Sunday, February 23, 2020

Our Oklahoma Roots, February 23, 2020

I’d rather drink muddy water
Sleep out in a hollow log
Than be in California
Treated like a dirty dog

In my family research I continue to marvel at how many of our family members came to California in the 20th Century from Oklahoma. Numerous relatives were either born in Oklahoma or lived there for significant periods of time before settling in California. The list includes my parents Eugene and Maida Shepard, both my Shepard grandparents and their 4 children, both my Gower Grandparents and their 3 children, Cindy's parents Joe and Paula Harris, her father's Grandparents Fred and Mary Harris, as well as her aunt and uncle Juanita and Gene Eeds. This is quite a collection of family members with roots in Oklahoma who settled in California. This influx of Oklahomans to Southern California occurred in the 1930s when a huge migration took place. Many had lost their farms because of the Dust Bowl and were desperate to find jobs.

Harris Family Immigrants from 
Oklahoma to California: Fred and Mary Harris 
with their children Mittie, Sammie Joe and Nikki
The Okie Movement to California. During this period an estimated 100,000 people per year moved westward from Oklahoma and surrounding states. So many flooded into California that the City of Los Angeles decided to take action to stem the tide. The name "Okie" came to be a negative moniker referring to poor immigrants from several states who became an alarming drain on community resources in California. “Okies” were the butt of derogatory jokes and the focus of political campaigns. Politicians blamed them for the state's reeling economy. The impact of all these migrants became a very controversial topic throughout the state. At the top of this post are the words of a popular song migrants sang in response to their poor treatment in California.

For several months in 1936, the Los Angeles Police Department, under the direction of Police Chief Edgar Davis, set up what was called a "Bum Blockade" along California's eastern border. 136 LAPD officers were deployed to 16 different border stations to turn away "Okie immigrants" who could show “no visible means of support.” It sounds surprisingly similar the immigration problem at our international border today. The blockade of 1936 was obviously a tremendous miscarriage of justice. Yet equally surprising was the fact that it received a lot of support, in particular from the Governor of California, Frank Merriam. Even so it did not take long for the illegality of that "Bum Blockade" to catch up with the LAPD. Within just a few months, the State Attorney General's Office got involved, law suits were filed, public opinion rose up against it, and the Blockade ended. 

William and Bura Shepard (right) 
with children Pauline, Eugene and Thelma, 
son-in-law Bill Russell and 
grandchildren Rex and Beverly
The Shepards, Gowers and Harrises In San Diego. It was just a few years later, after the furor died down, that my paternal grandparents, Oklahomans William and Bura Shepard, migrated to California. In the fall of 1940 they, and their family of 9, arrived in San Diego (8 of the 9 are pictured on the left). They came from the panhandle of Oklahoma via Southeast Colorado looking for jobs. Just two years later my maternal Grandparents, Leroy and Nola Gower, with their family of 6 (4 of whom are pictured below), migrated to San Diego from central Oklahoma with similar dreams and aspirations. Later in the 1940s Cindy's grandparents Fred and Mary Harris came from Southern Oklahoma to California with their family (see picture at the top of this post). All of them came west looking to establish better lives than what they had in the drought and depression of Oklahoma.

Last week on February 19, my cousin Hershell Gower celebrated a birthday. Born in 1943, he was the first in our family to be born in San Diego. A year later his brother Jimmie Gower was born. By the time my brother Gary and I came along in 1946 and 1948, the Shepard and Gower families had begun to settle into life in San Diego. The stigma associated with being "Okies" was dying out. Instead of a put-down it had become a lighthearted way in which they referred to themselves. Even so, the fact of being from Oklahoma continued to have an indelible influence on the life of our family.

My grandparents Nola and Leroy Gower
with their children Maida and Vicky Gower
My father Eugene Shepard came to San Diego from Oklahoma in 1940. He lived the last 63 years of his life here on the West Coast, but until his dying day he thought of himself as a country boy from Oklahoma. The same could be said about many of our relatives who came from Oklahoma and settled in San Diego. Being from Oklahoma was a significant part of our family's identity for many years through the middle part of the 20th Century. It was an identity that was reinforced by family friends who had followed a similar path: the Gibbs, Indermills, Kilpatricks and others, some of whom still live in Southern California.

