Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving! Nov 28, 2019

Three Gems of Our Family

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, wherever you may be! This is one of the very best times of the year. In some ways even better than Christmas. Here at Thanksgiving the stress of the holiday is less than it will be next month, while the joy and the gratitude abound.

Sisters Maida Gower Shepard and Vicki Gower Johnston
Anacortes, Washington, 1995
I am grateful at this time of the year for all my family. Even those with whom I don't always agree. I am especially grateful for the three senior most members of our family: my mother Maida Shepard, and my two aunts Thelma Shepard Boyd and Vicki Gower Johnston.

All three of them are gems within our larger family. They represent the generation that went before us. Theirs was a time of hard workers and bold dreamers. They lived through some of the darkest times of the 20th century, including the Great Depression and World War II. They are part of what Tom Brokaw famously called "the greatest generation."

My mother Maida Gower Shepard at 95 lives in her home of 40 years, with her daughter Barbara in Anacortes, Washington. My aunt Vicki Gower Johnston lives in a beautiful home/care facility near her daughter Paula in Chandler, Arizona.

2019 - Thelma Shepard Boyd (left) with daughter 
Kim Boyd Clark (right) and granddaughter Amanda Davis
And my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd recently moved into her own independent living apartment in El Cajon, California, a few blocks from her grandchildren Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz who are very helpful to her. Thelma's daughter Kim and husband Jeff, motor home travelers, are in Virginia for a while with their newest grandchild Cooper and his parents Amanda and Justin.

My Mom and my Aunts represent a combined 264 years of our family's history! They are the present day anchors to our Shepard and Gower history. What a wealth of memories is contained in the lives and hearts of these 3! They experienced our family's movement from Arkansas to Oklahoma and Colorado, to California to Western Washington, and to Kansas, Arizona and elsewhere. And they continue to lead the way in our family lovingly and emotionally. Thanks be to God for the lives of Maida, Vicki and Thelma. They mean more to us than all the thanks we can give. But we thank them anyway, and want them to know they are loved, appreciated and honored during this season of Thanksgiving.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, November 22, 2019

Importance of Extended Family, Nov 22, 2019

The trouble with most of us
is that we'd rather be ruined by praise
than saved by criticism.
~Norman Vincent Peale

I have been writing this family blog for 12 years now. I have enjoyed doing research into our family history and then sharing that information with all of you. It has been a journey that has included some remarkable historical discoveries. It has also given me a larger sense of what it means to be family. In addition it has been an opportunity to connect with relatives that I might never have known. Writing this blog has been a positive, satisfying experience. Thanks to those of you who are regular readers and who have been supportive of this endeavor.

Speaking of Extended Family:
A family gathering in San Diego, Easter, 2014
An Anonymous Troll. I should not have been surprised to discover recently that not everyone views this blog the same way. Recently a reader of The Shepard's Crook has reacted quite negatively. For the last month or so an anonymous "troll" -- as such a person is called online -- has left numerous negative remarks at the bottom of The Shepard's Cook in the comments section. They have been angry, critical comments, quite different from the dozens of other comments that have been posted over the years. Fortunately Blogger is set up so all comments are moderated. They do not get automatically posted. I have mentioned before that I invite readers to post comments at the end of the blog posts. But in order for them to be made available for all to see, they must be respectful, not hateful. Unfortunately the recent anonymous comments have been inappropriate. It is a surprising development that, as much as anything else, is one more sign of the angry times in which we live.

One of the most important life lessons I ever learned was shared with me by a colleague many years ago when we lived in the Bay Area. I have never forgotten it. He said "You can always learn more about yourself from those who criticize you than from those who compliment you." That is simply another way of expressing the truth in the Norman Vincent Peale quote at the top of this post. It is a life lesson that has served me well over the years.

Want To Be Added to The Mailing List? This is a good time for me to mention again that when I send out notices of new posts I am careful with the emailing list that I use. I do not send out notices with everyone's email available for all to see. Instead I "blind copy" everyone so that your email address is protected. It is simply one more way of being respectful of personal information. If you want to be added to the list of people to whom I send notifications of new posts, or if you want to removed from that list, just sent me an email and let me know.

Speaking of Extended Family:
A Reunion in Oklahoma, July, 2009
The Importance of Extended Family. A recent study by Sarah Woods of the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center made an interesting discovery about the effect of family life on physical health. It has long been known that the health of one's marital relationship can have a great affect on one's physical well being. But this recent study discovered something quite surprising. It found that the emotional climate of one's extended family has an even bigger effect on overall health, including the development or worsening of chronic conditions such as stroke and headaches. Here's the take-away from that: As you prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday next week, be grateful for your extended family. And don't underestimate the importance of their place in your well being. And your place in theirs.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

That Great Mosaic, November 13, 2019

Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). Last Friday was the anniversary of the birth of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. She was one of the most influential people in our entire family. A woman small in stature, she was a spiritual giant in our Shepard family. She was the only person in our ancestral tree who was raised in Indiana, migrated to Beaver County, Oklahoma, and then settled with her family in San Diego where she lived the biggest part of her life. Her last few years were spent in Anacortes, Washington with her son Eugene Shepard and his family. She and husband William are buried today in San Diego's Greenwood Cemetery.

