Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day! February 14, 2019

The greatest thing
you'll ever learn
is just to love,
and be loved in return.
-eden ahbez

Happy Valentine's Day! Today is one of the happiest and most family-friendly days of the entire year. It is a day all about love, which is what our families -- when we are at our best -- are all about. My wish for all of you is that you will feel the love of friends and family this year like never before. And that you will share the love as well!

Grandmother Nola Gower (left) celebrating 
with Gloria Harrell Watson in the 1990s
Show Me The Love. For the last several years I have given a "Show Me The Love Award" on Valentine's Day to a person in our family, from the present or the past, who has exemplified love in a remarkable way. Our family is a mixed bag, of course, as are all families. Our family tree includes some infamous people who were less than reputable. I have told some of their stories in this blog. They have been worth telling simply to remind us that families are not always full of wonderful people. Fortunately we have many family members, past and present, who do show us in a unique way what family love and devotion are all about. For them we will always be eternally grateful. Their stories are a joy to tell and will continue to be a staple for my posts here in The Shepard's Crook.

In the Valentine's Day posts for the last several years I have made a point of honoring people in our family tree who exemplified love. They have included people such as Gloria Harrell Watson (pictured above, whose 66th birthday would have been yesterday), and well as my mother Maida Shepard. Previous recipients have also included lesser known people from long ago like my 3x Great Grandfather Richard Gray who showed incredible family love and devotion during the Civil War. The stories of their exemplary love need to be told and retold.

Nathan Ross Shepard and Kara Ward
A Uniquely Qualified Choice. This year's "Show Me The Love Award" goes to one of the younger members of our family: Nathan Ross Shepard. He is the 23 year old son of my cousin Dane Shepard and his wife Cindy of Blanchard, Oklahoma and a graduate of Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Nathan and his fiancĂ© Kara are getting married tomorrow, making him a uniquely qualified choice for this award. He wrote to me recently and said, "Oh thank you so much! It’s great to hear from you! My fiance's name is Kara Ward and she’s from Athens, Alabama. We are getting married in Webster, Florida and will be honeymooning in Orlando! We plan to visit Harry Potter world while we are there! Hope you are well otherwise!"

It has been a while since we have had a wedding in our larger family. Especially one that appears to be as conventional, beautiful and exciting as the wedding of Nathan and Kara. They even have a website about their wedding! There is little doubt that weddings are changing dramatically these days, in some ways for the better. Even so I find it very encouraging to learn of Nathan and Kara's love and their willingness to devote themselves to each other in marriage.

Congratulations to Nathan and Kara and best wishes to both of them for a bright future together. We wish them and their families the very best.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Ground Hog Day, February 2, 2019

Retirement is when you stop living at work
and begin working at living.

Greetings to all of you from cold, dreary, rainy San Diego on this Ground Hog Day 2019! Ground Hog Day happens to be the very midpoint of winter. Best wishes to all of you who live in places that are experiencing some harsh freezing winter weather. The harsher the weather today, the earlier the good weather of spring, right? We'll see.

Cindy A. Shepard's Birthday and Retirement! Congratulations to Cindy A. Shepard (my brother Gary's wife) whose milestone birthday is today. Cindy and Gary live in Oak Harbor, Washington and are among the Shepard family members who are providing care and support to our 94 year old mother Maida Shepard in Anacortes, Washington.

Cindy A. Shepard (left) 
with Maida Shepard and Gary Shepard
Cindy has been anxiously looking forward to this birthday for a long time. Back in 2003 after Gary retired from the County of San Diego, the two of them moved from Southern California to Western Washington to be with family. At the time our father Eugene Shepard was very ill, and as it turned out, would only live a few more months. Cindy has worked at Schenk Packing Company in Mount Vernon for over 15 years, ever since they relocated to Washington. Today she retires from the working life, and begins a new chapter in her and Gary's life as they celebrate the joy and freedom of retirement. Congratulations to Cindy and best wishes to her and Gary in this next chapter of their lives!

On the right is a family picture showing retiree Cindy Shepard bottom left, with our mother Maida Shepard on the right and Cindy's husband Gary Shepard behind Maida. Also pictured in the back are friends and family Vicki, Barbara, Pam and Steven Paul. This picture was taken at the family home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes.

Remembering William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915). Today is also a day for remembering my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard. He was born on this wintry February day in 1862, 157 years ago, in the midst of the Civil War. Ironically it was also in February, 1862 that William Elmer's father William Shepard was injured in a Civil War battle in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He was taken to a military hospital in Evansville, Indiana where he languished for 5 months before finally succumbing July 22, 1862. Great Grandfather William Elmer never got to know his father, probably never even met him. That sad reality may have contributed to William Elmer's bitter conflict as a teenager with his mother and step-father, a conflict that led to his estrangement from them for the rest of his life. On the upside, young William Elmer married Elvira Owens in Madison, Illinois and together they made a family of their own that eventually settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma.

