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.
- - -
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

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.
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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)
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Steve Shepard