Three Immigrant Okies Remain. I can identify just 3 people alive today who were part of that family migration from Oklahoma to San Diego nearly 80 years ago: my mother Maida Gower Shepard (of Anacortes, Washington), my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd (of El Cajon, California), and my aunt Vicky Gower Johnston (of Chandler, Arizona). Our thanks go to them and their now departed parents who had the foresight to see the possibilities of life on the West Coast.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(his, him, his)

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Trail of Tears, January 31, 2020

We are now about to take our leave
and kind farewell to our native land,
the country the Great Spirit gave our Fathers,
we bid farewell to it and all we hold dear.
~Chief Charles Hicks (Cherokee)
re: the Trail of Tears, Nov. 4, 1838

This is the third in a series of posts about Cindy's Native American heritage. Her known maternal lineage consists of 6 Chickasaw women, including her 2X Great Grandmother Lucy Hawkins Newberry (1824-1907). The oldest Chickasaw ancestor in her lineage is her 3X Great Grandmother Sha-thlock-kee Hawkins, who was born in Mississippi in the early years of the 19th century and who died sometime before 1897.

Lucy Hawkins Newberry
(1824-1907)
In Oklahoma, about 1900
The Indian Removal Act. Lucy Newberry and her mother Sha-thlock-kee Hawkins were two Native American ancestors who were personally affected by the worst event in the history of the Chickasaw Nation. It occurred in the late 1830s when the Chickasaws were forced out of their ancestral home in Mississippi and relocated to Indian Territory in what is today Oklahoma. Before Europeans ever came to North America, the Chickasaw, and many other Native Americans, resided east of the Mississippi River in what is today Northern Mississippi and surrounding areas. As Europeans arrived on North American shores and moved westward from the East Coast they coveted Native American ancestral land for their own agricultural use and financial benefit. As a result the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson which authorized the forced relocation of indigenous people. It was one more way our early European Ancestors exploited Native Americans. Their motivation was the same as the slave traders who forced countless black Africans into slavery.

"The Trail of Tears." Over the decades of the 1830s and 1840s the "Five Civilized Tribes of Native Americans," one of which was the Chickasaw Tribe, were forced to leave the land that had been their home for generations. They were marched by American Soldiers and State Militias westward across the Mississippi River several hundred miles to what is today Oklahoma. There they were given land in exchange for their land in the area around Northern Mississippi. It was a deal that was intended to be fair and equitable, but had a very negative impact on the Chickasaw and other Native American tribes. The route the American Indians were forced to travel came to be called "The Trail of Tears" because of the many hardships they had to endure. Nearly 60,000 total Indians of all five tribes made the arduous trek. They included women, men, children and numerous black slaves who were owned by the Indians. About 10% of all those who began the march died along the way from exposure, starvation or disease. It was a traumatic event that will forever remain etched in the collective psyche of the Native American Tribes who were affected.

Sculpture of Chickasaw Warrior
Chickasaw Cultural Center
Sulphur, Oklahoma
The Chickasaw Nation, of which Cindy is a citizen, has been resilient over the last two centuries since the time of "The Trail of Tears." They have thrived as a people, not only in South Central Oklahoma but throughout the US where many thousands live in the diaspora and continue to proudly claim their Native American heritage.

The official Chickasaw website says that "Today, the Chickasaw Nation is economically strong, culturally vibrant and full of energetic people dedicated to the preservation of family, community and heritage. Business has flourished, programs and services have grown, and the quality of life for all Chickasaws has been greatly enhanced. The Chickasaw Nation uses new technologies and dynamic business strategies in a global market. This unique system is key to the Chickasaw Nation’s efforts to pursue self-sufficiency and self-determination which helps ensure that Chickasaws stay a united and thriving people."

