Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Rest of the Story

In my last post I began the inspiring life story of my 7X Great Grandmother Elizabeth Maxwell (1700-1782).  Born in London, she ran away from home at age 18 and sailed from England to Colonial Pennsylvania. The following is a brief summary of the rest of her story.

Available For Purchase. After the difficult weeks-long journey across the Atlantic, Elizabeth's ship made its way through Delaware Bay and then up the Delaware River and arrived at the port of Philadelphia in the fall of 1718. She was just one of numerous immigrants onboard the ship who were made available for purchase as indentured servants. At the Philadelphia dock at the time of her ship's arrival was an established Colonial land owner by the name of Andrew Job (1650-1722). By his attire Elizabeth recognized him as a Quaker. She was acquainted with the Quakers having grown up in London where her family belonged to a Quaker fellowship. Elizabeth knew that, as a Quaker, Andrew Job was likely to be fair and honest and treat her with respect. She encouraged him to select her -- to "purchase her time" was how they described it -- and fortunately he did. The ship's captain was reimbursed for the cost of her passage and Elizabeth became an indentured servant in the Job family of Chester County, Pennsylvania, for a term of 7 years.

Brick Meeting House Cemetery, Maryland
Fast Forward to 1725. After 7 years as a servant, Elizabeth was freed from her obligation. She had become such a respected and appreciated member of the Job household that she received a marriage proposal from Thomas Job, one of the sons of homeowners Andrew and his wife Elizabeth Job. It was a proposal she gladly accepted. Now that young Elizabeth was free, married and happily settled in the new world, she was free to think about her family back home in England. She wrote to her mother and her uncle Daniel in London, explaining where she was and what she was doing. It was the first time she had reconnected with them since leaving England on her intrepid adventure 7 years earlier. 

Reconnected With Family. Uncle Daniel wrote back to Elizabeth with the sad news that her mother had died. He also explained that she had inherited her mother's property, which included some priceless heirloom furniture. Uncle Daniel shipped the furniture across the Atlantic to his niece Elizabeth in Colonial America. She used her inheritance to help set up her own home with her new husband Thomas Job.

Brick Meeting House of Calvert, Maryland
where Elizabeth Maxwell Job worshipped
Elizabeth was one of the first persons in this part of our ancestry to become a Colonial American Quaker when she joined the Job household of East Nottingham, Pennsylvania in 1718. Quaker records show that she was accepted into the Nottingham Monthly Meeting of Quakers in the 1720s. 

Elizabeth Maxwell Job and husband Thomas Job went on to have a family of 12 children in Cecil County, Maryland as they did their part to help populate the new American frontier. They lived much of their lives near the Brick Meeting House of the Quakers in Calvert, Maryland, an historical structure which still stands today. She and husband Thomas, along with many other family, are buried in the Brick Meeting House Cemetery there.

It is with humble gratitude that we remember the life of Elizabeth Maxwell Job, a brave young immigrant from whom we are directly descended. May the fortitude and stamina she displayed in all that she experienced be duplicated in us, and the foundation upon which our lives are built. She is one more reminder that we carry within us the genes of greatness. 
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he/him/his)

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Runaway Immigrant: Elizabeth Maxwell

One of the most inspiring stories in our entire family tree concerns our 7th Great Grandmother, English Immigrant Elizabeth Maxwell (1700-1782). Hers is a story filled with great emotion, the challenges of immigration, and overcoming incredible hardships. Her story has all the elements of an epic tale: heartbreak, romance, adventure, danger, family conflict, courage, even religious affection. We are fortunate to have so many details of her life and adventures from three centuries ago. As direct descendants of hers, we carry within us her DNA.

A 12 Generation Lineage. Here is a 12 generation lineage from Elizabeth Maxwell

  • Elizabeth Maxwell (1700-1782)...
  • Lydia Job (1735-1817)...
  • Rebecca Wilson (1767-1857)...
  • Esther Sidwell (1791-1874)...
  • Matilda Reynolds (1814-1876)...
  • Pvt. William Shepard (1835-1862)...
  • William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915)...
  • William Shepard (1888-1976)...
  • Eugene Shepard (1921-2003)...
  • Steve Shepard (b. 1948)...
  • Nathan Shepard (b. 1977)...
  • William Shepard (b. 2012)...

