Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Rachel Wells Wright, Colonial Quaker Preacher, June 11, 2019

People go east only when invited. 
People go west when all bets are off. 
When they need to save their sorry souls, 
folks head for the frontier.
~Karen Hines

John and Rachel Wells Wright are my 6X Great Grandparents who made their mark on 18th Century Colonial America. Their impressive life story -- almost 300 years ago now -- has recently become available to me. John and Rachel are related to me through my Great Grandfather James Brooks Davis, whose birthday was remembered in this blog earlier this month on June 2.

James Brooks Davis' mother was Malinda Wright Davis. She is the one who connects us to our Wright ancestry which we can trace all the way back to the mid 1600s. Here is a lineage that shows our heritage going back 14 generations, covering almost four centuries.
  1. Francis Swanston Sr., (1645-1675) who married Isabel Saddler (1650-1744)
  2. whose son Francis Swanson Jr. (1672-1698) married Sarah Plummer (1675-1720)
  3. whose daughter Margaret Swanson (1697-1755) married Joe Wells (1697-1758)
  4. whose daughter Rachel Wells (1720-1771) married John Wright (1716-1789)
  5. whose daughter Sarah Wright (1749-1789) married James Brooks (1747-1790)
  6. whose daughter Vashti Brooks (1776-1867) married John Wright (1759-1806)
  7. whose daughter Nancy Wright (1811-1882) married John Lynn Wright (1808-1909)
  8. whose daughter Malinda Wright (1846-1920) married Charles E. Davis (1849-1926)
  9. whose son James Brooks Davis (1870-1928) married Caroline Spear (1865-1951)
  10. whose daughter Bura Davis (1896-1986) married William Shepard (1888-1976)
  11. whose son Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) married Maida Gower (b. 1924)
  12. whose son Steve Shepard (b. 1948) married Cindy Harris (b. 1948)
  13. whose son Nathan Shepard (b. 1977) married Chenda Sou (b. 1980)
  14. James Brooks Davis (1870-1928)
    son of Malinda Wright Davis (1846-1920)
  15. whose daughter is Preslea Maida Shepard (b. 2010)
This is quite an impressive lineage that covers nearly 400 years. At first glance it can be a confusing array of names and dates. But there are a few things worth pointing out about this lineage. The first generation listed here, includes Francis Swanston, a young doctor who migrated across the Atlantic in 1665 from England and settled in Maryland. The colony of Maryland had only been in existence about 30 years when Francis arrived by ship from England. Maryland was the state where several of our ancestors had their New World beginning, including: John and Mary Shepard, Nathan and Hannah Gatchell, James and Mary Alexander, Richard Reynolds, and John McKnitt.

John Wright and his wife Rachel Wells are the two in the above lineage that I am most focused on at this particular time. Rachel, the first of Joseph and Margaret Well's 11 children, was born in 1720 in Maryland, just 25 miles east of what is today Washington, D.C. Her parents had her baptized on July 12, 1721 at All Hallow's Episcopal Church in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. All Hallow's Church still exists today and is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. For anyone interested in our family history, All Hallow's Church in Maryland is a "must-see" place to visit.

All Hallow's Church, Davidsonville, Md
where Rachel Wells was baptized
July 12, 1721 
Rachel Wells was just 16 years old when, in 1737, she married John Wright, who was only 20 himself. He was from Pennsylvania Quaker stock, born in Chester County, Pa. When just a child his family relocated to Northern Maryland and settled in a Quaker Community near Frederick, Maryland. Rachel's family, presumably still Episcopal, moved from Eastern Maryland to Frederick which is where Rachel and John met and eventually married. Rachel's marriage to John meant that she would become a Quaker herself, which she did wholeheartedly.

The Minister Rachel Wells Wright. At this time in American History, The Society of Friends (the Quakers) was the faith of choice for one third of all American Colonialists. John and Rachel became very involved in their Quaker "Monthly Meeting" (the name for their local gathering). In the spring of 1745 John was made overseer of the Men in their Monthly Meeting. At the same time Rachel was made overseer of the Women at the same Monthly Meeting. Even though there was this division of labor for the men and the women, the Quakers believed in the equality of the sexes and their ability to serve in leadership positions. For many years John and Rachel Wright were dedicated leaders of the local Quaker gatherings wherever they lived. Because of her leadership and dedication Rachel became a Quaker "friend of the ministry," which made her a Quaker preacher, which she took to with great energy, spirit and determination.

By the time she was 24, Rachel was the mother of 7 children under the age of 10 (they would eventually have 13). They were seemingly on a mission to help populate the world for the Quakers. The Wrights and their brood were of course typical of frontier families. In 1750 John and Rachel with their first 7 children, uprooted their family and migrated 300 miles southward. They were part of what became known as "The Great Quaker Migration" that moved down the Shenandoah Valley into Virginia, the Carolinas and even Georgia. It was an awesome undertaking for this young family of 10 (plus possibly a few grandparents) to make this move into the frontier of North Carolina. If nothing else it showed the grittiness of John and Rachel, their faith in God, their strength of character, and their hope for the future.

