Sunday, February 23, 2020

Our Oklahoma Roots, February 23, 2020

I’d rather drink muddy water
Sleep out in a hollow log
Than be in California
Treated like a dirty dog

In my family research I continue to marvel at how many of our family members came to California in the 20th Century from Oklahoma. Numerous relatives were either born in Oklahoma or lived there for significant periods of time before settling in California. The list includes my parents Eugene and Maida Shepard, both my Shepard grandparents and their 4 children, both my Gower Grandparents and their 3 children, Cindy's parents Joe and Paula Harris, her father's Grandparents Fred and Mary Harris, as well as her aunt and uncle Juanita and Gene Eeds. This is quite a collection of family members with roots in Oklahoma who settled in California. This influx of Oklahomans to Southern California occurred in the 1930s when a huge migration took place. Many had lost their farms because of the Dust Bowl and were desperate to find jobs.

Harris Family Immigrants from 
Oklahoma to California: Fred and Mary Harris 
with their children Mittie, Sammie Joe and Nikki
The Okie Movement to California. During this period an estimated 100,000 people per year moved westward from Oklahoma and surrounding states. So many flooded into California that the City of Los Angeles decided to take action to stem the tide. The name "Okie" came to be a negative moniker referring to poor immigrants from several states who became an alarming drain on community resources in California. “Okies” were the butt of derogatory jokes and the focus of political campaigns. Politicians blamed them for the state's reeling economy. The impact of all these migrants became a very controversial topic throughout the state. At the top of this post are the words of a popular song migrants sang in response to their poor treatment in California.

For several months in 1936, the Los Angeles Police Department, under the direction of Police Chief Edgar Davis, set up what was called a "Bum Blockade" along California's eastern border. 136 LAPD officers were deployed to 16 different border stations to turn away "Okie immigrants" who could show “no visible means of support.” It sounds surprisingly similar the immigration problem at our international border today. The blockade of 1936 was obviously a tremendous miscarriage of justice. Yet equally surprising was the fact that it received a lot of support, in particular from the Governor of California, Frank Merriam. Even so it did not take long for the illegality of that "Bum Blockade" to catch up with the LAPD. Within just a few months, the State Attorney General's Office got involved, law suits were filed, public opinion rose up against it, and the Blockade ended. 

William and Bura Shepard (right) 
with children Pauline, Eugene and Thelma, 
son-in-law Bill Russell and 
grandchildren Rex and Beverly
The Shepards, Gowers and Harrises In San Diego. It was just a few years later, after the furor died down, that my paternal grandparents, Oklahomans William and Bura Shepard, migrated to California. In the fall of 1940 they, and their family of 9, arrived in San Diego (8 of the 9 are pictured on the left). They came from the panhandle of Oklahoma via Southeast Colorado looking for jobs. Just two years later my maternal Grandparents, Leroy and Nola Gower, with their family of 6 (4 of whom are pictured below), migrated to San Diego from central Oklahoma with similar dreams and aspirations. Later in the 1940s Cindy's grandparents Fred and Mary Harris came from Southern Oklahoma to California with their family (see picture at the top of this post). All of them came west looking to establish better lives than what they had in the drought and depression of Oklahoma.

Last week on February 19, my cousin Hershell Gower celebrated a birthday. Born in 1943, he was the first in our family to be born in San Diego. A year later his brother Jimmie Gower was born. By the time my brother Gary and I came along in 1946 and 1948, the Shepard and Gower families had begun to settle into life in San Diego. The stigma associated with being "Okies" was dying out. Instead of a put-down it had become a lighthearted way in which they referred to themselves. Even so, the fact of being from Oklahoma continued to have an indelible influence on the life of our family.

My grandparents Nola and Leroy Gower
with their children Maida and Vicky Gower
My father Eugene Shepard came to San Diego from Oklahoma in 1940. He lived the last 63 years of his life here on the West Coast, but until his dying day he thought of himself as a country boy from Oklahoma. The same could be said about many of our relatives who came from Oklahoma and settled in San Diego. Being from Oklahoma was a significant part of our family's identity for many years through the middle part of the 20th Century. It was an identity that was reinforced by family friends who had followed a similar path: the Gibbs, Indermills, Kilpatricks and others, some of whom still live in Southern California.

Three Immigrant Okies Remain. I can identify just 3 people alive today who were part of that family migration from Oklahoma to San Diego nearly 80 years ago: my mother Maida Gower Shepard (of Anacortes, Washington), my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd (of El Cajon, California), and my aunt Vicky Gower Johnston (of Chandler, Arizona). Our thanks go to them and their now departed parents who had the foresight to see the possibilities of life on the West Coast.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(his, him, his)

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Trail of Tears, January 31, 2020

We are now about to take our leave
and kind farewell to our native land,
the country the Great Spirit gave our Fathers,
we bid farewell to it and all we hold dear.
~Chief Charles Hicks (Cherokee)
re: the Trail of Tears, Nov. 4, 1838

This is the third in a series of posts about Cindy's Native American heritage. Her known maternal lineage consists of 6 Chickasaw women, including her 2X Great Grandmother Lucy Hawkins Newberry (1824-1907). The oldest Chickasaw ancestor in her lineage is her 3X Great Grandmother Sha-thlock-kee Hawkins, who was born in Mississippi in the early years of the 19th century and who died sometime before 1897.