On the left is a picture of William Elmer Shepard's grave in Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County, Oklahoma. This headstone says that William Elmer was born February 5, 1862. But my records from family members say that he was born February 2, 1862. It is a minor point to be sure, but it does illustrate how there are discrepancies in the historical record occasionally, and we simply do our best to sort it out, sometimes without great certainty.

On this day of remembering his birth, we honor Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard and his unique life as a fatherless Civil War victim, a runaway, a pioneer, and a hardworking family man. It is hard to imagine the heartbreak, the struggles, the family dysfunction of his early life, and the adversity he encountered in his 53 years, but through it all he endured. Between the families and descendants of his two children, William Shepard and Sadie Shepard Pruett, there are over 150 people today who can be proud to count him among their ancestors.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Remembering Sadie Shepard, January 27, 2019

I've learned that regardless
of your relationship with your parents,
you'll miss them when
they're gone
from your life.
~Maya Angelou

As January draws near its close the time is right to remember my great aunt Sadie Shepard Pruett (1892-1980). The younger sister (and only sibling) of my Grandfather William Shepard (1888-1976), Sadie was born January 27 (127 years ago today), and died January 29 (39 years ago). 

Sadie and William Shepard, 1892
Remembering Sadie Shepard Pruett. Sadie's father William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) had a terrible falling out with his parents as an older teen in Indiana about 1880. We don't know the details of the conflict, just that it had something to do with his relationship to his step-father William Ragsdale who was his mother's second husband. Theirs was a blended family of his 9 kids from his first marriage, her 2 sons from her first marriage, and their 3 children together. Even though they lived on a farm outside Ladoga, Indiana, it was a stressful living arrangement, especially for William Elmer, one of the only two in the entire family who had the last name Shepard.

So with great anger in his heart, this hot headed young man left home, and ran away 350 miles to Madison County, Illinois. From all indications he never reconnected with his Indiana family. It was a bitter family conflict that had long term ramifications. First of all William Elmer's wife Elvira Owens, who he met and married in Illinois, never got to know her husband's Indiana family. It also meant that their children William (my Grandfather) and Sadie, who were born in Illinois, never got a chance to meet their paternal grandparents in Indiana or any of their relatives on that side of their family. 

Frances (Flossie) Shepherd, about 1920
The Family They Never Knew. That Indiana family dispute also meant that Sadie and William Shepard probably never knew their father's only biological brother, their uncle Frank Shepherd or his wife, their aunt Leona. Nor did Sadie and William realize that uncle Frank had taken a different spelling for his last name, one of those anomalies not uncommon in post Civil War America. Furthermore Sadie and William probably never knew that they had just one first cousin on the Shepard side of their family, a young woman named Frances (Flossie) Shepherd who was nearly the same age as Sadie. One can only imagine the wonderful relationship cousins Flossie and Sadie might have shared.

And perhaps most regrettable, Sadie and William never knew their grandmother Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale (1840-1919) and her remarkable life story. She became a Civil War Widow with two babies at 22 years old. She remarried at 25 years old and went on to be mother/step mother to 14 children. She was widowed a second time at 47 years old but persevered nonetheless. At 61 years old -- 39 years after the war ended! -- she finally received a modest Civil War Widow's pension. And she lived her final 15 years comfortably in Indianapolis where she died at 79 years old in 1919.

Sadie Shepard Pruett (left) in 1942, with brother 
William Shepard and William's daughter Thelma
Sadie Shepard and her brother William Shepard migrated as teens with their parents from Illinois to Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1905. And they both went on to have families of their own and make good lives for themselves. But somewhere inside each of them there must have been a sense of loss, a longing to know their father's family of origin. But because of their father's conflict with his own family, it was not to be, to the great misfortune of his descendants.

The Miracle of the Digital Age. I continue to be amazed that in the early 20th century, my grandfather and his sister Sadie Shepard Pruett could live their lives and never know their father's family. Yet here we are 100 years later and we have a wealth of information about those people who were unknown to them. The Internet has made possible research that helps us know ancestors like never before. For that I am very grateful. Unfortunately the Internet cannot change our susceptibility to conflicts and disputes within families. We will always have to deal with that, and the fall out that comes as a result. 
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Memories From A Half Century Ago, January 17, 2019

No one can ever take your memories from you - 
each day is a new beginning, 
make good memories every day.
~Catherine Pulsifer

Last month I shared some memories from 50 years ago when Cindy and I were married. But there were a lot of other memories being made in our family at that time as well. In this post I am including family scenes from half a century ago. It was a wonderful time for our Shepard, Gower and Harris families of San Diego. There was a great amount of family harmony and life was good. The following are four memorable scenes from life in our families back in 1969.

Cindy and me, Mom Maida, Grandmother Nola Gower,
and Russ and Barbara Shepard, in Abilene, Texas, 1969
Newlywed Students. In 1969 Cindy and I were newlywed college students at Abilene Christian. It was a rare but pleasant occurrence when family from San Diego would visit us in what at the time was the faraway land of West Texas. This first picture shows Cindy and me with members of my family when they came to visit us on N.E. 16th Street in Abilene, Texas. This was taken in front of our apartment across the street from Abilene Christian University.