This Native American heritage is one more part of a very diverse and beautiful family tree to which we all belong, a family tree that we lift up and celebrate with great thanksgiving. Others of you who are readers of this blog may also have Native American roots. I would welcome your stories and would be glad to include them in this blog.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Monday, January 20, 2020

A Chickasaw Heritage, January 20, 2020


We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills and the winding streams with tangled growth, as 'wild'. To us it was home. Earth was beautiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery~Chief Standing River

Today is Martin Luther King Day, an occasion to remember one of the greatest Americans. Celebrating MLK is also a reminder of what many call America's "Original Sin," the sin of Slavery. Hand in hand with the historical enslavement of millions of Africans was the treatment of Native Americans by our United States government. Today therefore is an unpleasant but important reminder of a dark chapter in our country's history, a chapter that is all too close to many in our family tree.

Last month I wrote the first of a few postings about my wife Cindy's Native American ancestry. The lineage of her and her mother Paula Hicks Harris (1923-2018) includes 6 generations of Chickasaw women, beginning with her GGG Grandmother Sha-thlock-kee Hawkins. It is a maternal lineage that stretches back 200 years on American soil. Her Chickasaw heritage actually goes back much farther than that but scant records are available for indigenous people whose home was this continent before our Europeans ancestors arrived. Here is a list of those 6 women and their spouses.
  • Cindy Harris Shepard (b. 1948), husband Steve Shepard (b. 1948)
  • Paula Hicks Harris (1923-2018), husband Sammie Joe Harris (1922-1999)
  • Rosa May Krause Hicks (1896-1940), husband Jenkins Arthur Hicks (1895-1967)
  • Frances Newberry Krause (1854-1915), husband Christian Krause Jr. (1846-1909)
  • Lucy Hawkins Newberry (1824-1907), husband Robert Newberry (1826-1886)
  • Sha-thlock-kee Hawkins (d. before 1897), husband (unknown) Hawkins
Frances Newberry Krause (1854-1915)
Cindy's Great Grandmother, about 1880
A Transitional Figure. Cindy's Great Grandmother Frances Newberry Krause (1854-1915) was a key person in this family line as a transitional figure. She was the first in this lineage to have been born in Oklahoma. Her parents were both from Mississippi where the Chickasaw nation was rooted until the 1830s when the Nation was forcibly relocated to Indian Territory in what is today Oklahoma. The account of that historic relocation along "The Trail of Tears," I will write about in an upcoming post.

As a young Native American woman in Southeast Oklahoma, Frances Newberry met and then married a 31 year old German immigrant named Christian Krause who was 8 years her senior. He had only been in Oklahoma a few years before they met and then married in the spring of 1877. Because of his marriage to Frances, Christian applied for and eventually became a citizen by intermarriage of the Chickasaw Nation. He went on to become a successful businessman who owned and operated a cotton gin on Indian Territory in what is today Bryan County, Oklahoma. Frances and husband Christian had an impressive family of 8 children who were all raised on Indian Territory in and around Bryan County. The Krause family, at the turn of the 20th century, included Frances' widowed mother, Lucy Hawkins Newberry, a full blooded Chickasaw.

The family of Cindy's Great Grandparents Christian and Frances Krause
Picture taken in early 1890's in Oklahoma
The Krause-Newberry Family. This family picture, from the early 1890s, shows Christian Krause (seated on the left), his wife Frances Newberry (seated in the middle), her mother Lucy Hawkins (seated on the right), and 6 of their 8 children. One of their daughters had died at 4 years old, several years before this picture was taken. Their youngest daughter, Rosa May Krause (Cindy's Grandmother) had not yet been born at the time of this picture, and may have actually been "on the way" when this picture was taken. Does it appears to you that mother Frances is with child? The other Krause children in this family picture are Martin, Lucy, Johnson and Lewis across the back, and young daughters Margaret and Lena in front.

The father of the family, Christian (who died in 1909), and his wife Frances (who died in 1915) are both buried in Yarbrough Cemetery alongside Lake Texoma, 19 miles southwest of Durant, Oklahoma.

