Grierson, Francis, 1848-1927Variant names
Author, pianist and spiritualist. Second cousin to Benjamin H. Grierson.
Born Benjamin Henry Jesse Francis Shepard, and known as Jesse Shepard, he adopted his mother's family name in 1899.
From the description of Papers, 1889-1927. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library). WorldCat record id: 32363842
Biographical / Historical Notes
Benjamin Henry Jesse Francis Shepard (1848-1927) was a musician, author, lecturer, spiritualist, and self-proclaimed seer. While living in London in 1896, Jesse Shepard took the pen name Francis Grierson (Grierson being his mother’s maiden name), to which many of his works are credited. Shepard was born in Birkenhead, England on September 18, 1848. When he was six month old his parents immigrated to America and in 1849 settled in Sangamon County, Illinois. In 1858, while living in Alton, Illinois, Shepard was present at the last of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. From 1859 to 1862 he lived in St. Louis and served as a page for General John C. Fremont. While living in Niagara Falls with his family in 1863, Shepard had the opportunity to play the piano and discovered his musical talents. Prior to 1887, Shepard traveled extensively performing throughout the United States and Europe at the patronage of his admirers who were often prominent writers, artists, intellectuals and politicians. Shepard received notoriety as a master of piano improvisation performing at famous salons and for European royalty. While in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1871 Shepard received instruction in holding séances furthering his interest in mysticism and Spiritualism.
In 1887, Shepard and his close friend and personal assistant Waldemar Tonner moved to San Diego and, with the financial support of William and John High, built a Queen Anne style mansion they named Villa Montezuma. While living at Villa Montezuma, Shepard hosted many of his own salons entertaining prominent guests and fellow Spiritualists with his musical talents.
Shepard left San Diego for Europe in 1890 to focus on his writing. While living in London, he wrote poetry and eight books including "Modern Mysticism" (1899), "The Celtic Temperament" (1901), "Parisian Portraits" (1910), "The Humor of the Underman" (1911), "The Invincible Alliance" (1913) and his most famous work, "The Valley of Shadows" (1909). Shepard contributed poems, articles, and essays to various publications during this time. In addition to Francis Grierson, Shepard also used the pen name Judah P. Benjamin at least once for the publication of his poetry.
In 1919, Shepard lectured on Theosophy in Toronto. In 1920 Shepard settled in Los Angeles where he lived with Waldemar Tonner for the remainder of his life. On May 29, 1927 at the age of 79, he died while giving a piano recital at his home.
Much research has been done on Shepard. Harold Simonson conducted research at the Illinois State Historical Society and Library for his biography of Jesse Shepard titled, "Francis Grierson" (1966). Other research on Shepard’s life was undertaken by Clare Crane during the restoration of Villa Montezuma in the 1970s.
From the guide to the Jesse Shepard Papers, 1868-1959, (San Diego History Center Document Collection)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Villa Montezuma (San Diego, Calif.)|
|Sangamon County (Ill.)|
|Los Angeles (Calif.)|
|San Diego (Calif.)|