Uncle Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
Author of Robinson Crusoe
(uncredited Wikipedia image)
Born in London, England at the turn of the 18th century, Elizabeth Maxwell was raised by her mother Elizabeth DeFoe Maxwell (1659-1725). Her mother was widowed in 1705 when Elizabeth was just 5 years old. One can only imagine how hard it was being a single mother in 18th century London. Fortunately mother and daughter were supported to a great extent by young Elizabeth's uncle Daniel Defoe. You may recognize that name. Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) was a renowned British writer. He is best known as the author of Robinson Crusoe, one of the most famous novels of all time. Uncle Daniel was a trader, a journalist, a pamphleteer, and even a spy. He was also an outspoken critic of the British government which got him into trouble. On occasion he had to go into hiding in the home of his sister Elizabeth Maxwell and her daughter young Elizabeth.

Embarassed, Angry and Alienated. When young Elizabeth Maxwell was just 18 years old she fell in love and became engaged to a young Londoner with whom she planned to immigrate to America. Her mother however disapproved of the young man and their plans, and forced the breaking of their engagement. It left the teen Elizabeth embarrassed, angry and alienated from her family and friends. Even uncle Daniel was unable to help. But Elizabeth was not deterred. Her mother was able to break Elizabeth's engagement, but she did not break her spirit. The strong willed teen immigrated by herself to the New World. Whether it was out of spite, or because of a broken heart, we will never know. 

Without notifying her mother or her uncle, the defiant young Elizabeth went to the London docks and made arrangements with a ship's Captain to get passage across the Atlantic on his ship. Upon arrival in the new world she would be sold as an indentured servant, with the proceeds going to the Captain as reimbursement. Indentured servants were not slaves. They were free citizens who were given free passage across the ocean or in some other way were paid in return for a commitment to work for a period of time. Many others on the ship had secured passage in the same manner. It was a very common arrangement. As a matter of historical fact, over half of all European immigrants to Colonial America at that time came as indentured servants.

An 18th Century Sailing Ship
much like the one on which Elizabeth sailed
(image by Regan Walker)
The Fall Out Back Home. Back in London her mother Elizabeth and her uncle Daniel were understandably shaken when they discovered she had immigrated on her own to Colonial America. Some historians note that Daniel Defoe published his famous novel Robinson Crusoe in 1719, the year after his niece Elizabeth ran away to the new world. Could it have been his dismay at his beloved niece's dangerous ocean voyage that inspired him to write his ship-wreck story of Robinson Crusoe? One can only wonder. 

The trip across the Atlantic on a rather small sailing vessel was the way 18th century immigrants made it to the new world. The journey took several weeks and was very dangerous. Sickness was prevalent. Water became tainted and in short supply. The weather could become treacherous. Food became scarce. Many became seriously ill. Deaths were not uncommon among transatlantic passengers. Despite all the dangers and misery, thousands of immigrants made it in this manner to the new world, to Philadelphia or other ports on the Atlantic seaboard.

It was an amazing life journey to this point for young Elizabeth Maxwell. She was still just 18 years old when she arrived in Colonial America in the fall of 1718. She was safe and sound but alone and uncertain about what would happen to her. She stepped off the ship and had her first look at the new world that lay before her. 

In my next post I will share more about the inspiring life of our 7X Great Grandmother and brave English Immigrant Elizabeth Maxwell.
- - -
Steve Shepard (he/him/his)

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

A 100th Anniversary

100 years ago today my Grandparents Nola Shannon and Leroy Gower were married in Stone County in Northern Arkansas. He was just 22; she was only 18. Both of them were from families rooted in Stone County for several generations. 

Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower
Arkansas, 1921
Rooted In Stone County. The Gowers had been in Mountain View, Arkansas ever since Leroy's Great Grandparents, Jackson and Mary Gower came to Mountain View from Tishomingo County, Mississippi in the early 1850s. Young Jackson and Mary started their family in Stone County in 1854 when their first child, Leroy Gower, was born. This Leroy Gower was not my grandfather. Instead he was the grandfather of my grandfather Leroy Ertin Gower (1899-1974). 

