Thursday, Apr. 18, 2019

Spotlight on the John Shepard Eells Scrapbook

By Catherine L. Gowdy · July 28, 2017

John Shepard Eells (young boy standing in front of donkey) with Family & Friends <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span>

John Shepard Eells (young boy standing in front of donkey) with Family & Friends


John Shepard Eells & wife Marion Coffin Eells <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span> Marion Coffin Eells & son John Shepard Eells Jr. <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span>

A number of years ago the John Shepard Eells scrapbook was donated to the Anne T. Kent California Room at the Civic Center Library. It was without question put together by his mother Gertrude Shepard, wife of Charles Parmelee Eells.

The scrapbook features photographs of John (born in Oakland Nov. 23, 1878) from infancy through 20 years of age as well as letters he wrote home to his mother and father from various schools, starting with boarding school in San Rafael, and ending with Yale University. It also includes photos of his parents and grandparents.

We learn from a letter dated January 1890 that he was not too happy at the Selborne School -run by Octavius Bates- and that Mr. Bates encouraged Mrs. Eells to visit him as often as possible. Since John’s family lived in Oakland and San Francisco while he was boarding at the Selborne School it wasn’t easy for them to visit.

From his letters, we learn that John kept a horse at school for which he bought hay, bran, a curry comb and other necessities. In April of 1890, Mr. Bates took John and other students on a picnic to Paper Mill Creek. John rode his horse to the picnic, while other boys travelled by carriage. The boys went fishing and caught trout.

It’s also interesting to note that John’s letters home in 1892 featured the letterhead Technical Preparatory School, San Rafael, Cal., while by 1894 the letterhead had transitioned to Selborne, San Rafael. Starting around 1900, John was enrolled at Yale University.

In 1903 John married Marion Coffin of Ross. Records show that they were living in Ross by 1910. In 1918 John was managing a ranch on Lagunitas Road, Ross, for Balfour Guthrie & Co., a very large commercial food producer and wholesale company which shipped all over the world. The company had large operations in California which dealt in canned & dried food products, including fruit and fish.

1920 finds John still living in Ross in a managerial position with a land company. By this time he and Marion had three children whose photos are also included in the scrapbook, as are pictures of close Coffin family members.

During the 1930s and 40s John S. Eells was an insurance agent. He died in Pasadena, California on June 20, 1964, but is buried in Marin at the Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery.

The last item in the scrapbook is a typescript of a letter written in 1821 to Deacon John Shepard from his brother-in-law, Micah Hawkins, which contains family news and also a history of the Hawkins family going back to the mid-1600s.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The October 1, 1903 Marin Journal announces the recent marriage of Marion Coffin and John Shepard Eells: "The marriage of Miss Marion Coffin and Shepard Eells was yesterday's chief social event. It was celebrated in the little Episcopal church at San Rafael and was attended by interested friends. Both young people are decidedly well liked. Interest in them is something out of the ordinary, as their fondness for each other has existed since childhood. Congratulations in their case have gread cordiality. Miss Coffin's maid of honor was her sister, Miss Natalie Coffin; her bridesmaids, Miss Frances Allen and Miss Isabel Kittle."

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Richard Torney wrote over 1 year ago

John Eells also served on the Ross Town Council as a Council Member and asMayor. He was known to wear two holstered pistols while going around town on official duty and gained the nickname "Two Gun Eells".

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Laurie Thompson wrote over 1 year ago

Thanks, Richard, for sharing this additional info which adds new dimensions to John Eells! I'd love to show you the scrapbook sometime.  It even contains a lock of Eells' hair from when he was a child.  You might have insight about some of the images.

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