This picture shows Cindy and me on the left looking spry and well dressed. We were all so well dressed that this picture must have been taken on a Sunday. We may have just returned from attending worship at the Minter Lane Church of Christ in Abilene where we attended. On the right in the back are my mother Maida Shepard and my grandmother Nola Gower. In front are my youngest siblings, brother Russell and sister Barbara.

Jerry Clark, Linda Shepard
Lubbock, Texas, 1969
Jerry Clark - Linda Shepard. While Cindy and I were in school in Abilene Texas in 1969, my sister Linda was enjoying her first year of college just a few hours drive up the road at Lubbock Christian University. She and boyfriend Jerry Clark from Albuquerque, N.M. were classmates and were getting to know each other quite well. They would marry in August of 1970 in a happy celebration at the Linda Vista Church of Christ in San Diego. This second memorable scene from 50 years ago shows Linda Shepard and Jerry Clark on a swing in the backyard of Jerry's Grandmother in Whitesboro, Texas.

Joe and Paula Harris. Though Cindy and I lived in Texas where we went to college in 1969, our heart and our home was still in San Diego. This third picture shows Cindy's parents Joe Harris (1922-1999) and Paula Harris (1923-2018) in the Harris home on Burgundy Street in the Allied Gardens community of San Diego. It is the home they purchased in 1957, and is where Cindy and I live today.

Joe and Paula Harris, 
San Diego, California, 1969
In this particular picture Joe is dressed in his ever present business suit, while diligent homemaker Paula is dressed more casually. They were a wonderful couple. As my in-laws for many many years they could not have been more loving and supportive of Cindy and me. 

In this picture, behind Joe and Paula is their fancy new Console: a wonderfully monstrous Television - Radio - Record Player combination, which was state of the art half a century ago. It was advertised as the "Magnificent Magnavox Stereo Theatre" and proudly graced their living room for many years. It was an impressive purchase for 1969, the envy of many.

The Gower Clan on Lynne Street. This final scene I am including today shows my mother's Gower Clan from 50 years ago. My Gower Grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower are in the middle of this picture. This image is from a photo taken in front of their home on Lynne Street in San Diego where they had lived since 1951 when the house was built. It was a common gathering place for our family for nearly the entire second half of the 20th century.

Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower and family
San Diego, 1969
Standing in the center of this picture is a happy and healthy 65 year old Grandma Gower in white hair and glasses, the matriarch of this impressive brood. Sitting in front of her is 69 year old Grandpa Gower whose eyesight was so poor he had a hard time looking at the camera. He would live just another 5 years. In his lap are the first two Gower Great Grandchildren, Shaun Gower and Kerri Shepard, both about a year old. Also in this picture are my Grandparents' three children, Hank (and wife Starlene), Maida (and husband Eugene), and Vicki (and husband John). Also shown here are 9 of the 12 Gower Grandchildren: Hershell (and wife Janet), Jimmie, Gary (and wife Jackie), me, Linda, Darrell, Barbara, Russ and Michael. One of the most remarkable things about this photo is that the face of almost every single one of the 21 people in it can be seen.

Life has changed in many ways for our Gower, Shepard and Harris families in the last 50 years. Children, Grandchildren and even Great Grandchildren have been born. Deaths have occurred. Many have moved away from Southern California. Despite all the changes, the memories remain and the values we shared are still with us. And the need remains to share our life and heritage with the younger ones among us.

Happy Anniversary Kim and Jeff! I can't let January come and go without saying happy anniversary to Jeff and Kim Boyd Clark. Tomorrow, January 18, will be their 12th wedding anniversary. Congratulations and best wishes!

May 2019 be a happy and healthy year for all of you. May the love, joy and memories of family be with you this year and always.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, December 31, 2018

New Year's Eve, December 31, 2018

The best is yet to be.
~Robert Browning

As we find ourselves on the cusp of 2019 it is a time to be grateful for all the experiences of the past year, the joyful and the sobering, the uplifting and the humbling. I am most thankful for the joy of family and friends. I am grateful for the blessing of being able to celebrate my mother's 94th birthday with her in November. In June we said goodbye to Cindy's mother Paula Harris. As we celebrated her 95 years we gave great thanks for a life well lived.

Cindy and I also give great thanks for Nathan and our three grandchildren and for all the children in our larger family, who bless us with their energy, innocence, intelligence and hope for the future. I am deeply appreciative of all of you readers of the Shepard's Crook, friends and family, many of whom we don't get to see often enough. Even so, all of you are to be thanked for your support of our family and your place in this great enterprise of being a family circle.