The Shannons on the other hand had not been in Stone County, Arkansas quite as long. My Grandmother Nola Shannon was the daughter of Samuel Pickens Shannon who was just a child in Southern Louisiana when the Civil War broke out in 1862. Sam's father David Reid Shannon had entered the war in Louisiana but did not survive it. As a result young Sam Shannon and his siblings were taken to Arkansas in 1867, as soon as it was safe to travel after the Civil War. They were taken to Arkansas to live with Shannon relatives. So when my grandparents Leroy and Nola were married in 1921, their roots had grown deep in Stone County. The Gowers had been there for 70 years, the Shannons had been there for over 60 years. 

Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower
on their 50th wedding anniversary
September, 1971, San Diego
A Fall Wedding. We know very little about the wedding itself. We do know it took place on Thursday, September 29, 1921 in Stone County, Arkansas. They were devout Baptists so they may have had a wedding in their local Church, but we have no record of that. We do have an old picture of Nola and Leroy that may very well have been taken on their wedding day (see black and white photo above). If any of you recognize this photo and know exactly when or where it was taken please let me know.

Their Descendants Today. To Nola and Leroy 3 children were born: Hendrix, Maida and Vicki. Over the last 100 years the family of Leroy and Nola has grown to include a total of 53 direct descendants. From that union that was formed exactly a century ago, a great clan has resulted. If you add in all those folks who have married into their family, their present day clan would number close to 100. It includes family in Western Washington, Northern and Southern California, Arizona, Texas, and even Indiana and Florida. 

The oldest surviving descendant is their daughter Maida Gower Shepard of Anacortes, Washington, who will celebrate her 97th birthday on November 1. Their youngest descendant is their GGG Grandson Gunnar Bass who was born in June of this year, in Weatherford, Texas. He is the son of Lyndsey Aqua and David Bass.

On this 100th anniversary of their wedding, I honor these two, Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, whose good lives have impacted all of us in innumerable ways. I am thankful for them and for the legacy that they left which continues to this day.
- - -
Steve Shepard 

Thursday, September 02, 2021

What Year Was Grandma Gower Born?

I recently found online the birth certificate of my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. She was born in Arkansas in 1903 even though her birth certificate says she was born in 1902. The question of Grandma Gower's birth year has been one our family has talked about for many years. And it will remain a mystery for generations to come.  Here's the story of how the discrepancy came about.

Nola and Leroy Gower
with daughters Maida and Vicki.
San Diego, about 1942.
Nola Shannon Gower  (1903-2004) and husband Leroy Gower (1899-1974) migrated from Okemah, Oklahoma to San Diego, California in 1942, during World War II. Leroy, with their son Hank, moved west first, in the summer of 1942. Nola and their two daughters, Vicki and Maida, stayed behind in Oklahoma waiting for Leroy and Hank to get jobs and make some money. Later that year the Gower girls finally got word to come to California and rode the bus to San Diego in December. 

When the family was finally reunited in San Diego, Leroy and Hank were employed at Railway Express. Nola then began searching for work and applied at Convair, a major San Diego employer in the War effort. Nola, however, could not produce a birth certificate, a requirement for employment. So she contacted her older sister Tabitha Shannon Johnson (1899-1990) who still lived in Mountain View, Arkansas. Tabitha provided the Stone County, Arkansas clerk with all the information needed to generate a birth certificate for Nola. Unfortunately Tabitha got Nola's birth year incorrect. Tabitha mistakenly said Nola was born in 1902, which then became part of the official record when her birth certificate was generated. Below is a copy of Grandma Gower's birth certificate.

So in March of 1943, just three months after arriving in San Diego, with help from her sister in Arkansas, Nola had an official birth certificate. The only problem was, it stated that she was born in 1902 instead of 1903. The family decided not to make a big deal out of the mistake. Getting Nola a job ASAP was the priority. With her birth certificate she was hired by Convair and proudly joined the war effort, and the Gower family got on their feet in San Diego.

Official Birth Certificate for Nola Shannon Gower
from Stone County, Arkansas
Today there are plenty of other historical records that make it clear that Nola was actually born in 1903, including U.S. Census records for 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940. But her official birth certificate will forever state that she was born in 1902, as does her Washington death certificate, and her Cemetery headstone in San Diego's Greenwood Cemetery.

