My Ancestor Rev. Thomas Shepard, an English and American Puritan Minister and Significant Figure in Early Colonial New England.

Thomas Shepard.

In this month of August on the 25th will mark the 372nd anniversary of the death of my quite interesting and significant ancestor Rev. Thomas Shepard. He and his third wife Margaret Borodell are my 8th great-grandparents. She was the daughter of John Borodell. Two of Margaret Borodell‘s siblings are more well-known, Ann Borodell who married George Denison, and John Borodell, merchant of London.

Rev. Thomas Shepard was born in Towcester, Northamptonshire, England on 5 November 1605, the son of William Shepard and Anna Bland. Towcester is a market town in Northamptonshire, England. It currently lies in West Northamptonshire but was the former administrative headquarters of the South Northamptonshire district council.

Towcester lays claim to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the country. It was the Roman town of Lactodorum, located on Watling Street, today’s A5. In Saxon times, this was the frontier between the kingdom of Wessex and the Danelaw. Towcester features in Charles Dickens’s novel The Pickwick Papers as one of Mr. Pickwick’s stopping places on his tour. The local racecourse has hosted many national horse racing events. (12)

Born on the day that the gunpowder plot was discovered, at the very hour in which Parliament was to have been blown up, Thomas lost his devout mother when he was just four. A godly woman, she had loved young Thomas and prayed earnestly for him. His stepmother disliked him and often incited his father to punish him, although Thomas admitted he may have deserved it. Thomas remembered his father, a grocer, as, on the whole, a wise and godly man, but he died when Thomas was just ten. His father died when he reached ten, at which point he lived with his grandparents, who neglected him. Later an older brother, whom he held in high and grateful regard provided him with a loving home. And he knew a measure of happiness, “for him God made to be both father and mother unto me. (8)

A schoolmaster ignited in him a scholarly interest, which ultimately led to entry into Emmanuel College in Cambridge University at the age of fifteen. He accounts in his autobiography that he lived a dissatisfied and dissolute life. Although he hungered for God, he hungered more for the things that fed his lust and pride; and he gambled, bowled and drank. After getting drunk one night he fled to a field and prayed. At the moment when he was worst, Christ was best to him, and Thomas “saw” the Lord’s sorrow for his sin. He vowed to spend part of each day in meditation. Resolutions did not change his heart. In fact, his character did not change until he heard a Puritan preach on Paul’s words “Be renewed in your mind.” (Romans 12.) (8) which led him to pray out in a nearby field, at which point he underwent the beginnings of a conversion experience. (5 & 8)

In 1627, he became assistant schoolmaster at Earls Colne Grammar School in Earls Colne, Essex. He was graduated at Oxford in 1627, ordained in the established church. His sermons and Puritan ways drew the ire of Church of England Archbishop William Laud, and he was forbidden to preach. He was 1630 silenced for non-conformity. He was subsequently tutor and chaplain in the family of Sir Richard Darby, whose cousin he married. He was silenced again in 1633.

Following the death of his elder son, he left England in October 1635 with his wife, Margaret Touteville and younger son, Thomas Shepard, on a difficult voyage for Massachusetts in Colonial America where he became minister of one of the leading churches in the colonies, the First Church in Cambridge (Congregational, currently UCC), Massachusetts and also of Harvard University, then a very new school charged with training men for the Christian ministry in the Puritan colonies of New England. Along with John Allin and John Eliot, he was involved in preaching to the native peoples on New England. From the time he became minister First Church of Cambridge, succeeding Thomas Hooker, until his death, he remained pastor of this church.

Shepard House.

He was active in founding Harvard, and instrumental in placing it at Cambridge. Nathaniel Morton, the historian, says of him: “By his death not only the church and people of Cambridge, but all New England, suffered a great loss. (1)

His first wife Margaret Touteville died shortly after his arrival in New England, his second wife, Joanna Hooker, died in 1646, he also lost other children to death, though he framed these experiences, if not without difficulty, into the perspective of his theology.

From 1637 to 1638, during the Antinomian Controversy, he sat with the other colonial ministers during both the civil and church trials of Anne Hutchinson and was a very vocal critic of hers during the latter.

Anne Hutchinson.

