Thursday, November 08, 2018

Contrasting Lives, November 8, 2018

Families are the compass that guides us.
They are the inspiration to reach great heights,
and our comfort when we occasionally falter.
~Brad Henry

This post concerns two people in our family tree who lived about the same time, but whose lives could not have been more different.

Bura Davis Shepard and daughter Thelma, about 1941
Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). Today is the 122nd anniversary of the birth of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. She was born November 8, 1896 outside Spencer, Indiana. She was raised in Owen County, Indiana but as a teenager was a part of the migration of several Davis family members from Indiana to Oklahoma in the early years of the 20th century. At just 18 years old she married William Shepard in Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1915. In 1928 they moved with three of their four children to Southeast Colorado where they struggled for 12 years to survive the dust bowl era. Life became so difficult in the small town of Two Buttes, Colorado that they moved on to San Diego in September, 1940. They lived in Southern California for most of the rest of their lives, benefitting from the economic boon of the post war years, and enjoying their extended family, including all 12 of their grandchildren.

This first picture shows Bura with their youngest daughter Thelma in the early 1940s, not long after they moved to San Diego.

Bura was a devout Christian and a faithful member of the Church of Christ all her life. Her father's Davis roots and her mother's Spear roots both went back to Southeastern Ohio and the very beginning of the "Restoration Movement" in the early 19th century. At the same time she proudly shared her commitment to the Church with her descendants, many of whom have continued with that same Church affiliation to this day. Bura was a small woman with a big heart and a great love for God. She will be forever loved and respected by those who knew her. She and husband William are buried in San Diego's Greenwood Cemetery alongside a dozen or so other family members.

Edgar Lee Vessels (1910-1972). In contrast to the beautiful life of Bura Davis Shepard, one of the more infamous people in our family tree is a fellow from the early 20th century named Edgar Lee Vessels. His life story is as tragic as it is horrifying. Ironically he was a grandchild of perhaps the most famously named member of our larger family, Julius Caesar Vessels (1842-1928), who is Cindy's GG Grandfather.

Edgar Lee Vessels was born in Parker, Texas May 28, 1910, into the farming family of Claude and Minnie Vessels. At 18 years old he married Vivian Brashears who was from the small town of Terral in the southern part of Oklahoma along the Red River. That is where Edgar and Vivian lived and raised their 3 children and where Edgar was a truck driver. As a married father of 3 teenagers, in 1951 at just 41 years old, his life was forever changed. He was convicted of murder in Henrietta, Texas and sent to Huntsville Prison in South Texas to serve a sentence ranging from 2 years to life.


I am not aware of the details of his crime. His prison record shows that he was convicted in October, 1951, then served 17 years in prison before being paroled in 1968. In 1970 he was given a full pardon. Two other bits of important personal information are found in his prison record. First, he had an unrepaired cleft palate, which he had to live with his entire life. And second, he was unable to read or write, having spent just 2 years in school as a child. The poor guy had a serious physical problem, a cleft palate, that brought with it a speech impediment which probably created psychological issues that must have contributed to his other difficulties in life. Besides that he was illiterate, which would have made his life even more difficult. 

Ida Lee Jacobson Vessels, about 1967

Curiously, w
hile he was serving his prison sentence he married for a second time. Presumably his first wife Vivian, the mother of his three children, had divorced him while he was incarcerated. So in the summer of 1967, after 16 years in prison and just a year before being paroled, Edgar married Ida Lee Jacobson, a woman from the area not far from the prison (see second picture). Could his marriage to a local woman have been a contributing factor in his being paroled and released into the community? 


After being released from prison, Edgar and his wife Ida Lee lived in Brazoria County on the Texas Gulf Coast, not far from Ida Lee's home. On the morning of Feb 22, 1971 just a year after being given a full pardon, Edgar and his wife Ida Lee were found dead on the side of Hwy 288 just south of Angleton, Texas. Edgar's death certificate says he died of "two self inflicted .22 caliber gunshot wounds in the head." Ida Lee's death certificate says that she also died of "two .22 caliber gunshot wounds in the head," and that she also had a gunshot wound in her shoulder. Her death certificate further says "gunshot wound inflicted by husband." 


A few questions come to mind. How could Edgar have shot himself twice in the head? It is not possible. If there were no witnesses, how can one say he killed his wife? Even after nearly 50 years, this seems to be a cold case that needs reinvestigating. Regardless, Edgar's life and death were filled with sadness and tragedy. I call him an infamous character in our family tree, but that only begins to tell the story of this ill fated ancestor. 

- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween 2018, October 31, 2018

Ancestors are important...
Without them we are nothing.
~Hank Ketchum

Greetings to all of you on this spooky week of Halloween! This week when we celebrate the dark, scary side of life, it would seem to be the perfect time for me to continue my series looking at infamous characters of our family tree. But no. Something else will take priority.

Maida Gower Shepard and Eugene Shepard
about 1945
All Saints Day. This is also the week of my mother's birthday. Thursday, November 1 she will turn 94 years old, which makes her the senior member of our family. It has always been the great misfortune of my mother Maida Gower Shepard to have been born the day after Halloween. At least she has expressed that sentiment to me on numerous occasions in years passed. On the other hand, she was born on All Saints' Day. Since my mom has always been a saint in my book, November 1 is the perfect day for her to have been born.

