What does one do to start over? At age 41, with a new focus on writing and a desire to not have the Jesse Shepard of the past influence the man of today, Jesse adopted the pen name of “Francis Grierson,” and indeed became a new man. “Francis” was one of his middle names, and “Grierson” was his mother’s maiden name, so it was not a stretch for him to adopt the new moniker. While many realized that author Francis Grierson WAS pianist, Spiritualist Jesse Shepard, most people allowed this creative mystic his new start.

It was a prolific time of writing and traveling. Francis wrote books and essays on his view of the world. One of his book, the Valley of Shadows, is his literary claim to fame. Looking back on his childhood growing up on the American prairie, he fictionalized his own life story to illustrate the great migrations to America and the influences of all the immigrants to this great land. It is because the Valley of Shadows is considered a minor masterpiece that Jesse -- rather, Francis -- is known today.

Francis and Tonner lived in England, France, and traveled widely for the next two decades.  They returned to American right before the outbreak of the Great War (World War I). Francis wrote and gave lectures, and Tonner taught languages. They returned to Southern California and settled in Los Angeles.

Life was not easy for a Victorian gentleman in the Roaring ‘20s. There was no safety net for Francis and Tonner to fall back on in their elder years. Francis was yesterday’s news, and no one was interested in his work. Tonner worked at various jobs, while Jesse’s health got worse. The once elegant pair made due with what little they had.  Some nights they made due with no supper.

Literary friends in Los Angeles invited Francis and Tonner to come to dinner and to meet friends and sponsors. Francis had a delightful evening meeting people who were interested in his life and writing, and he told wonderful stories. He sat down at the piano and showed that age had not dimmed his musical genius. Francis enthusiastically ended his last piece of the evening, bowed his head, closed his eyes, and kept his hands on the last chord. When the dinner guests applauded, it took Tonner a second to see something wasn’t right. Francis Grierson died in Los Angeles at the piano, upright, hands on the keys, while feeling the love from those who saw the last performance. It was a fittingly dramatic end to a wonderfully eccentric life.

Jesse Shepard/Francis Grierson was cremated.

The most asked question we get: is the Villa Montezuma Museum haunted? We say it’s not haunted, it’s enchanted.

Jesse Shepard/Francis Grierson did not die at the Villa. It is not true that a butler hanged himself in the tower room (there were no butlers, and there are no rafters, so no place to hang from!). It’s not true that Mrs. Jaeger, the last private owner of the Villa, died in the house. For many years we had a live-in caretaker who was ready, willing, and able to have some psychic connection to Jesse. No such luck. So, without taking away from others who believe they’ve experienced psychic phenomena at the Villa Montezuma Museum, we’re still waiting. Jesse’s real life in Spiritualism is much more interesting than telling untrue tales of things that never happened at the Villa Montezuma Museum. You won’t hear fake stories from the Friends of the Villa Montezuma because we respect the man and his talents too much. But we keep an open mind!


A History of author “Francis Grierson”

Books by 
Francis Grierson (Jesse Shepard)

Jesse Shepard wrote metaphysical essays and books under the name Francis Grierson. His only “novel” was a fictionalization of his boyhood growing up on the Illinois prairie, “The Valley of Shadows.” This work is his most famous.

Modern Mysticism and Other Essays

The Celtic Temperament and Other Essays

The Valley of Shadows: Recollections of the Lincoln Country, 1858-63

Parisian Portraits

La Vie and Les Hommes

The Humour of the Underman

The Invincible Alliance

Illusions and Realities of the War

Abraham Lincoln: The Practical Mystic

Psycho-Phone Messages

HOME        RESTORATION        EVENTS         HISTORY         VISIT         HONORS         ABOUT US         MEMBERSHIP