Friday, June 26, 2015

Celebrants Over A Century Apart, June 26, 2015

If you as parents cut corners,
your children will too.
If you lie, they will too.
If parents snicker at racial and gender jokes,
another generation will pass on the poison.
~Marian Wright Edelman

Kyle Christian Sauvage. Today is Kyle Sauvage's 11th Birthday. Kyle, who lives in Weatherford, Texas, is the younger son of James Sauvage and Kelly Shepard Sauvage. He is the grandson of my brother Gary Shepard and Jackie Enderle Perry. He is also one of the Great Great Grandsons of Leroy and Nola Gower, and William and Bura Shepard.

This first picture shows Kyle holding a certificate he received from a basketball camp he attended earlier this month in Weatherford, Texas.

Elvira Owens Shepard (1865-1931). This coming Wednesday, July 1, is the birthday of Elvira Owens Shepard, the Great Great Great Grandmother of the aforementioned Kyle Sauvage. It was exactly 150 years ago, just as the Civil War was concluding, that she was born in the small community of New Douglas in far north east corner of Madison County, Illinois, 40 miles east of Saint Louis, Missouri.

Historical Note One: The day before Elvira Owens was born, the 4 conspirators in the assassination of President Lincoln, including Mary Surratt, were convicted by a military tribunal, and were hung just a few days later in Washington, D.C. Mary Surratt was the first woman ever sentenced to death by the Federal Government.

In the early 1880s, when just a young woman, Elvira met a young Hoosier vagabond who had recently wandered into town, by the name of William Elmer Shepard. His father had died in the war and he had run off from his home in Indiana to find a new life "out west" which turned out to be Madison County, Illinois. When Elvira and William met, it was the attraction of opposites: he was a wanderer, estranged from his family, unconnected to the community of his birth; she was a local girl from a strong, stable family, well connected to her community. They married in 1886 in Madison County and lived there for the next 20 years, bringing two children, William and Sadie, into the world.

About 1905 Elvira and husband William, with their 2 children, moved 700 miles westward, probably at the urging of the restless William Elmer. They settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma where William and Elvira lived for the rest of their lives. She is buried in Beaver County's Sophia Cemetery, alongside her first husband William Elmer Shepard and her late-in-life second husband Cal Williams.

This second picture (click on it for a larger view) shows a rather ragtag family group and was taken in Beaver County, Oklahoma about 1930. Starting from the far left, the second person (white hair, big smile) is Elvira Owens Shepard. (85 years later her GGG Grandson Kyle has a surprisingly similar smile.) To the right of Elvira is her daughter-in-law Bura Davis Shepard, then Bura's parents James Brooks Davis and Caroline Spear Davis. The tall fellow in the center in back is Lawrence Davis. On the far right looking dapper in a big stetson is Cal Williams (Elvira's second husband) and to the left of him (looking much less dapper in overalls) is my grandfather William Shepard (Elvira's son).

Elvira Owens represents the first generations of Americans in the newly re-United States of America of the late 1860s and beyond. Hers was the first generation that struggled to find the meaning of this American life without the evil of slavery. It was a time of reconstruction, with new opportunities, new prosperity, great social change and the ever growing westward movement.

Elvira also represents our connection to the Owenses of Madison County, Illinois. My grandfather William Shepard was born in Madison County and spent the first 16 or 17 years of his life there, the older child of Elvira and William Elmer. Granddad's only extended family was his mother's Owens family and he must have identified strongly with them throughout his early life and teen years. There are still extended Owens family members in Madison County today, as well as numerous Owens family members elsewhere around the U.S., some of whom are readers of this blog. We are fortunate to be related to them.

Historical Note Two: When Elvira died in 1931, there was a controvery over who should inherit her estate, her children or her second husband Cal Williams. The picture above from 1930 shows what appears to be a happy family gathering, but within a year or so of this picture being taken, the family splintered over the inheritance issue. It became very contentious and the matter was not settled until 1937, 6 years after Elvira's death, by the Oklahoma Supreme Court who ruled in favor of her second husband, the dapper Cal Williams. Select this link for a summary of that historic case.

The following is a lineage that includes Elvira Owens and her Great Great Great Grandson, Kyle Sauvage, whose birthdays are this week.
  • Edmond Owens Jr., (1795-1864) who married Anna Phelps (1787-1861)
  • Peyton Owens (1826-1872) who married Mary Wheeler (1825-1871)
  • Elvira Owens (1865-1931) who married William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915)
  • William Shepard (1888-1976) who married Bura Davis (1896-1986)
  • Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) who married Maida Gower (b. 1924)
  • Gary Shepard (b. 1946) who married Cindy Dillon (b. 1954)
  • Kelly Shepard (b. 1973) who married James Sauvage (b. 1971)
  • Kyle Sauvage (b. 2004)
- - -
Steve Shepard

No comments: