Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


HARRIETT ELMA (OHLEN) SHEPARD. Harriett Elma (Ohlen) Shepard was born in the beautiful Mohawk Valley region of New York state, near the town of Ft. Hunter, January 16, 1853, the ninth and youngest child of Stephen Van Rensselaer and Nancy Record (Clark) Ohlen. The paternal ancestor, John Olin (as the name was originally spelled) emigrated from Wales and settled near East Greenwich, Rhode Island. The family was prominent in the Revolutionary war, and various members held offices of state. From the village of Ft. Hunter, Stephen Van Rensselaer Ohlen removed to the other side of the Mohawk river and settled in the town of Tribes Hill, famous as a center of activity during the Indian wars, where he engaged in mercantile business, and where the childhood of the subject of this sketch was passed. Later, the discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania attracted the father and his son, Henry Clark Ohlen, to that region, and the family spent several years in the heart of the oil territory, the son becoming a somewhat prominent operator there and a member of the first company to lay a pipe line for the transportation of oil to the seaboard. Financial interest again took the family eastward, the son returning to New York City, where he was a member and president of the Petroleum Exchange, and the father settling in the New Jersey suburban town of Madison, where the youngest daughter began her preparation for Vassar College, at which institution she entered the freshman class in the fall of 1870, graduating in 1874 with the degree Bachelor of Arts. In her junior year she was one of the editors of "The Vassar Miscellany," and her marked interest in scientific research caused her to be engaged as assistant to William Orton, the professor of geology of Vassar College, for the year following her graduation. An accident, resulting in temporary disability, prevented the fulfilling of this engagement, and the following year she was called to the chair of Natural History in Milwaukee College, where Professor Charles S. Farrar, one of her former instructors in Vassar, had gone to take the presidency of that institution. During her four years' connection with Milwaukee College, her routine work was varied by membership with various scientific and art societies, the proceedings of which she regularly reported for the daily newspapers, writing occasional editorial articles as well. The wide circle of friends made in that intellectual and progressive city, gave stimulus to the mental activities of the ambitious young woman, who began to feel that her life-work must be connected with the growing institutions of the West. In the spring of 1878, a call to Drury College resulted in her taking up work in that institution the following fall as head of the woman's department, where a broader field seemed to open in the opportunity for guiding the young girls who were under her immediate supervision in Fairbanks Hall, which was at that time the dormitory for women. To her duties as a teacher, an increasing amount of executive work was added, and outside of the college routine she entered into the church and community life of the growing city. She became a teacher in the Sabbath school and recognizing the opportune time for interesting the women of the community in more varied intellectual pursuits, she, in company with others, organized the Springfield Ladies Saturday Club, the first literary club of its kind, so far as known, in the state. After serving for three years as lady principal of Drury College (the title "Dean of Women" not having yet been adopted by that institution), she resigned her position, and on June 28, 1881, at her home in Madison, New Jersey, was married to Edward Martin Shepard, professor of biology and geology in Drury College, and with him spent the summer in travel and study in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, gratifying the taste for scientific research common to both. They returned to Springfield in the fall to found a new home in the college circle of households--a home to which teachers students and townspeople were always welcomed, and which became a center for the scientific interests of the college. For many years subsequent to her marriage, Mrs. Shepard's summers were largely spent with her husband in studying the botany and geology (then little known) of southwest Missouri, driving through the wilderness, camping out where no better accommodations were available, and learning to know, at first hand, the sturdy natives of this part of the state. A considerable amount of miscellaneous literary work was always done in her leisure hours at home, the reviewing of books for various publishing houses having been an interesting and favorite occupation.. Her two children, Isabel Violet Shepard and Edward Martin Shepard, Jr., were educated in Drury College, graduating in the class of 1910, the son going immediately to Cornell University, New York, where he graduated from the department of electrical engineering, and the daughter supplementing her college work with special courses in Missouri State University and the University of Chicago.

Mrs. Shepard was a member of the executive board of the Missouri Woman's Home Missionary Union for a number of years, in which capacity she served the various interests of home missions, and wrote a number of leaflets which were published for the use of the union. Early in the summer of 1899, in company with her husband and children, she took an extended trip through the West to San Francisco, and in the autumn of that year sailed with the family for Honolulu, where she established a temporary home and quickly became interested in the life of the island, particularly those things related to their early missionary history, at the same time visiting the volcanoes and other points of natural interest in that "Paradise of the Pacific." On her return to Springfield, after a nine months' absence, she wrote and lectured many times on life in Hawaii, speaking, mainly to missionary societies and women's clubs. In 1896, she went with her husband and daughter to the Tenth International Geological Congress held in Mexico, being made an honorary member of the Congress, with permission to share all privileges of delegates. In company with her husband and geologists of many nations, she traveled extensively through the mining regions of the republic, visiting its pyramids, museums, art galleries, historic cathedrals, and the wonderful ruins of Mitla, and enjoying, as a long-to-be-remembered feature of the whole experience, the invitation to a reception and dinner given at Chapultepec Castle by President and Mrs. Diaz.

Throughout the history of the Missouri Federation of Women's clubs, Mrs. Shepard has been identified with the executive board of that organization, and especially in sympathy with the various forms of altruistic work carried on by that progressive, yet sanely conservative body. First as one of its directors, then as chairman of its department of education, vice-president at large, and finally as president of the organization for four years she has found much satisfaction in working with club women in all parts of the state. It was during her administration as president that the educational fund through which the State Federation aids deserving young women was established, and through her efforts that the prompt co-operation of individual clubs caused Missouri to be one of the first states to raise its apportionment of the General Federation Endowment Fund of $100,000. She is a member of the Ozark Branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, in which she served as counsellor from 1908 to 1915; president, ibid, 1915; A. C. A. School Patroness for Missouri of the National Education Association, 1908-1910; delegate by governor's appointment to American Civic Association, 1910; member executive committee Missouri Conservation Association 1911; member board of managers Public Library, Springfield, Missouri; delegate to National Conservation Congress, 1911; member of Missouri Ex Club; P. E. O. organization, Springfield Ladies Saturday Club and honorary member of Springfield Sorosis.

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