A problem arose in the late 1960s or early 1970s when Nola began receiving retirement benefits based on a birth year of 1902 rather than 1903. Her son and care-giver Hank became worried that the  Social Security Administration might find out that she was receiving benefits a year sooner than she was entitled. He took a "don't-ask-don't-tell" approach, and it worked. Neither she nor he were ever caught. And just as well. Grandma Gower was the most unassuming and honest person I ever knew. She would be the last one to ever try to get income dishonestly.

As a result of this innocent snafu, there will forever be a question about what year Grandma Gower was actually born. But whether she lived 101 or 102 years, there is no question about the quality of life she lived and the outstanding legacy she has left behind.

Berniece Johnson Beckham (in pink) with her cousin
Maida Gower Shepard in 1940 and in 2013.
Both pictures taken in Mountain View, Arkansas
Speaking of Shannon Ancestors. The sister of my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower was Tabitha Shannon Johnson, a key character in the story above. I got word recently via Facebook that Tabitha's daughter Berniece (my mother's cousin) passed away in Mountain View, Arkansas on Monday of last week at 95 years old. Our prayers and best wishes are extended to all the family of Berniece Johnson Beckham.

Elsewhere in the Shannon world. I received word that the Shannon book, which I have referred to many times in this blog, is now available online. It is a great resource for the part of Shannon family to which my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower belonged. Here is the link to find the Shannon book, written in 1990 by Dexal Shannon. By the way, the Shannon book has Grandma Gower's birth year correct.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Sunday, August 01, 2021

More Famously Named

In my last post I wrote about my 4X Great Grandparents James Sheppard and Hannah Gatchell Sheppard of Kirkwood, Ohio. They had 13 children, which resulted in 99 grandchildren. Or so the story goes. There is no question about their 13 children. After Hannah died, husband James left a will which documents all their children and specifies what each of them received. You can read James' will by selecting this link.

Daniel Webster Mumma
(1815-1899)
The 9th of James and Hannah's 13 children was a baby girl they named Elizabeth. At 21 years old Elizabeth Sheppard (1818-1879) married a young man from a neighboring family by the name of Daniel Webster Mumma (1815-1899). His parents were John Mumma and Mary Fox Mumma. I have written before about famously named people in our ancestry. But Daniel and Elizabeth take the cake when it comes to famously naming their children. They had a total of eight children, 5 of whom were males, each one named for a famous person.

Their first son they named Isaac Newton Mumma, after the famous 17th century English Philosopher Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). He is still considered one of the greatest Scientists and Mathematicians ever, and was one of the most famous people in the world at the time of James and Hannah Sheppard.

Their second son they named John Wesley Mumma, after the famous British evangelist and churchman Rev. John Wesley (1703-1791) who founded the Methodist Church. Many of our early Shepard ancestors in Ohio were Methodists or Methodist-Episcopal which probably explains this choice. Unfortunately baby John did not survive and died at birth.

Their third son they named Oliver Cromwell Mumma, after one of the most famous English Generals and Statesmen of all time. Sir Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was a famous person from an earlier generation. Nearly two centuries after his death Cromwell remained a legendary figure for Americans on the frontier, including the Sheppards of Ohio. Cromwell was deeply religious, known for his religious tolerance, and was an outstanding leader who continues to be one of the most famous Britons ever.

Benjamin Franklin Mumma (1849-1922) center right, with family

After naming their first three sons after legendary Brits, their fourth son they named Benjamin Franklin Mumma. He was named after the famous Founding Father Ben Franklin (1706-1790) one of the leading intellectuals of his day. The famous Ben Franklin died some 60 years before our ancestor Benjamin Franklin Mumma, but his legendary status remained hence the choice to use his name in 1849.

The fifth and final son of Elizabeth and Daniel was named after a famous American. To this last son they gave the name Daniel Webster Mumma Jr. His namesake Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was a legendary American lawyer, statesman and orator about whom the fictional tale "The Devil and Daniel Webster" was written. He served as the U.S. Secretary of State under Presidents Millard Fillmore and William Henry Harrison. 

Interestingly, and probably as a sign of the times, these 5 famously named children of Elizabeth and Daniel Mumma were all male. To their three daughters they gave the common names Malinda, Mary Ann, and Elizabeth. Beautiful names to be sure. But it still leaves one wondering, why were famous names only given to their sons? Were male offspring considered more important? Did they have higher expectations for the boys? Were the girls expected to be less accomplished? I think it was something much more than that.