Lucy Hawkins Newberry
(1824-1907)
In Oklahoma, about 1900
The Indian Removal Act. Lucy Newberry and her mother Sha-thlock-kee Hawkins were two Native American ancestors who were personally affected by the worst event in the history of the Chickasaw Nation. It occurred in the late 1830s when the Chickasaws were forced out of their ancestral home in Mississippi and relocated to Indian Territory in what is today Oklahoma. Before Europeans ever came to North America, the Chickasaw, and many other Native Americans, resided east of the Mississippi River in what is today Northern Mississippi and surrounding areas. As Europeans arrived on North American shores and moved westward from the East Coast they coveted Native American ancestral land for their own agricultural use and financial benefit. As a result the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson which authorized the forced relocation of indigenous people. It was one more way our early European Ancestors exploited Native Americans. Their motivation was the same as the slave traders who forced countless black Africans into slavery.

"The Trail of Tears." Over the decades of the 1830s and 1840s the "Five Civilized Tribes of Native Americans," one of which was the Chickasaw Tribe, were forced to leave the land that had been their home for generations. They were marched by American Soldiers and State Militias westward across the Mississippi River several hundred miles to what is today Oklahoma. There they were given land in exchange for their land in the area around Northern Mississippi. It was a deal that was intended to be fair and equitable, but had a very negative impact on the Chickasaw and other Native American tribes. The route the American Indians were forced to travel came to be called "The Trail of Tears" because of the many hardships they had to endure. Nearly 60,000 total Indians of all five tribes made the arduous trek. They included women, men, children and numerous black slaves who were owned by the Indians. About 10% of all those who began the march died along the way from exposure, starvation or disease. It was a traumatic event that will forever remain etched in the collective psyche of the Native American Tribes who were affected.

Sculpture of Chickasaw Warrior
Chickasaw Cultural Center
Sulphur, Oklahoma
The Chickasaw Nation, of which Cindy is a citizen, has been resilient over the last two centuries since the time of "The Trail of Tears." They have thrived as a people, not only in South Central Oklahoma but throughout the US where many thousands live in the diaspora and continue to proudly claim their Native American heritage.

The official Chickasaw website says that "Today, the Chickasaw Nation is economically strong, culturally vibrant and full of energetic people dedicated to the preservation of family, community and heritage. Business has flourished, programs and services have grown, and the quality of life for all Chickasaws has been greatly enhanced. The Chickasaw Nation uses new technologies and dynamic business strategies in a global market. This unique system is key to the Chickasaw Nation’s efforts to pursue self-sufficiency and self-determination which helps ensure that Chickasaws stay a united and thriving people."

This Native American heritage is one more part of a very diverse and beautiful family tree to which we all belong, a family tree that we lift up and celebrate with great thanksgiving. Others of you who are readers of this blog may also have Native American roots. I would welcome your stories and would be glad to include them in this blog.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Monday, January 20, 2020

A Chickasaw Heritage, January 20, 2020


We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills and the winding streams with tangled growth, as 'wild'. To us it was home. Earth was beautiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery~Chief Standing River

Today is Martin Luther King Day, an occasion to remember one of the greatest Americans. Celebrating MLK is also a reminder of what many call America's "Original Sin," the sin of Slavery. Hand in hand with the historical enslavement of millions of Africans was the treatment of Native Americans by our United States government. Today therefore is an unpleasant but important reminder of a dark chapter in our country's history, a chapter that is all too close to many in our family tree.

Last month I wrote the first of a few postings about my wife Cindy's Native American ancestry. The lineage of her and her mother Paula Hicks Harris (1923-2018) includes 6 generations of Chickasaw women, beginning with her GGG Grandmother Sha-thlock-kee Hawkins. It is a maternal lineage that stretches back 200 years on American soil. Her Chickasaw heritage actually goes back much farther than that but scant records are available for indigenous people whose home was this continent before our Europeans ancestors arrived. Here is a list of those 6 women and their spouses.
  • Cindy Harris Shepard (b. 1948), husband Steve Shepard (b. 1948)
  • Paula Hicks Harris (1923-2018), husband Sammie Joe Harris (1922-1999)
  • Rosa May Krause Hicks (1896-1940), husband Jenkins Arthur Hicks (1895-1967)
  • Frances Newberry Krause (1854-1915), husband Christian Krause Jr. (1846-1909)
  • Lucy Hawkins Newberry (1824-1907), husband Robert Newberry (1826-1886)
  • Sha-thlock-kee Hawkins (d. before 1897), husband (unknown) Hawkins
Frances Newberry Krause (1854-1915)
Cindy's Great Grandmother, about 1880
A Transitional Figure. Cindy's Great Grandmother Frances Newberry Krause (1854-1915) was a key person in this family line as a transitional figure. She was the first in this lineage to have been born in Oklahoma. Her parents were both from Mississippi where the Chickasaw nation was rooted until the 1830s when the Nation was forcibly relocated to Indian Territory in what is today Oklahoma. The account of that historic relocation along "The Trail of Tears," I will write about in an upcoming post.