She was born in Stone County, Arkansas, near the town of Mountain View. Her parents Leroy Gower and Nola Shannon Gower were both originally from Sylamore, a community a few miles west of Mountain View. They married in 1921 when Leroy was 22 and Nola had just turned 18. Their firstborn was a son, Hendrix Gower. Then in the fall of 1924 Maida came along. Work was hard to come by for Leroy, so when their daughter Maida was a year old, barely old enough to travel, they moved to Okemah, Oklahoma where Leroy found work and where they lived for 17 years. During that time they added another daughter, Vicki, to their family.

Maida and oldest son Gary Shepard, 2011
In 1942 the Gowers moved to San Diego, which is where Maida met Gene Shepard. In 1945 they married and began a joyful 58 year marriage. San Diego is also where they raised their 6 children, and where they lived for 36 years. When Gene retired they moved to Anacortes in Skagit County, Washington. Mom has lived in the family home on Wildwood Lane for the last 40 years.

These days she stays home most of the time with several family members helping to care for her in these sunset years of her life, including her oldest son Gary (pictured above with mom). Her memory is failing, but she still loves to visit with people and to attend church when she is up to it. Best wishes to Mom as she celebrates 94 years!

Creepy Family Fun. Mom is one of the many family members who find themselves in the following music video that I put together to celebrate Halloween. Some of the pictures in this video you have seen before while some of them are new to this Halloween video. Some images are from many years ago, while some were taken in recent days. This video includes creepy family members from California, Washington, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and even Pennsylvania. Happy Halloween to everyone!




- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, October 26, 2018

Bad Boy Jesse James, October 26, 2018

It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty
of giving lively names to things.
Names are everything.
I never quarrel with actions.
My one quarrel is with words.
~Oscar Wilde

Celebrating my aunt Vicki Johnston! Last week my aunt Vicki Gower Johnson celebrated her 85th birthday. Aunt Vicki lives in Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, near her daughter Paula Harrell Tuzzolino. The sister of my mother Maida Gower Shepard, we honor Vicki as one of the senior members of our family. Born in Oklahoma, but raised in San Diego, Vicki lived for 40 years in Oak Harbor, Washington before moving to Arizona a few years ago. Congratulations to Vicki on turning 85! The first picture from 2008 shows Vicki on the right with her sister Maida.

Shifting Gears. In recent weeks I have posted about famously named people in our family tree. Now I will take a break from the famously named and look at a few people who were not so famously named. They are the infamous characters in our family history, the bad girls and bad boys among our ancestors. People like Jessie James Emery.

A Youthful Indiscretion. My GGG Grandparents Jackson and Mary Gower had one daughter among their four children, Hannah Elizabeth Gower (1870-1943). These Gowers lived in the small rural community of Sylamore in Stone County, Arkansas, birthplace of my maternal Grandparents, Leroy Gower (b. 1899) and Nola Shannon (b. 1903). In the fall of 1893, 23 year old Hannah Gower struck up a relationship with an 18 year old fellow with the colorful name of Jessie James Emery. He had recently come from Pettis County, Missouri, some 250 miles to the north, very possibly to help with the harvest or to seek some other kind of work. The devastating economic depression of 1893 had people like Jesse James Emery all across the country on the move looking for employment.

We don't know much about the quality of the relationship Jesse James and Hannah had. Compared to today, you could get away with a lot in the sparsely populated hills of Northern Arkansas. All we know for sure is that their relationship brought about Hannah's unplanned pregnancy. No "shotgun wedding" took place, even though it must have been an embarrassment for the Gower family in this small peaceful farming community where they lived.

Getting On With Their Lives. In June, 1894 Hannah gave birth to her baby and gave him the name Marvin Almus Emery Gower. Young Marvin stayed with his mother Hannah and her family and took their name, Gower, as his last name for the rest of his 86 years. In 1900, when Marvin was just 6 years old, Hannah found a responsible father for her son when she married a local man named James Henry Pierce. Together they began a family of their own, which included young Marvin.

In 1895, just a year after the birth of Marvin, his biological father Jessie James Emery married a local woman with the unique name of Olive O. Oyler, and together they started a family of their own, which did not include young Marvin Gower. The US Census records for the year 1900 show that Hannah Gower's family, and Jessie James Emery's family were neighboring farmers in close proximity in Sylamore. But not for long. Soon after the turn of the century, the negligent father Jesse James Emery left Arkansas with his new family and made their way some 1,500 miles to Montana where they settled and where he died in the summer of 1929 near Billings, Montana.

Named After the Famous Outlaw? Bad boy Jessie James Emery was born in Southwest Missouri just 90 miles from the home of the outlaw Jesse James (see picture from about 1882). Our Jessie James was born in 1875 when the infamous James Gang was at the height of its criminal activity, robbing banks, trains and stagecoaches, and staying on the run from the law. Western Missouri was known as "Little Dixie" in those post Civil War days, because of the many southern sympathizers who lived there, including the James Gang, who targeted Union Soldiers and Civilian Abolitionists.

It may have been no accident that Jessie James Emery was named after one of the most infamous yet popular outlaws ever to come out of Southwest Missouri. In those days Missourians were fond of glamorizing outlaws like Jesse James as a way of rooting for the underdog and snubbing their noses at the authorities. Many thought of the James gang as being like Robin Hoods who curried favor with the common folk. It was against this backdrop that bad boy Jessie James Emery was born and given his name. Jesse James Emery therefore is the first of several disreputable characters in our past that I will highlight in coming weeks.