These Ohio Sheppard ancestors of ours were true-blue Americans, proud of their young county and engaged in the life of their developing American culture. They were respectful and supportive of their civic and political leaders which contributed to their choice of names. I have written before how others of our early ancestors gave presidential names to some of their children. Elizabeth Sheppard Mumma, mentioned above, had a brother named George Washington Sheppard (1829-1900) and two different cousins named William Henry Harrison Sheppard, after President Henry Harrison. It was something of a sign of the times that they would give their children famous names. 
- - -
Steve Shepard 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Our Notable Ohio Roots

James Cross Sheppard (1775-1843) and Hannah Gatchell Sheppard (1784-1839) were my 4X Great Grandparents who, in their time, may have been the most influential people in our entire Shepard Family Tree. I think of them as our primary Shepard ancestors in America even though they were Great Grandchildren of immigrants. But we know much more about them than any of their predecessors in this country.

Photo of Civil War soldier
William H.H. Sheppard.
Only existing photo of
one of the 99 grandchildren
of James and Hannah
I have written about James and Hannah numerous times in this family blog, but the more I learn about them, the more I am impressed with how deeply they impacted their community and our nation. They were the first of our Sheppard family members to move westward from the East Coast. In the first decade of the 19th century they left their home in Maryland and ventured into the American wilderness of Ohio. 

As a reminder: before the Civil War our Sheppard ancestors spelled their last name with two p's. My Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) in the early 1880s began spelling the Shepard name with just one p, and it has been spelled that way consistently ever since by all his descendants.

An Expanding Family. In 1809 James and Hannah Sheppard braved the American frontier and helped to settle the community of Kirkwood, Ohio along the famous Cumberland Trail which eventually became the National Highway. The Sheppard's had 13 children, who provided them with 99 grandchildren who eventually scattered throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and beyond. In the 200+ years since the family of James and Hannah began moving westward, the size of their extended family has increased tremendously. 

Kim Boyd Clark (right) with mother
Thelma Shepard Boyd,
senior most descendant 
of James and Hannah
I wonder how many descendants James and Hannah have throughout the U.S. today. My particular family line includes 9 generations from James and Hannah Sheppard. In my last post I celebrated the birth of Gunnar Bass, the most recent member of the 9th generation of descendants of James and Hannah. 

Estimated Family Growth. As I mentioned, the original 13 Sheppard children produced 99 grandchildren. One of those 99 grandchildren was my GG Grandfather, Civil War soldier William Sheppard (1835-1862), not to be confused with his cousin, the soldier William H.H. Sheppard (1840-1862) pictured above. 

Now let us suppose that James and Hannah's 99 grandchildren produced families that averaged 3 children per household, a low estimate for their time but average for today. That would mean 297 children were born in the 3rd generation after James and Hannah. If we continue with that average family size of just 3 children, the number of new births in the 7th generation (our son Nathan's generation), would total nearly 20,000 descendants of James and Hannah. That would be a heck of a family reunion if we could pull it off! 

Sadie Shepard Pruett (1893-1980)
GG Granddaughter
of James and Hannah Sheppard
with daughters Gayle and Alberta
 
One of the 99. Does the 20,000 number I am suggesting sound impossible? Think of it this way: my GG Grandfather, Civil War soldier William Shepard (1835-1862) was one of the 99 Grandchildren of James and Hannah Sheppard. I have documented almost all the descendants of that Civil War soldier, and can say with some certainty that his descendants today number about 150. If the other 98 grandchildren also produced 150 descendants each, that would bring the total number of James and Hannah's descendants today to roughly 15,000 people. The pictures included in this post are just a sampling of the many descendants of James and Hannah Sheppard.

This is an exercise in estimates, of course. It would be nearly impossible to verify the numbers I am estimating. But there is little doubt that our forebearers James and Hannah Sheppard of Kirkwood, Ohio have a huge number of descendants in the United States and around the world today. The impact that those thousands of people are making is impossible to quantify but it exists nonetheless. Ours is definitely an All American family which continues to make its mark in countless ways. 