William and Bura Davis Shepard
San Diego, 1960s
When I remember my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard I always think of her faithful devotion to the Church of Christ. Her father was James Davis and her mother was Callie Spear Davis. The Davises and the Spears were Church of Christ families who migrated to Indiana from Southeastern Ohio about the time of the Civil War. They were among the founders of the New Union Church just outside Spencer, Indiana. James and Callie brought their faith with them when they settled in Indiana. From her childhood my Grandmother Bura developed that same love and devotion to the Church. It was part of the DNA she inherited from both the Davises and the Spears, and that she passed on religiously (so to speak) to her descendants.

I have not found many details about the church life of the Spears and the Davises in Ohio. But I do know that Monroe County, Ohio where they lived in the early to mid 19th century was in the very region where the Restoration movement originated. The ancestral home of the Spears and Davises in Monroe County was just outside the County Seat of Woodsfield, where there is an historic Restoration Movement congregation that began in pre-Civil War days. Alexander Campbell himself preached at the dedication of the congregation in 1855. Because of grandmother Bura and her Davis and Spear kinfolk, we have a number of family members today who can trace our lineage in the Restoration Movement back for 6, 7, even 8 generations.

On this month of the 123rd anniversary of my grandmother's birth, I am grateful for her life and that of her husband William Shepard. Their love and dedication to their family and their faith is a treasured legacy that we hold dear.

Karl Wilk's High School Photo
Granite Hills High, 1987
Karl Frederickpaul Wilk (1969-1997). One of William and Bura's great grandchildren was Karl Frederickpaul Wilk. He was the son of my cousin Beverly Russell Wilk and her husband Phil Wilk. Had she lived, cousin Bev would have turned 80 years old in April of this year. Unfortunately she died at just 35 years old of an unexpected brain aneurism. When she died, she left her 39 year old husband with two youngsters: a 1 year old daughter, Shannon, and a 5 year old son, Karl. It was to Phil's great credit that he did such a good job of being a single parent for many years. He was assisted in raising his children by grandmother Bura Shepard who, after the death of granddad William, lived with Phil and his family for several years.

Last Tuesday would have been Karl's 50th birthday. His unfortunate death occurred 22 years old in San Diego. Substance abuse was his downfall, resulting in him taking his own life. He died here in San Diego way too young at just 27 years old, a handsome young man full of promise and hope. Like others in our family tree, his life is a cautionary tale, reminding us that life is fragile and the dangers are many. Karl's sister and niece, Shannon and Emma Wilk, live in Atchison, Kansas. Shannon shared with me recently some thoughts on the life of her brother Karl.

Emma and Shannon Wilk
Atchison, Kansas 2019
"I think of him often. I tell my daughter about him all the time. Little things, like his favorite music, movies he liked. My memories are full of the good times. Even the ones of him picking on me. He was my big brother, and I miss him terribly. He loved music, his friends and loved to make you laugh. Karl will always be on my mind. Never a day goes by that I don't think of him."

Karl and Shannon's grandparents were my aunt and uncle, Pauline Shepard Russell (1916-2000) and her husband Bill Russell (1908-1997). Uncle Bill died in the summer of 1997 at 88 years old, just three months before Karl took his own life.

We would like to think that all our family stories are positive ones. But they are not. We all know that's the way life is. Some family stories are not pleasant to recall, even though we can and do remember, and learn from, the parts of those stories that are positive and insightful. It reminds me once again that family research sometimes leaves one uneasy and discomforted. But it is all part of that great mosaic we call our family.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, November 01, 2019

One Saint's Day, Nov 1, 2019


For millions of people today is All Saints Day. But for me and many others, this day of my mother's birthday can be rightly named “One Saints Day.” As the oldest member of our family my mom Maida Gower Shepard has been a beloved member of our clan for 95 years. She has always had the status of Sainthood in my book. 

Maida Gower Shepard on her 95th Birthday
with Barbara, Gary and Steve Shepard
Today her family honors her for being a generous, caring, spiritual force in our family. We gladly and joyfully celebrate her for being the glue that has held our family together for all these many years. And we do that remembering our Dad Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) who was her life partner for 58 wonderful years until his death 16 years ago. 