It is quite a shift to write about infamous characters in our family tree. It reminds us that our family, like all families, is a mixed bag. There are those whose lives and stories we gladly celebrate, but then there are those whose lives are cautionary tales. Yet even they have their place in our family history. Their stories also need telling even if simply to give us perspective when we think "too highly of ourselves."
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, October 19, 2018

Cousins With the Same Name, October 19, 2018

In real life, unlike in Shakespeare,
the sweetness of the rose
depends upon the name it bears.
Things are not only what they are.
They are, in very important respects,
what they seem to be.
~Hubert Humphrey

Last month I included in my list of famously named ancestors, William Henry Harrison Sheppard, who was named after President Henry Harrison. I have since discovered that there are actually two Sheppard individuals in our family tree with that exact same name. We already have another person -- William Henry Harrison Loyd -- who was named after President Harrison. But now we have two Sheppard ancestors named after that 19th century President.

The first William Henry Harrison Sheppard was born July 5, 1840 and died in the Civil War in 1862. The second William Henry Harrison Sheppard, the son of a cousin of the first one, was born May 16, 1841, just 10 months after the first one. He also served in the Civil War, but survived, and lived into his 90s. He died in 1932, not far from where he was born in Belmont County, Ohio.

President Henry Harrison, 1773-1841
What an unusual occurrence. Two Sheppards with the very same unique name, born less than a year apart, who were cousins of each other. Both these fellows named William Henry Harrison Sheppard were born in Belmont County, Ohio -- probably within about 10 miles of each other. They were descendants of my 5x Great Grandparents John and Mary Hudson Sheppard, who were among the first of our Sheppard ancestors to migrate to the Ohio frontier in 1812.

Why Henry Harrison? What was so special about Henry Harrison that two of our 19th century families would name their sons after him? Henry Harrison was originally from Virginia but spent a good part of his life in Ohio. Our Sheppard ancestors came from Maryland to Belmont County in Eastern Ohio in the first decade of the 1800s when it was still being settled, and when Harrison's career was taking off. 

Here is a short list of Harrison's major accomplishments:

  • He was a decorated major General in the US Army.
  • He became a state senator in Ohio in 1819. 
  • He was elected a US Senator from Ohio in 1825. 
  • In 1836 he ran for President as the Whig Party candidate but lost to Martin Van Buren. 
  • In 1840 he ran once again against Van Buren but this time was victorious, and became our 9th U.S. President. 
It was obviously a time of great excitement for all Ohioans when Harrison took office March 4, 1841. (In those days the Presidential Inauguration took place in March, not in January.) But in a tragic turn of events Harrison became ill and died of pneumonia on April 4, 1841 after just 31 days in office. He was the first US President to die in office, and remains to this day the President with the shortest tenure.

The FIRST William Henry Harrison Sheppard, the 7th child of John and Elizabeth Sheppard, was born in Belmont County on July 5, 1840, the day after America's 64th birthday. He was named by his family while Harrison was in the throes of the Presidential election campaign. Ohioans were riding this wave of excitement about one of their own possibly being elected to the highest office in the land. What better way to make tangible their hopes and dreams for America's future than to give their son Harrison's name?

Grave of the SECOND William Henry Harrison Sheppard
Hope Cemetery, Hendrysburg, Ohio
The SECOND William Henry Harrison Sheppard, the 9th child of Hudson and Rebecca Sheppard, was also born in Belmont County, but on May 16, 1841 just one month after President Harrison died. He was given President Harrison's name while Ohioans, and the entire nation for that matter, were grieving this terrible loss. What better way to honor their fallen President than to give their son his name? 

These two William Henry Harrison Sheppards had another cousin with the name William Sheppard (with no middle name), who was also born in Belmont County, Ohio. He was born in 1835, just a few years before his other two cousins. This William Sheppard (1835-1862) was the Grandfather of my Grandfather William Shepard (1888-1976). In 1840, when just a child, his parents left Ohio and were among the first Sheppards to settle in Indiana. It was there, when just 21 years old, that he entered the military and fought for the North, as did his cousins, in the Civil War. More about this story here.

I realize that it is hard to keep these three William Sheppard cousins straight. One had no middle name at all, while two were given middle names of a President. All were born within a 6 year period in Belmont County, Ohio, and all of them served in the War, fighting for the Union:
  • William (no middle name) Sheppard (1835-1862)
  • William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1840-1862)
  • William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1841-1932)
The Sheppard Clan of Belmont County. All three of these fellows were part of the influential clan of James Cross Sheppard Sr. (1775-1843) and Hannah Gatchell Sheppard (1781-1839) who helped settle Kirkwood in Belmont County, Ohio. I have written before about how James and Hannah were affluent pillars of their community and were therefore very invested in the political life of Southeastern Ohio, especially in the pre-Civil War years. It is no surprise then that this clan was very supportive of the Ohio politician Henry Harrison who eventually ascended to the Presidency. It makes perfect sense then that two of the families of this Sheppard Clan would name their sons after the revered President Harrison.