The Antinomian Controversy, also known as the Free Grace Controversy, was a religious and political conflict in the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1636 to 1638. It pitted most of the colony’s ministers and magistrates against some adherents of the Free Grace theology of Puritan minister John Cotton. The most notable Free Grace advocates, often called “Antinomians”, were Anne Hutchinson, her brother-in-law Reverend John Wheelwright, and Massachusetts Bay Governor Henry Vane. The controversy was a theological debate concerning the “covenant of grace” and “covenant of works”. (13)

Anne Hutchinson has historically been placed at the center of the controversy, a strong-minded woman who had grown up under the religious guidance of her father Francis Marbury, an Anglican clergyman and schoolteacher. In England, she embraced the religious views of dynamic Puritan minister John Cotton, who became her mentor; Cotton was forced to leave England and Hutchinson followed him to New England. (13)

A small side note: I must add here that I am also a descendant of the above-mentioned Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson! She is my ancestor on my maternal side. Rev. Thomas Shepard is on my paternal lines.

“He was a vigorous and popular writer on theological subjects, and published New England’s Lamentations for Old England’s Errors (London, 1645) ; The Clear Sunshine of the Gospel Breaking out on the Indians of New England (1648; New York, 1865) ; Theses Sabbatica (1649) ; and left in manuscript numerous sermons that were subsequently printed in England. These include Subjection to Christ, with a memoir of him by Samuel Mather and William Greenhill (London, 1652), and The Parables of the Ten Virgins and other Sermons (1660; new ed., Aberdeen, 1638). His autobiography was published (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1832), and his collected works, with a memoir of him by Reverend Horatio Alger (3 vols., Boston, 1853). Cotton Mather also wrote his memoir in the Magnalia, and in his Lives of the Chief Fathers of New England.” (10)

An excerpt from the writings of Rev. Thomas Shepard:

“All men’s souls are naturally unfit and unprepared to enjoy communion with Christ; it is said, (Rev. xxi.) unclean “Nothing enters into the new Jerusalem on earth, which is unclean, and defileth;” and, (Heb. xii. 14,) “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Now, naturally all men are defiled, and unclean vessels, and under the power of their sins, loathing angels’ food, the grace of Christ, and weary of the fellowship of Christ; and, therefore, they must be prepared for the Lord first; this is one reason why preparation to every holy duty is needful, and so needful, that let men perform any holy duty, wherein they draw near to Christ without a heart prepared, (Ps. x. 17,) their performances are rejected, or not blessed; and hence Rehoboam, though he did maintain the worship of God at Jerusalem, “yet he prepared not his heart,” (2 Chron. xii. 14;) and hence Hezekiah mourns, and begs pardon for this, “that he is so purified according to the purification of the sanctuary.” Now, to a holy duty, and communion with Christ here, this is needful; sore eyes can not behold the sun without grief; sick bodies loathe the best food; if the Lord should let a carnal heart into heaven with that heart he hath, and not change his nature, he would not stay there if he could escape; but having his swinish nature, he would be in his mire again; and the government of Christ being a bondage to him, he would break bonds, and break his prison, if he knew where to fly from the presence of the Lord; and hence, no work so wearisome as Christ’s now, no time so uncomfortable and tedious as abiding under Christ’s wings in his ordinances now. 1 Cor. xv. 50, “If flesh and blood can not enter into the kingdom of heaven, much less corruption.”

Parable of the Ten Virgins (Works of Thomas Shepard): Shepard, Thomas: Books

His written legacy includes an autobiography and numerous sermons, which in some measure of contrast with others of his day, tended to accent God as an accessible and welcoming figure in the individual life. Today a plaque at Harvard University, in the words of Cotton Mather, records that it was in consideration of the salutary effect of Shepard’s ministry that the college ultimately came to be placed in “Newtowne”, known today as Cambridge, Massachusetts. (13)

Rev. Thomas Shepard married first to Margaret Touteville in 1632 in London, England. Margret Touteville was the daughter of Charles Touteville (Estouteville) and Ann Robertson. She is considered a gateway ancestor – an ancestor that is descended from royalty, the aristocracy, or landed gentry.

Children of Rev. Thomas Shepard and Margaret Touteville:

  1. Thomas Shepard born 1630 in London, England and died 1630 in London, England.
  2. Rev. Thomas Shepard born 5 April 1635 in London, England and died 22 December 1677 in Charlestown, Suffolk, Massachusetts. He married Anna Tyng.

Margaret Touteville died February 1636 in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

Rev. Thomas Shepard married second in early 1640 to Joanna Hooker the daughter of Rev. Thomas Hooker.