As a young Native American woman in Southeast Oklahoma, Frances Newberry met and then married a 31 year old German immigrant named Christian Krause who was 8 years her senior. He had only been in Oklahoma a few years before they met and then married in the spring of 1877. Because of his marriage to Frances, Christian applied for and eventually became a citizen by intermarriage of the Chickasaw Nation. He went on to become a successful businessman who owned and operated a cotton gin on Indian Territory in what is today Bryan County, Oklahoma. Frances and husband Christian had an impressive family of 8 children who were all raised on Indian Territory in and around Bryan County. The Krause family, at the turn of the 20th century, included Frances' widowed mother, Lucy Hawkins Newberry, a full blooded Chickasaw.

The family of Cindy's Great Grandparents Christian and Frances Krause
Picture taken in early 1890's in Oklahoma
The Krause-Newberry Family. This family picture, from the early 1890s, shows Christian Krause (seated on the left), his wife Frances Newberry (seated in the middle), her mother Lucy Hawkins (seated on the right), and 6 of their 8 children. One of their daughters had died at 4 years old, several years before this picture was taken. Their youngest daughter, Rosa May Krause (Cindy's Grandmother) had not yet been born at the time of this picture, and may have actually been "on the way" when this picture was taken. Does it appears to you that mother Frances is with child? The other Krause children in this family picture are Martin, Lucy, Johnson and Lewis across the back, and young daughters Margaret and Lena in front.

The father of the family, Christian (who died in 1909), and his wife Frances (who died in 1915) are both buried in Yarbrough Cemetery alongside Lake Texoma, 19 miles southwest of Durant, Oklahoma.

Lucy Hawkins Newberry, Cindy's Great Great Grandmother, is the elderly lady on the right in the family picture above. She was the last person in Cindy's maternal lineage to have been born in Mississippi. She was born there in the Chickasaw Nation in 1824. She was just a young person when the Chickasaws made the arduous trek in the 1830s from Mississippi to Indian Territory in what eventually became the State of Oklahoma in 1907.

Frances Newberry Krause and her mother Lucy Hawkins Newberry appear in the 1900 US Census. The 2020 U.S. Census is coming up this year with its own controversies about what questions should be asked of citizens. It is worth noting how different the Census process was a century ago. In that 1900 Census, apart from the regular questions, were a series of questions called "Special Inquiries Related to Indians." The Census taker asked people if they were living in a "Civilized" or in an "Aboriginal Home." Furthermore they asked couples whether or not they were living in polygamy, and if so, whether or not the two wives of the polygamous household were sisters. Thankfully we've come a long way in our Census taking in the last century.

Cindy's proud maternal lineage is an important part of our family's multi-faceted history. It reminds us once again how deeply rooted we are in American soil.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Continuing Journey, January 16, 2020

She comprehended the perversity of life, 
that in the struggle lies the joy.
~Maya Angelou

A Continuing Journey. It was four years ago this month that my 95 year old mother Maida Shepard of Anacortes, Washington, began showing signs of serious memory issues. These past four years have brought many challenges as we, her family, have sought to provide her with the best care possible as she approaches the century mark of her life. Thankfully Mom's physical and mental health has remained fairly stable in these last 4 years.

Barbara, Gary and Maida Shepard
November, 2019, Anacortes, Wa.
The journey has not been easy, and appears to be far from over. It has strained some family relationships, strengthened others, required significant medical care, been a costly enterprise, and has severely tested our mettle as a family. I think it is safe to say that we will never be the same after this, which is often the outcome when families encounter serious challenges of this sort. But through it all we have remained diligent. Mom's physical, emotional and spiritual well being in these final years continues to be of utmost importance to us. I know that many of you have experienced this same kind of thing within your own family life. So you understand very well what I am talking about.

Mom's primary care givers, her daughter Barbara and her son Gary, deserve our great thanks for all they do. They continue to go above and beyond the call of duty, sometimes at the cost of having to put aside their own needs. Living at a distance, I am especially appreciative of their hard work and careful dedication. They have stretched themselves in ways that show their great respect for family and their genuine love and dedication to our mother. They are a testimony to the exemplary upbringing our mother and father provided them, and the values our parents instilled in all their children.

As this new year of 2020 gets underway I want to express my deepest gratitude to all of you who are readers of The Shepard's Crook. Especially those of you who, from various places around the country have shared your support and well wishes for this particular family journey on which we remain. Your prayers, expressions of concern and good thoughts are appreciated very much. May this new year be a time for growth and happiness for each of us as we face the challenges of the future with grace and strength.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)