Lucy Hawkins Newberry, Cindy's Great Great Grandmother, is the elderly lady on the right in the family picture above. She was the last person in Cindy's maternal lineage to have been born in Mississippi. She was born there in the Chickasaw Nation in 1824. She was just a young person when the Chickasaws made the arduous trek in the 1830s from Mississippi to Indian Territory in what eventually became the State of Oklahoma in 1907.

Frances Newberry Krause and her mother Lucy Hawkins Newberry appear in the 1900 US Census. The 2020 U.S. Census is coming up this year with its own controversies about what questions should be asked of citizens. It is worth noting how different the Census process was a century ago. In that 1900 Census, apart from the regular questions, were a series of questions called "Special Inquiries Related to Indians." The Census taker asked people if they were living in a "Civilized" or in an "Aboriginal Home." Furthermore they asked couples whether or not they were living in polygamy, and if so, whether or not the two wives of the polygamous household were sisters. Thankfully we've come a long way in our Census taking in the last century.

Cindy's proud maternal lineage is an important part of our family's multi-faceted history. It reminds us once again how deeply rooted we are in American soil.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Continuing Journey, January 16, 2020

She comprehended the perversity of life, 
that in the struggle lies the joy.
~Maya Angelou

A Continuing Journey. It was four years ago this month that my 95 year old mother Maida Shepard of Anacortes, Washington, began showing signs of serious memory issues. These past four years have brought many challenges as we, her family, have sought to provide her with the best care possible as she approaches the century mark of her life. Thankfully Mom's physical and mental health has remained fairly stable in these last 4 years.

Barbara, Gary and Maida Shepard
November, 2019, Anacortes, Wa.
The journey has not been easy, and appears to be far from over. It has strained some family relationships, strengthened others, required significant medical care, been a costly enterprise, and has severely tested our mettle as a family. I think it is safe to say that we will never be the same after this, which is often the outcome when families encounter serious challenges of this sort. But through it all we have remained diligent. Mom's physical, emotional and spiritual well being in these final years continues to be of utmost importance to us. I know that many of you have experienced this same kind of thing within your own family life. So you understand very well what I am talking about.

Mom's primary care givers, her daughter Barbara and her son Gary, deserve our great thanks for all they do. They continue to go above and beyond the call of duty, sometimes at the cost of having to put aside their own needs. Living at a distance, I am especially appreciative of their hard work and careful dedication. They have stretched themselves in ways that show their great respect for family and their genuine love and dedication to our mother. They are a testimony to the exemplary upbringing our mother and father provided them, and the values our parents instilled in all their children.

As this new year of 2020 gets underway I want to express my deepest gratitude to all of you who are readers of The Shepard's Crook. Especially those of you who, from various places around the country have shared your support and well wishes for this particular family journey on which we remain. Your prayers, expressions of concern and good thoughts are appreciated very much. May this new year be a time for growth and happiness for each of us as we face the challenges of the future with grace and strength.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Native American Heritage, December 19, 2019

Merry Christmas to All!

As Christmas approaches, it is time to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It has been a difficult time for our Shepard family with our mother's dementia in Anacortes, and the challenges that brings. Even so we celebrate the joy and happiness of Christmas and the meaning that it brings to our lives.

Merry Christmas from the San Diego Shepards!
Steve, Preslea (with Jasmine), Nathan, Cindy
William and Logan
Our Shepard family here in San Diego -- Nathan, Cindy and me, Preslea, William and Logan -- wishes all of you much happiness in the coming year.

Native American Heritage. 51 years ago this month when Cindy and I married, my knowledge of her Native American ancestry was limited. Over the years I have come to see how important her Chickasaw heritage has been to her, her mother Paula Harris who died last year, and her aunt Juanita Eeds who died this past summer. All three of them -- Cindy, Paula and Juanita -- identified throughout their lives as Native American as a result of a rich family background with deep roots in American soil. Their Chickasaw roots go back to a time before our European ancestors ever came to this continent and named it after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.