William Shepard with daughter Thelma
about 1940
Remembering William Shepard (1888-1976). I cannot let this month of December pass without remembering my Grandfather William Shepard. Christmas Day this past week was the 130th anniversary of his birth in Alton, Illinois. He was born in that small town on the banks of the Mississippi River across from St. Louis, Missouri. It was there that he spent the first 16 years of his life, where his values were formed and his dreams for the future took shape. The child of William Elmer Shepard and Elvira Owens Shepard, he had one sister, Sadie Shepard Pruett. The four of them migrated to Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1905 which is where William encountered the James Brooks Davis family. In 1915 William married the oldest child of that family, the teenager Bura Davis, and with her had four children, the third of whom was my father. Their youngest child Thelma Shepard Boyd is the last remaining member of William and Bura's original family. The first picture I am including today shows my Grandfather Shepard with daughter Thelma. It was taken just about the time they moved to San Diego in 1940.

Granddad William has been gone for over 40 years but the impact of him and Grandmother Bura Shepard is still keenly felt by those of us whose lives they touched. I live in constant gratitude for my grandparents, the lives they lived and the values they gave us.

In the last two years I have learned more about the Shepard ancestors of Granddad than ever before. He has come to my mind a number of times recently as I have discovered much about his pre-Civil War relatives from Belmont County, Ohio. Many of them are people he probably never knew, people about whom I would have cherished the opportunity to share with him.

Darrell and Mary Shepard, 1984
with Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard
Happy Anniversary, Darrell and Mary! Today, New Years Eve, my brother Darrell Shepard and his wife Mary Medina Shepard are celebrating 36 years of marriage. They were married on the last day of 1982 while they were students at Abilene Christian University. They live today in Monroe, Washington, north of Seattle. Their home is not far from their 3 children and their 4 Grandchildren. Best Wishes to Mary and Darrell for a wonderful anniversary!

Remembering Ron Gibbs. I mentioned several weeks ago that I had reconnected with Ron Gibbs, an old family friend from years ago. The Gibbs and the Shepard families go way back nearly a century, from their time in San Diego, then Southeast Colorado and Beaver County, Oklahoma before that. Just this fall I had written about the long friendship of these two families. Ron's brother Steve, who lives in Valley Center, north of San Diego, notified me recently that Ron passed away of a heart attack in Searcy, Arkansas just a week before Christmas. Our condolences and best wishes are extended to Ron's entire family.

The very best to all of you for a happy and prosperous new year in 2019!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A 50th Anniversary Celebration, December 27, 2018

The best and most beautiful things in the world
cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart.
~Helen Keller

Today Cindy and I are celebrating 50 years of marriage! We were married on a Friday evening, two days after Christmas in 1968 with a couple hundred people in attendance. We chose the La Mesa Church of Christ as the site for the event. It was a new church building and very accessible to all those who would be attending. At the time I was a student at Abilene Christian and had come home for the Christmas Holidays to get married. That fall Cindy had taken a break from her college education to stay home and prepare for the wedding. We were both 20 years old and ready to face the world together.

Our Wedding Party, December 27, 1968
The La Mesa Church of Christ
The Wedding Party. The wedding party included two of my siblings, my brother Gary and sister Linda, as well as Cindy's brother Joe Paul and two of her cousins, Gloria Weston and Malacha Whitmore. Also standing on the chancel with us were friends Pam Henderson, Connie Cleland, Dan Frost and Jim and Tim Deveny. Also in attendance were an assortment of Harris and Shepard friends and family, including many church friends who meant so much to us. Leading the service was Edwin Kilpatrick, the minister of the Linda Vista Church of Christ where my family attended for many years. Edwin was my second cousin and a very good friend and mentor. 

Cutting the Cake, Dec 27, 1968
Our First Home. After the wedding we enjoyed a simple punch and cake reception in the church basement. When the church festivities were concluded we made our getaway and drove to Laguna Beach in Orange County where we honeymooned for a few days. We took in such well known sites as the world famous Knotts Berry Farm (woo-hoo!). After the first of the year we made our way back to Abilene Christian to attend college. Our first home was in one of the "Witts Apartments" across the street from the school. We lived there for the next 18 months until I graduated from ACU and we moved back to California in 1970.

On the occasion of this anniversary it is a moment to remember the various places we have lived, the people who have been our friends, and the experiences that have made us who we are today. The journey has taken us from the hectic pace of life in the Greater LA area, to the San Francisco Peninsula, to the serenity of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and finally back to San Diego where it all began for us. The experiences have been many and varied and the lessons have taught us much.

Cindy and me in front of the Waiola Church, 
Lahaina, Hawaii, Dec. 27, 2018
The Love That Brought Us Together. Today we are thrilled to be retired and enjoying life as much as ever. It is a rich blessing to be living close to our son Nathan and his children Preslea, Logan and William, and to share life with them. We look forward to whatever is yet to be. We know that the love that brought us together in the first place will carry us through whatever the future holds. Thanks to all of you who have shared your lives with us in so many meaningful ways over the years.

This week we are celebrating our 50th anniversary with our family on the island of Maui, Hawaii. Among the activities of this week was a 50th Anniversary Renewal Service at the Waiola Church in Lahaina that occurred earlier today. Presiding was Rev. Anela Rosa, minister of the Church. It was a sacred event, the perfect complement to all the activities of this holiday week.