Children of Rev. Thomas Shepard and Joanna Hooker:

  1. Rev. Samuel Shepard born October 1641 in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, and died 7 April 1668 in Rowley, Essex, Massachusetts. He married Dorothy Flint.
  2. John Shepard born 14 July 1644 in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, and died 14 July 1644 in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
  3. John Shepard born 2 April 1646 in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, and died 1719 in Kittery, York, Maine. He married Rebecca Putnam.

Joanna Hooker died on 28 April 1646 in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

Rev. Thomas Shepard married third to Margaret Borodell on 8 September 1647 in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

Child born to Rev. Thomas Shepard and Margaret Borodell:

  1. Rev. Jeremiah Shepard born 11 August 1648 in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, and died 2 June 1720 in Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts. He married Mary Wainwright, the daughter of Col. Francis Wainwright and Philippa Sewall (Sewell). Phillippa Sewall (Sewell) may be a gateway ancestor. She was the daughter of George Sewell and his second wife Sarah ____ (not Sarah Ward, who was his first wife). They are my direct ancestors. 

After the death of Rev. Thomas Shepard, his wife Margaret Borodell married second at Cambridge, Massachusetts on 19 November 1650 to Rev. Jonathan Mitchell.

Rev. Thomas Shepard died of quinsy, a Peritonsillar abscess, which is a complication of tonsillitis at the age of 44. On his death-bed, he said to the young ministers around him, “That their work was great, and called for great seriousness;” and mentioned to them three things concerning himself: “That the study of every sermon cost him tears; That before he preached any Sermon he got good by it himself; and, That he always went into the pulpit, as if he were to give up his accounts to his Master. (3)

Three of Shepard’s sons followed him into the ministry; Thomas Shepard II, Samuel Shepard, and Jeremiah Shepard.

Famous kin descended from Rev. Thomas Shepard and first wife Margaret Touteville:

Abigail (Smith) Adams, First Lady of the United States; U.S. President John Quincy Adams; U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Poet and Playwright T.S. Eliot; and 1952 Olympic Sailing Gold Medalist John Adams Morgan.

Famous and/or distinguished kin descended from Rev. Thomas Shepard and third wife Margaret Borodell:

TV actor and host David Hartman; and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (I love this one! She used to be my Senator when I lived in Illinois) and me! ​😘​❤️️​

Famous kin descended from Margaret Borodell and second husband Rev. Jonathan Mitchell:

U.S. President Grover Cleveland; Henry Lee Higginson, founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; actress Shirley Temple; and actor James Spader.

Meaning of surname Shepard: Shepherd, as its name suggests, is an occupational name for someone employed to tend and watch over sheep.  Its origins are the Old English sceap meaning “sheep” and hierde meaning “herdsman.”  The German equivalent is Schaefer. Shepherd, Shephard, Sheppard, and Shepard are the main surname variants. (14)

Meaning of the surname Borodell: Borodell would appear to be a corruption or alternate spelling of Borrowdale, a small area in the English county of Cumberland, which does square with the supposed origin of [my ancestor] John Borodell before he appears in Ireland in the 1600s. Could he have been one of the people ‘planted’ by Queen Elizabeth I in Ireland, given land for their loyal service to the crown?” The surname Borrowdale is from Cumberland “where they derived their name from the village of Borrowdale, in the parish of Crosthwaite, often called often called Grange in Borrowdale. The village dates back to at least c. 1170 when it was listed as Borgordale and meant “valley of the fort river” derived from the Old Scandinavian word “berg” + “by.” (15)

Meaning of Bland surname: Bland is a surname thought to derive from Old English (ge)bland ‘storm’, ‘commotion’. It is thought to have originated in an area in Yorkshire (where there is a place called Bland Hill). It predates the adjective ‘bland’ meaning “characterless or uninteresting” which arrived in England around 1660. (16)

My direct ancestor is his son Rev. Jeremiah Shepard.

