Mary Cecilia Delesderniers Shepherd

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Mary Cecilia Delesderniers was the only child of Frank and Amelia Delesderniers and was born on February 5, 1826 at Greenwood. She spent her childhood here close to many relatives in the village, grandparents at Swiss Cottage, aunts and uncles and many cousins about the same age.

Swiss Cottage

When she was 10, Mary Cecilia Delesderniers (also known as Mary) was sent to Montreal to Mrs. Wray's small private school. (Mrs.Wray was the grandmother of Mrs. Hugh Allan) While in Montreal, Mary lived with a Mr. and Mrs. Trudeau. She spent several months each year at this school until she was 15. She returned home to Greenwood for the Christmas holidays and for the summers.

There are letters at Greenwood that Mary Cecilia Delesderniers wrote to her parents from school as well as some to her from her parents. Her mother's letters are full of the ordinary day-to-day happenings at Greenwood - visits of relatives and friends, news of Mary's cats, talk of new clothes, as well as advice about her studies, etc.

When she was 16, Mary met her future husband, Robert Ward Shepherd, for the first time. He had been working on steamers on the Ottawa River since 1837.

Robert Ward Shepherd

In January 1843, he was invited to join a group of friends who were driving by sleigh from Montreal to Chatham, then known as Cushing, near St. Andrews East where they were to attend a party at the home of Mr. Lemuel Cushing. They left Montreal on the morning of the 12th having arranged to spend the night at Greenwood. They arrived here about 8 p.m. and received a very hearty welcome from their host and hostess, Frank and Amelia Delesderniers.

At this time Captain Shepherd was introduced to his future wife, Mary Cecilia Delesderniers. He described her as a blooming girl of 16, very shy and hard to get acquainted with.

In his reminiscences, Captain Shepherd tells us that they danced all evening at Schneider's Inn almost next door to Greenwood. Next morning they set out for Chatham, the Delesderniers having joined the party. They had their noon dinner in St. Andrews with Amelia's father, Dr Abner Rice, and arrived at the Cushing's home in time for tea. The reminiscences do not mention the party they were invited for, but we do know that they all stayed at the Cushing's for a few days.

When they left to go back to Como, Captain Shepherd had the pleasure of Mary's company in his sleigh - much to the annoyance of the other gentlemen, he says.

On their return to Greenwood, Captain Shepherd was invited to stay on for a couple of days. He had known the family from his several visits to Schneider's Inn but until this trip he had never actually met Mary. After this, he often met the Delesderniers, including Mary, on their trips to Montreal and Frank had kindly invited him to stay at Greenwood with them whenever he had time to spare and assured Captain Shepherd that there was plenty of stable room for his horse.

During the next winter Captain Shepherd often had to travel to Carillon to make arrangements for the wood needed by the steamers for their next season and in the course of these trips he always stayed at Greenwood, both going to Carillon and on his return.

In 1846 Captain Shepherd was able, with a few friends to buy the steamer "Oldfield" which he was then in command of and so began a new steamboat company on the river which would be known as the Ottawa River Navigation Company. Once all these business affairs were settled, he spent Christmas with the Delesderniers and he and Mary made arrangements for their wedding.

Captain Shepherd and Mary Cecilia Delesderniers were married in St. James Church on February 8, 1847 - she was 21; he was 28. Mary's wedding dress is still preserved at Greenwood as is his wedding vest.

Writing in his memoirs some 30 years later, Captain Shepherd wrote that they had yet to have their first serious disagreement and he felt that few couples had ever lived so long together so happily. He admitted that Mary often had cause to be annoyed with him but that her amiable disposition always won the day.


Captain Shepherd and Mary Cecilia had 10 children; all but one lived to adulthood. Their eldest son, Robert Ward Jr., was born in 1848 at Greenwood where they lived while Riversmead, their future home, was being built. All the other children were born at Riversmead, the youngest in 1868.

From Captain Shepherd's memoirs and from the many letters we have from both of them, it seems that they were seldom separated and in later life took many trips together - spending holidays on the coast of Maine and in 1882 undertaking a prolonged voyage to England, Scotland and Europe.

After Captain Shepherd died in 1895, Mary Cecilia spent the summers at Riversmead surrounded by her married children and her many grandchildren. She continued to spend her winters in their house on Dorchester Street in Montreal.

Mary had been left Greenwood and the Delesderniers property on the death of her parents and by this time all her married children had summer houses on the property. When Mary Cecilia Delesderniers Sheperd died February 6, 1901, her oldest son, Robert Ward Jr. inherited Riversmead. 

Submitted by Eleanor Abbey. Eleanor is a great-granddaughter of R. W. and Mary Cecilia Shepherd and sister of the Late Marg Peyton. 

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