This third picture was taken by our son Nathan in front of the Church where we had the renewal service earlier this evening. Down in front of us are our three grandchildren: Logan on the left, William on the right, and, barely visible behind William, is Preslea in a red dress with yellow flowers in her hair.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Amazing Anniversaries, December 12, 2018

Marriage is a coming together
for better or for worse,
hopefully enduring,
and intimate to the degree of being sacred.
~William O. Douglas


Celebrating 50 Years. This month is the occasion of Cindy's and my 50th wedding anniversary. It is a pretty awesome milestone. We are both glad to still be around, and to have great family, and to still be in good health. On the other hand, any kind of 50th celebration is humbling. You cannot celebrate 50 years of anything without being forced to ponder one's mortality. Whether it is a 50th birthday, a 50th High School reunion, a 50 year friendship, a 50th year in a particular house, or a 50th wedding anniversary. Even so, we can't help but approach this 50th remembrance in a spirit of celebration. 

Another Anniversary. Our anniversary gets put in perspective when we consider another milestone wedding anniversary occurring this month. Today, December 12, is the 360th Anniversary of my 10X Great Grandparents, Laurens Van Buskirk (1630-1694) and his wife Janettje Jans Van Buskirk (1629-1694). Church records show that these two Dutch immigrants were married on this day in 1658 in the Dutch Reformed Church of New Amsterdam, which is now New York City. 


It is rare to find a clear line of ancestors who lived so long ago, which is part of what makes these ancestors so unique. They are among the founding families of New Jersey. "The Descendants of the Founders of New Jersey" is a group open to anyone who can document that they are descended from one of the founders. Their website lists Laurens and Janettje Van Buskirk among the list of founders. 

Laurens and Jannetje are related to us through my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard, whose Great Grandmother was Jane Buskirk Davis. Jane was a 5X Great Granddaughter of Laurens and Jannetje Van Buskirk. Laurens was originally from Holstein, Denmark and migrated across the Atlantic in 1655 when he was 25. Jannetje was originally from Noord-Holland, Netherlands and had migrated a few years earlier. 

Laurens and Jannetje did not know each other before coming to America. The story of how they met is an interesting one. It is found in the online cemetery record for the now defunct Van Buskirk Cemetery in New Amsterdam (New York) where they were both buried in 1694.

A Match Making Orphan Master. In July of 1658, the director of an orphanage in New Amsterdam asked Laurens to visit a widow in South River, Delaware to see if he could help her out in some way. The woman's husband, a Dutch immigrant carpenter named Christian Barentsen Van Horn, had died in a recent epidemic that had decimated their community, and left her with four children. In 1658, a single woman with four mouths to feed faced extreme hardship. It often meant the children had to be placed in an orphanage. Laurens found a way to provide assistance to Jannetje far beyond the expectations of the Orphan Master. Four months after meeting Jannetje, the two of them, with her four children, made their way back to New Amsterdam and were married in a Dutch Reformed Church, with the children becoming part of the newly formed family. 


Original Van Buskirk homestead in New Jersey
The family man Laurens went on to become a successful businessman in this budding community of just a few thousand people in what would eventually become New York City. He became a land owner and a dry goods merchant in New Amsterdam, and went on to live a very productive life, even becoming a judge and a Justice of the Peace. He also was instrumental in the establishment of a Lutheran Church. This second picture shows the original Van Buskirk homestead, which was located on Constable Hook near Bayonne, New Jersey.

The Westward Family Journey Begins. He and Jannetje added four more children to their family in the years after their marriage. In 1688 they relocated to Hackensack, New Jersey where they both lived until their deaths in 1694. Their move to Hackensack was just the beginning of the westward movement of these Van Buskirks. Throughout the 18th century our Van Buskirk ancestors made their way to Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, then on to western Pennsylvania and then to Monroe County in South Eastern Ohio. That is where our ancestor Jane Buskirk was born and where she married Alexander Davis in 1841. By the time Jane was born the family had dropped the "Van" part of their name and they became simply Buskirk. 
Bura Davis Shepard 
with husband William Shepard, about 1950

Alexander Davis and his wife Jane Buskirk Davis were the first of our kinfolk to leave Eastern Ohio and settle in the area around Spencer, Indiana in the middle of the 19th century. Some of their descendants, including my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard, settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma in the early 20th century. By 1940 others of this family had made their way westward as far as San Diego, California where some their descendants, including my family, still live today.

A Long Journey From East to West. It has been a long journey from New Amsterdam in 1658 to San Diego in 2018; from a young couple marrying in a Dutch Reformed Church on the East Coast to a 50 year anniversary here on the West Coast. The journey encompassed 15 generations of Buskirks, Davises and Shepards. But it is one more part of this grand tale that is our family history.