First and foremost we celebrate Mom today for being a caring parent of her 6 children to whom she has been, and continues to be, an emotional and spiritual guide. She has had one or more of her children living with her for the last 73 years, ever since the day their first child Gary was born in 1946. Their kids have come and gone numerous times over all those years, but through it all mom and dad created a loving and generous home where all felt welcome. 

We also celebrate mom on her birthday today for being devoted to her whole family. Their home in Anacortes was the place her mother Nola Shannon Gower spent the last few years of her life until her death in 2004. And before that theirs was the home for Dad’s mother Bura Davis Shepard for the last years of her life until she passed away in 1986.

And of course we celebrate the fact that Mom has made it to the age of 95. That doesn’t happen by accident. You don't get to be 95 without taking good care of yourself and living a healthy, wholesome life. We don't know what God has in mind for the future of our dear mother, but we do know that by the grace of God she will be well cared for, in this life and into the next. For now we joyfully have her with us for yet another birthday, and we continue to cherish every day that we are blessed by her presence.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Celebrating 95 Years, October 26, 2019

Celebrating Maida Gower Shepard at 95

Next Friday, November 1, my mother Maida Gower Shepard will turn 95 years old, which is quite a milestone. Her family plans to have a small, quiet celebration on her actual birthday, but then will have an open house at mom's Church on Saturday afternoon, November 2, to which all family and friends are invited. Assuming mom is up to it, the Open House will be an opportunity to visit with her and celebrate this special day.

Maida Gower Shepard with husband Eugene Shepard 
and his brother Elmer Shepard, San Diego, 1945 
She was born on All Saints Day in 1924 in Mountain View, Arkansas, the second child of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. She married Navy man Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) in San Diego in 1945 and spent 58 wonderful years with him, first in San Diego then in Anacortes, Washington. Their life together has resulted in 6 children, 9 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren, and 2 great great grandchildren.

Not many things in life get to be 95, human or otherwise. Not airplanes, boats, animals, relationships, computers, furniture or any number of other items. Some things might be able to survive that long if well cared for, like cars, institutions, buildings and churches. But even if they make it to 95, it is somewhat extraordinary. Do you live in a house that is 95 years old? I never have. We do attend a local Church that is over 95 years old, but even that is cause for celebration.

Maida with daughter Barbara and son Russ
on Wildwood Lane, earlier this year.
Only 13% of American women, and only 7% of American men live to be 95. Being from the class of 1924, mom has been in good company. Others born that same year include President Jimmy Carter, President George H. W. Bush, Gloria Vanderbilt, Marlon Brando, Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver, Lauren Bacall, and Lee Iococca. Mom is from a family of people who tend to live long lives. Her mother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004) lived to be 101 years old. Nola actually lived so long her family tended to forget the year she was born. Some swore she was born in 1902. But the historical record is very clear that she was born in 1903. My mom's grandmother Finetta Dearien Shannon (1861-1960) lived just 3 months short of 100 years. Her aunt Peggy Shannon Hutson (1885-1981) lived to be 95.

Longevity is not a given, nor is it necessarily a birthright. Staying healthy makes a huge difference. Mom has lived a healthy lifestyle which has contributed to her being able to live 95 years. This despite the fact that for years she breathed the second hand smoke of her father Leroy Gower. He was a life long smoker who died of lung disease at 75.

Kambree and Mandi Aquiningoc
June 2019
Celebrating 95 years is always a two-sided affair. At that age, the years clearly have taken their toll on a person mentally and physically. Yet it is also a wonderful time of honoring, celebrating, and proudly affirming a dear family member whose life is very deserving of all the accolades she receives.

Birthday Wishes today to Mandi Aquiningoc! One of mom's Great Grandchildren is Mandi Aquiningoc of Weatherford, Texas whose 27th birthday is today. Mandi is the mother of 6 year old Kambree, who is one of mom's two great great grandchildren. Happy 27th Birthday to Mandi!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Stranger Than Fiction, October 16, 2019

It's no wonder that truth 
is stranger than fiction. 
Fiction has to make sense.
~Mark Twain

Vicki Gower Johnston in 1995 
with mother Nola Gower on left
and daughter Paula and 
granddaughter Heather on right
Happy Birthday to Vicki Gower Johnston. This Thursday is the birthday of my aunt Vicki Gower Johnston of Chandler, Arizona. Vicki is one of the senior members of our family. Born in 1933 in Okemah, Oklahoma, she was raised in San Diego. She was the first in our family to relocate to Northwest Washington when she and her husband Al Perry moved from Southern California to Oak Harbor in 1975 where she lived for 40 years. Four years ago she moved to Arizona where she lives near her daughter Paula Harrell Tuzzolino. Best wishes to aunt Vicki for a very happy birthday!

