The first American in space was born in Derry, New Hampshire in 1923. Alan Bartlett Shepard grew up on the family farm, which is now just a house on East Derry Road. He ran errands at Grenier Field (now Manchester Airport) when he was still just a Pinkerton high school student. The Shepard family attended the First Parish church in East Derry, and his father was the organist. He graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis and served during the end of World War II.
Because he loved airplanes, and couldn’t wait to receive his pilot’s license, he attended a civilian flying school while attending naval flight training. In 1950 he attended the U.S. Test Pilot program, and eventually became an instructor. By 1959, when NASA was created, he was invited to apply for the astronaut program, and was chosen as one of the seven men for the Mercury Project. From these seven, Alan Shepard was chosen to be the first man in space. The Russian Yuri Gagarin’s flight in space took place a few weeks before the Mercury launch, so Shepard became the first American in space on May 5, 1961. On his return to earth Shepard was given tickertape parades in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
And Derry honored Shepard, too. In June 1962 Shepard returned to Derry for a parade and celebration. 100,000 people welcomed the first astronaut. Businesses ran sales and displayed rockets in the windows. The entire town was decorated in red, white and blue bunting. Shepard was quoted in the Nashua Telegraph with saying “the economic position of Derry is not good, but its perseverance and determination has helped me in my role.”
The Pinkerton Academy teams are still called “The Astros” and there is a building on campus named for Alan Shepard. The section of Interstate Route 93 that passes Derry and Londonderry is still called “The Alan Shepard Highway”, and there is still a sign to remind you of this when you go north on Exit 4. If you are of a certain age you will remember that at exit 4, near the Londonderry/ Derry line, there used to be a motel with a giant wooden rocket, and a sign for the “Space Town Motel,” approximately where the entrance to the Cracker Barrel restaurant now stands. There is still a “Spacetown Auto Body” on Broadway.
Shepard also commanded the Apollo 14 flight on January 31, 1971. He was most famous for posing on the moon with his golf club, swinging at two golf balls he smuggled aboard. He served for NASA until 1974, ran a private business for several years, and died of leukemia in 1998. His wife died only five weeks later. They were both cremated, and their ashes scatted at sea near Pebble Beach, California, but there is a gravestone for Commander Alan Shepard and his wife, Louise Brewer Shepard, at the Forest Hill Cemetery in East Derry, marked “Love is Eternal.”
Family Tree Information:
(Rear Admiral Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. is descended of several Colonial New Hampshire Families: Emerson, Eaton, Bartlett, etc. and also Mayflower Passenger Richard Warren)
His Mayflower lineage:
Generation 1. Richard Warren (Mayflower Passenger) m. Elizabeth Walker
Generation 2. Nathaniel Warren m. Sarah Walker
Generation 3. Mercy Warren m. Lt. Jonathan Delano
Generation 4. Jonathan Delano m. Amey Hatch
Generation 5. Silvanus Delano m. Elizabeth Abbot Peck
Generation 6. Anna Delano m. Abner R. Johnson
Generation 7. Abner R. Johnson m. Mary Quimby
Generation 8. Rosina E. Johnson m. Frederick Johnson Shepard
Generation 9. Frederick Johnson Shepard m. Annie Elizabeth Bartlett
Generation 10. Alan Bartlett Shepard m. Pauline Renza Emerson
Generation 11. Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr.
The Shepard Lineage:
Generation 1. John Shepard, born in Yorkshire, England; married Eleanor Glass of Scotland. They came to America in 1690.
Generation 2. John Shepard born about 1700, died in 1765 in Canterbury, New Hampshire; married Eleanor Ellison.
Generation 3. Jacob Shepard, born about 1751 in Canterbury, New Hampshire, died 13 August 1830 in Holderness, New Hampshire; married in 1774 to Jane Blair of Londonderry.
Generation 4. William Blair Shepard, born 29 July 1779, Holderness, New Hampshire, died 31 January 1867 in Londonderry, New Hampshire; married to Lucy Hart Beck, born 15 January 1782, died on 7 February 1862 in Londonderry, New Hampshire
Generation 5. William Henry Shepard, born 18 May 1816, Holderness, New Hampshire, died 10 April 1893 in Derry, New Hampshire; married to Rosina E. Johnson, born 31 December 1817 in Springfield, New Hampshire, died 29 March 1886 in Derry.
Generation 6. Frederick Johnson Shepard, born 16 August 1851, Framingham, Massachusetts, died 13 April 1931, Derry, New Hampshire; married to Annie Elizabeth Bartlett, born 18 February 1861 in Nottingham, New Hampshire, died 4 December 1944 in Boston, Massachusetts
Generation 7. Alan Bartlett Shepard, born 9 September 1891, Derry, New Hampshire; married 30 June 1921 in Derry to Pauline Renza Emerson, born 5 September 1900 in Mobile, Alabama.
Generation 8. Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., born 18 November 1923, Derry, New Hampshire, died on 21 July 1998 in Monterey, California; married to Louise Brewer, died on 25 August 1998.
1. Laura, born 1947
2. Juliana, born 1951
3. Alice, born 1951 (not twins, but a niece of Louise’s, raised as their own daughter)
“Spacetown, USA Parade Welcomed Home Alan Shepard”, Nashua Telegraph, published Monday, July 23, 2007
“Nutfield Rambles” by Richard Holmes, Peter E. Randall Publisher, 2007
Copyright 2009, Heather Wilkinson Rojo