Cindy's maternal lineage reveals a strong connection to her Native American ancestry. Here is a six generation lineage that summarizes that connection.
  1. Cindy Harris Shepard (b. 1948), husband Steve Shepard (b. 1948)
  2. Paula Hicks Harris (1923-2018), husband Sammie Joe Harris (1922-1999)
  3. Rosa May Krause Hicks (1896-1940), husband Jenkins Arthur Hicks (1895-1967)
  4. Frances Newberry Krause (1854-1915), husband Christian Krause Jr. (1846-1909)
  5. Lucy Hawkins Newberry (1824-1907), husband Robert Newberry (1826-1886)
  6. Sha-thlock-kee Hawkins (b. about 1800, d. before 1897), husband (unknown) Hawkins
It is traditional in the Chicksaw culture to place great importance on one's maternal ancestry. All 6 women listed above are Native Americans of the Chickasaw Tribe. Cindy and her mother Paula were born in the 20th century of course. Numbers 3 and 4 in the lineage above, Rosa Krause Hicks and her mother Frances Newberry Krause, were born into the Chickasaw Nation in Indian Territory in Oklahoma in the second half of the 19th century. The final two in the above lineage, numbers 5 and 6, are Lucy Hawkins Newberry and her mother Sha-thlock-kee Hawkins. They were born into the Chickasaw Nation in Mississippi in the early 19th century. Not much is known about their ancestors who lived on this continent before the 19th century, other than their history goes back hundreds of years before Europeans arrived.
                     
Cindy's maternal Grandparents
Jenkins ("Jinks") Hicks and Rosa May Krause Hicks
Oklahoma, about 1920
Cindy's mother Paula Hicks Harris and her aunt Juanita Hicks Eeds were both originally from Oklahoma, and were members of the Chickasaw Nation. Their mother, Rosa May Krause (Cindy's grandmother), was born in 1896 in Indian Territory in what is today Southcentral Oklahoma. Rosa was the youngest of the six children of Christian Krause, Jr. and Frances Newberry Krause. 

Christian Krause (Cindy's Great Grandfather) was born in Baden, Germany but came to America as a teenager and settled with his family in Pennsylvania and then Wisconsin. He served in the American Civil War before moving south to Oklahoma about 1870. In 1877 this German immigrant, who had become a successful businessman on the Oklahoma frontier, married Frances Newberry, a full blooded Chickasaw. 

Cindy's grandmother, Rosa Krause Hicks, was therefore half Chickasaw, half German. She was raised in rural Oklahoma in the early years of the 20th century, near the town of Durant. At 18 she married a Texan named Jenkins Arthur Hicks, who was originally from Gainesville, Texas just across the state line from Oklahoma. Rosa and her husband "Jinks" Hicks, as he was called, traveled around Oklahoma and Texas in the 1920s and 1930s looking for work as they raised their 4 children. Among their offspring were two girls who would become Cindy's mother Paula, and her aunt Juanita. Both women proudly carried their Chickasaw heritage with them throughout their lives. 

I have more to share about our Chickasaw connection that I will share in upcoming posts. Others of you may also have Native American heritage. If so I would be glad to hear about it and share it in future posts.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving! Nov 28, 2019

Three Gems of Our Family

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, wherever you may be! This is one of the very best times of the year. In some ways even better than Christmas. Here at Thanksgiving the stress of the holiday is less than it will be next month, while the joy and the gratitude abound.

Sisters Maida Gower Shepard and Vicki Gower Johnston
Anacortes, Washington, 1995
I am grateful at this time of the year for all my family. Even those with whom I don't always agree. I am especially grateful for the three senior most members of our family: my mother Maida Shepard, and my two aunts Thelma Shepard Boyd and Vicki Gower Johnston.

All three of them are gems within our larger family. They represent the generation that went before us. Theirs was a time of hard workers and bold dreamers. They lived through some of the darkest times of the 20th century, including the Great Depression and World War II. They are part of what Tom Brokaw famously called "the greatest generation."

My mother Maida Gower Shepard at 95 lives in her home of 40 years, with her daughter Barbara in Anacortes, Washington. My aunt Vicki Gower Johnston lives in a beautiful home/care facility near her daughter Paula in Chandler, Arizona.

