did not have title to the land, so it is not surprising their names were not widely known. Much like the situation on Fourth Lake, most early Big Moose campers were squatters.
Sometime after 1882 Sheppard and Crego also built camps for F. C. Moore and Henry Evans of the Continental Insurance Co. near Big Moose’s outlet (see F. C. Moore’s Big Moose Lake Retreat). After construction, Sheppard and the other workers served as guides, hauled in supplies, and performed routine maintenance, such as filling the ice houses in Spring.
To travel between camps and lakes, Sheppard used an Adirondack guide-boat, which was light enough to carry between lakes, but also sturdy enough to haul cargo and sportsmen. In 1886, he bought two guide-boats, one a 12-footer and the second a 14.5-footer, from H. Dwight Grant, an Adirondack guide and boat builder in Boonville, NY. Grant had served in the same Civil War regiment, the 117th NY, as Sheppard.
In 1871, NY State passed a law offering a $20 bounty on panthers, which were considered harmful to other game animals. Sheppard and his clients immediately took advantage of the law.
That year, Sheppard guided B. P. Graves of Boonville (mentioned above) on a trip to Little Moose Lake where Graves shot a panther. In 1877, Sheppard himself collected bounties on three panthers killed December 11, 12, and 13, and collected $60. These may have been the “old panther and her two full grown whelps” that he and Frank Johnson are reported to have killed in December 1877 on Limestone Creek, a tributary of East Canada Creek.
Later, Sheppard killed nine panthers in Wilmurt and brought them to the house of J.E.S. Wilkinson the town supervisor, to collect the bounty. Jack’s longtime friend and client C. Hart Merriam stated that Sheppard was responsible for killing 28 panthers during his career in the Adirondacks.
In the late 1880s, Jack gave up life as a guide and builder and went into business as a steamboat operator on the Fulton Chain. He may have partly financed the move by selling his land in Forestport. On January 27, 1888, as E. L. Sheppard, he sold his 16 acres to George S. Barber for $175. This was the same lot that Sheppard bought in 1877 for $200.
During the winter of 1887-88, Sheppard had the steamboat Fulton built on Old Forge pond and launched it in May 1888. This was a 55-ft. single screw vessel.
In May 1889 he bought out Jonathan Meeker who ran the competing steamboat Hunter and gained complete control of steamboat service on the Fulton Chain. He then hired Meeker as a pilot on the Hunter and later the Fulton.
The Fulton made morning and afternoon runs (Sunday excepted) from the head of Fourth Lake (Inlet) to Old Forge and back for $3. The fare was 50 cents to $1 from various points according to distance and good for return to the starting point the same day.
In March 1891, the Boonville Herald reported that Sheppard was gathering materials to build a scow to be used with his steamboat to ferry horses and cattle and transport wood, lumber and other heavy material on the Fulton Chain. Later that year, guide Artemus M. Church (1852-1934) photographed the Fulton pulling into a dock on Fourth Lake and may have captured an image of Sheppard at the wheel.
Late in his career, Jack served the community in a number of minor roles. E. L. Sheppard of Old Forge was appointed notary public in May 1888. He was elected Justice of the Peace for the Town of Wilmurt as a Democrat to fill a vacancy in 1891. Also in 1891, he was paid $16.00 as an inspector for Wilmurt.
Last Days in the Adirondacks
Although Jack appears on the state census of February 16, 1892, in Wilmurt, Herkimer Co., NY, he had already purchased land in Oregon and was looking to sell his steamboat business. Why Jack chose to settle in Oregon, is not known, but it is possible that he visited the area prior to 1890. On January 26, 1892, Sheppard had bought almost 212 acres in sections 33 and 34 of Township 30, Douglas Co., OR, from William M. and Vina Benedict for $2,000. One day later, he bought town lots 5, 6, 7, and 8 of Block #14 in Riddle, Douglas Co., OR, from J.B. and Mary Riddle for $310. Sheppard then returned to the Adirondacks to tie up his affairs.
The historian Joseph P. Grady and others have speculated that Jack may have been dismayed by the arrival of rail service to the Old Forge area and the influx of tourists. This theory seems based more on Grady’s romantic notion of an Adirondack guide, rather than on business calculations. More tourists would have helped the steamboat business. But the Fulton was aging and would be facing competition from new steamboats.
