Yummygal is featuring a new history writer in South Jersey. I hope you enjoy her article below!
The History of the David Sheppard House
Fairton, New Jersey
By Laural Boney
The 1781 House, also know as the David Sheppard house, is a gem in the vast landscape of everglades. It resides on a small country road on the way to Seabreeze in Fairfield Township. It is a beautiful red brick house, a lovely reminder of early American masonry.
It has remained mostly intact and unchanged in the 232 years since its construction. The house, along with the land, has some pretty incredible history, including Pirates, matey! Arghhhh….
A Hardy Har Har time ago, before the Sheppard’s claimed their land, the Fairton area, in South Jersey, was known to be a safe haven for pirates. The most well-known……Ay ay captains…were Captain Kidd, Captain Worley, Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard. Blackbeard sailed his crew up along Back Neck Creek where he felt he was out of sight and untouchable from authorities.
Blackbeard’s crew built log cabins for the winter on the land that Joseph Sheppard later claimed in 1781. It is said that Blackbeard may have buried some of his treasure in or around the property. The Shiver Me Timbers pirate boasted that he buried two dead men next to his riches to act as guardians. By the time Joseph Sheppard came along, Blackbeard and his crew had moved on. Shepard demolished what was left of the shanty cabins and began building his homestead.
The home was constructed by Joseph Sheppard, David’s father. Joseph built the house as a homestead for his family to establish roots. Joseph died within a year of building the structure. As to honor the wishes of his will, the house was passed to David. Even to this day in Fairton, the Sheppard family is still very prominent.
After Joseph’s death, in 1782, his son David took over the homestead. David, whom the house is named after, croaked in 1828. The historical records at the Library of Congress state that he died intestate, meaning he died without a clear will.
On February 13th 1829, the Sheppard’s property was given to the family of a woman named, Sarah Walker. It is not clear who she was, it is presumed that she was David’s widow.
The Sheppard family emigrated from Ireland to the colony of West Jersey. The West Jersey line consisted of Atlantic, Burlington Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May Counties. Along with Mercer, Sussex, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties to the north. The elder Sheppards helped not just with the establishment of Hopewell and Fairton, but also built one of the first Baptist churches in America. The church resided along the Cohansey River on the Hopewell side.
The congregation of Fairton would travel along what is now called Back Neck Road, where the river empties into the bay. This area was called Red Barn Farm. Church members would travel by boat across the mouth of the Cohansey River to Hopewell in order to attend church services.
According to a lack of documentation after 1829, there wasn’t much recording of history, only that it was passed down from one family member to another.
In the 1939 HABS photo, the home had stood up to over a century of the elements and was in excellent condition. By comparing the 1939 photo, to a photo from today, it hasn’t changed much at all! The Sheppard Home has been well-maintained over the last two centuries and it looks as it was constructed recently. It is incredible!
The home is now a private residence. The Sheppard home is not open for tours. However, it is still a great property to check out in the Fairton/Seabreeze area. You will marvel at the antiquity of the house and revel in its history.
Just try to imagine where Blackbeard may have buried his booty!
Take a deep breath, close your eyes and realize you are in the most gorgeous state in the country…… Yo ho ho and a bottle of New Jersey.
You can follow Laural, the author and a South Jersey native via facebook at The Real History Page.