An Opportunity to Respond. At the end of each post on The Shepard's Crook, there is a "comments" option which offers you the opportunity to leave a message in response to what was written. Whenever comments are left, I read them and then, if appropriate, I publish them with the post. Comments can be left anonymously, but it's much more likely to be published if a name is attached. It's a way you can provide feedback. You can inform me of a correction to something I wrote. You can leave further information that I may not have about historical data. There are any number of ways you can provide important and valuable feedback. But like other open forums, comments must be helpful or instructive and must be respectful of others. You can respond with just about any message you like. But please, no political rants, rude remarks or any other inappropriate comments.

In December it will be 12 years since I began writing this blog as a way of sharing family history research. In those years people have left a wide variety of comments. Some of them have been simple and positive. Others have been helpful corrections. Many have been very informative. Some seem to have been from people whose first language was not English, and they were simply practicing their English. Some were from second or third cousins I never knew about, but are people with whom I now continue to correspond. And some comments were just plain bizarre.

A Sampling of the Comments. The following is a sampling of the comments I have received over the years. These are actual comments.

From snorkeler Monette Ortego, 11/26/12
I am looking for Kevin or Havilah Wardle. I googled their names and came across your blog. I think I found one of their wedding bands while snorkeling in Sharks Cove, Hawaii. Mahalo. (Re: a blog post from November 6, 2012) 
[Postscript: Amazingly, Kevin and Havilah did indeed get their wedding ring returned to them from the waters off the North Shore of Oahu as a result of this blog post comment.]

From distant cousin Mike Moran, 7/4/19: 
Thanks for this article - I was researching your ancestor Rachel Wells Wright who is also my 6th great-grandmother, on my father's mother's side. Yesterday would have been my father's 118th birthday (www.hapmoran.org). The Quaker background of my family is all news to me. I've learned about my mother's Amish family but knew nothing about these early Quakers. Thanks for another piece of the puzzle.

From second cousin Cathy Harrison, 9/27/18
Julius Caesar Vessels
Cindy's GGGrandfather
Julius Caesar Vessels [Cindy's GGGrandfather] is my GG grandfather also. I know something of him but nothing of Julius Caesar and Narcissus. Thank you for what you've recorded. If you come across anything of a personal nature, I'm interested.

From an Anonymous Family Member, 10/08/19
I urge you to approve the comment, so all can see... Be honest and transparent... For someone who loves writing family blogs it really too bad you do not truly care about your family. I hope the entire extended family sees through these posts and can understand how dysfunctional our family really is. Praise God for Vicki's family! They have cared for her the way a family should, they got her the care she deserved in a timely manner. Maida would be SO proud! I pray you find comfort in the Lord and seek guidance in him to repair the broken relationships. 

From Shannon researcher D. Robert Smith, 7/15/19:
Actually, the Shannons descend from Scottish ancestors, that were part of the Scotland to Ulster Migration. The original name would have been Achennan in Scotland. Cuthbert Ashennan 1490-1548 is as far as we have gotten. His grandson John and his son John II, immigrated to Ireland probably before 1600. 

From desperate housewife Julian Kay, 7/4/19:
I want to tell you all that I was able to put an end to my divorce and restore my marriage. I don’t know what came over my husband. I had no other option than to seek the help of a spell caster. The spell worked like magic. My husband changed and started showing love instead of the divorce he was planning. Everything is in place for me now. I would gladly recommend the use of a spell to any one going through marriage problems. (gbojiespiritualtemple) 

From 2nd cousin Alice Shannon Traynor, 10/11/16:
Hello Steve, So glad I ran across your blog. Robert Columbus Shannon [brother of Nola Shannon Gower] was my grandfather. That would make us what, 2nd cousins? I do have one photo of Robert Columbus and his family. Send me your email address, and I will send you a copy. Love to hear from you.

Paula Harris and Maida Shepard
Halloween, 2017
From Indian Pastor Diwakar, 11/30/17:
Hello Bro. Steve. I am a Pastor from Mumbai, India. I am blessed and privileged to get connected with you. Give my belated birthday greetings to your dear mother who is 93. To receive birthday greetings from Mumbai, India is unique. I have been in ministry for 38 years in Mumbai. We reach out to the poorest of poor with the love of Christ to bring healing on Happy Halloween!

From Anonymous, 5/8/16
I am working on my genealogy and googled [my 4X Great Grandmother] Mary Terry Buskirk and found your blog. My relatives said she was kidnapped from England and brought to America by a sea captain for marriage but she hid and married John Buskirk! They said her dad's name was George Terry and mom Elizabeth. 