Sheppard may have just wanted to sell while conditions were good. Whatever the reason, Jack sold his steamboat business in 1892. The Boonville Herald lamented “The Fulton Chain will lose one of its best residents when Capt. Sheppard goes to the far west.” Sheppard left the Adirondacks for good on November 21, 1892.
Oregon and Idaho
Sheppard lived in Riddle, OR, from November 1892 until June 1902. He quickly settled in and on June 22, 1893, added Lots 3 and 4 of Block #14 to his holdings there for $500. In April 1893, the Boonville Herald published a letter Jack wrote to Artemus Church in Boonville:
My Dear Church: Yours received. I was glad to hear from Brown’s Tract and learn that you had a good ice crop. I have not seen more than one quarter inch this winter…. The mountains [here] are worthless except for timber, minerals and grazing [?], and I might add hunting – as they abound in a great variety of game. Panther are quite plenty. Two have been killed here this winter by chance, as no one hunts them. Deer are quite plenty and there are quite a few bears and wolves. The latter are somewhat troublesome owing to their affinity for young pigs. There are plenty of squirrels and quail. It is a very busy time just now preparing the ground for corn and potatoes and pruning the fruit trees.…
I am about two miles from the depot of the O. & C. railroad. Bread and meat are very cheap. Groceries rather high, but the nice weather throughout the winter is what “takes the cake.” The ground never freezes and ____ of snow, and then only for a few days. I’ve not worn mitten this winter. No potato bugs, no mosquitoes, but I expect there will be fleas and ticks bye and bye. I have been making a chicken house today as next Sunday the chicken family begin to put in an appearance. Expect that Ed Arnold will be out here next fall to hunt up a quartz ledge [i.e., a gold deposit].…he and I would make a good pair to go prospecting. The largest placer mine is only two miles away. They built thirty miles of flume this summer to get water to it so it can be worked next winter.
Sheppard sold his 212-acre tract in Douglas County on October 9, 1900 for $2,500. In June 1902, he moved east to Rockville in Malheur County, OR, close to the Idaho border. He later sold the Riddle town Lots 5, 6, 7, and 8 of Block #14 for $300 on March 28, 1905 and Lots 3 and 4 for $350 on November 20, 1906. Overall, he made a $340 profit on the Douglas County land transactions.
The move to Malheur County brought him closer to family. His nephew Samuel Naramore and niece Libby Naramore Proud lived in neighboring Owyhee County, ID. On the 1910 census, Jack was living with his nephew Samuel Naramore and was listed as a postmaster in Homedale Precinct, Owyhee Co., ID.
Jack filed for an invalid’s military pension on January 20, 1913 from Rockville, Malheur Co., OR. At the time he was 75 years old and still described as 5 feet 11 inches and 140 pounds with blue eyes, but his hair was now white.
The pension process proved difficult because the government could find no evidence of service under his real name, Edwin L. Sheppard. Two fellow veterans of the 117th , James J. Guernsey of Rome, NY, and James Calen of Watertown, NY, wrote letters verifying that Edwin L. Sheppard was in fact the “Jack” Sheppard listed on military rolls. Ultimately, he received a pension, starting in September 1913 for $30 per month.
During the last year of his life, Jack moved to the home of his niece Libby Naramore Proud at the Poison Creek Stage Station, which still stands south of Homedale, Owyhee Co., ID. He died there on November 20, 1917, at age 80.
Sheppard was buried on November 22, 1917 at Canyon Hill Cemetery, Caldwell, Canyon Co., ID. A headstone reading “Sgt. E. L. Sheppard, Co. K, 117 N.Y. Inf.” marks his grave.
Illustrations, from above: Jack Sheppard, Forest and Stream, June 26, 1897; Sheppard’s Camp, Fourth Lake, 1869 courtesy Adirondack Experience; map of Big Moose Lake, New York State Archives, Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Real Property, Verplanck Colvin maps of the Adirondack wilderness, Series B1405-96_14; Steamboat Fulton Poster courtesy Town of Webb Historical Association; Steamboat Fulton on Fourth Lake, Adirondack Views, by Artemus M. Church, cabinet card, 1891 courtesy Thomas A. Gates; Poison Creek Stage Station, Idaho, 1976, by Larry Jones; and Sheppard Gravestone, courtesy Dennis McIndoo, permission granted by the Idaho Family Scanners.