So instead of just one William Henry Harrison Sheppard included in the "Pantheon of the Famously Named," there are two. One born in 1840, the other in 1841. But both are deserving and take their rightful place among the others of our family tree who were famously named.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Woman Named America, October 12, 2018

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
~Shakespeare

I have been writing recently about individuals from our family tree who were named after famous people. The list of those in our "Pantheon of the Famously Named" now includes the following:
  • George Washington Sheppard (1829-1900)
  • William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1840-1862)
  • William Henry Harrison Loyd (1841-1920)
  • Benjamin Harrison Davis (1888-1963)
  • James Abram Garfield Gibbs (1881-1955)
  • Julius Caesar Vessels (1842-1928)
  • Julius Theophilus Vessels (1871-1942)
  • Robert Columbus Shannon (1893-1923)
  • Christopher Columbus Webb (1858-1907) 
America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick. Today I am adding a 10th person to the Pantheon, a woman whose name is as unique as it is famous. She is yet another child of the 19th century. Her name is America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick (1874-1954). Two of her sons (William and Barney Kilpatrick) married two of my Great Aunts (Myra and Winona Davis) in Oklahoma in 1918 and 1924. America Kelley was born in Tennessee Oct 18, 1874, and was just a year old when the 100th anniversary of America occurred on July 4, 1876. She married Samuel Allen Kilpatrick in Tennessee at just 16 years old in 1891. 
America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick (1874-1954)

America was named after her aunt (her mother's sister) whose name was America Emaline Grinnell (1850-1884). Being of Irish descent, it may have been this clan's joy at migrating safely across the Atlantic that led their parents to give both these girls the name America.

How America Got Its Name
. Even though Christopher Columbus is credited with discovering our continent in 1492, just a few years later another Italian explorer named Amerigo Vespucci, arrived in the "New World." In an interesting historical twist of fate, it is after Vespucci, not Columbus, that the American continent received its name. Therefore America as a first name had precedent from the very beginning. Here's another interesting fact: today there are almost 5,000 people with the first name America in the U.S., according to this website. Almost all of them are women.


America Kelley is the first person I have found in our family tree who was named after an entire continent. Several members of our family were named after States. As a matter of fact America and her husband Samuel Allen Kilpatrick named their fourth child Albertha Tennessee Kilpatrick (1895-1987). Elsewhere in our family tree my GGG Uncle Jackson Gower married a woman named Tennessee Hall (1879-1955). My Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower had a sister named Arizona Shannon (1895-1949), and she had an aunt named Indiana Shannon (1867-1931). 

Tennessee-Oklahoma-Colorado-California. In 1904, when just 25 years old, America and her husband Samuel Allen Kilpatrick migrated from Tennessee to Beaver County in the panhandle of Oklahoma. They had 6 children at the time, and would eventually bring 4 more into the world. In Oklahoma is where they developed a close family relationship to the Davis, Gibbs and Shepard families, leading to several instances of intermarriage within these families. By 1930 members of these families had moved 165 miles northwest to the little town of Two Buttes in Baca County, Colorado. One of the reasons for relocating was to establish a Church of Christ congregation in that rural community. 

By the time of the 1940 US Census, America and her family had left the devastating dust bowl of the Southwest and moved on westward to California, as did other members of the Davis, Gibbs, Kilpatrick and Shepard families. America and her Kilpatrick family settled in the small San Joaquin Valley town of Chowchilla, which is where she died at 79 years old in 1954 just 2 years after the death of husband Samuel Allen Kilpatrick.
Members of the Shepard and Kilpatrick families, 1972
Edwin and Ruby Kilpatrick are the 3rd and 4th from the right

Edwin Dale Kilpatrick. A
mong the many grandchildren of America and Samuel Allen Kilpatrick was Edwin Dale Kilpatrick (1932-1979) who was an important part of our Shepard family history. In the 1960s, Edwin served as the minister of San Diego's Linda Vista Church of Christ, which my Shepard family attended. Edwin and wife Ruby and their 5 children were close family friends of ours. Edwin was a very important influence in my young life, encouraging me to become a minister, which I did in 1970, serving in that capacity for 40 years. Edwin also presided at Cindy's and my wedding 50 years ago this coming December.

America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick therefore becomes the next one to find her place in this "Pantheon of the Famously Named." Have you noticed that every member of this Pantheon was born in the 19th century? It was a common occurrence for people from that era to name their children after famous people. Are those of us from the 20th and 21st centuries missing out here?
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, October 08, 2018

Another in "The Pantheon of the Famously Named," October 8, 2018

Following the light of the sun,
we left the Old World.
~Christopher Columbus

Greetings to all of you from mild and pleasant San Diego on this Columbus Day -- or Indigenous People's Day -- however you prefer to celebrate it. I have enjoyed writing my recent series of posts on famously named people in our family tree. More than just an opportunity to notice people with outstanding names, this series has given me a chance to highlight certain individuals among our ancestors and share something about their lives and their place in our family's history.

Robert Columbus Shannon. On the Gower side of our family there is an individual famously named Robert Columbus Shannon (1893-1923), who  deserves to be remembered on this particular day. He takes his place in what I am calling "The Pantheon of the Famously Named." The older brother of my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower, he was the 5th of the 9 children of Samuel Pickens Shannon and Finetta Dearien Shannon. Born in the spring of 1893 in Mountain View, Arkansas, he may have been given the name Columbus because he had an uncle named Christopher Columbus Webb (1858-1907). Uncle Christopher Columbus had married Margaret Shannon in 1888 and became a part of the Shannon family just a few years before his nephew Robert Columbus was born.

Maida Gower Shepard in 2013 at the grave of 
Christopher Columbus Webb and Margaret Shannon Webb
This first picture was taken five years ago when my mother Maida Gower Shepard (pictured here) and I visited Gray Cemetery outside Timbo, Arkansas. That is where uncle Christopher Columbus Webb is buried alongside his wife, my Great Aunt Margaret Shannon Webb (1862-1890). She died very young at just 27 years old, which may explain this interesting grave. It is a century old elaborate stone monument, an expression of the deep sorrow her husband Christopher Columbus felt at the loss of his young wife Margaret. If it appears these cemetery grounds appear overgrown and unkept it is because they were. After this picture was taken a number of local family members took on the job of cleaning up Gray Cemetery.