In my next post I will write about John and Rachel Wright's experience in North Carolina and their help in founding the Cane Creek Monthly Meeting in Orange County.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Sunday, June 02, 2019

A Day for Remembering, June 2, 2019

True love stories never have endings. 
~Richard Bach

Greetings to all of you from San Diego where the weather is mild and the living is easy! This weekend is a time to remember a number of significant events in our family history.

Paula Harris (right) with son Joe Paul and daughter Cindy
Paula Hicks Harris (1923-2018). Today, June 2, is the first anniversary of the death of Cindy's mom Paula Harris. In the last year, life has obviously been very different around our home here on Burgundy Street in the Allied Gardens Community of San Diego. This was Paula's home for 61 years until she passed away last year a few weeks short of her 95th birthday. She and husband Joe Harris bought this home in 1957 when they were a young couple with two children in Elementary School. No matter how many changes we make to this long time Harris family house, the loving, caring spirit of this wonderful couple will always be present. And for that we will ever be grateful. This first family picture shows Paula with her children Joe Paul and Cindy. It was taken back in the 1960s.

Happy 40th Anniversary to my brother Gary Shepard and his wife Cindy of Oak Harbor, Washington. They were married in a garden wedding on June 2, 1979 at our home in Los Alamitos, California. My wife Cindy and I and our 2 year old son Nathan were living in Los Alamitos at the time. Gary and his fiancé Cindy and some friends of theirs came from San Diego to our home in Orange County to be married. It was a pleasant day for the beautiful ceremony that got their married life started. It has been a great 40 years for them, most of which has been spent living in the San Diego area. For the last 16 years however they have lived in Oak Harbor, Washington, just a short drive from where our mother Maida Shepard lives in Anacortes, Washington. Best wishes to Gary and Cindy for many more happy years together!

3 Happy Couples: from top, 
William and Bura Shepard
Cindy and Gary Shepard
Desiree and Jeremy Ortiz
Remembering My Shepard Grandparents. This weekend is also a time to celebrate the anniversary of my late Grandparents William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard who were married 104 years ago on June 2, 1915 in Beaver County, Oklahoma. My grandparents will always be remembered as the first family among us Shepards to live in Southern California when they moved from a tiny town in dusty Southeast Colorado to the bustling Navy town of San Diego in the fall of 1940. For 79 years now descendants of theirs have lived here in San Diego.

Remembering James Brooks Davis (1870-1928). My Grandparents William Shepard and Bura Davis were married on the birthday of Bura's father James Brooks Davis who was born June 2, 1870. What a special way for James to celebrate his 45th birthday, by witnessing the wedding of his oldest child, Bura, who was just an 18 year old teenager at the time. She was marrying the son of their Shepard neighbors who were fellow members of the South Flat Church of Christ in the dusty farming community of Beaver County, Oklahoma. It was the first wedding of the 7 children of James and Callie Davis and must have been a wonderful time of celebration for this close knit Davis family.

Speaking of James Brooks Davis, I have recently learned of some newly available information about the pre-Revolutionary War ancestors of James Brooks Davis' mother Malinda Wright Davis. In coming weeks I will share in this blog about James' 3X Great Grandmother Rachel Wells Wright. She was a rebel-rousing, East Coast Quaker preacher who made history in the Society of Friends in the 18th century. It is a compelling story that I look forward to sharing with you.

Happy 17th Anniversary Jeremy and Desiree. This weekend Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz are celebrating their 17th wedding anniversary. They were married June 1, 2002 here in San Diego. Jeremy is the son of my cousin Kim Boyd Clark, and the grandson of my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd. Best wishes to Jeremy and Desiree and their family for a great anniversary!

This is a special weekend to remember these and other important events in the life of our larger family. It is a time to celebrate, to remember and to honor these folks who have meant so much to us for many years.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Thinking of Moms/Celebrating Logan! May 15, 2019


The Blessing of Mothers. I hope that all of you were able to spend quality time with your loved ones this past weekend and honor the mothers in your family. Our larger family has been blessed with exceptional mothers. I trust that has been the case with all of you who are readers of this blog. It speaks to the wonderful family that we have. I cannot speak for the quality of life of every single mother in our family tree. Some surely struggled with the responsibilities of motherhood in ways that negatively affected their children. But on the whole we have been richly blessed in our larger family with women who were outstanding wives and mothers who cared for their children in remarkable, self sacrificial ways.