Here are the specifics of this 15 generation lineage over the last 360 years.
  • Laurens Van Buskirk (1630-1694) - wife Janettje Jans (1629-1694)
  • Thomas Van Buskirk (1668-1748) - wife Margrete Brickers (1668-1719)
  • Johannes Van Buskirk (1694-1747) - wife Marytie Hooglandt (1696-1738)
  • George Van Buskirk (1721-1800) - wife Sarah Ashton (1720-1779)
  • John Van Buskirk (1743-1829) - wife Mary Blackmore (1742-1823) 
  • Samuel Blackmore Buskirk (1765-1847) - wife Charity Ann Foggin (1762-1841)
  • John Foggin Buskirk (1795-1873) - wife Mary Terry (1807-1886)
  • Jane Buskirk Davis (1823-1895) - husband Alexander Davis (1819-1866)
  • Charles Edward Davis (1849-1926) - wife Malinda Wright (1846-1920)
  • James Brooks Davis (1870-1928) - wife Caroline Spear (1865-1951)
  • Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986) - husband William Shepard (1888-1976)
  • Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) - wife Maida Gower (b. 1924)
  • Steven Shepard (b. 1948) - wife Cindy Harris (b. 1948)
  • Nathan Shepard (b. 1977) - Chenda Sou (b. 1980)
  • William Q. Shepard (b. 2012)
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Three Celebrations, November 29, 2018

We must believe in ourselves
or no one else will believe in us.
~Rosalyn Yalow

Today, November 29, is the birthday of three people in our family, spread out over 6 generations: my cousin Kim Boyd Clark, her grandson Damian Ortiz, and our Great Grandmother Caroline Spear Davis.

Caroline "Callie" Spear Davis (1865-1951) was the mother of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. Callie was born 153 years ago today, in the late fall of 1865 near the town of Spencer in Owen County, Indiana. Callie Spear's kinfolk, like the kinfolk of her husband James Davis, had migrated from Monroe County in Southeastern Ohio to Indiana just before the Civil War. Both the Davises and the Spears were from the same area in Monroe County, Ohio before moving westward.

Caroline Spear Davis at 6 different stages of her life
The Spears and the Davises may have known each other in Ohio before settling in Indiana. What we know for sure is that they were founding members of a little Church of Christ a few miles northwest of Spencer Indiana when that church began in the 1860s. It seems likely the Spears and the Davises brought their Church affiliation with them when they traveled the dusty Cumberland Trail from Ohio to Indiana. In the mid 19th century when they left Ohio, the Spears and the Davises were probably part of the newly formed and rapidly growing Restoration Movement, also known as the Campbell-Stone tradition. It was a religious affiliation that many of us still proudly adhere to, some 150 years later.

No Stranger to Heartbreak. Callie was the 2nd of 9 children and was raised on a farm in rural Owen County, Indiana. Throughout her early years Callie was no stranger to heartbreak. Consider this:
  • One of her sisters, Margaret, died at just a year old when Callie was 9. 
  • Another sister, Nona, also died at just a year old when Callie was 14. 
  • Her youngest sister Effie died of tuberculosis at just 18 years old. 
  • Callie's oldest sibling Isolena was a half-sister who was the child of Callie's namesake aunt Caroline who had died in her early 20s (read more about that sad story here). 
  • To top it all off, Callie's brother Clayton Spear, 5 years younger than her, was a mentally disabled individual for whom Callie took responsibility for many years. 
She had more than her fair share of family sorrow and hardship. And all this happened in the wake of the Civil War, which brought its own pain and heartache to innumerable families. Yet from all indications those experiences deepened Callie's life and did not weaken it. Indeed it made her appreciate her own life and family that much more.

Callie and James. In that rural community outside Spencer, Indiana Callie Spear and close neighbor James Davis struck up a close friendship. It was a relationship that blossomed within the context of the New Union Church of Christ, the little country church to which both their families belonged. On a wintry New Year's Day in 1896 they were married in Owen County, Indiana. Callie was 30 years old at the time, 5 years older than James. Nevertheless in the following 11 years they brought 7 children into the world and created a strong, happy Hoosier family. Those of us who are descendants of Callie and James can consider ourselves fortunate to be their heirs and recipients of the Midwest values that their original family espoused.

Their Migration to Oklahoma. In March, 1913, Callie and James Davis packed up the entire family of 7 kids, left Indiana, and moved westward over 800 miles to Beaver County, in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Several of James' brothers and their families had already relocated to Oklahoma from Indiana. There Callie and James lived out the rest of their lives. James died in 1928, while Callie lived until the summer of 1951. She lived long enough to see all her children grow and have families of their own, and to enjoy her many grandchildren. Callie and James are buried in the Sophia Cemetery close to the family's church, the South Flat Church of Christ, in the small farming community of Sophia, Oklahoma. On this day of remembering her birth, we celebrate this wonderful woman whose life was well lived and whose legacy we gladly claim.

The collage above I put together a few years ago. It shows Callie Spear at 6 different stages of her life. Across the top are three images from the time when she lived in Indiana: in about 1880 as a young woman, in 1896 as a 30 year old bride, and then in 1908 as a mother of 7 children. Across the bottom are three images from when she lived in Oklahoma: in 1922 as a Grandmother with one of her grandchildren Bernard Kilpatrick; in 1936 as a Great Grandmother with one of her great grandchildren Rex Russell; and in 1947 just a few years before the end of her life.