2019 - Thelma Shepard Boyd (left) with daughter 
Kim Boyd Clark (right) and granddaughter Amanda Davis
And my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd recently moved into her own independent living apartment in El Cajon, California, a few blocks from her grandchildren Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz who are very helpful to her. Thelma's daughter Kim and husband Jeff, motor home travelers, are in Virginia for a while with their newest grandchild Cooper and his parents Amanda and Justin.

My Mom and my Aunts represent a combined 264 years of our family's history! They are the present day anchors to our Shepard and Gower history. What a wealth of memories is contained in the lives and hearts of these 3! They experienced our family's movement from Arkansas to Oklahoma and Colorado, to California to Western Washington, and to Kansas, Arizona and elsewhere. And they continue to lead the way in our family lovingly and emotionally. Thanks be to God for the lives of Maida, Vicki and Thelma. They mean more to us than all the thanks we can give. But we thank them anyway, and want them to know they are loved, appreciated and honored during this season of Thanksgiving.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, November 22, 2019

Importance of Extended Family, Nov 22, 2019

The trouble with most of us
is that we'd rather be ruined by praise
than saved by criticism.
~Norman Vincent Peale

I have been writing this family blog for 12 years now. I have enjoyed doing research into our family history and then sharing that information with all of you. It has been a journey that has included some remarkable historical discoveries. It has also given me a larger sense of what it means to be family. In addition it has been an opportunity to connect with relatives that I might never have known. Writing this blog has been a positive, satisfying experience. Thanks to those of you who are regular readers and who have been supportive of this endeavor.

Speaking of Extended Family:
A family gathering in San Diego, Easter, 2014
An Anonymous Troll. I should not have been surprised to discover recently that not everyone views this blog the same way. Recently a reader of The Shepard's Crook has reacted quite negatively. For the last month or so an anonymous "troll" -- as such a person is called online -- has left numerous negative remarks at the bottom of The Shepard's Cook in the comments section. They have been angry, critical comments, quite different from the dozens of other comments that have been posted over the years. Fortunately Blogger is set up so all comments are moderated. They do not get automatically posted. I have mentioned before that I invite readers to post comments at the end of the blog posts. But in order for them to be made available for all to see, they must be respectful, not hateful. Unfortunately the recent anonymous comments have been inappropriate. It is a surprising development that, as much as anything else, is one more sign of the angry times in which we live.

One of the most important life lessons I ever learned was shared with me by a colleague many years ago when we lived in the Bay Area. I have never forgotten it. He said "You can always learn more about yourself from those who criticize you than from those who compliment you." That is simply another way of expressing the truth in the Norman Vincent Peale quote at the top of this post. It is a life lesson that has served me well over the years.

Want To Be Added to The Mailing List? This is a good time for me to mention again that when I send out notices of new posts I am careful with the emailing list that I use. I do not send out notices with everyone's email available for all to see. Instead I "blind copy" everyone so that your email address is protected. It is simply one more way of being respectful of personal information. If you want to be added to the list of people to whom I send notifications of new posts, or if you want to removed from that list, just sent me an email and let me know.

Speaking of Extended Family:
A Reunion in Oklahoma, July, 2009
The Importance of Extended Family. A recent study by Sarah Woods of the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center made an interesting discovery about the effect of family life on physical health. It has long been known that the health of one's marital relationship can have a great affect on one's physical well being. But this recent study discovered something quite surprising. It found that the emotional climate of one's extended family has an even bigger effect on overall health, including the development or worsening of chronic conditions such as stroke and headaches. Here's the take-away from that: As you prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday next week, be grateful for your extended family. And don't underestimate the importance of their place in your well being. And your place in theirs.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

That Great Mosaic, November 13, 2019

Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). Last Friday was the anniversary of the birth of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. She was one of the most influential people in our entire family. A woman small in stature, she was a spiritual giant in our Shepard family. She was the only person in our ancestral tree who was raised in Indiana, migrated to Beaver County, Oklahoma, and then settled with her family in San Diego where she lived the biggest part of her life. Her last few years were spent in Anacortes, Washington with her son Eugene Shepard and his family. She and husband William are buried today in San Diego's Greenwood Cemetery.