Online research has enabled me to learn about some incredible mothers in our family history, people we might never know about otherwise. Some of those special mothers I have written about in this blog over the last few years. Consider ancestors in our family tree like Lydia Warford Williams (1782-1829), Esther Sidwell (1791-1874), Peggy Gray (1829-1899), and Mary Sprague Shepard (1840-1919). They each have heart-warming -- and heart-breaking -- stories of the challenges of life that brought out the best in them. Select their links and read about these wonderful family stories.

Maida Gower Shepard with her 
13th Great Grandchild Lylianna Stockmoe
In my life I can say without hesitation that my own Mother, and my two Grandmothers were women who gave the very best of themselves to their families. My grandmothers Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986) and Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004) were both outstanding mothers and wives who taught quality family values to their children and grandchildren. They will always be an influence in my life. I am fortunate that my own mother Maida Gower Shepard, at 94 years old, is still living in her home in Anacortes, Washington where she has lived for the last 41 years.

Living 1,500 miles away I am not able to spend much time with Mom but I know she is well cared for as she lives out her last years in her comfortable home on Wildwood Lane. In 1978 Mom and Dad moved from San Diego to Western Washington where Dad died in 2003. Today Mom has lots of family around her. When I talked to her this past Sunday, she sounded healthy as could be at 94.

Paula Hicks Harris (1923-2018) This is the first year that Cindy and I will celebrate Mother's Day since the death last June of Cindy's mother Paula Harris. Originally from Oklahoma, she lived here in San Diego for almost 70 years. She was a beautiful lady with a strong faith and an independent spirit. We will forever miss her graceful presence and her wonderful life.

Our Newest and Youngest Mother. I cannot end this post without mentioning the newest, and the youngest, mother in our family, my niece Linda Shepard Stockmoe. On March 1, she and husband Jamie became the proud parents of Lylianna Stockmoe (pictured above) who was born in Anacortes, Washington. Special Mother's Day wishes to Linda! Thank God for the blessing of Godly Mothers, young and old, past and present!

Logan Shepard 
in front of his home in San Diego
Happy Birthday Logan! Today is the 8th birthday of our Grandson Logan Alexander Shepard, who is one of the 13 Great Grandchildren of Maida Shepard. Logan lives with his father Nathan and brother and sister in the San Carlos community of San Diego. Born in San Francisco, Logan has lived in Southern California for the last 5 years. He is a bright second grader at Dailard Elementary school. He loves all the "tablet time" he can get, playing basketball, kicking his soccer ball, and studying the solar system. Ask him about Jupiter and he will not only tell you how many moons Jupiter has (67), he can named the largest ones. His favorite places to visit around San Diego are Waterfront Park, the Fleet Center, and Belmont Park.

Select THIS LINK for a YouTube music video celebrating Logan's special day. Best wishes to Logan for a very happy birthday!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Bright Light of Exemplary Lives, April 27, 2019

It's not where you live, 
it's the people who surround you
that make you feel at home.
- J.B. McGee

Beverly Jean Russell Wilk
with Granddaughter Emma Beverly Jean Wilk
This weekend is the occasion to celebrate the lives of three people who will forever be linked in our family's collective conscience. The three whose birthdays are this weekend are my cousin Beverly Russell Wilk, my father Eugene Shepard, and my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. These three were beloved parts of our family in San Diego for many wonderful years. Bev was the last of these three to be born, but unfortunately the first to die at just 35. Ironically Nola was the first of these three to be born but the last to die just 15 years ago at the age of 101.

My Cousin Beverly. Today would have been the 80th birthday of my late cousin Beverly Russell Wilk (1939-1974). She was born in 1939 in Two Buttes, Colorado, the second child and only daughter of Bill and Pauline Russell Shepard. Bev moved with her family to San Diego at just a year old. That year, 1940, was when the first members of our family arrived in the Golden State. After graduating from San Diego High School in 1957, Bev married Phil Wilk in 1965 and with him had two children, Karl and Shannon. Bev died unfortunately at just 35 years old in 1974 of a brain aneurysm in San Diego, leaving husband Phil to raise two young children.

For each of the three persons being celebrated today -- Beverly, Eugene and Nola -- I have created a composite picture showing each of them with one of their present day grandchildren. The first picture shows Bev with her granddaughter Emma Beverly Jean Wilk. Emma lives with her mother Shannon Wilk in Atchison, Kansas.

Eugene Shepard 
with his Granddaughter Rachel Shepard
My Father Eugene. Tomorrow is the 98th anniversary of the birth of my father Eugene Shepard (1921-2003). Dad was born in 1921 in the Beaver County community of Logan, in the panhandle of Oklahoma. He graduated from High School in 1939 in the tiny Southeast Colorado town of Two Buttes. The very next year as the world was ramping up for World War II, the Shepards moved to the military city of San Diego, where Gene and his brother Elmer both involved themselves in the war. Gene and wife Maida lived in San Diego for 38 years, raised their 6 children there and then retired to Western Washington in 1978. After 25 enjoyable years in rural Washington, Dad passed away at 82 years old at their home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington.

