Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Valentines Of a Unique Sort, February 26, 2013

Hold to the now, the here,
through which all future
plunges to the past.
~James Joyce

Hello Family and Friends,

Family Reunion This Summer. Plans are being made for a family reunion this summer in Anacortes, Washington on Saturday, August 10. All Shepard, Davis and Gower family members, friends and relatives are invited to attend. More specifics will be provided here as the date draws near.

Happy Birthday Darrell. Tomorrow is the birthday of my brother Darrell Shepard of Kirkland, Washington. Darrell was born here in San Diego back in 1954, the 6th grandchild of Will and Bura Davis Shepard, and the 8th grandchild of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Today Darrell and his wife Mary Medina Shepard live in the Seattle area and are the proud parents of three. This summer they will be grandparents for the first time.

Darrell: "So here it is again. That time of year. Steve wanting to announce to the whole world and reminding me that I am yet another year older and that much closer to death. Thank you Steve for this wonderful service you provide for us.

"It's like Woody Allen said: The thought of death doesn't bother me. I just don't want to be there when it happens. All kidding aside, I have finally abandoned my neurosis regarding aging. You can't fight it. And it beats the alternative. So please feel free to announce to the world my age. Go ahead. I really don't mind. Just don't expect me to utter that number. Actually I have found the fountain of youth. It's name is music. Whether I am playing alone or performing in a room of 200 people, I am always 17 again when I play the guitar. Sheer magic!"

The first picture shows Darrell and his mother Maida Gower Shepard in a picture that was taken last spring. Inset are two other pictures of Darrell, the one on the left from 1962, the one on the right from 1978.

Valentines of a Unique Sort. Before this month of Valentines Day is over I want to share with you about some ancestors who were Valentines of a unique sort. Abel Gower and Rachel Lay were teenagers who fell in love and sought to get married in Roane County, Tennessee almost 200 years ago. The custom was for a young couple to join in a "marriage bond" when they got engaged. Each family was required to promise a certain amount of money to show good faith, as a promise that the bride and groom were both eligible for marriage.

One of the oldest family documents of any sort that I have, is a copy of the marriage bond between my GGGG grandparents Abel Gower and Rachel Lay who were only 16 at the time of their engagement. Rachel's father James Lay, and Abel Gower himself, signed the marriage bond for $1,200 on February 20, 1816. If for any reason either one of them could not legally or morally get married, they would forfeit the money, no small amount for that time. $1,200 was the average ANNUAL salary in the early 1800s.

This second image is a copy of this marriage bond from 1816, and is available online thanks to 4th cousin Jean Gowers Loveall, with whom I have recently connected online. This 197 year old document is very difficult to read, so here is what it says:

"Know all men by these presents, that Abel Gower and James Lay are held and firmly bound unto Joseph McMinn, Governor of the State of Tennessee and his successors in office, in the sum of Twelve Hundred and fifty dollars, to be void on condition that there be no lawful cause to prevent a marriage shortly intended to be solemnized between Abel Gower and Rachel Lay otherwise to remain in full force. Witness our hands and seals this 20th day of February, 1816."

The document is then signed by Abel Gower and Rachel's father James Lay, and their seals affixed. Note that young Abel's mark was just an X, indicating he was not able to write.

On February 21, 1816, the day after the marriage bond was executed, Abel and Rachel were married in Roane County, Tennessee. They lived together for 44 years, raising 9 children in Tennessee. After moving to Mississippi and then Izard County, Arkansas, they lived their last days in Comanche, Texas where Rachel died in 1860. Abel died there 10 years later.

One of their grandchildren was Leroy Gower (1854-1909) who, along with his wife Ellen Taylor Gower, were among the first Gowers in Stone County, Arkansas. Read more about them and see their picture here. This Leroy Gower was the grandfather of my grandfather Leroy Ertin Gower (1899-1974), who many of us remember.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy Days from Arizona to Missouri, February 19, 2013

If we lose love and self-respect for each other,
this is how we finally die.
~Maya Angelou

Hello Family and Friends,

Hershell's Birthday. 70 years ago today my cousin Hershell Orley Gower was born here in San Diego to Hendrix and Starlene Bass Gower. Hershell is the oldest grandchild of my grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. He was born the year after the Gowers arrived in San Diego and is therefore the first of all the Gower descendants to be born in California. Hershell's arrival began a steady stream of births of Gower grandchildren: 12 over the next 19 years.

Hershell and his wife Shelly live today in Bullhead City, Arizona. The first picture which was taken last year shows my cousin Hershell relaxing and enjoying himself in his happy place. Happy Birthday Hershell!

Happy Birthday Terry. Tomorrow is the birthday of my uncle Terry Boyd of Blue Springs, Mo. Terry and his wife Thelma Shepard Boyd moved from Gallup, New Mexico to Missouri last summer and seem to be doing well living close to their daughter Kim Boyd Clark and her family.

The second picture shows Kim and her smiling father Terry back in 1962 when Kim was less than a year old. The third picture shows Terry and Thelma last summer when in Oklahoma on their way from New Mexico to Missouri. Thanks to Dane Shepard for this picture.  