William and Bura Davis Shepard
San Diego, 1960s
When I remember my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard I always think of her faithful devotion to the Church of Christ. Her father was James Davis and her mother was Callie Spear Davis. The Davises and the Spears were Church of Christ families who migrated to Indiana from Southeastern Ohio about the time of the Civil War. They were among the founders of the New Union Church just outside Spencer, Indiana. James and Callie brought their faith with them when they settled in Indiana. From her childhood my Grandmother Bura developed that same love and devotion to the Church. It was part of the DNA she inherited from both the Davises and the Spears, and that she passed on religiously (so to speak) to her descendants.

I have not found many details about the church life of the Spears and the Davises in Ohio. But I do know that Monroe County, Ohio where they lived in the early to mid 19th century was in the very region where the Restoration movement originated. The ancestral home of the Spears and Davises in Monroe County was just outside the County Seat of Woodsfield, where there is an historic Restoration Movement congregation that began in pre-Civil War days. Alexander Campbell himself preached at the dedication of the congregation in 1855. Because of grandmother Bura and her Davis and Spear kinfolk, we have a number of family members today who can trace our lineage in the Restoration Movement back for 6, 7, even 8 generations.

On this month of the 123rd anniversary of my grandmother's birth, I am grateful for her life and that of her husband William Shepard. Their love and dedication to their family and their faith is a treasured legacy that we hold dear.

Karl Wilk's High School Photo
Granite Hills High, 1987
Karl Frederickpaul Wilk (1969-1997). One of William and Bura's great grandchildren was Karl Frederickpaul Wilk. He was the son of my cousin Beverly Russell Wilk and her husband Phil Wilk. Had she lived, cousin Bev would have turned 80 years old in April of this year. Unfortunately she died at just 35 years old of an unexpected brain aneurism. When she died, she left her 39 year old husband with two youngsters: a 1 year old daughter, Shannon, and a 5 year old son, Karl. It was to Phil's great credit that he did such a good job of being a single parent for many years. He was assisted in raising his children by grandmother Bura Shepard who, after the death of granddad William, lived with Phil and his family for several years.

Last Tuesday would have been Karl's 50th birthday. His unfortunate death occurred 22 years old in San Diego. Substance abuse was his downfall, resulting in him taking his own life. He died here in San Diego way too young at just 27 years old, a handsome young man full of promise and hope. Like others in our family tree, his life is a cautionary tale, reminding us that life is fragile and the dangers are many. Karl's sister and niece, Shannon and Emma Wilk, live in Atchison, Kansas. Shannon shared with me recently some thoughts on the life of her brother Karl.

Emma and Shannon Wilk
Atchison, Kansas 2019
"I think of him often. I tell my daughter about him all the time. Little things, like his favorite music, movies he liked. My memories are full of the good times. Even the ones of him picking on me. He was my big brother, and I miss him terribly. He loved music, his friends and loved to make you laugh. Karl will always be on my mind. Never a day goes by that I don't think of him."

Karl and Shannon's grandparents were my aunt and uncle, Pauline Shepard Russell (1916-2000) and her husband Bill Russell (1908-1997). Uncle Bill died in the summer of 1997 at 88 years old, just three months before Karl took his own life.

We would like to think that all our family stories are positive ones. But they are not. We all know that's the way life is. Some family stories are not pleasant to recall, even though we can and do remember, and learn from, the parts of those stories that are positive and insightful. It reminds me once again that family research sometimes leaves one uneasy and discomforted. But it is all part of that great mosaic we call our family.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, November 01, 2019

One Saint's Day, Nov 1, 2019


For millions of people today is All Saints Day. But for me and many others, this day of my mother's birthday can be rightly named “One Saints Day.” As the oldest member of our family my mom Maida Gower Shepard has been a beloved member of our clan for 95 years. She has always had the status of Sainthood in my book. 

Maida Gower Shepard on her 95th Birthday
with Barbara, Gary and Steve Shepard
Today her family honors her for being a generous, caring, spiritual force in our family. We gladly and joyfully celebrate her for being the glue that has held our family together for all these many years. And we do that remembering our Dad Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) who was her life partner for 58 wonderful years until his death 16 years ago. 