This second picture shows Eugene with one of his 9 grandchildren, Rachel Shepard of Seattle, Washington, the daughter of my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Shepard.

My Grandmother Gower. Tomorrow is also the anniversary of the birth of my maternal Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). Born in 1903 in Mountain View, Arkansas, Grandma Gower and husband Leroy moved to Okemah, Oklahoma and lived there for 17 years before settling in San Diego where she lived for nearly 60 years. She lived the last few years of her life in Anacortes, Washington with her daughter Maida Gower Shepard and family.

Nola Shannon Gower
with Grandson Michael Harrell
This third picture shows Nola with one of her 12 grandchildren, Michael Harrell, son of Vicki Gower Johnston. Today Michael and his wife Carole live in Tokyo, Japan on a work assignment.

The Bright Light of Their Exemplary Lives. Nola, Eugene and Beverly: all of us who knew them will agree that they represent the very best in the history of our family. They were quality people of outstanding faith who loved life, their families and the world in which they lived. They helped shape our family in ways that are still being felt today. I am proud to honor them on this weekend of their birthdays. The grandchildren pictured above are just a sampling of their many descendants through whom the bright light of their exemplary lives continues to shine.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Reynolds Connection, April 20, 2019


Happy Easter weekend to all of you! May Easter tomorrow be a wonderful time for you to be with friends and family and celebrate the joy of spring, newness and the risen Christ. On this holiday weekend I want to share with you about an important person in our family tree who is probably unknown to most of you: Matilda Reynolds Sheppard (1814-1876). She was my GGG Grandmother, and the mother of Civil War soldier William Shepard (1835-1862). Even though our Reynolds ancestors are relatively unknown, they are an important part of our family heritage and worthy of our consideration.

The Sheppard and Reynolds Neighbors. In the early part of the 19th century the Reynolds' family migrated to the Ohio frontier from Maryland and Southeastern Pennsylvania. They moved westward at about the same time our Sheppard ancestors did and settled in the same community: Kirkwood, Ohio in the northern part of Belmont County. The Sheppards and the Reynolds were neighbors and founding families of the Kirkwood community. Belmont County was the early 19th Century home of a number of our ancestors, including the Davises, the Spears, the Buskirks, and the Sheppards. We can now add the Reynolds family to that list.

The family of Matilda Reynolds brought with them to Ohio a strong affiliation with "The Society of Friends" (Quakers). I wrote in a recent blog post that the Reynolds were such devout Quakers in Pennsylvania that Matilda Reynolds' parents had to get permission from Church leadership to get married in 1812.

The April 1833 Marriage Record for
James Shepherd and Matilda Reynolds
Belmont County, Ohio
Disowned By the Quakers. On April 15, 1833 the Sheppard and Reynolds families became more than simply neighbors when young James Sheppard at 19 married Matilda Reynolds who was just 18. It was a marriage with built-in challenges because the Sheppards were not Quakers like the Reynolds. In that day, marrying outside the Quaker fellowship was frowned upon. As a result, in 1834, the year after James and Matilda got married, the Quaker leadership disowned Matilda for what they said was "marrying contrary to discipline." Matilda did something the Church fathers did not approve.

The 19th Century Quakers were a closely knit fellowship with strict requirements for their followers. We do not know for sure what Matilda did to cause the Quaker leaders to disown her. She may have failed to get their permission to marry, or she may have chosen to marry outside the Quaker Fellowship, or in some other way she may have simply refused to submit to their oversight of her personal life. Whatever offense she committed, it was deemed worthy of ousting her from their fellowship. The meeting at which they issued that decree was dated December 25, 1834. On Christmas Day (!) the Quaker leadership took action to remove from their fellowship one of their own -- a 19 year old girl from one of their long time families, the Reynolds.

It is hard for us to imagine what it was like 200 years ago among religious groups on the American frontier. It was not uncommon for Churches of all kinds to be very strict in their demands of members. Even Restoration Movement Churches (the heritage of many of readers of this blog) placed demands on their members in those early years. To be sure, the Quakers and other religious institutions have evolved considerably over the last two centuries. Most of them are not nearly so narrow and heavy handed today as they were in the early 1800s.

Richard Reynolds and wife Mary Hissey Reynolds
Brother of Matilda Reynolds Sheppard and among
our Reynolds ancestors of Kirkwood, Ohio
Quite the Rebel and Romantic. I can't help but be curious about the teenagers James and Matilda. What were they like? At 18, Matilda must have been quite the rebel and romantic to have given up her religious association, and probably the good will of her biological family, for this neighbor boy James Sheppard Jr., the love of her life. Kirkwood, Ohio was a frontier community in 1833 when they married, a place where the open-minded, adventurous, frontier mentality flourished. At the same time there were those who were more conservative and sought to preserve the old ways. At times those two ways of thinking clashed. Matilda's life was a good example.