From 3rd cousin Cherie Harris, 7/17/12
I reckon I've found me another cousin! I recently returned to working on my Williams line and found your site. My 2nd great-grandmother was Matilda Jane Williams Clearwater, youngest child of John and Lydia Warford Williams. I enjoy your writings very much.

From long lost neighbor Crystal Leeper, 7/12/08
I was looking for Lyndsey and Mandy and googled to find them [mentioned on your website]. I used to live down the street from them and was wondering if you knew how I could get in touch with either of them? :) Thanks!

From kissing cousins Chris and Amanda, 5/8/09
Wonderful slide show! So many great moms in this family :) 

From Inspector Clouseau (possibly an alias?), 6/13/13
Hmm, an interesting way to use a blog. Nice blog work. I came across your site while “blog surfing”. I frequently travel around looking for creative ways in which people express themselves. Thanks for sharing.

My Grandfather 
Leroy Ertin Gower, 1930s
From a Gower relative, 6/25/17
Thank you for posting this picture of [your grandfather] Leroy Gower from the 1930s. I showed it to my mom Georgia Gower Pfeil and she remembered her much older brother Lee who visited her family in Okemah when she was a girl. Mom's parents were George and Phoebe Root Gower.

From author Marjorie Eldred, 7/19/13
Thanks Steve, I have enjoyed the family pictures with cars. We have a favorite or two also: Mom and Dad Vaughn sitting on the running board of a very old car; our family the Vaughns standing in front of a 1940 chevy taken in 1952. These pics are included in my book, Seizing the Treasure: Nuggets of Vaughn-Kilpatricks ($16.95 on Amazon) or Seizing the Treasure: 101 Nuggets to Warm Your Heart.

These are just a few of the many insightful, interesting, amazing, unbelievable, and sometimes crazy comments that have been left in the comments section of The Shepard's Crook. You are welcome to give it a try sometime. But please, spell casting will be frowned upon. 😂
- - -
Steve Shepard

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Old Drawer Discoveries, October 8, 2019

One of the advantages of being disorganized
is that one is always having surprising discoveries.
~ A.A. Milne

Newest family member, Fiona Ruth Shepard
with mom Jessica Bell
I was in Washington to visit my mom recently. As most of you know she is living with her daughter Barbara on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes where she has made her home for 41 years. Maida spent two months this past summer at the home of her oldest son Gary Shepard and his wife Cindy in Oak Harbor just a few miles away. It was a good change of scenery for her as she continues to deal with concerns of aging, especially memory issues. We are planning a special celebration for Maida's 95th birthday which will occur in just a few weeks on the weekend of her birthday November 1.  

Our Family is Growing. Congratulations to Maida's grandson Christopher Shepard and Jessica Bell of Seattle, Washington who recently gave birth to their second daughter, Fiona Ruth Shepard, on September 15. Best wishes to Fiona, her older sister Finley, and parents Chris and Jessica! Fiona is the newest grandchild of my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Shepard, and is the 15th Great Grandchild of my mother Maida Shepard. Visit Christopher or Jessica on Facebook to see more beautiful pictures of our newest family member.
Vicki Gower Johnston with me on the left 
and Frank and Paula Tuzzolino on the right.

My mother Maida and her sister Vicki Gower Johnson are the two senior members of our family. Between them they represent 181 years of family history from Arkansas to Oklahoma to San Diego to Washington state and now to Phoenix. We are honored to be able to celebrate these two whose lives have positively influenced so many of us. Today Vicki lives in Chandler, Arizona very near her daughter Paula Tuzzolino and Paula's husband Frank. Cindy and I had the pleasure of visiting with Vicki and her family last week when we were in Arizona. Vicki is doing quite well at 86 years old, continues to have a good sense of humor, and enjoyed herself as we went out to lunch. Four years ago this month, Vicki moved from Oak Harbor, Washington to Arizona where she continues to life in a very comfortable and roomy care facility in a beautiful neighborhood of the Phoenix suburb of Chandler.

1945 picture of my aunt
Thelma Shepard Boyd of El Cajon, Ca.
Old Drawer Discoveries. Our family on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes was cleaning out some old drawers recently and found a couple of historical gems that are worth mentioning in this blog. The first is an old picture of my only remaining aunt on the Shepard side of my family, Thelma Shepard Boyd. It is a picture I do not ever remember seeing before. Thelma appears to be elementary school aged, which would mean the picture was taken in San Diego, not long after the Shepards moved from Southeast Colorado to California. With bows in her hair and an innocent smile, she looks for all the world as if she is dressed for the part of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Thelma's daughter Kim Boyd Clark confirmed with her mom that this was indeed taken in San Diego in 1945 when Thelma was just 9 years old. Thelma lives today in an apartment in El Cajon, California near several members of her family.

