Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!, March 17, 2017

May you have the hindsight to know where you've been,
The foresight to know where you are going,
And the insight to know when you have gone too far.
~Old Irish Blessing

Happy Saint Patrick's Day Today! Best wishes to those of you of Irish descent, which includes most who are in our family tree. The Irishness of us Shepards and Gowers is one of the best things about us!

Happy Birthday to Kaylan! Birthday wishes go out this Sunday, March 19, to Kaylan Shepard who turns 18 this month! Her picture is on the right. With her auburn hair, green coat and beautiful smile, she looks very Irish and could be our family's poster person for Saint Patrick's Day! 

Kaylan is the daughter of my cousin Dane Shepard and his wife Cindy of Blanchard, Oklahoma. Born in California in 1999, Kaylan has spent most of her life in Oklahoma. She is the last of the 21 Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard.

Finetta Dearien Shannon. One of the most important family strains of Irish descendants in our family tree is the lineage belonging to my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). I have written about Grandma Gower's celtic ancestry numerous times in this blog, including herehere and here.

Grandma Gower's mother Finetta Dearien Shannon was a native Arkansan who experienced a difficult past that has been remembered through the years and is still remembered today because it was so troubling. In view of the conflict we have been having in our family these days, it might be helpful to take a detailed look at this part of our family history. 

My Great Grandmother Finetta Dearien Shannon (1861-1960) was born 156 years ago this week. She was the child of Augustus Marvin Dearien and Mr. Dearien's own step-daughter, a teenager named Roena Norton. Finetta's father Augustus Dearien compounded his grave error by causing the disappearance of his step-daughter Roena after she had given birth to his child. 

Sam Shannon and Finetta Dearien Shannon

We don't know exactly what became of Roena. Not long after Finetta was born, Roena simply disappeared, never to be heard from again. One family legend has it that her step-father caused her death in some famous local caves, probably the nearby Blanchard Springs Caverns. Another legend says that she was simply taken away never to return. In recent years I have tried to locate Roena in the genealogical records available to me from the mid 19th century, but to no avail. 

Roena's daughter Finetta was raised by her Grandmother Elizabeth Mitchell Dearien and her unscrupulous father Augustus Dearien. It was an unpleasant situation that caused a great amount of contention, heartache and conflict and was one of the most embarrassing domestic developments ever in our family. 

The US Census records for the period from 1830 to 1880 tell an interesting story about Finetta and her incestuous father Augustus Dearien.

The 1830 US Census shows the family of 16 year old Augustus Dearien living in Virginia, in a household that reported owning 4 slaves. It may have been in that household that the teenager Augustus Dearien learned that some people were not to be valued, but were simply to serve the needs of the head of the household.

The 1860 US Census (taken 9 months before Finetta was born) lists Augustus and Elizabeth Dearien and their family living in Richwoods Township, Stone County, Arkansas. The child Roena J. is listed as being 20 years old (which may have been inaccurate). The Census was taken in September, 1860, just about the time Roena became pregnant with Finetta.

snippet from the 1870 U.S. Census

The 1870 US Census (a snippet from which is seen above) indicates that the Deariens were living in Sylamore Township in Stone County, Arkansas at the time. One of the children of this family is named "Mitchell Dearien" and was 8 years old, which would have been Finetta's age. This may be a reference to Finetta. The other family members are listed with their ages. Could it be the family gave 8 year old Finetta the name "Mitchell"? Mitchell was Finetta's Grandmother's maiden name, and was the last name given to Finetta in the 1880 Census, 10 years later (see next paragraph). 

snippet from the 1880 U.S. Census

The 1880 US Census (a snippet from which is seen above) shows the Deariens still living in Sylamore Township in Stone County, Arkansas. This listing only shows father Augustus M., mother Lucinda, and one child, 18 year old "Vinettie Mitchel." Vinettie is surely a reference to Finetta, whose grandmother's maiden name was Mitchell. The information given to the Census taker was that this 18 year old was not one of the children but was simply a "boarder." Finetta is not even afforded the privilege of being a member of the family!

It is a sordid and tragic story that comes together when looking at the history of Finetta and her incestuous father. It was a situation that made for conflict, unhappiness and embarrassment, much of which has continued through the years. But the good news is that the ill-born Finetta went on to make a good life for herself with husband Sam Shannon, in the very community where she was born and raised. The last of the 9 children born to Finetta and Sam was my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. 

This historical survey in the last few posts of conflicts in our family has been interesting to say the least. Whether it helps in dealing with our present squabble remains to be seen. If nothing else it reminds us that we are all too human and susceptible to dissension. The fact of the matter is that conflicts sometime come our way, the important thing is how we choose to deal with them.
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Steve Shepard

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