In the summer of 1911 when just 18 years old, Robert Columbus married another teen, Alice Moore, who was from a neighboring family in the farming community of Sylamore, Arkansas just a few miles west of Mountain View. In Arkansas he and Alice had two daughters, Rutha and Edna Mae, before they uprooted themselves in 1915 and moved to Granbury, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth, where Robert Columbus farmed for just a couple of years. In Texas they added to their family a son, Marvin, before returning to Arkansas about 1919. 

Grave of Robert Columbus Shannon
in Cypress Cemetery, Vilonia, Arkansas
Robert Columbus and Alice Shannon and their family settled in the little town of Vilonia, Arkansas, some 80 miles south of Mountain View. In Vilonia their 4th and final child, Samuel, was born in 1922. Robert Columbus tragically died the following year on Apr 8, 1923, just a few weeks after his 30th birthday. He is buried in Cypress Cemetery outside Vilonia. I don't know how Robert Columbus died. A farming mishap? A flu epidemic? Respiratory illness? I just know that he left his young, 29 year old wife Alice, with their four children, all under 10 years old.

Christopher Columbus. Robert Columbus Shannon -- and his uncle before him -- was named after the famous explorer Christopher Columbus who is credited with discovering America in 1492. Yet our Columbus and the explorer Columbus had very little in common. Actually they are quite a contrast: the one never traveled more than 500 miles from home; the other discovered a new world some 6,000 miles away from his home. One tilled the soil for his living; the other famously sailed the ocean blue. One was a southern Protestant with Baptist roots; the other was commissioned by the Catholic Monarchy of Spain. Our Columbus died at just 30 years old; the other lived to the ripe old age (for those days) of 55.

Even in 19th century America, folks were infatuated with the Italian explorer Columbus who was born 4 centuries before our Robert Columbus. He and his uncle Christopher Columbus therefore take their place with the others from our family tree in "The Pantheon of the Famously Named."

In my next post: A Girl Named "America."
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Famously Named Ancestors, Part III, September 27, 2018

Family isn't defined only by last names or by blood;
it's defined by commitment and by love.
~David Willis

I continue my series on "The Pantheon of the Famously Named," sharing with you people in our family tree who were named after famous people. In my last two posts I mentioned 5 ancestors who were named after Presidents. But there are others in our family tree who were also famously named. Not after Presidents, but named after other famous people of history.

Emperor Julius Caesar
by 16th century artist Paul Rubens
Julius Caesar Vessels. My wife Cindy's GG Grandfather was given the beautifully ostentatious name of Julius Caesar, which automatically gives him a place in my "Pantheon of the Famously Named."  He was named after the emperor of the Roman Empire, who lived in the first century before Jesus. He was a Roman politician and one of the most famous military generals in all recorded history. 

He is referred to a number of times in the New Testament, most memorably by Jesus, when he commented on the question of paying taxes. Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matt. 22.21) It is one thing to be named after a U.S. President. It takes things to a whole different level to be named after the leader of a world empire and one of the most famous men in world history.

Our ancestor Julius Caesar Vessels (1842-1928) was born in rural Limestone, Alabama. He became an adult when America was ready to plunge into the horrors of the Civil War. He served in the Southern Army, in the 53rd Regiment out of Alabama in the 1860s, which puts him in another select category of soldier-ancestors who served in the Civil War. During the War he married Fannie Narcissus Bradford, who herself was given a remarkable name from Greek mythology, Narcissus. Before the War ended Julius Caesar and Fannie began their family of 11 children, the 7th of whom was Edna Pearl Vessels McGowan, Cindy's Great Grandmother.

Julius Caesar Vessels
about 1870
Julius Caesar Vessels was a hearty Alabaman who lived to be 86, very old by 19th century standards. He outlived three of his children, and his first wife Fannie by almost 30 years. He married a second time to a Texas girl named Sally Bates and relocated to North Texas to live with her. Though 10 years older than her, he outlived her by 27 years! Julius Caesar Vessels therefore takes his rightful place as the 6th member of our "Pantheon of the Famously Named."

Julius Theophilus Vessels. The aforementioned Julius Caesar Vessels and wife Fannie Vessels gave the 4th of their 11 children the name Julius Theophilus Vessels (1871-1942). Theophilus, a greek word meaning "lover of God," is the famous name of the person to whom the Book of Acts in the New Testament was written (cf. Acts 1.1). To be fair it must be said that the Biblical Theophilus is famous primarily to those who are students of the New Testament. Even at that, not very much is known about the original Theophilus. The mystery surrounding him is part of the reason he is of interest to so many.

Julius Theophilus Vessels
with family, about 1920
Our ancestor Julius Theophilus had a heavy burden when it came to his name. To say nothing of his father who was named after one of the most famous men in all history, and his mother who was named after a legendary character of Greek mythology. Julius Theophilus, like his father, was born on a farm in Limestone County, Alabama in 1872. With his family he migrated to North Texas in the 1890s and died at 70 years old after living his last years in Plainview, Texas, north of Lubbock. Julius Theophilus therefore takes his place as the 7th member of our "Pantheon of the Famously Named."