Kim: "My dad is doing okay on chemotherapy. It makes him sick for the day and a little more tired than normal. He is in good spirits and likes company and enjoys swimming at the YMCA several days a week. He likes going out to dinner. He has been eating steak and lobster since he has people to eat with. My mom just eats soup. For his birthday dinner he will probably pick Longhorn Steak House and Desiree will make him German Chocolate Cake, his favorite. My mom and dad are very happy in Missouri. They are so amazed about how friendly people are here. They live about 10 minutes from us.

"The twins at 10 months old are doing better and are getting around more and more. Isaac can get around all over the down stairs. He's under your feet before you know it. Dominic moves backwards so he never gets very far. I'm sure it won't be too long until they will be pretty mobile. Damian is enjoying school and he is playing basketball. Ciara and Ashlyn both are doing well in school and are getting ready to play soccer very soon. Jeremy will be Ashlyn's soccer team coach."

Speaking of grandchildren: Congratulations to Jerry and Cathrina Clark on the birth of another grandchild, Georgia, who was born in Amarillo. This is #4 for Cathrina to go along with Jerry's 6, making a total of 10 together. As Jerry says, "We are prolific!"
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Valentines Day! Feb 13, 2013

To love another person
is to see the face of God.
~Victor Hugo (Les Mis)

Hello Family and Friends,

Happy Valentines Day tomorrow and greetings to all of you from San Diego! Tomorrow is the day of that great american celebration of love and affection, which often finds its best expression in family relationships. "Except when it doesn't," the realist would say. And so it is that even in family relationships we sometimes fall woefully short. However, we continue to reach for that highest form of love.

Happy Birthday to Gloria! 60 years ago today my cousin Gloria Harrell Watson was born here in San Diego. The first picture, taken in the 1990s, shows Gloria on the right, with Grandma Nola Gower in the middle, and Aurora Agnibene Gower on the left (the wife of Nola's son Hank).

Gloria is the older sister of David and Michael Harrell and the younger sister of Paula Tuzzolino whose birthday we celebrated last week. Gloria, who graduated from High School in San Diego, has lived for over 30 years now in Knoxville, Tennessee. She is one of the 12 grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, and is the daughter of Vicki Gower Johnston of Oak Harbor, Washington.

Gloria tells me that life is treating her well apart from some health concerns. She is retired and can't imagine living anywhere besides Tennessee. She is enjoying life and plans to get together with several friends for a fun birthday dinner. We wish her good health and much happiness!

Happy Valentine's Day! The following is an updated Valentine Photo presentation, showing a wide variety of family members smooching or otherwise cuddling up to each other, to the song Strange Love, by Karen O. Thanks (apologies?) to those of you from whom I snatched pictures off of Facebook. Click on the link below, or, if that doesn't work, select this link

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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A 1920 Picture Revisited, February 7, 2013

History cannot give us a program for the future,
but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves
and of our common humanity
so that we can better face the future.
~Robert Penn Warren

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you from the mountains of Northern California where Cindy and I are spending a few days enjoying the brisk mountain air in this beautiful Sierra setting.

Happy Birthday Paula. Today is the birthday of my cousin Paula Tuzzolino, daughter of Vicki Gower Johnston. She is one of the 12 grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Paula is originally from San Diego, but lives today with husband Frank in Sun Lakes, Arizona. 

I talked to Paula yesterday and she tells me that she is doing well, enjoying retirement and keeping busy with various church and community activities. Most of the time she and Frank are in Arizona but they return to Washington for part of each summer, where they have family. 

Paula is the mother of Heather Robson Cotten, and the proud grandmother of Tori and Lexi Cotten, who live in San Antonio, Texas. The first picture shows Paula when she visited the hospital for the birth of her granddaughter Lexi, sporting sterile hospital garb.

A 1920 Picture Revisited. Last week I posted a 1920 picture of my Shepard grandparents in front of some farm machinery. I tried my best to describe the picture and the people in it. Since then, however, while searching the internet, I found some more specific information about that picture and the people. Interestingly it was information from a blog post I wrote 5 years ago! (Is that scary or what?)

I mentioned in The Shepard's Crook in September, 2008 that I had received this picture from my cousin Dane Shepard of Newcastle, Oklahoma. Back in 2008 Dane had talked to his dad Elmer (who passed away just last year) who had related to him the following details of this picture (I am including the picture again here; click on it for a larger view):

"It was taken in July of 1920 and features a threshing rig hooked up to a steam tractor/engine owned by Grandad (William Shepard). He (Grandad) is standing above the rest. The two men to his right are Lawrence Davis (left) and Jess Davis (right). On the ground (right to left) are Mrs. Erickson (a Swede from Illinois), Gram (Bura) holding Elmer, Gayle Pruett (girl's head), Pauline next to her, Elvira, an unknown woman, Tillie Erickson in back, and an unknown man."