In my next post I would like to consider some of the other grandchildren of James and Hannah Sheppard. In particular I want to share about one couple who takes the cake when it comes to having famously named children.
- - -
Steve Shepard
he/him/his

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

A New Family Member: June 29, 2021

May God save the country,
for it is evident that the people will not.
 ~Millard Fillmore

Welcome Gunnar Kameron Bass! A new member has recently been added to our family tree. Earlier this month, on June 15, 2021, Gunnar Kameron Bass was born to Lyndsey Aqua and David Bass of Weatherford, Texas. Congratulations to the family of little Gunnar, especially David, Lyndsey, little brother Karver, aunt Mandi, and Grandmother Kerri! Gunnar is one of the Great Grandchildren of my brother Gary Shepard, and the 3rd Great Great Grandchild of my mother Maida Gower Shepard of Anacortes, Washington.

Mother Lyndsey with Gunnar Kameron Bass 
Starlene Bass Gower
. Gunnar is not the first person in our family to have the last name Bass. My aunt Starlene Gower, wife of my uncle Hendrix Gower (1922-2004), was born Starlene A. Bass in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1922. With husband Hendrix and father-in-law Leroy, Starlene was among the first of our family members to move to San Diego when the three of them migrated to Southern California in early 1942. Starlene lived in the San Diego area for the rest of her life, raising sons Hershell and Jimmie. She passed away in Escondido in 2000.

A couple of years ago I wrote a series of posts on famously named people in our family tree, including relatives named after President Henry Harrison, Emperor Julius Caesar, George Washington, the outlaw Jesse James, and others. While researching Starlene's family recently I encountered some other famously named ancestors who I'd like to bring to your attention. 

My aunt Starlene's roots were in rural Bassville, Greene County, Missouri, northeast of Springfield. Her Great Grandfather was Martin Van Buren Bass (1837-1917), who was born during the presidency of his famous namesake Martin Van Buren, who served from 1837-1841. This was clearly a family very supportive of their political candidates! Martin Van Buren Bass' brother AND father were named Andrew Jackson Bass, after President Andrew Jackson who was in office from 1829-1837. 

Starlene Bass Gower (left) about 1942
with sister-in-law Maida Gower Shepard
In the 19th century Americans were fond of naming their children after famous people, in particular American Presidents. On the Shepard side of our family, there is the famously named Millard Fillmore Sheppard (1855-1931). Though originally from Kirkwood, Ohio, as a teenager his family moved to Grundy County, Missouri where he lived the rest of his life. He was named after our 13th President, Millard Fillmore, who served from 1850-1853.

Thinking of famously named people, I must mention aunt Starlene's younger son who is named Jimmy Hendrix Gower. Originally from San Diego he lives today with wife Cheryl in Ft. Mohave, Arizona. Jimmy was given the name of one of the most famous guitarists of all time, Jimi Hendrix. My cousin Jimmy, however, was born in 1944, years before the legendary Jimi Hendrix became famous in the 1960s. So he was given a famous name unintentionally. Even so, he takes his place and will remain forever among the famously named people of our family tree.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he/him/his)

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

On This Day


Gary and Cindy in about 1990
with Eugene Shepard
On this day in 1979 my brother Gary and his wife Cindy of Oak Harbor, Washington were married at our home in Los Alamitos, California. The first 24 years of their life together were spent in the San Diego area. The last 18 years have been spent in Western Washington to be near our mother and other family in the Anacortes, Washington area. Gary and Cindy are an important part of the care-giving team for our mother Maida Shepard. Happy 42nd Wedding Anniversary and best wishes to Gary and Cindy for many more happy years together!

On this day in 1915 my Grandparents William Shepard (1888-1976) and Bura Davis (1896-1986) were married in Beaver County, Oklahoma. It was 106 years ago that Will and Bura were united in marriage at the home of the local minister of the South Flat Church of Christ in their community. In San Diego in 1975, just a year before William Shepard died, and after 60 years of marriage, he reminisced about his wedding day, and his bride, by saying this: 


She was quite a Sunday School girl. I had just come into the church myself [the South Flat Church of Christ] in December [1914]. My dad had come in a little earlier than that. He was on his death bed with cancer and wanted to see me become a Christian before he died. So I did.