This whole matter of naming children has changed over the generations. These days common names are often the norm. But in years past it was not unusual for our ancestors to give children names of outstanding people of history. The 7 famously named people I have mentioned in recent posts were all from the 19th century. Their thinking seems to have been that the more glorious the name, the better. Many of the 19th century folk from whom we are descended were poor dirt farmers, some of them from the South. To give their children outstanding names may have been a way of reaching for something better in life than what they had experienced so far, a way of claiming a sense of southern sophistication that had eluded them.

Kambree and Karver
Do you know of others in our family tree who deserve a place in this "Pantheon of the Famously Named?" If so let me know.

From the Ancient to the Contemporary. After all this talk about people of long ago, the last word today needs to be about what's happening these days in our family. 

Last weekend our family in and around Weatherford, Texas celebrated the 4th birthday of Lyndsey Aquiningoc's son Karver. Among those attending that celebration was Karver's cousin Kambree, the daughter of Mandi Aquiningoc. Karver and Kambree are the only two (so far!) Great Great Grandchildren of my mother Maida Gower Shepard of Anacortes, Washington. Happy birthday to Karver and best wishes to him and his family! And thanks to the family for sharing this picture of them on Facebook recently.

- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Pantheon of the Famously Named, Part II, September 21, 2018

There is nothing in all the earth
that you and I can do for the dead,
They do not need us,
but forever and forever more
we need them.
~President James Abram Garfield

Greetings to all of you from warm and sunny San Diego as fall is set to arrive tomorrow! In my last post I shared about 3 different people in our family tree who were named after U.S. Presidents. They are part of what I am calling "The Pantheon of the Famously Named."  There are a few others tucked away in various branches of our large family tree who also were given the names of famous people. Here are two more...

James Abram Garfield Gibbs. When I connected with my "shirt-tail cousin" Ron Gibbs a few weeks ago, he proudly mentioned to me someone I had never known about: his grandfather James Abram Garfield Gibbs (1881-1955). Ron's Grandfather had been given the name of the 20th U.S. President, James Abram Garfield. Unfortunately, President Garfield only served for six months after his inauguration on March 4, 1881. He was assassinated while in office and died September 19, 1881.

President James Abram Garfield
about 1880
 James Abram Garfield Gibbs is related to us via my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. Bura's two sisters, Nona and Myra Davis, married Kilpatrick brothers, Barney and William. Those two Kilpatrick brothers had a first cousin, Harriet Smith, who married James Abram Garfield Gibbs. My genealogical app says that James Abram Garfield Gibbs is "the husband of the 1st cousin of the husband of my great-aunt." Try to get your head around that!

Our ancestor James A.G. Gibbs was born October 16, 1881, just one month after the tragic death of President Garfield. It is therefore easy to understand the thinking of parents Alfred and Cora Gibbs, when they named their first born. Father Alfred Gibbs was a native Ohioan just like beloved President Garfield, which may have been a big reason James Abram Garfield Gibbs was given his name. He therefore becomes the fourth person to find his place in our "Pantheon of the Famously Named."

For many readers of The Shepard's Crook, President Garfield has special importance because he was one of only two Presidents who were members of the American religious tradition (the "Restoration Movement") which gave birth to the Churches of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Garfield was not only a member of that religious tradition, he was a minister within that group before he went into politics and became President. For more about President Garfield in this blog select this link.

Benjamin Harrison Davis. A fifth member of our "Pantheon of the Famously Named" is also from my Grandmother Bura Davis' side of our family. Benjamin Harrison Davis (1888-1963) was the youngest of the 7 children of my GG Grandparents Charles and Melinda Davis. My 2nd Great Uncle Benjamin Harrison Davis was named after our 23rd President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901). This President Harrison was the Grandson of the 9th President William Henry Harrison who was mentioned in my last post.

Uncle Benjamin Harrison Davis (left)
President Benjamin Harrison (right)
My Uncle Benjamin Harrison Davis was born in Indiana August 25, 1888. His parents Charles and Melinda therefore named their son 3 months before the election of  President Benjamin Harrison, a popular Hoosier politician. Once again timing was everything. As was location. President Harrison was born in Ohio but lived much of his life in Indiana, much like the parents of my Uncle Benjamin, Charles and Melinda Wright Davis. My Uncle Benjamin lived his last years in Lipscomb County, Texas, just south of Beaver County, Oklahoma. He died by drowning at 74 years old when his pickup was swept into a swollen creek during a flash flood in the spring of 1963.

This second picture shows my uncle Benjamin Harrison Davis on the left, with his name sake President Benjamin Harrison on the right. Welcome to Benjamin Harrison Davis who is the fifth person to be added to our "Pantheon of the Famously Named."

For my next post: more people in "The Pantheon of the Famously Named." Believe it or not there are others in our family tree who belong in this Pantheon who are even more famous than the Presidents I have already mentioned. Next time I will share about a couple of others. If you happen to know of other people who belong in this Pantheon, please let me know. I do not want to overlook any famously named people in our family tree!
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Steve Shepard

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Pantheon of the Famously Named, September 14, 2018

Observe good faith and justice toward all nations.
Cultivate peace and harmony with all.
~George Washington

In recent months I have done considerable research into our Sheppard ancestors of Eastern Ohio in the early 19th century. These were our Sheppard ancestors who spelled their name with two PPs. It was not until our vagabond ancestor, my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915), that our name was consistently spelled -- by his descendants anyway -- with one P.