Grandmother Kim Clark with Damian
and Ashlyn, Dominic and Isaac
Happy Birthday Kim Clark! Today is also the birthday of my cousin Kim Boyd Clark, who is one of the 93 great grandchildren (give or take a few) of James and Callie Spear Davis. Kim and husband Jeff Clark, along with Kim's mother Thelma Shepard Boyd, spend a lot of their time these days traveling around the US in their motor home visiting family and enjoying famous sites. Kim was born in San Diego and split her growing up years between San Diego and Gallup, New Mexico.

Happy 12th Birthday Damian Ortiz! And thirdly, today is also the birthday of Kim's grandson Damian Ortiz of El Cajon, California. He is one of the 5 children of Kim's oldest child Jeremy and his wife Desiree.

The second picture was taken this past summer when Kim and husband Jeff and their family were visiting Yellowstone National Park. It shows grandmother Kim in the middle with grandson Damian on the left. Also pictured are three other grandchildren: Ashlyn, Dominic and Isaac Ortiz.
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Steve Shepard

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving! November 18, 2018

Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~G.K. Chesterton

Happy Thanksgiving! On this week of Thanksgiving I want to say how grateful I am to all of you who are readers of The Shepard's Crook. Researching our family history and sharing my findings in this blog has been a very enjoyable endeavor for the past 11 years. It has provided insights into our family history that I never thought possible. I have learned about ancestors, especially from pre-Civil War times, who were unknown to my parents and my grandparents. More than once I have wished I had known this or that about our heritage while my father or my grandparents were still alive. And amazing discoveries continue to be made. Some have reflected negatively upon our family. But more often they have been pleasant and have been cause for celebrating those who went before us.

So thanks to all of you who read this blog and who are willing to journey with me in the discovery of ancestors. Some have been lost to history for many years, but thanks to the advances in genealogical research their stories are now available. I appreciate all of you who have shown an interest in The Shepard's Crook and wish you all the very best for Thanksgiving 2018!

One Reader's Response. I received word just last week from one particular reader of The Shepard's Crook who provided me with some significant family information that I never knew about my own Grandfather. She did not give her name but said she was a daughter of my Grandfather Gower's half sister. I never knew Grandpa Gower had any half siblings. But after searching online and following up on the information she gave me, I discovered that Grandpa Gower did most certainly have other siblings. He had three half-siblings who were much younger than him.

George William Gower's rustic grave marker
Highland Cemetery, Okemah, Oklahoma
A Late In Life Marriage. Here's how it all happened: Grandpa Gower's father, George William Gower (1873-1944) had 7 children by my Great Grandmother Serena Elizabeth Turner Gower (1876-1931), my Grandpa Leroy Gower being #3. After his wife Serena died in 1931, Great Grandpa George Gower decided he was not satisfied being a widower so he married a second time late in life. As 59 years old, George was the father of 5 adult children and the grandfather of 5 young children (including my mother Maida Gower). Nonetheless, soon after his wife Serena died, he married a 22 year old young woman named Phoebe Edna Root, who was 37 years younger than him.

Now there is some question about the order of events here. The 1930 US Census (see image below) shows that Serena Elizabeth Gower and husband George Gower were still living on the family farm in Morse, Oklahoma, about 80 miles east of Oklahoma City. Morse was a small farming community a few miles north of Okemah in Okfuskee County. Death records show that Serena died the next year on May 15, 1931. But George and young Edna's first child was born in 1929, which is something of an embarrassing anomaly. It appears that Great Grandpa Gower got started on his second family a little early. I won't try to guess at how to explain that. There may be a number of different factors to consider. But it nevertheless is a bit disconcerting.
Snippet from the 1930 US Census for Morse Township, Oklahoma
With young Phoebe Edna, the elder George Gower had three children: George Wayne, Georgia Lou and Gary Dale, all three of whom were therefore half siblings of my grandfather Leroy Gower, who was 40 years older than the youngest of the three. So in the 1930s as Great Grandpa George entered his 60s he was once again a father of youngsters as he and young Edna raised this second set of children on the farm in rural Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. George lived until 1944 when he passed away at the age of 70. He left a young widow in her 30s with three children who were 14, 10 and 5 years old.

Grave of Serena Elizabeth Gower (1876-1931)
Highland Cemetery, Okemah, Oklahoma

A Visit to Highland Cemetery. When my mother and I visited Okemah, Oklahoma a few years ago, we went to the grave of her Grandfather George William Gower. We were surprised at the rustic headstone which marks the place where he lay in Highland Cemetery just northeast of Okemah. His marker is just a flat slab of rock with no words on it at all, just the letter "G" scratched on it, almost haphazardly. I could not imagine a more basic, unadorned, carelessly crafted headstone. Sadly it seems that whoever was responsible for his burial was unwilling to make arrangements for anything other than the simplest stone imaginable. One can only wonder why.