My direct line:

  1. Rev. Thomas Shepard and Margret Borodell (the daughter of John Borodell).
  2. Rev. Jeremiah Shepard and Mary Wainwright (the daughter of Col. Francis Wainwright and Philippa Sewall (Sewell).
  3. Nathaniel Shepard (Shepherd) and Elizabeth Wade (the daughter of Col. Thomas Wade and Elizabeth Cogswell).
  4. Elizabeth Shepherd and William Armstrong (the son of John Armstrong, Jr. and Rebecca Hicks).
  5. Nathaniel Shepherd Armstrong and Hannah Norris (the daughter of Joseph Norris and Mary Talbot).
  6. John A. Armstrong and Sarah “Sally” Norris (the daughter of James Norris and Martha ____. She was kin to her mother-in-law Hannah Norris).
  7. Bradford Carroll Armstrong and his third wife Martha A. Knight Lyons (the daughter of James W. Lyons and Catherine Barton).
  8. George Pendleton Armstrong and Alice Elizabeth Nutick (the daughter of Elias “Eli” Nutick (Emick, Emich, Emig) and Margaret (Margarethe) Weiss). My great-grandparents.

Follow the link below to my blog entry to learn about the ancestry of Elias “Eli” Nutick and Margaret (Margarethe) Weiss:

My Weiss, Fried, Propheter, and Related Ancestors from Klingenmünster, Germany.

References and Sources:

  1. The History of Cambridge: Thomas Shepard. Years of Thomas Shepard. The History of Cambridge: Thomas Shepard | Harvard Square Library
  2. N. Adams (ed.), The Autobiography of Thomas Shepard, the celebrated minister of Cambridge, N.E., with additional notes of his life and character (Pierce and Parker, Boston 1832).
  3. Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) A sharp preacher and theologian who wrote in an extraordinarily power style and manner. APM. A Puritan’s Mind.
  4. “Sheppard, Thomas (SHPT619T)”. A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. Thomas Shepard | Digital Puritan Press, Veritatem verterem vulgare – To spread old truth far and wide.
  6. Battis, Emery (1962). Saints and Sectaries: Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 189–248.
  7. Hanson, Robert Brand (1976). Dedham, Massachusetts, 1635-1890. Dedham Historical Society. p. 63.
  8. Graves, MSL, Dan. Never Enough Done to Satisfy Thomas Shepard – 1601-1700 Church History Timeline ( 3 May 2010.
  9. In answer to the reverend servant of Christ, Mr. John Ball. By Thomas Shephard, sometimes fellow of Emanuel-Colledge in Cambridge, and late pastour of Cambridge in New-England (Printed by E. Cotes for Andrew Crooke, and are to be sold at the Green Dragon in Pauls Church-yard, London 1653).
  10. Thomas Shepard: American Puritan Minister. Christian Classic Ethereal Library – Bringing Christian Classic Books to Life. Author info: Thomas Shepard – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (
  11. Shepard Family Papers, c. 1636 – 1681 ( American Antiquarian Society – Manuscript Collections.
  12. Towcester – Wikipedia
  13. Thomas Shepard (minister) – Wikipedia
  14. Shepherd Surname Meaning, History & Origin
  15. Borrowdale Name Meaning, Family History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms (
  16. Bland (surname) Meaning – Wikipedia

If you use any information from my blog posts as a reference or source, please give credit and provide a link back to my work that you are referencing. Unless otherwise noted, my work is © Anna A. Kasper 2011-2023. All rights reserved. Thank you.

About Anna Kasper, ACDP

I am an avid Genealogist. I am currently a student at Phillips Theological Seminary (one of the few Catholics!). I am an ACDP - Associate of the Congregation of Divine Providence (Sisters of Divine Providence of Texas). If you are unfamiliar with what a Religious Associate (also called an Affiliate, Consociate, Oblate, Companion) is exactly, visit my about me page for more information. In community college, I majored in American Sign Language/Deaf Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies when at university.
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4 Responses to My Ancestor Rev. Thomas Shepard, an English and American Puritan Minister and Significant Figure in Early Colonial New England.

  1. Pingback: My Ancestor Maria Thomas Badie, Donor of Two Silver Communion Beakers to The Reformed Church of Breuckelen (Brooklyn, New York) in 1684. 52 Ancestors March Theme: Females. Week 10: Worship. | Anna's Musings & Writings

  2. Pingback: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Week 14: Check it Out! My Ancestor Rev. Thomas Shepard. | Anna's Musings & Writings

  3. Pingback: 52 Ancestors – Week 30: Teams. My Kin Mitchell “Mitch” Nutick. Dancer on Broadway and Founder of the West Hollywood Tennis Association. | Anna's Musings & Writings

  4. Pingback: 52 Ancestors – Week 30: Teams. My Cousin Mitchell “Mitch” Nutick. Dancer on Broadway and Founder of the West Hollywood Tennis Association. | Anna's Musings & Writings

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