Westward Ho! Matilda's marriage to James Sheppard in April, 1833, and her resulting ouster in December, 1834 from the Society of Friends, began a series of memorable events for this young couple. Six months after her ouster, in June, 1835 their first child was born. They named him William Sheppard, after James' brother William who was 2 years younger than James. In 1837 their second child Elizabeth Sheppard was born, named after James' sister Elizabeth who was just 16 when her namesake niece was born. Then in 1840 with two young children in tow, James and Matilda packed up and left Kirkwood, Ohio and migrated westward. I wonder how much her ouster from the Quakers had to do with her willingness to leave Ohio. It was a time to make a new life for herself and her family as she and James made the trek farther into the American frontier.

James and Matilda were in their 20s when they and their children made their way 350 miles along the famous Cumberland Trail across Ohio and Illinois to Western Indiana. They eventually settled in Tippecanoe County, northwest of Indianapolis, and the movement of the Shepards across the U.S. took a major step forward. There is more to be said about James and Matilda, but that will have to wait for another blog post. For now let us be grateful for the courage and foresight of these two, James and Matilda Reynolds Sheppard, as they take their place among our honored ancestors whose lives we celebrate and whose legacy we claim.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Siblings Day, April 10, 2019


I don’t believe an accident of birth
makes people sisters or brothers. 
Sisterhood and brotherhood
is a condition people have to work at.
~Maya Angelou

Today, April 10, is an opportunity to recognize and honor our siblings. Siblings Day is indeed an actual holiday, although it is not recognized very widely, which is unfortunate. Our brothers and sisters are people who are important to us. The relationships we share with them deserve to be recognized, honored, and lifted up. Our relationships to our siblings are often the longest lasting relationships of our lives. They are relationships that go through changes throughout our lives. Over the years they can go from peaceful and harmonious to strained and tumultuous.

Three of one of the younger sets of siblings in our family:
our Grandchildren Preslea, Logan and William Shepard
of San Diego
As I think about the relationships that I have had with my 5 siblings over my 70 years, the ups and downs have been many. There have been various evolutions in our relationships over the decades. Part of that has been simply a result of proximity. There have been periods when we were very close geographically or emotionally, and times when we were not. Today my siblings Russ, Barb, Darrell and Gary all live in Western Washington. There were times we did not see each other very often, and then times when we spent lots of time together. But through it all they have remained among the most important people in my life.

We have not always seen eye to eye on things, whether related to our family, our faith, or any other matter in life. But despite our varying perspectives, we have remained in relationship. Because first and foremost we are family. That is the thing that keeps us in relationship regardless of what else is happening in our lives. That love of family is a value that was instilled in us by our parents, and for that we are eternally grateful.

Senior Siblings Maida and Vicki
with their late brother Hank in 2003
So on this Siblings Day 2019 I encourage you to honor your siblings. If they are no longer alive, remember them and be grateful for what they meant to you in life.

This year, once again, the oldest pair of siblings among us is my mother Maida Gower Shepard and her sister Vicki Gower Johnston. They have been siblings for 86 years! First in Oklahoma when they were children, then in San Diego for over 30 years, and then in Western Washington for over 35 years.

Today Maida lives in Anacortes, Washington with her family, while Vicki lives in Chandler, Arizona near her daughter Paula Tuzzolino. But for most of their 86 years as sisters they lived in close proximity to each other. These days they both struggle with issues of aging, but they still occasionally talk on the phone and enjoy a conversation that way. Our best wishes go to both Vicki and Maida and their family members who care for them.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Women of Perserverance, March 23, 2019


Greetings to all of you from San Diego on this first Saturday of Springtime 2019!

My brother Gary Shepard (right) and I
in Anacortes, Washington, 
on his birthday in 2016
Happy Birthday to my older brother Gary Shepard. Gary, who lives in Oak Harbor, Washington, turns 73 years old today. He and his wife Cindy have lived in Western Washington for 16 years, ever since they moved northward from San Diego. These days they are an important part of the support team for our 94 year old mother Maida Shepard. The oldest of the 6 children of Maida and her late husband Eugene Shepard, Gary, like all this siblings, was born and raised in San Diego. Best wishes to Gary for a healthy, happy birthday!

The Young Widow Esther Reynolds. In my last blog post I wrote about my 4XG Grandmother Esther Sidwell Reynolds (1791-1874). She was the maternal grandmother of Civil War soldier William Shepard. In 1829, Esther and husband Richard Reynolds were in their 30s and living in Kirkwood, Ohio. Unexpectedly husband Richard died at just 39 years old. Suddenly Esther became a young widow with 5 children under 17 years old with no means of support for her and her family. Obviously she had a monumental struggle on her hands. For 10 years she worked hard to finish raising her children and make ends meet. Then in 1839 at 41 years old she married long time neighbor and friend James Cross Shepard Sr., 23 years her senior. Hannah, his wife of 41 years, had recently died. It seems to have been a marriage of convenience for Esther and James, but most importantly it was an opportunity for Esther to provide her and her children with some stability they might not have otherwise.