The second recent "old drawer discovery" was a postcard written and mailed 61 years ago. The 2-cent postcard was mailed by my sister Linda Shepard (1950-1971) on July 11, 1958, just a month before she turned 8 years old. Our family was living in San Diego, but young Linda was visiting in the home of some Gower family members, Ollen and Imogene Self and their three daughters, of Fresno, California. Imogene Hutson Self (1921-2008) was a first cousin of my mother Maida Gower Shepard, and was originally from Mountain View, Arkansas, just like mom. Our California family made several memorable visits in the 1950s to the San Joaquin home of mom's cousin Imogene and her family. The postcard that 7 year old Linda wrote that summer of '58 said, "Dear Mother and all. I hope you will call me soon. I want to hear your voice again. When you send me the next letter, I hope you will give me some more money, because the other didn't last very long. Love Linda!" 

"Give me some more money... the other didn't last very long." It was the plaintiff cry of a young girl learning a difficult lesson about how easily money slips away. It's a lesson we all have had to learn. Some of us are still trying to learn it.

What discoveries await you in your old drawers?
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, his, him)

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Minister Charity Wright Cook, September 13, 2019

A person travels the world over
in search of what they need, 
and returns home to find it.
~George Moore

In recent posts I have written about a cluster of 6 ministers in our family tree from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The last in this cluster of 6 was Charity Wright Cook (1745-1822). She was born on the American frontier in a Quaker settlement Feb 13, 1745 near what is today Frederick, Maryland. She was the 7th child of two Quaker ministers, John Wright and Rachel Wells Wright, and the grandchild of Quaker minister James Wright. We are related to her through my GG Grandmother Malinda Wright Davis (1846-1920).

Charity was from a devout Quaker family where she learned about faith, the community of believers and the need to spread the good news to all the world. One has to admire her grandparents James and Mary Wright. How do you explain six members of their family becoming life long ministers? James was a minister, as were two of their children, and a daughter-in-law, plus two of their grandchildren. James and Mary obviously did an extraordinary job of creating a family atmosphere of love, devotion and fidelity to the cause of the faith. It was a family culture that bore great rewards. This cluster of 6 ministers from one family deserves celebrating today. They are part of the reason we are the family we have become all these years later.


Here's Charity's story: As a young child, her family moved to North Carolina to help settle a new Quaker community at Cane Creek, west of Chapel Hill. When 15 years old her family moved again to help settle yet another Quaker community in Bush River, Newberry County, South Carolina. There, at just 16 years old, she married Isaac Cook, with whom she shared 58 years of married life, and had 11 children.

Drawing of a Quaker woman preacher 
in 18th Century America. Nearly a third of all 
Quaker ministers were women at this time.
Charity was a very gifted, personable, and faithful individual. In the first 10 years of her married life she bore 5 of their 11 children, she became a leader in the local Quaker community, she learned how to read and write (not all children were taught to do so), and she was accepted into the ministry of the Quakers. During the Revolutionary War, Charity began her ministerial career as an itinerant preacher, visiting Quaker communities to encourage, support, inspire, sometimes challenge, and always build up the fellowship. Over the ensuing 44 years she made 25 religious journeys, being away from home for nearly 8 total years. Her husband Isaac Cook was the perfect stay at home dad, who supported her ministry, managed their family farm, and oversaw the care of their children during her many absences.

A Woman of Strength and Fortitude. Charity was supported financially on her journeys by her own resources, her local faith community, as well as the larger Quaker fellowship. She was well received wherever she went. She crisscrossed the United States visiting every region where Quakers were established, which included every state in the Union at that time. Through the 1770s, 80s and 90s this inspired woman from the backcountry of the American frontier made a name for herself among Quakers everywhere. Charity clearly had an uncanny ability to relate to people in all walks of life. She hobnobbed with the Pennsylvania Quaker elite and rubbed shoulders with less sophisticated folks on the frontier. Her normal travel pattern was to have a female partner, plus two men appointed to chaperone them. On a few of her journeys she traveled with her sister, Quaker minister Susannah Wright Hollingsworth.

As the 18th century drew near to a close, Charity had 20 years experience in religious travels, and had become one of the best known itinerant preachers of her time. The hardships she encountered on her journeys are hard for us to appreciate: rough roads, severe weather, marauding Indians, slow arduous travel, the Revolutionary War, emotional struggles, longing for home, saddle soreness, separation from family and friends, illness and much more. But Charity was up to the task. She was not just a gifted minister, she was a woman of spiritual strength and physical stamina. She had an unwavering call from God that kept her on the move accomplishing great things as the years went by.

