Thursday, July 04, 2019

An All American Couple, July 4, 2019

You are the fairy tale told by your ancestors.
~Toba Beta

On this Independence Day holiday there is no better way to celebrate our family history than to honor the lives of John Wright (1716-1789) and Rachel Wells Wright (1720-1771), my 6X Great Grandparents. I have written about their fascinating life journey in my last several posts. They were a remarkable couple who left an indelible mark on our county, especially when considered in the light of our nation's 243rd birthday celebration.

An Influence Still Felt Today. Rachel Wells was originally from Anne Arundel County, Maryland just east of what is today Washington D.C., while John Wright was from Chester Co., Pennsylvania. Married in 1737 in Maryland, they were devout Quakers and became the parents of 13 children. The Quakers were one of the most popular religious groups in early America and strongly influenced the religious and civil life of our country in many ways. Rachel and John helped settle this great nation of ours. They were trailblazing pioneers, steadfast religious leaders, devoted parents, and exemplary citizens who helped build strong communities wherever they lived. John, as a widower in his 50s, even fought in the American Revolution and shared in the happiness of the new nation. Rachel died in 1771 at 51, just a few years short of the Revolution. 

American Parents Par Excellence. The life journey of John and Rachel took them from Frederick, Maryland to Cane Creek North Carolina to Newberry, South Carolina. They helped found communities every step of the way as they journeyed into the unsettled regions of what eventually became the United States. The impact of their lives continued to be felt long after they were gone. George Washington may be known as the father of our country, but John and Rachel are truly all-american parents par excellence within our Family Tree. They had 13 children, all of whom grew up, married and had families of their own. In a day of disease, danger, and short life expectancy, to nurture all 13 children from birth to adulthood was a remarkable thing in itself for the 18th century

To get a feel for the impact they have made on our nation, think about this: if all the individual families of John and Rachel's descendants averaged just 3 children per couple (a conservative estimate) they would have over 250,000 descendants in their family tree today. (Crunch the numbers yourself: it's pretty amazing.) Most of those descendants born over the last 10 generations have lived out their lives and died, of course. But theoretically that would still leave Rachel and John with nearly 100,000 potential descendants alive today. This is of course just a rough estimate of the numbers on my part. Even so, there is no doubt that early American ancestors John and Rachel Wright contributed in immeasurable ways to the founding of America and its growth across this continent. 

Deserving of Special Honor. On this July 4th Holiday as you celebrate the birth of our great nation, pause and say a prayer of gratitude for John and Rachel Wright, to whom we owe so much. They are deserving of special honor.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Strong Amidst Adversity, June 29, 2019

The love of family
and the admiration of friends
is much more important
than wealth and privilege.
~Charles Kuralt

In my previous two posts I wrote about my ancestors John and Rachel Wright, pioneers of early America and Quaker Church leaders, first in Maryland, then in North Carolina. After nearly 15 years in North Carolina, John and Rachel Wright were compelled to move to South Carolina. At the time of their decision to move they were the parents of 13 children between the ages of 6 and 26 years old. Part of the reason the Wright family moved was because of a serious conflict that erupted in their Quaker fellowship with Rachel at the center. The dustup turned out to be Rachel's opportunity to show her strength amidst serious adversity.

Pacifism and The Regulator Movement. The conflict had to do with careful adherence to pacifism, one of the key beliefs of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Their members were not allowed to take up arms for any cause. Two years ago I wrote in this blog about another Quaker ancestor unrelated to the Wrights: 5X Great Grandfather Nathan Gatchell (1756-1813). During the Revolutionary War he refused military service as a faithful Quaker. He did however support the war effort by cleaning the guns of the colonists who did fight. But even that activity was too much for his pacifist Quaker fellowship and he was "disowned" by them as a result.

The Cane Creek Monthly Meeting, North Carolina
18th Century home of ancestors John and Rachel Wright
In the 1760s, during the time Rachel and John Wright lived in Cane Creek, North Carolina, the pacifism of the Quakers came under fire, so to speak. The new communities of the North Carolina wilderness were being taxed outrageously by corrupt local judges and sheriffs. As a result The Regulator Movement arose, an historic grassroots uprising that resisted unfair taxation, and at times included armed resistance. One of the key people of The Regulator Movement was a fellow named Herman Husband, a charismatic figure and natural leader who happened to be a member of the same Quaker fellowship as Rachel Wright. Herman Husband is known for much more than just this conflict with Rachel. He is also an important figure in North Carolina history, especially relating to The Regulator Movement of the 1760s. He and Rachel clashed over the extent to which the pacifist Quakers could be a part of the Regulator Movement.

A Church Quarrel and What Resulted is a 1914 article written by Julia White (published by Friends Historical Association) which gives details of this conflict among the Quakers concerning Rachel. She was accused of some improprieties in her work as a Quaker Minister which resulted in the local Quaker congregation (the Monthly Meeting) refusing to authorize her ministry. She and Herman Husband also exchanged some sharp and biting words with each other that Rachel had to apologize for later. It was an apology that some considered disingenuous, which made matters even worse. Her vocal outburst may have contributed to the local congregation's decision against Rachel. She remained adamant however about defending herself and appealed to a higher Quaker council (the Quarterly Meeting) which overturned her congregation's decision. They said it was a poorly made decision and that Rachel should be an authorized minister. Rachel had been vindicated. But the congregation was left in turmoil. One of the angry factions in her local church appealed to the highest Quaker body (the Yearly Meeting) which overturned the decision of the Quarterly Meeting! Rachel was once again un-authorized as a Quaker minister. But after further review, the Yearly Meeting reconsidered and granted Rachel her authorization for ministry in March of 1767.