Evansville, Indiana grave of soldier
William Shepard (1835-1862) husband of 
war widow Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale
Mary Shepard Ragsdale. Esther Reynolds was not the first young mother in our family tree to find herself widowed. If you have been a reader of The Shepard's Crook for very long, you know about the Civil War widow Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale, wife of soldier William Shepard (1835-1862). When the soldier William died, his 22 year old wife Mary was left with two young boys, an infant and a 2 year old. She struggled as a war widow for many long months in Indiana before finally marrying an older widower (23 years her senior) and eventually becoming a mother or step-mother to 14 children.

There are other instances of women in our history who were left in crisis when their husbands unexpectedly died. The following are two others who, like Esther Reynolds before them, had to struggle to get back on their feet after the untimely deaths of their husbands. All these women lived in the 19th century, in a time before Social Service agencies that we take for granted.

Lydia Warford Williams. I have written before in this blog about Lydia Warford Williams (1782-1829), the GG Grandmother of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. In 1813 Lydia's 31 year old husband John Williams died (possibly in the War of 1812) leaving her with 4 young children, aged 3, 5, 7, and 9. After 13 years a widow, she married 81 year old William Jones in Putnam, Indiana, a long time friend and widower who was 37 years her senior.

Sam Shannon (with wife Finetta). He was just
5 years old when his widowed mother Peggy
Shannon moved their family of 8 to Arkansas.
Peggy Gray Shannon. One of the most tragic, yet redemptive stories of widowhood among our ancestors concerns Peggy Gray Shannon (1829-1899), the Grandmother of my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. Peggy's husband David Reid Shannon died in the Civil War, leaving her in dire poverty in rural Louisiana. She was just 35 when her soldier/husband died and Peggy was left with 7 children between 2 and 16 years old. Fortunately Peggy's father and a couple of her brothers came to the rescue when they bravely traveled the war-torn South and moved all 8 of them to their family homestead near Mountain View, Arkansas. You can read more about Peggy's story here and here.

These are just some of the inspiring stories of women in our family history who had to fight against incredible odds to survive with their children. Their persistence and perseverance, along with the support of other family, made all the difference between desperate poverty and a thriving family life. They remain an inspiration for all of us who are their descendants.

Do you know of other women in our history whose stories could be added to these? I would be glad to hear from you about them.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Our Family Grows, March 13, 2019


Lyliana Stockmoe, born March 1, 2019
The Newest Family Member. The newest member of our family was born recently in Washington State. My niece Linda Shepard Stockmoe, and her husband Jamie Stockmoe had a baby girl on the first day of this month. Lyliana Stockmoe was born Friday, March 1 in Anacortes, Washington. She arrived several weeks earlier than expected so she will have to remain in the Neonatal Unit of a hospital in Everett, Washington for several weeks. Congratulations to Linda and Jamie on the birth of their first child.

Lyliana is the first Grandchild of Russell and Pam Shepard, and Great Grandchild #13 for Linda's Grandmother Maida Shepard. Lyliana arrived just in time to celebrate with her Grandfather Russ Shepard and her Uncle Steven Paul Shepard, both of whom live in Anacortes, Washington. Today, March 13, Grandpa Russ turns 57 while Uncle Steven Paul turns 29.

Happy Birthday Jerry! Best wishes to my "brother by another mother" Jerry Clark. Tomorrow, March 14, Jerry will celebrate yet another birthday. Retired and living the good life, Jerry and his wife Cathrina live in Lubbock, Texas.

Jerry Clark with Maida Shepard
at a Shepard Family Reunion
Over the years one of my favorite subjects of family research has been my Great Great Grandfather William Shepard (1835-1862), the Civil War soldier who died in the war at just 27 years old. Because of him I have discovered great information about our Shepard ancestors before his time. The "Gold Star" mother of the soldier William Shepard was Matilda Reynolds Shepard (1814-1876). William was the oldest of the 7 children born to Matilda and husband James Cross Shepard Jr. They were married in Belmont County, Ohio in 1833 and migrated to Indiana just a few years later.

Matilda Reynolds Shepard (1814-1876). I have written in this blog numerous times about the ancestors of the Indiana soldier William Shepard, but never about his mother Matilda Reynolds Shepard. She and her parents, Richard Reynolds and Esther Sidwell, were from Southeastern Pennsylvania, before migrating to Belmont County, Ohio where they became neighbors of the Sheppards. In Pennsylvania the Reynolds were faithful members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Nottingham, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

One of my interests when researching ancestors is religious affiliation. We know that many of our kinfolk were Church of Christ people, especially those from Belmont County, Ohio. But I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that a number of our ancestors were Quakers. Among the Quakers in our family ancestry are the maternal grandparents of the soldier William Shepard, my 4X Great Grandparents, the aforementioned Richard Reynolds (1790-1829) and Esther Sidwell Reynolds (1791-1874).