The USS Severn, the ship on which Charity Wright Cook 
sailed to England in December, 1797.
A Dream Journey. In October, 1797, her "dream journey" began when she sailed on the USS Severn from New York Harbor for Liverpool, England. For four eventful years she traveled across Europe, visiting Quaker communities throughout England, Germany and Ireland. She preached and visited and challenged and exhorted her fellow believers across the Atlantic. She spent many hours in people's homes providing pastoral care and spiritual guidance. Charity created a bond that lifted their spirits and nurtured her soul. It was a trip of a life time that took its toll on her. In Dublin, Ireland, November, 1799 she developed small pox which almost took her life. She was down for several weeks before getting back on the road. It was nonetheless the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of her life. She returned to the U.S. in December, 1801 and immediately made her way home to Bush River, South Carolina for a happy reunion with her husband and 11 children, from whom she had been separated for 5 years.

She arrived while the family was in worship. Her husband Isaac was on the preachers and elders bench on the men's side of the church. Charity crept in and sat on the preachers bench on the women's side of the church. When Isaac heard his wife praying, he suddenly recognized her voice. In an act that shattered protocol, he jumped up and ran to the women's side of the church. Right there in front of God and everybody he gave a big kiss to his wife whom he had not seen in several years. He received some stiff criticism from a few in attendance. But he would have none of it. It was a moment he had been anticipating for a long time, and nothing would stop him.

Pipe Smoking Women. Charity was a vibrant, outgoing person who loved life. Among her personal habits was smoking a pipe, which was not uncommon for women in early America. My GG Grandmother Margaret Williams Spear (1845-1904), who lived a century after Charity, was also known to be a pipe smoker. Among Quakers tobacco use was allowed, if done "privately and moderately." Charity, however was known to smoke her pipe in public which caused quite a stir among some.

A story is told about Charity having a dream one night. She dreamed she died and stood at the pearly gates ready to enter heaven. The gatekeeper looked in the Book of Life and said her name was not there. "But it must be there," she protested. The gatekeeper checked again. "You are not listed," he had to tell her. "Please," she insisted, "Check one more time. There must be some mistake." So he went back and checked one last time. He returned and said, "I found your name at last. I couldn't see it the other times I looked because it was obscured by all the tobacco smoke." As a result of this dream Charity gave up smoking her pipe.

Exodus to Western Ohio. After getting readjusted to life with her family, Charity spent another four years making religious visits, but closer to home in South Carolina. In 1805 Charity and Isaac and their family joined others in the mass migration that saw nearly all the Quakers leave Newberry and relocate on the Western frontier. As I mentioned in my last post, an apocalyptic preacher named Zachary Dicks proclaimed impending doom for the Quakers in South Carolina and was taken quite seriously. As a result Charity and Isaac Cook and their family were part of the 500 mile exodus to Western Ohio.

Caesar's Creek Friends Burial Ground in Ohio
where Charity Wright Cook is buried.
The last 17 years of Charity's life were spent as part of the Caesar's Creek Monthly Meeting, in Warren County, Ohio northeast of Cincinnati. Even there, late in life, she continued her work of traveling to visit and support Quaker communities in the larger region. She made her last religious journey at 75 years old. Her son Joseph was so concerned he insisted on accompanying her on this, her 25th and final trip. After 44 years in active ministry she finally retired ending a remarkable career. Two years later she died at Caesar's Creek, Ohio, a few days short of her 77th birthday, and is buried at Caesar's Creek Friends Burial Ground.

A History of Remarkable Ministers. This summer I have written about a total of 12 ministers I have identified in our family tree. Of all those ministers, Charity stands out as one of the most remarkable. Her dedication to the faith, her energy in serving, her stamina through many trials, her ability to balance career and family, her inspired and vibrant personality -- it all adds up to an amazing life well lived. We have a wonderful history of remarkable ministers in our family tree. They have contributed to the spiritual strength that our family exhibits even today.

Though Charity Wright Cook lived long ago, we have extensive information about her from several sources, including her biography written in 1981 by Quaker author Algie Newlin. Titled Charity Wright Cook: A Liberated Woman, it is a valuable source that I used extensively in writing this post.
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Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Friday, September 06, 2019

More Ministers In Our Past, September 6, 2019

Well done, good and faithful servant.
Come and share your master’s joy!
Matthew 25.21

Juanita Eeds with Granddaughter 
Kristina Eeds Ferrero, 2009
Juanita Hicks Eeds (1921-2019). Early last month, I wrote about the 98th birthday celebration for Cindy's aunt Juanita Eeds. Cindy and granddaughter Preslea went to Oregon from San Diego to celebrate her birthday with her. It was a subdued but happy celebration and, as it turned out, a final goodbye as well. Just four days after her birthday, Neen passed away peacefully at the home of her son Keith Eeds in Bandon, Oregon, where she lived the last year of her life. Born in Oklahoma in 1921, she had more than her fair share of hardship, but she lived a good long life. About 70 of her years were spent in San Diego. A life- long member of the Church of Christ (Hillcrest, Allied Gardens, El Cajon Blvd), she will be missed. Her sister and life long companion Paula Harris preceded her in death by just a year. With Neen's passing we say goodbye to the oldest member of our family.