My research into our Sheppard ancestors from Belmont County, Ohio has centered on the prominent, early 19th century, family of James Sheppard and Hannah Gatchell Sheppard. They had a total of 13 children, their 7th child being James Cross Sheppard Jr., the one from whom we are descended, and the one about whom I have written numerous times in this blog. James and Hannah's last child was George Washington Sheppard. It was an interesting choice and it piqued my interest. How often have people in our family tree named their kids after Presidents?

I have found five instances among our ancestors where people were so named. There may be others hiding in the branches of our large family tree that I have not yet identified. If you know of ancestors who were named after Presidents, please let me know. I'd be glad to add them to what I am calling "The Pantheon of the Famously Named."

George Washington Sheppard. The first one is George Washington Sheppard (1829-1900), the 13th child of my GGGG Grandparents James Cross and Hannah Sheppard of Kirkwood, Belmont County, Ohio. In 1829 when he was born, the original George Washington, our first President, had been dead about 30 years. G.W. Sheppard's parents James and Hannah were born in 1775 and 1781 respectively. They were children, in the area of Washington DC, during the years of George Washington's greatest accomplishments. It is no wonder they named one of their children after him.

William Henry Harrison Sheppard
William Henry Harrison Sheppard. The second person in this "Pantheon of the Famously Named" is William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1840-1862). He was named after our 9th President, William Henry Harrison (1773-1841). President Harrison only served for a short time in 1841. He died of pneumonia just one month after his inauguration, making him the President with the shortest tenure. Our ancestor William Henry Harrison Sheppard was the 7th of the 11 children of John and Elizabeth Donahoo Sheppard, and was a grandson of the aforementioned James and Hannah Sheppard of Belmont County, Ohio. Here's a curious bit of trivia: Parents John and Elizabeth Sheppard named their son after Harrison in July, 1840, before Harrison was actually elected President in November, 1840. So technically they named their son after a beloved politician and Presidential candidate who later became President. But who's quibbling? He still gets added to this Pantheon!

This first picture purports to show William Henry Harrison Sheppard in a Civil War uniform, probably about 1862.

By the way, our ancestor William Henry Harrison Sheppard was another of the many fellows named "William Shepard" in our family tree. Sadly, William Henry Harrison Sheppard died in 1862 in the Civil War at just 21 years old. Interestingly, he was the first cousin of my GG Grandfather William Shepard (1835-1862) who also died in the Civil War, also in 1862. So not only were these first cousins who were given nearly the same name, they also died the same year, in the same war. It would be unusual for first cousins today to be given the same name. But 200 years ago, when families were large, migration was prevalent, and communication was often lacking, it was not unusual.

William Henry Harrison Loyd
William Henry Harrison Loyd. The third member of our "Pantheon of the Famously Named" was also named after President William Henry Harrison, a fellow by the name of William Henry Harrison Loyd (1841-1920). He was connected to the part of our Shepard family in Indiana, and probably knew very little about the Sheppards of Belmont County, Ohio. William Henry Harrison Loyd was the husband of the step-daughter of my GG Grandmother Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale of Ladoga, Montgomery County, Indiana. Mary was the widow of my GG Grandfather, the soldier William Shepard. Read about their story here.

William Henry Harrison Loyd was born April 17, 1841, just 13 days after the death of President Harrison on April 4, 1841. Before he was President, William Henry Harrison had been the Governor of the Indiana Territory, and was well known and beloved by many in that state. It is very understandable then that while the country was mourning the death of this new President, parents would give their son his name.

I am very fortunate to have found this very old image of William Henry Harris Loyd looking very distinguished, almost Presidential. He died in 1920 at nearly 80 years old, which means this picture was probably taken around the turn of the 20th Century.

I have others to add to this "Pantheon of the Famously Named," and I will share about them in my next post. Stay tuned.

A Milestone Birthday. Last Sunday I celebrated a milestone birthday when I turned 70 years old. It is a milestone that I accept with a mixture of joy and trepidation. I am glad to be as healthy as I am at this point in my life, realizing that the average age of the 19th century ancestors I like to write about, was less than 50. 

This second picture shows Cindy and me. It was taken just a couple of weeks ago here in San Diego on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Thanks to young grandson William Shepard for taking this picture.

I am grateful to God for all the many the joys of life, especially those that come from being part of such a wonderful family -- both my immediate family and the larger clan to which I belong.
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Steve Shepard

Friday, August 31, 2018

A Summer of Transitions, August 31, 2018

If you don't like something, change it.
If you can't change it,
change your attitude.
~Maya Angelou

As summer winds down to a close, I find it a time to celebrate family. I say this despite the fact that it has been a very busy summer, and a time of great transition for our part of the family.

Paula Harris, 1945
Surgery in Missouri. I received word from my cousin Kim Boyd Clark just this morning that her mom, Thelma Shepard Boyd, had heart surgery in Kansas City, Missouri today. Kim says that it appears to have been a successful surgery and that Thelma is now resting comfortably. Very best wishes to my aunt Thelma for a speedy recovery, and to Kim and her entire family in this time of concern for Thelma.

Remembering Paula and Joe Paul Harris. Earlier this month we laid to rest a couple of family members. My wife Cindy's mom Paula Harris passed away earlier this summer. On Saturday, August 18, we placed her ashes in a Columbarium at the Miramar National Cemetery here in San Diego. As a World War II Army veteran she took her appropriate place alongside other military personnel in one of the newer Cemeteries in our area, next to the Miramar Air Base. 


Joe Paul Harris, 1970s
At the same time, in the niche next to her we placed another Army veteran, her son Joe Paul Harris, who served in the Vietnam War in the 1970s. He died back in 2009 but is now in his final resting place in Miramar. They both rest honorably in a beautiful little Columbarium on the west side of the cemetery grounds.