Richard and Esther were married April 16, 1812 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, but not without the approval of their church fellowship. It was customary in some churches in those days that when a couple wanted to marry they needed their parents and their Church to give official consent.

Here are a couple of entries from the Meeting Records for the Nottingham, Pennsylvania Quakers in 1812, referring to our ancestors Richard and Esther:

First, this entry dated March 6, 1812: "Richard Barnard Reynolds, son of Joseph and Rachel Reynolds, and Esther Sidwell, daughter of Job Sidwell (deceased) and Rebecca Sidwell, expressed in this meeting their intention of taking each other in marriage. A manifest of the surviving parents consent appears. Abraham Sidwell and Eli Thirk are appointed to inquire respecting his clearness from others on that account."

A month later there is this entry dated April 10, 1812: "No obstruction appearing to the proposal of marriage of Richard Reynolds and Esther Sidwell, they are left at liberty to accomplish the same in an orderly manner. Eli Thirk and Abraham Sidwell are appointed to the oversight thereof."

Sewellsville, Ohio grave of
Esther Sidwell Reynolds Sheppard,
my 4X Great Grandmother
These days it is strange to think that one's church would have to give formal approval before a couple could get married. More often than not in this 21st century, churches consider it none of their business whether or not a couple is even married. But in the early 19th century it was common practice among some religious groups like the Quakers to give, or not give, their official approval to a couple's request to be married. As a result of their Church's official deliberations, my 4X Great Grandparents Richard Reynolds and Esther Sidwell were married April 16, 1812.

Another Interesting Historical Fact. Richard and Esther were married for 17 years when Richard died at just 39 years old, leaving Esther a widow with 5 children, ages 5-17 years old. My 3X Great Grandmother Matilda Reynolds was the second of those 5 children, and was just 15 years old when her young father died. In 1829, on what was still the Ohio frontier, the widow Esther Sidwell Reynolds was clearly in a very difficult situation. She had 5 mouths to feed and no husband to support her. So she married for a second time within a matter of months, to James Cross Sheppard Sr., her daughter's father-in-law. What this meant of course, was that Matilda Reynold's mother became her mother-in-law as well. (Try to wrap your head around that!) A little odd perhaps, but a very practical solution to a pressing family dilemma of the sparsely populated community of Kirkwood, Ohio. After all the drama of her early life Esther Sidwell Reynolds Sheppard lived to be 84. Here is the link to her grave in Sewellsville, Kirkwood, Ohio.

I look forward to writing more about this neglected part of our ancestry, the family of Matilda Reynolds Shepard, the mother of Civil War soldier William Shepard.
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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

February Celebrations, February 27, 2019

Think how really precious
is the time you have to spend with your family.
Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.
~Earl Nightingale

My brother Darrell Shepard with wife Mary
and grandchildren Finley and Kellan
Birthday Wishes to Darrell! Happy Birthday today to my brother Darrell Shepard whose milestone birthday is today. Darrell and his wife Mary live in Monroe, Washington in the Seattle area. They live not far from their three children and their five grandchildren who are an important part of their lives. Darrell was born in 1954 in San Diego and, like his five siblings, was raised there and attended Kearny High School. He met his wife Mary at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. They eventually settled in Western Washington where they have lived for over 25 years. 

This first picture, taken last year in Seattle, shows Darrell and Mary with two of their grandchildren, their son Chris's daughter Finley and their daughter Rachel's son Kellen. Congratulations and best wishes to Darrell on his birthday!

60 years ago today was an important time in the life of our family. It was on this day in 1959, when Darrell turned 5 years old, that my parents Gene and Maida Shepard moved into the very first home they ever owned. I was just 10 years old, but I remember well what an important and happy time it was for my parents and us four kids. We finally had a home that "fit" our family comfortably instead of 6 of us trying to fit into a two bedroom apartment as we did when Darrell was first born and we lived on Ulric Street in San Diego. 

My brother Darrell on the steps of our old home
on Armstrong Street in San Diego, 1970
This second picture shows my brother Darrell at 16 years old, with guitar, on the front steps of our old home on Armstrong Street in San Diego.

Mom and Dad had four children at the time of our move to Kearny Mesa, with the last two, Barbara and Russ, arriving in the following three years. I remember the excitement build as we watched that new home on Armstrong Street being constructed in the new and growing community of Kearny Mesa in what was then the northern part of the city. The city has expanded northward so much in the last 6 decades that the northern part of the city is now much farther up the freeway. 

