Thursday, September 16, 2010

Celebrating A Century Long Family Journey, September 16

When a society or a civilization perishes,
one condition can always be found.
They forgot where they came from.
~Carl Sandburg

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

Greeting from home once again in San Diego, a city that has been home to some of our Shepard family since September, 1940.

Gayle, Alberta and parents Sadie (Shepard) and Levy Pruett
70 years ago this month William and Bura Shepard moved from Two Buttes, Colorado to San Diego. The entire Shepard clan made the move to California, except for Will's sister Sadie Shepard Pruett (see first picture). She had remained in Oklahoma with husband Levy Pruett and their children. Bura, of course, left most of her Davis family behind in Oklahoma and Colorado.

The Shepards decided to move to California at the invitation of some Colorado family friends named Suter who had moved to San Diego a few years earlier. The Suters had opened a boarding house for men who were employed in the war effort, and needed some help managing a second boarding house. Will and Bura jumped at the opportunity. At least it was gainful employment, something in short supply where they had been living in Colorado.

At first it was just Will and Bura, with their children Elmer, Eugene and Thelma (see Thelma's picture below), who made the move to the west coast. The next year, 1941, Eugene drove back to Colorado to get his older sister Pauline and her two children, Rex and Beverly (see picture below). Her husband Bill Russell, who was still recovering from a bone disease that had required amputation of one leg, joined them a little later.

Rex, Beverly and Thelma, early 1940s, San Diego
When the family settled in San Diego it concluded a century-long, westward journey of three generations of William Shepards. The first William Shepard (1835-1862), our earliest known Shepard ancestor, moved 300 miles westward from his birthplace in Belmont County, Ohio, to Wabash, Indiana around 1850. His son William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915), moved 990 miles further west from Indiana, via Madison County, Illinois, to Beaver County, Oklahoma just after the turn of the 20th century. 

William Elmer's son, also named William Shepard (1888-1976), moved with his family from Illinois to Oklahoma, then moved his own wife and children 160 miles to Southeast Colorado. In 1940, they completed the last leg of the Shepard westward migration when they traveled the 1150 miles from Two Buttes, Colorado to San Diego. The Shepard family migration from Eastern Ohio in 1835 to the West Coast was complete.

The move itself must have been an adventure. My uncle Elmer Shepard, reporting through his son Dane, tells me they piled into a used four-door Dodge sedan that Will had purchased after selling his work truck in Colorado, leaving most of their belongings behind. 

In 1940 there were no Interstate Highways. And there were many more lonely stretches of barren southwest landscape than there are today. The best they could do, especially as they got close to San Diego, was Highway 8, which only a few years earlier had been paved, after being a "plank road" across the California desert. 

These days you can can drive those 1,150 miles entirely on freeway, and you can do it in about 24 hours, if you are hardy enough (like Jeff Clark, for example!). Back then it would have taken a couple of days, at best. Without air conditioning or many other amenities that we take for granted today.

I'll say more about this move in my next post. For now it is a time to celebrate the foresight and willingness of Will and Bura who uprooted their family and moved to the West Coast in September, 70 years ago. I am grateful they did.
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