I had my first model T car. To get married we had to go to another sod house where the preacher lived. It was a real wet spring and water was standing everywhere. We didn't have highways. Just old roads. I didn't think we could make it by the regular road so we went on the higher country and ran into a lake and got stuck. We sat there in that car in the mud nearly all day. Finally an old gentleman who lived there pulled us out with his team of horses. It was about 3 or 4 o'clock. The preacher then tied the knot and we went home the way we should have when we went out to see him. He must have done a good job tying the knot because it is still tight.

On this day in 1870 my Great Grandfather James Brooks Davis was born near Spencer, Indiana. He was the much admired father of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard, who chose her father's birthday as the day to marry William Shepard in 1915. James died at 58 years old in Beaver County, Oklahoma of a stomach ailment.

James Brooks Davis (in middle, without coat)
with father Charles Davis and brothers
In 1913 Jim Davis, after living in Indiana his entire 43 years, packed up and moved west to Beaver County, Oklahoma, a move of some 900 miles. He migrated with his wife Callie, also a native Indianan, their 7 children (ages 5 to 16), AND his wife's special needs brother Clayton Spear. To pack up and move a family that size and configuration required an ambitious pioneering spirit.

But Jim Davis was from pioneering stock. It was in his blood. His grandparents Alexander and Jane Davis had braved the American wilderness some 60 years earlier when they migrated from Monroe County, Ohio to Owen County, Indiana. And they did so with several young children, including my Great Great Grandfather Charles Davis. The stories of their adventures must have been the stuff of many a conversation around Davis dinner tables during James' early years. We remember him, on this his birthday, with admiration for his love of family and his willingness to work for a better future. He is buried today alongside his wife Callie in Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, May 31, 2021

Our Shannon Ancestry in California

In recent months I have connected with a part of our Shannon ancestry with which I was unfamiliar. It is the family line of Dee Shannon, wife of my cousin Joan Shepard of Chico, California. It was an unexpected surprise to learn that Dee, like me, is descended from the 17th century Irish couple Robert and Annel Shannon. Their four sons Thomas, Andrew, William and Robert, migrated around 1700 from Munster, Ireland to Pennsylvania. The oldest of their four sons, Thomas Shannon, is my ancestor via my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower, while William Shannon is Dee's ancestor via her Grandmother Marie Shannon Ostrom.

For those of you who are familiar with Shannon family history, Thomas Shannon (1686-1737) is the Irish immigrant described in detail in the anthology Shannon by the late Dexal Shannon. Thomas Shannon's brother William Shannon (1682-1742) is the sibling about whom most of us are not nearly as familiar.

ancestor Jefferson Milam Shannon
an early pioneer in California
Both Shannon brothers -- Thomas and William -- migrated to Lancaster County, in Southeast Pennsylvania when they arrived in Colonial America in the early years of the 18th century. In time, the families of both brothers began journeying westward across America. Thomas Shannon's descendants migrated to Davidson County, Tennessee, then to Stone County, Arkansas, and then to Oklahoma. In 1942, these Shannons finally made their way to the West Coast when Nola Shannon Gower and husband Leroy settled in San Diego. 

The descendants of brother William Shannon took a different route to get across country. From Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, they made their way into Fayette County, Kentucky, then on to Marion County, Missouri. In Missouri Nathaniel Shannon, Jr. had a large farm outside the town of Palmyra, on which he and wife Isabella raised a large family. 

One of their sons, Jefferson Milam Shannon (1831-1902), left his family in Missouri for the West Coast. In 1849 Jefferson Milam Shannon made his way from Palmyra, Missouri to the new State of California which at the time only had a population of 92,000. As people like Jefferson Shannon flocked to California the population boomed. (Today there are 75 cities in California with more than 92,000 people.)

Rebecca and Jefferson Shannon headstone
Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, Ca.
Jefferson Shannon appears in a special 1852 California Census as a young farmer in Solano County. Family records indicate that Jefferson's father Nathaniel Shannon Jr. (1800-1852), had come to California from Missouri a year or so before his son. But the record is clear that Jefferson Shannon arrived before 1852. In the early 1850s Jefferson made his way to Fresno and nearby Millerton where he established himself and accumulated significant wealth as a farmer and landowner. He married a local girl named Rebecca Margaret Baley, and with her raised four children: Mary Shannon Idria, Scott Shannon, Sidney Shannon, and Leland Stanford Shannon.