That home on Armstrong Street still holds many important memories for all of us who lived there. It served our family well for almost 20 years until Mom and Dad sold it in 1978. Shortly thereafter they moved to Anacortes, Washington, and bought a home where Mom still lives today. Though it has been 60 years since we moved into the house on Armstrong Street, the importance of that special event in the life of our family remains.

My cousins Hershell and Jimmy Gower, 1962
Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary! Last Thursday on February 21 my cousin Jimmie Hendrix Gower and his wife Cheryl Hazard Gower celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary! They were married in San Diego February 21, 1969. Best wishes and happy anniversary to both of them. Jim and Cheryl live in Fort Mojave, Arizona along the Colorado River.

This final picture is a real gem that I stumbled upon by accident just a few days ago. It is from 1962 and shows my two Gower cousins Hershell and Jimmy Gower when they graduated from Mission Bay High School in San Diego.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Birth Day and A Death Certificate, February 18, 2019

There is something unique about the first born.
~Raymond Feist

First the Good News. Tomorrow is the 76th birthday of Hershell Gower, the oldest of the 12 grandchildren of my Grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Hershell was the first child in our family to be born in California when he came into the world in San Diego during World War II in the winter of 1943. It was obviously a very happy time for the Gowers when baby Hershell was born into their family, the first of their 12 grandchildren who would be born in the following 19 years. Hershell was raised in San Diego but lives today with his wife Shelly in Bullhead City, Arizona. Best wishes and happy birthday to Hershell!

Maida Gower holding nephew Hershell Gower
in San Diego, California, 1943
My mother Maida Gower Shepard was a senior at San Diego High School when her nephew Hershell was born. Six years ago, when she was still able to post to Facebook, she sent this message to him: "Hi Hershell. This is a voice from your past. I remember the day you were born. I thought you were the cutest baby in the whole world. I said if I had a dozen babies I could never love them more than I do you. Of course I was only 17 at the time! Have a very happy birthday. Love you. Auntie M."

Mom is no longer able to communicate on Facebook and probably does not even remember that post from 2013. But she still loves her family, and given the opportunity would even today speak as glowingly about Hershell and the joy the Gower family felt at his birth 76 winters ago.

A Century Ago. 100 years ago yesterday my Great Great Grandmother Mary Shepard Ragsdale (1840-1919) died in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hers is one of the most fascinating, mysterious, heartbreaking, yet inspirational stories in our entire family tree.

I have written numerous times in The Shepard's Crook about her. Born in Indiana in 1840, she married William Shepard (1835-1862) in 1860. As a mother with 2 baby boys, she lost her husband in the Civil War in 1862. Then in 1880 she lost her teenage son William Elmer Shepard when he left home and never reunited with her and the family of her second husband William Ragsdale. She was then widowed a second time in 1887 and outlived her second husband by 32 years.

1919 Death Certificate of my Great Great Grandmother
Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale (1840-1919)
At the turn of the 20th century Grandma Mary Shepard Ragsdale entered her 60s and felt the need to move from the Ragsdale family farm west of Indianapolis into the city. In those days, when one turned 60, it meant you were well into old age and in need of being cared for. Mary spent her last 15 years with her eldest daughter Cora Ragsdale Stevenson and son-in-law Dora Stevenson in Indianapolis.

Recently I found online Mary's death certificate which gives us some important information about her. This copy of her death certificate is not very clear and nearly unreadable. But in it is important information about her that we would not have otherwise. The discovery of this document is typical of what happens in family research. Old documents of this sort are regularly becoming available for the first time, with information heretofore inaccessible to the general public.

This death certificate tells us that she was born Jan 25, 1840, that she died at 79 years old, and that she is buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. It tells us that her mother's maiden name was Chapman, and that she was born in Kentucky. It also reveals that her father's last name was Sprague and that he was born in Indiana. And it also tells us that Mary Shepard Ragsdale was living with her daughter and son-in-law on South Arsenal Avenue in Indianapolis when she died of "Arteriosclerosis" (hardening of the arteries).

Family research is a never ending endeavor. It is always gratifying when new documents like this death certificate become available and one more puzzle piece falls into place. With it the story of our family becomes just a little clearer.

When Mary Shepard Ragsdale died in 1919 she was survived by nine step children that she had helped raise, plus 5 children of her own, all of whom who were married and had their own families. The church where her funeral was held could have been filled just with her descendants -- her children and step children and their families. One of her children we know for certain was not in attendance. Unfortunately, she had not seen her son William Elmer Shepard in 40 years, ever since he had left home angrily about 1880, never to return. Unbeknownst to her, he had actually died in 1915 in Oklahoma. Nor did she know about her two Oklahoma grandchildren William Shepard and Sadie Shepard Pruett who had married and had children of their own by 1919. Mary Shepard Ragsdale had a full life, a difficult life, a life filled with much joy but also more than her fair share of sorrow. She is remembered even today, with humility and great gratitude for all she endured.
- - -
Steve Shepard