First and foremost we celebrate Mom today for being a caring parent of her 6 children to whom she has been, and continues to be, an emotional and spiritual guide. She has had one or more of her children living with her for the last 73 years, ever since the day their first child Gary was born in 1946. Their kids have come and gone numerous times over all those years, but through it all mom and dad created a loving and generous home where all felt welcome. 

We also celebrate mom on her birthday today for being devoted to her whole family. Their home in Anacortes was the place her mother Nola Shannon Gower spent the last few years of her life until her death in 2004. And before that theirs was the home for Dad’s mother Bura Davis Shepard for the last years of her life until she passed away in 1986.

And of course we celebrate the fact that Mom has made it to the age of 95. That doesn’t happen by accident. You don't get to be 95 without taking good care of yourself and living a healthy, wholesome life. We don't know what God has in mind for the future of our dear mother, but we do know that by the grace of God she will be well cared for, in this life and into the next. For now we joyfully have her with us for yet another birthday, and we continue to cherish every day that we are blessed by her presence.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Celebrating 95 Years, October 26, 2019

Celebrating Maida Gower Shepard at 95

Next Friday, November 1, my mother Maida Gower Shepard will turn 95 years old, which is quite a milestone. Her family plans to have a small, quiet celebration on her actual birthday, but then will have an open house at mom's Church on Saturday afternoon, November 2, to which all family and friends are invited. Assuming mom is up to it, the Open House will be an opportunity to visit with her and celebrate this special day.

Maida Gower Shepard with husband Eugene Shepard 
and his brother Elmer Shepard, San Diego, 1945 
She was born on All Saints Day in 1924 in Mountain View, Arkansas, the second child of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. She married Navy man Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) in San Diego in 1945 and spent 58 wonderful years with him, first in San Diego then in Anacortes, Washington. Their life together has resulted in 6 children, 9 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren, and 2 great great grandchildren.

Not many things in life get to be 95, human or otherwise. Not airplanes, boats, animals, relationships, computers, furniture or any number of other items. Some things might be able to survive that long if well cared for, like cars, institutions, buildings and churches. But even if they make it to 95, it is somewhat extraordinary. Do you live in a house that is 95 years old? I never have. We do attend a local Church that is over 95 years old, but even that is cause for celebration.

Maida with daughter Barbara and son Russ
on Wildwood Lane, earlier this year.
Only 13% of American women, and only 7% of American men live to be 95. Being from the class of 1924, mom has been in good company. Others born that same year include President Jimmy Carter, President George H. W. Bush, Gloria Vanderbilt, Marlon Brando, Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver, Lauren Bacall, and Lee Iococca. Mom is from a family of people who tend to live long lives. Her mother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004) lived to be 101 years old. Nola actually lived so long her family tended to forget the year she was born. Some swore she was born in 1902. But the historical record is very clear that she was born in 1903. My mom's grandmother Finetta Dearien Shannon (1861-1960) lived just 3 months short of 100 years. Her aunt Peggy Shannon Hutson (1885-1981) lived to be 95.

Longevity is not a given, nor is it necessarily a birthright. Staying healthy makes a huge difference. Mom has lived a healthy lifestyle which has contributed to her being able to live 95 years. This despite the fact that for years she breathed the second hand smoke of her father Leroy Gower. He was a life long smoker who died of lung disease at 75.

Kambree and Mandi Aquiningoc
June 2019
Celebrating 95 years is always a two-sided affair. At that age, the years clearly have taken their toll on a person mentally and physically. Yet it is also a wonderful time of honoring, celebrating, and proudly affirming a dear family member whose life is very deserving of all the accolades she receives.

Birthday Wishes today to Mandi Aquiningoc! One of mom's Great Grandchildren is Mandi Aquiningoc of Weatherford, Texas whose 27th birthday is today. Mandi is the mother of 6 year old Kambree, who is one of mom's two great great grandchildren. Happy 27th Birthday to Mandi!
- - -
Steve Shepard