Yet More Ministers In Our History. In my last post I profiled two ministers in our family tree from the 18th century, James Wright and his daughter Martha Wright Mendenhall. They were two of the 6 members of one family, over three generations, who were Quaker ministers. Earlier this summer I wrote in some detail about another child of James and Mary Wright, who also became a Quaker minister, their oldest son John Wright. John and his wife Rachel Wells Wright served as Quaker ministers in Maryland and the Carolinas in the mid to late 1700s. The following is a profile of one more Quaker minister from the Wright family who deserves mention, a grandchild of James and Mary Wright.

Susannah Wright Hollingsworth (1755-1830). Susannah was born in Cane Creek, North Carolina in the spring of 1755, the 11th child of John and Rachel Wright. In 1772 at the tender age of 16 she married "Big Isaac" Hollingsworth and over the next 20 years had 10 children with him. Two of their children had the same name. How was that possible, you ask. Their first child they named John, but he died at just 9 years old in 1781. Their last child was born in 1792. They chose also to name him John, presumably in memory of his deceased younger brother, and in honor of Susannah's father John.

Susannah Hollingsworth along with Charity Cook, her older sister by 10 years, are often referred to together in historical records since they were both Quaker ministers from the same family. John Belton O'Neall wrote this in The Annals of Newberry (part first): "In the women's meeting, on the preacher's bench, under their immense white beavers, I recall the full round faces and forms of the sisters, Charity Cook and Susannah Hollingsworth. Both wives, both mothers of large families, still they felt it their duty to preach 'Jesus and him crucified.' The first, Charity Cook, was indeed a gifted woman. Her sister, Susannah Hollingsworth, was not so highly gifted. Young Friends used to affirm that when Aunt Suzey, as she was called, began to pray, they could always keep ahead of her by repeating the words she was about to say."

Susannah was a "recorded minister of the gospel," meaning she was authorized by the Church. She traveled widely in different states in the service of the gospel. In 1805 she and husband Isaac Hollingsworth, along with their children, were part of a mass migration of Quakers from their Colony in Newberry, South Carolina. In about 1800 an apocalyptic Quaker preacher named Zachary Dicks had come to South Carolina and warned all Quakers that they must leave the "slave state" of South Carolina. If not they would be slaughtered like numerous blacks had been in the recent "massacre of San Domingo." Dicks was quite convincing. Within just a few years the entire Quaker colony did indeed leave the state, never to return, according to one writer. Many of them settled in Miami County, Ohio north of Cincinnati, and became part of the Miami Monthly Meeting of Quakers.

Incidentally, it was this fearful 500 mile migration of all these Quakers from South Carolina to Ohio that furthered the movement of the Wright family westward. From Western Ohio it was an easy 175 mile trek to Spencer, Indiana where some Wright family members settled in the early 19th century. Spencer, Indiana, of course, is where my Great Great Grandmother Malinda Wright met Charles Davis whom she married in 1869. 
West Branch Cemetery, Miami Co., Ohio where Susannah Wright 
Hollingsworth and husband "Big Isaac" Hollingsworth are buried.

Also from The Annals of Newberry (part second), this from John Chapman about his own grandmother Susannah Hollingsworth: Left a widow in 1809 at the age of 54, she lived among her children in Ohio the remainder of her life. She made religious visits after her husband's death, one of which was to Newberry, others to the East. Possessing an excellent memory, I heard her tell the fearful tales of the Revolution in Newberry district. Her piety, equanimity and kindness, particularly towards her grandchildren, were such that they loved her with the most ardent affection, believing that no grandmother could be better. One Sunday evening in July, 1830 she went on horseback to the residence of her son-in-law Robert Pearson. On the way she said to her young grandson: ’I am going to thy father's just to die.’  This was said with as much calmness of feeling as though she had said I'm going there to live. The next day she was taken ill. To her son Joel who visited her she said ‘I am going, but not as speedily as I could wish.’  Death came to her as a friend. Near the close of the week she died [on July 31, 1830] and was buried on the following Sunday in West Branch Cemetery, West Milton, Ohio. 

Susannah Wright Hollingsworth then becomes the 5th Quaker leader in this cluster of 18th century ministers in our family tree. All of them were respectable, faithful servants in the spread of the gospel. The final one of these 6 I will profile in my next post. This minister may be the most impressive one of all.
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Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)