The Faith of a Teen, in the 1830s
Friends of Lorenzo B. Shepard raised $3,000 in 1858 to build a monument atop his grave
Lorenzo B. (for Brewster) Shepard was a prominent lawyer and politician in his time. He had a meteoric rise before he died suddenly at age 35 in 1856. For example, he was appointed by the president in 1849, at only age 27, to be the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The next year he served as president of the New York Democratic State Convention. In 1854, at age 32, he became the District Attorney for New York County (Manhattan). In 1855 he was the Grand Sachem of the Tammany Society and in 1856 he was elected Corporation Counsel of New York City.
He was so beloved by locals that, two years after his death, his friends raised $3,000 (in 1858 money) to build a monument atop his grave in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn. The monument’s inscription states:
To perpetuate the memory of Lorenzo B. Shepard, this monument is erected by the voluntary subscriptions
Of citizens who honored him as a public officer
Of associates and clients who trusted him as a counsellor and
Of friends who loved him as a man just, generous, and true in all the relations of life
When he died, Shepard left his widow and five children. One of the children was Edward Morse Shepard (1850-1911) who himself became a lawyer and a beloved figure in Brooklyn and Lake George.
When Shepard was eight years old, his mother and sole sibling — a five-year-old brother — died weeks apart. His father, a lawyer, died when he was 14. He was raised by a male relative, also a lawyer. One Sunday, when the male relative returned home from church, he found the following poem written by Shepard which references his deceased father, mother, and brother. The relative had it inscribed in his family Bible. It has not been published until now. It is undated but would have been composed during Shepard’s teenage years — between 1835 when he was orphaned and 1841 when he was admitted to the bar at age 20.
Tis eve and holy stillness reigns around
Nor Earth nor air breathes forth a sound
But all now bow to Him Great God how good
How wondrous are thy works that I
Who late could question thy existence should
Now bow my head nor ask thee why.
I tune the harp and sing to thee
Listen I pray thee unto me
Thou whom I adore
No father’s eye doth smile on me
I am alone
My mother’s resting place is marked
By the cold stone
I had a Brother once but his loved form
Has passed away
Like the air moist after the storm
On autumn’s day
Oh God wilt thou be all to me
A Father could
Will thou with love all my faults see
As Mother would
Correct them with thy chastening hand
And when I pray
Look on me with a Brother’s love
Turn not away.
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