As far as I know, Paula Harris and her son Joe Paul are the first two in our larger family to be interred at Miramar National cemetery. As the years go by this cemetery may become the burial location for other family members and will take its place with Greenwood Cemetery as an important cemetery where family members are remembered.

Preslea, Logan and William
Ready For Third, Second and First Grade
A Different Kind Of Transition. Cindy's 97 year old aunt Juanita Eeds relocated earlier this month from our home on Burgundy 
Street in San Diego and is now living with her son and daughter-in-law, Keith and Sally Eeds, in their beautiful new home in the cozy little resort town of Bandon, Oregon, not far from the California border. It is a positive move for Neen, though a difficult one to be sure. She has lived here in San Diego for over 60 years, the last 37 of which were with her sister Paula. Our prayers and best wishes are with Neen as she adjusts to her new life in Oregon.

Back To School. Earlier this week our grandkids celebrated the beginning of the school year for them at Dailard Elementary here in San Diego. As First, Second and Third graders at Dailard they will be keeping their father Nathan busy with all the many activities associated with their education.

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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Gibbs and the Shepards, August 8, 2018

I was not raised with a fortune.
Something more was left me,
and that was family values.
~Dikembe Mutombo

Remembering Our Dads. Today Cindy and I are remembering our fathers. Ironically, Aug 8 is my Dad's death day, and Cindy's Dad's birthday. My Dad Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) died August 8, 2003, 15 years ago, in Anacortes, Washington after a long time struggle with COPD. Born in Logan, Oklahoma, he lived the longest part of his life -- 38 years -- in San Diego. The last 25 years of his life he lived happily in retirement, on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington.

Joe Harris and daughter Cindy
San Diego, 1968
Cindy's Dad, S.J. (Joe) Harris was born August 8, 1922 in tiny Leon, Oklahoma. Like my Dad, Joe served in World War II, which was part of the reason he moved to Southern California. He lived in San Diego from 1950 until his death in 1999.

Our Dads had a lot in common. Both were born in Oklahoma, both came to California in the World War II era, both spent the biggest part of their lives in San Diego, where they both raised their families, and both were devout Church of Christ members. But most importantly they were both fine men who loved their families and will be long remembered as quality individuals of great faith who gave of themselves generously to others.

The Gibbs and the Shepards. I received word recently from Ron Gibbs, a member of the Gibbs family who were close friends of our Shepard ancestors in the early and mid 20th century. Ron who is a Justice of the Peace, has lived in Searcy, Arkansas for over 30 years even though he grew up in the San Diego area in Escondido. He is the son of Raymond Gibbs and a nephew of Rod and Violet Gibbs Ramirez.

Ron Gibbs and I had a very good conversation about the connections between our Shepard ancestors and his Gibbs ancestors in Southern California, and before that in Two Buttes, Colorado, and in Beaver County, Oklahoma. He reminded me that both the Shepards and Gibbs, who knew each other in Oklahoma, moved in 1928 to Two Buttes, Colorado. Some Kilpatrick family members also moved to Two Buttes that very same year. These folks brought with them their devotion to the Church of Christ. Ron told me of a Gospel Meeting that was held in little Two Buttes in 1928. As a result of that meeting, a Church of Christ congregation was started in Two Buttes with founding members being from among the families of the Shepards, the Kilpatricks, the Gibbs, as well as others. The dust bowl made life in Southeast Colorado unbearable in the ensuing years. So it did not take long for a number of those living in Two Buttes to move on westward to California.

Violet Gibbs, Eugene Shepard 
Two Buttes, Colorado, about 1935
The Gibbs were among the first of these folks to leave Colorado and move to Southern California where they settled in San Diego in the late 1930s. In 1940 the Gibbs' wrote to the Shepards, who were still languishing in the dust bowl of Colorado, and said there was a San Diego boarding house looking for someone to run it. Would Will and Bura Shepard be interested in relocating to San Diego to be in charge of this boarding house? 

It was just what Will and Bura Shepard (my grandparents) were waiting for. They packed up and made the 1,200 mile drive to California in September, 1940. The two of them were actually a part of a clan of 9 who made the transition. Along with Will and Bura Shepard came their kids, Elmer (22), Eugene (19) and Thelma (4). Some months later they were joined by their oldest daughter Pauline, her husband Bill Russell and their two young children Rex (4) and Beverly (1).

The move in 1928 from Beaver County, Oklahoma to Southeast Colorado, in retrospect, had been ill advised. Who could have foreseen the hardships they were to encounter in tiny Two Buttes? But as ill advised as that move was, the move to San Diego was just as fortuitous. The Shepards and the Gibbs rode the wave of prosperity in the years following World War II and made good lives for themselves in  Southern California. 

Through the middle years of the 20th century the Shepards and the Gibbs remained good family friends in California, through their Church of Christ affiliation, as well as through family gatherings and other times of being together. Born in 1948 I was one of the first of Will and Bura Shepard's 12 grandchildren to be born in California. I still have fond memories of the kids of our families getting together for play times and BBQs and swim parties, and hearing the older generation talk about the Colorado and the Oklahoma days. Many of us have scattered in various directions in recent decades but those family experiences in Oklahoma and Colorado, and then in San Diego, will remain formative and an important part of our families' shared history.

Thanks to Ron Gibbs for making contact and for stirring some important memories of years gone by.
- - -
Steve Shepard