On the other hand, only a few feet away from his grave is the marker for his first wife Serena Elizabeth Gower, whose headstone is more elaborate by comparison. It is not ornate certainly, but at least a modicum of care was taken in purchasing a fitting marker for this beloved lady who died at just 54 years old.

This may not be the most uplifting family story, but it is one more reminder to be thankful for all the ancestors who went before us, the saints and the sinners. They were a mixed bag of individuals who faced a variety of difficulties and sought to make the best of what life brought them. 
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Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Contrasting Lives, November 8, 2018

Families are the compass that guides us.
They are the inspiration to reach great heights,
and our comfort when we occasionally falter.
~Brad Henry

This post concerns two people in our family tree who lived about the same time, but whose lives could not have been more different.

Bura Davis Shepard and daughter Thelma, about 1941
Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). Today is the 122nd anniversary of the birth of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. She was born November 8, 1896 outside Spencer, Indiana. She was raised in Owen County, Indiana but as a teenager was a part of the migration of several Davis family members from Indiana to Oklahoma in the early years of the 20th century. At just 18 years old she married William Shepard in Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1915. In 1928 they moved with three of their four children to Southeast Colorado where they struggled for 12 years to survive the dust bowl era. Life became so difficult in the small town of Two Buttes, Colorado that they moved on to San Diego in September, 1940. They lived in Southern California for most of the rest of their lives, benefitting from the economic boon of the post war years, and enjoying their extended family, including all 12 of their grandchildren.

This first picture shows Bura with their youngest daughter Thelma in the early 1940s, not long after they moved to San Diego.

Bura was a devout Christian and a faithful member of the Church of Christ all her life. Her father's Davis roots and her mother's Spear roots both went back to Southeastern Ohio and the very beginning of the "Restoration Movement" in the early 19th century. At the same time she proudly shared her commitment to the Church with her descendants, many of whom have continued with that same Church affiliation to this day. Bura was a small woman with a big heart and a great love for God. She will be forever loved and respected by those who knew her. She and husband William are buried in San Diego's Greenwood Cemetery alongside a dozen or so other family members.

Edgar Lee Vessels (1910-1972). In contrast to the beautiful life of Bura Davis Shepard, one of the more infamous people in our family tree is a fellow from the early 20th century named Edgar Lee Vessels. His life story is as tragic as it is horrifying. Ironically he was a grandchild of perhaps the most famously named member of our larger family, Julius Caesar Vessels (1842-1928), who is Cindy's GG Grandfather.

Edgar Lee Vessels was born in Parker, Texas May 28, 1910, into the farming family of Claude and Minnie Vessels. At 18 years old he married Vivian Brashears who was from the small town of Terral in the southern part of Oklahoma along the Red River. That is where Edgar and Vivian lived and raised their 3 children and where Edgar was a truck driver. As a married father of 3 teenagers, in 1951 at just 41 years old, his life was forever changed. He was convicted of murder in Henrietta, Texas and sent to Huntsville Prison in South Texas to serve a sentence ranging from 2 years to life.


I am not aware of the details of his crime. His prison record shows that he was convicted in October, 1951, then served 17 years in prison before being paroled in 1968. In 1970 he was given a full pardon. Two other bits of important personal information are found in his prison record. First, he had an unrepaired cleft palate, which he had to live with his entire life. And second, he was unable to read or write, having spent just 2 years in school as a child. The poor guy had a serious physical problem, a cleft palate, that brought with it a speech impediment which probably created psychological issues that must have contributed to his other difficulties in life. Besides that he was illiterate, which would have made his life even more difficult. 

Ida Lee Jacobson Vessels, about 1967

Curiously, w
hile he was serving his prison sentence he married for a second time. Presumably his first wife Vivian, the mother of his three children, had divorced him while he was incarcerated. So in the summer of 1967, after 16 years in prison and just a year before being paroled, Edgar married Ida Lee Jacobson, a woman from the area not far from the prison (see second picture). Could his marriage to a local woman have been a contributing factor in his being paroled and released into the community? 


After being released from prison, Edgar and his wife Ida Lee lived in Brazoria County on the Texas Gulf Coast, not far from Ida Lee's home. On the morning of Feb 22, 1971 just a year after being given a full pardon, Edgar and his wife Ida Lee were found dead on the side of Hwy 288 just south of Angleton, Texas. Edgar's death certificate says he died of "two self inflicted .22 caliber gunshot wounds in the head." Ida Lee's death certificate says that she also died of "two .22 caliber gunshot wounds in the head," and that she also had a gunshot wound in her shoulder. Her death certificate further says "gunshot wound inflicted by husband." 


A few questions come to mind. How could Edgar have shot himself twice in the head? It is not possible. If there were no witnesses, how can one say he killed his wife? Even after nearly 50 years, this seems to be a cold case that needs reinvestigating. Regardless, Edgar's life and death were filled with sadness and tragedy. I call him an infamous character in our family tree, but that only begins to tell the story of this ill fated ancestor. 

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Steve Shepard