It is interesting to note that the authorization was not just given to her but to her "and her children," according to the 1914 article. Not only was Rachel a Quaker minister, two of her and John's daughters were also Quaker ministers, Charity Wright Cook (1745-1822) and Susannah Wright Hollingsworth (1755-1830). They may have been as influential as Rachel herself. In 1981 Charity's life story was documented in a book titled Charity Cook: A Liberated Woman (by Algie Newlin, published by Friends United Press.

Gritty, Tough and Scrappy. This part of Rachel Wright's story tells us even more about this rugged relative of ours. She was not just a pioneer on the American frontier, not just a devoted wife and mother, and not just a good Quaker. She was all of that but much more. She was a gritty character, a fighter for truth and justice who resisted those who questioned her credibility. She refused to be bullied by powerful men. She was tough and scrappy, able to hold her own against those who opposed her.

We are very fortunate to have such extensive information about Rachel, a colorful ancestor whose life was so compelling and who lived nearly 300 years ago. Fortunately the Quakers were very good at keeping detailed records and for that we can be grateful. Aside from those who died for their country, I can think of no finer hero among all our ancestors than scrappy Rachel Wells Wright. 

It was during their difficult time of church turmoil that John and Rachel Wright and their family relocated to a Quaker colony in Newberry, South Carolina, 200 miles south of where they lived in North Carolina. In my next post I will write about the next chapter in the life of Rachel and John.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Driving Spiritual Force, June 22, 2019

Do not fear truth. 
I try from the bottom of my heart 
to do what truth dictates, 
if it leads me to be a Quaker or not.
~ Elizabeth Fry

In my last post I wrote about my 6X Great Grandparents John Wright and Rachel Wells Wright, who are related to me through my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. Bura's grandmother was Malinda Wright Davis (1846-1920).  Malinda's GG Grandparents, John and Rachel Wright, were early colonial Quaker pioneers on the East Coast. They met and married about 1737 while their families were living in a Quaker Community near the town of Frederick, Maryland.

The Pioneering Impulse. In 1749 Rachel and John with their first 7 children relocated from their home in Maryland to the wilderness of North Carolina. Like many Colonialists they were motivated by the pioneering impulse to settle this new land of promise. But the Wrights were equally motivated by the drive to spread the Quaker faith into the wilderness. John and Rachel had been key leaders in their church community (the Fairfax Monthly Meeting) in Maryland, and continued to be among the staunch Quaker faithful as they journeyed onward.

To travel from Maryland into North Carolina in 18th Century Colonial America was a huge undertaking for the Wrights, especially with 7 children between the ages of 5 and 15 years old. The dangers of land travel were many, including poor roads, few bridges, threats of Indian raids and harsh weather. The most common mode of travel in that day was by boat, which may have been how they made their way southward. Traveling by boat would also explain why their first living location in North Carolina was on the Atlantic coast, at a Quaker community at Carver's Creek, north of Wilmington. The historical records of the Carver's Creek Monthly Meeting show that the Wrights were welcomed there in May, 1749. They did not remain at Carver's Creek very long. In 1751 Rachel and John, following the call of the wilderness and the impulse to further the Christian cause, took their family and moved away from the coast and into the untamed Carolina wilderness.

200 Miles On Horseback. They settled in the sparsely populated Cane Creek area. They wrote to the North Carolina Quaker oversight body (a Quarterly Meeting held at Little River) asking for permission to establish a Monthly Meeting in their new location. The Quakers were well organized and required authorization before a new faith community could be established. As was often the case in matters like this, Church bureaucracy moved slowly. (Some things never change!) According to "The Carolina Quaker Experience" (by Seth Hinshaw, 1984) Rachel and new neighbor Abigail Pike became impatient waiting for a response so they traveled the 200 miles to meet in person with the Quarterly Meeting at Little River. Leaving husband John at home with the 7 children, Rachel and friend Abigail and some other friends traveled on horseback all the way to Little River. It is hard to imagine the many dangers they encountered and the physical stamina required to make this long journey. Thankfully it was a successful mission. At their session with the Quarterly Meeting authorization was given and Rachel and Abigail returned to their families. In October 1751 they became charter members of the newly formed Cane Creek Monthly Meeting.

18th Century Quaker Record, listing the 13 children 
of John and Rachel Wright
A Driving Spiritual Force. This was one more instance of 6X Great Grandmother Rachel Wells Wright showing her strength of character, her healthy body and spirit, her leadership abilities, her adventurous demeanor, and her persistent Christian faith. The American frontier was the perfect place for strong women like Rachel Wright who worked tirelessly for the betterment of their families and their communities. 18th Century Rachel Wells is yet another woman in our family history who admirably carried the banner of spiritual leadership in her family. Rachel reminds me of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard who in the 20th Century was the driving spiritual force in her family. As far as I know my grandmother Bura never knew about her 4X Great Grandmother Rachel Wells Wright. But if she had she would have proudly claimed her as kin.

Rachel and husband John Wright remained for almost 15 years at Cane Creek in what became Orange County, North Carolina. It was during their time there that they added 6 more children to their family, making a total of 13. The first of the Wright children to be born in North Carolina was Sarah Wright (1749-1789), the one from whom we are directly descended. Life was good for the Wrights in the years they were at Cane Creek, at least as good as they could expect being pioneers on the rugged frontier. But as fate would have it they encountered some difficult situations along the way. A serious conflict arose within the Cane Creek Monthly Meeting with Rachel at the center. It was a conflict that altered the course of their lives. That part of the family story I will tell in my next post.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 02, 2019

A Day for Remembering, June 2, 2019

True love stories never have endings. 
~Richard Bach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Thinking of Moms/Celebrating Logan! May 15, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Bright Light of Exemplary Lives, April 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Reynolds Connection, April 20, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Siblings Day, April 10, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Women of Perserverance, March 23, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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