What I did not realize back in 2008 was that the farm machinery in the picture had been bequeathed to our grandfather William Shepard by his father William Elmer Shepard. It was part of William Elmer's will that I only became aware of in recent weeks.

Also of interest to me is the woman on the left in the picture above. When Dane's father Elmer described the picture above he was unable to identify her. I have another picture in which she appears that was taken at the same time and shows her sitting next to grandad with his arm around her.

Who was she? Grandad's mother Elvira had a few sisters but none of them were either alive in 1920, or would have been the age of the woman in the picture. It is evident from the picture that grandad and she were quite familiar with each other.  Grandad was one who enjoyed a good laugh, and probably relished the humor of this picture. Whether Gram did is another question altogether.
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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Happy Ground Hog Day! February 2, 2013

Home is people. Not a place.
If you go back there after the people are gone,
then all you can see is what is not there any more.
~Robin Hobb

Hello Family and Friends,

Happy Ground Hog Day! Today is the midpoint between Dec 21 and March 21, the day when winter is half over. We are now closer to the beginning of spring than the beginning of winter.

Happy Birthday Cindy! Today is the birthday of one of the Cindy Shepard's in our family -- this one being Cindy Ann Dillon Shepard, wife of my brother Gary Shepard of Oak Harbor, Washington.

Cindy: I am not sure what to say about my upcoming birthday. No big plans except I get my yearly steak and lobster dinner --  yay! I thank the good Lord every day I wake up now. We are doing well, except Gary has been down with the ikkies for close to 3 weeks now but he’s getting better. All is well here and we love and miss everyone very much and hope to see lots of faces at the family reunion this summer.

The first picture, taken last spring in Oak Harbor, Washington, shows Cindy on the right with her sister-in-law Barbara and her brother-in-law Russell.

William Elmer Shepard. On this day, 151 years ago my Ggrandfather William Elmer Shepard was born in Wabash, Indiana. He was born in 1862, the same year his father William Shepard died in the Civil War. William Elmer died in 1915 in Beaver County, Oklahoma just 4 months before his son William married a young 18 year old in his church named Bura Davis.

I mentioned William Elmer in my post last week because of a 1937 Court Case in which his will was in question. For the record, here is the last will and testament of my Ggrandfather William Elmer Shepard, as it appears in the summary of the 1937 Court Case.

- - -

1. I direct that all my just debts and funeral expenses be paid out of my personal property as soon as convenient after my decease.

2. I hereby give and bequeath to my wife Elvira Shepard all the following property, to wit: All my real and personal property except as hereinafter otherwise willed by this instrument and $1.000 in a certain insurance policy as per the conditions thereof. All of said personal property to be sold by her and the proceeds invested for her benefit until her death, and she shall have the right to sell the real property if she so desires and apply said proceeds as in the case of the personal property, and all other property, if any, not given and bequeathed to my son and daughter hereinafter named.

3. I also give and bequeath to my son William Shepard all farm machinery now on my place and $500 of a certain insurance policy as per the conditions thereof.

4. I also give and bequeath to my daughter Sadie J. Pruett all the following property, to wit: two steer calves now on my place and $500 of a certain insurance policy as per the conditions thereof.

I hereby nominate, constitute and appoint Elvira Shepard of Logan, Okla., my wife, sole executor of this my last will and testament, without bond.

- - -

It is a very simple document, reminding us that these were simple, hard working farm folk. In this will William Elmer left to his son William (26 when his father died), his farm machinery and $500 of an insurance policy. To his daughter Sadie (23 when her father died), he left two steer calves and $500 of an insurance policy. Everything else he left to his wife Elvira Owens Shepard, who outlived her husband by almost 17 years.

In an audio recording made about 1975, my grandfather William Shepard says that his father William Elmer died of some kind of stomach ailment ("cancer" he called it). Son William believed that it was brought on either by chewing tobacco, or as the result of being kicked in the pit of his stomach by a mule. In any case granddad said his father William Elmer died a painful death. This was in a time when access to medicines or even medical care was very limited on the Oklahoma plains.

The following picture was taken in 1920, just 5 years after William Elmer Shepard died. It shows some massive farm machinery, perhaps similar to what William Elmer left to his son William in the will above. Perhaps this was the machinery that was bequeathed to William.

The picture (click on it for a larger view) shows my grand mother Bura Davis Shepard in the middle holding a child -- probably her son Elmer (born in 1918). Just to the left of Bura is her mother-in-law Elvira Owens Shepard. I cannot identify the woman on the left or the woman on the right. They may have been family friends or neighbors.

Comparing this picture with others taken at the same time, it's clear that the elevated fellow in the middle is granddad William Shepard. He is standing in the pose of a conquering hero, victorious over a massive beast. With the amount of work these machines did to harvest their crop, they could be thought of as tamed beasts. These farm machines were also extremely valuable tools, hence the posture of the man on the ground at the left who appears to be guarding a great treasure.

We've come a long way as a family in the century and a half since William Elmer Shepard was born, but some of the same values remain. And for that we can be grateful.
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Steve Shepard