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Charlotte Sheppard, the Artist

Charlotte Sheppard was born in Sorel on April 8, 1816, to William Sheppard and his wife, Harriet Campbell. Later that same year, the Sheppard family moved to Sillery, living in a magnificent residence surrounded by 100 acres of grounds and orchards. This is the home where Charlotte was raised: The house, which the family named Woodfield, included a 3,000-book library, an art gallery, a small natural history museum, an aviary, and greenhouses filled numerous plants.

Black and white photograph of a woman wearing a hat and clothing with a lace collar.

Charlotte Sheppard, unknown date.

Charlotte was 22 when she married Robert Nugent Watts on January 8, 1839, in Quebec City. The couple moved to Drummondville a few years later, after Watts was elected Member of Parliament for Drummond County. With its bright rooms filled with natural light, Grantham Hall was the ideal place for Charlotte to foster her talent as a painter. She gave expression to her creativity in one of the manor’s numerous rooms, seated at an easel and trying to capture the world around her with her paintbrushes. Two of her paintings have survived: A watercolour of Grantham Hall and its bucolic setting where animals graze and the river flows gently by in the background. The second canvas represents a view of the young town of Drummondville, depicting a few houses and St. George’s Anglican Church after its reconstruction following the fire of 1863.

Watercolour painting depicting Grantham Hall, a large stone house and its grounds along the Saint Francis River, and livestock, including cows.

Watercolour by Charlotte Sheppard illustrating Grantham Hall, Drummondville, 1846–1882.

Colour painting depicting the landscape of the Saint Francis River. On the shore, soldiers are mooring a canoe near a camp. The steeple and roof of St. George’s Anglican Church are visible in the distance.

Canvas by Charlotte Sheppard illustrating Drummondville, circa 1870.

Charlotte found the time to maintain a busy correspondence with family members, namely with her husband, her father, and her paternal aunt, Margaret Sheppard. She wrote letters in addition to her painting and many family responsibilities, such as overseeing her children’s education and running Grantham Hall. The family fostered relationships with other members of the elite from Sherbrooke, Montreal, Quebec City, and Kingsey. These include the Labatts, the Brownes, the Howes, the Fowlers, the Fields, and the Cox family. Charlotte would supervise the preparations for guests to Grantham Hall, namely businessmen, politicians or doctors and their families, as well as other important figures in Drummondville.

Black and white photograph of a woman sitting at a carved wooden desk, dressed in long garments decorated at the edges and wearing a hat.

Margaret Sheppard, circa 1865. Photograph by William Notman.

After she was widowed in 1867, Charlotte continued to live in the stone manor house until her death on December 25, 1882. She bequeathed the estate in trust to her son-in-law, John Johnson, for her daughters Charlotte Mary Ann, Margaret Ann Nugent, and Harriet Heriot, Johnson’s wife. She divided the remainder of her wealth among her five living children as follows: One sixth to each of her four daughters, and the remaining one third to her son. Margaret Ann Nugent later became the owner of the estate when her sisters Harriet and Charlotte Mary Ann sold her their shares of the property in August of 1888.