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?
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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."
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Steve Shepard