While in Fresno, Jefferson was fortunate enough to be acquainted with four of the biggest tycoons of early California: Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker and Leland Stanford, the founder of Stanford University. Not surprisingly the Shannons named their youngest son after Leland Stanford. 

After nearly 40 years in the Central Valley, Jefferson and Rebecca Shannon relocated in 1888 to the Bay Area to get advanced education for their sons. They spent their last years in the town of Alameda, California. Jefferson and Rebecca died in 1902 and 1906 respectively and are buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

For most of my life I was under the impression that my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower was the first of our Shannon ancestors to come to California. But I now see that that distinction belongs to Jefferson Milam Shannon and his father Nathaniel Shannon from Palmyra, Missouri. They arrived in California about the time of Statehood, before the Civil War, and 90 years prior to Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower's 1942 arrival in San Diego. It is a proud Shannon ancestry we have in California.
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Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Born a Century Ago


Eugene Shepard with wife Maida
San Diego, 1975
Today is the 100th birthday of my father Eugene William Shepard (1921-2003). He was born exactly 100 years ago, out on the family farm in the rural community of Logan, Oklahoma, some 15 miles southeast of the county seat of Beaver, Oklahoma. He was the third child of William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard, whose family struggled to make ends meet farming in the Oklahoma Panhandle. My father was a kind and gentle man who never thought too highly of himself. He was a devoted father of his and Maida’s 6 children and thoroughly enjoyed them as well as his 9 grandchildren, who were born between 1968 and 1993. He also had great respect for his own parents who both finished their lives living in Mom and Dad’s home. 

His first 8 years were spent on the farm in Beaver County. The family then lived for 12 years in rural Southeast Colorado where he graduated from Two Buttes High School, being one of just 7 graduates in the class of 1939. In 1940, as a lanky 19 year old, he and his family migrated from Two Buttes, Colorado to San Diego, California. It was not only a great distance geographically, but an even greater distance socially and economically from quiet, dusty Two Buttes to wartime Southern California and the burgeoning city of San Diego. 

Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower
December, 1976
Soon after arriving in San Diego, Gene met a young woman named Maida Gower. Theirs was a challenging wartime romance. Since he was in the Navy and stationed 100 miles away in Orange County, he could only visit her on the weekends. But finally his military stint ended and they were married at the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ in the spring of 1945. Their life together began just as WWII was coming to an end. They spent the next 33 years together making a good life for themselves in San Diego and raising their 6 children. In 1978 they left the big city for small town life in Anacortes, Washington where Gene spent the last 25 years of his life. His family and his Church were the two most important loves of his life. A big reason for his and Maida's move to Washington was to support the Fidalgo Island Church of Christ.

I honor my father on this 100th anniversary of his birth. He died in 2003 at home on Wildwood Lane after a long struggle with COPD. I accept the honor of helping his memory live on. I owe him that much. He came from a wonderful set of parents, and he left a great legacy: a wife who has now outlived him by 18 years (and counting), 6 children, and 9 grandchildren, all of whom have great respect for his memory and who proudly affirm their family of origin. We his children and grandchildren continue to lift up his memory and remember with fondness the great person he was. Thanks be to God for the life of Eugene Shepard.

Phil Wilk and Beverly Russell
San Diego about 1965
I cannot remember my father Eugene Shepard without also remembering two other family members, one of whose birthday was also today, and the other whose birthday was yesterday.

Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). My maternal Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower was born April 28, 1903 in Mountain View, Arkansas. Her early years were spent in Arkansas until she and husband Leroy Gower moved to Oklahoma in 1925. They then settled in San Diego in 1942 and lived there until Leroy died in 1974. Grandma Gower remained in her home on Lynne Street for 23 more years until she moved to Anacortes, Washington in 1997 where she died at 101 years old in 2004. 

Beverly Russell Wilk (1939-1974). Yesterday would have been the 82nd birthday of my cousin Beverly Russell Wilk, had she not died tragically in 1974 of a brain aneurism. Beverly was a beautiful woman whose life was cut tragically short but whose family line continues through her daughter Shannon Wilk and her granddaughter Emma Wilk. Shannon and Emma live today in Atchison, Kansas. Yesterday Shannon posted on Facebook several old pictures of her mother Beverly. It was great to see these old photos and to remember those days. One of those pictures I have included in this post.
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Steve Shepard
(he/him/his)