Monday, October 05, 2020

A Famous Peace Maker

I referred in my last post to a well known person in Tennessee history by the name of Gen. James Randolph Robertson (1742-1814). He was an important leader in the early years of the State of Tennessee and is arguably the most renown person in our entire family history. His mother was Mary Gower, and his grandparents were Abel Gower and Mary Robertson Gower, my 6X Great Grandparents. James' father John Randolph Robertson was born in 1712 in Scotland, where he married Mary Gower in 1739, the daughter of adventurous Scottish Sea Captain Abel Gower.

Born in 1742 in Brunswick County, Virginia young James Robertson accompanied Daniel Boone on his third expedition into the American Wilderness in 1759, an expedition that gave him an appreciation for the possibilities of life in the untamed frontier of America.

Gen. James Robertson (1742-1814)
"Here I Shall Stay." Gen. James Robertson was man of remarkable insight and wisdom, who had a vision for harmonious life in frontier America. During his lifetime white settlers and Native Americans were constantly in conflict. In 1780 James Robertson's Uncle and Grandfather
-- both Gowers -- were killed by Indians in the Clover Bottom tragedy near Nashville which I wrote about in a previous post. As a result of the many conflicts between the white settlers and the Native Americans, many settlers wanted to abandon the frontier and return to their homes in Virginia and North Carolina. And who could blame them? But Robertson stood steadfast and refused to leave. "Each one should do what seems to him his duty. As for myself my station is here, and here I shall stay if every man of you deserts me." 

Red Lives Matter. James had a dream of whites and Native Americans living together in peace, where all were accepted and everyone had their place. Robertson's vision was not shared by all leaders of early America. Some, including his Tennessee colleague Andrew Jackson (elected President in 1827) had nothing but contempt for Native Americans. Jackson supported the the cruel and inhumane policy of forced relocation, which led to the deadly "Trail of Tears" in 1830. It was an evil almost as egregious as the enslavement of blacks. Our ancestor Gen. James Robertson believed there was a better way. He negotiated with Native Americans and became known as a peacemaker forging treaties, creating alliances and supporting Native American self determination. 

Chickasaw Chief Piomingo
(1750-1799)

The Father of Tennessee. We are honored to have such an important person like James Robertson in our family tree. We celebrate and remember his gifts of peacemaking and leadership in early America. His spirit of cooperation, his acceptance of diverse cultures and his willingness to do the hard work of making peace is noteworthy. Known as "The Father of Tennessee" he is an outstanding member of our family history.

Robertson and the Chickasaws. In a very interesting and personal historical connection, James Robertson crossed paths with the Native American Chickasaw tribe, from which my wife Cindy is descended. On several occasions Robertson had conversations with the Chickasaws. Even though more than one family member of his had died "by the tomahawk," he was persistent about developing positive relationships with them. As a result he was selected to serve as an Indian agent in Tennessee until his death in 1814.

In January, 1781 James Robertson was at Fort Nashborough (which became Nashville, Tennessee) when it was attacked by Chickasaws. As told in William Hale's A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans, the furious battle lasted for several hours resulting in numerous deaths. The telling of the story ends by saying it was the last battle between the Chickasaws and the Cumberland Settlement. It prompted peace talks between James Robertson and the Chickasaws, talks that included the famous Chickasaw Warrior Chief Piomingo (1750-1799) with whom Robertson became acquainted. 

U.S. Representative
Andrew Pickens (1739-1817)

The Treaty Of Hopewell. A few years later, on January 10, 1786, Chief Piomingo signed the famous Treaty of Hopewell which officially established peace between the U.S. and the Chickasaws. I can't help but think that Robertson's peace talks with Piomingo was at least partly responsible for Piomingo's willingness to be a signer of the Treaty. Coincidentally, among the other signers of that peace treaty was Andrew Pickens (1739-1817) a U.S. Representative from South Carolina who also happens to be an ancestor of ours (the grandson of my 6X Great Grandparents William and Margaret Pickens). Select this link for more about Andrew Pickens and his place in our family tree.

Chief Piomingo Day. The Chickasaw Warrior Chief Piomingo continues to be honored today by the Chickasaw Nation. Select this link for a short video about Chief Piomingo. Some will celebrate next Monday, October 12, as Columbus Day, or possibly as Indigenous People's Day. The Chickasaw Nation proudly celebrates October 12 as Chief Piomingo Day, to honor the famous Chickasaw Chief, peacemaker and acquaintance of our ancestor General James Robertson.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Gowers in Middle Tennessee

In my last post I shared the story of our ancestors Abel Gower Sr. and Jr. who both tragically died in a conflict with Native Americans in the fall of 1780. It was a story of devastating loss for the Gower frontier family, a story found in numerous historical sources from the early history of Tennessee. These deaths were a difficult beginning to life in Tennessee for our Gower relatives. The following stories show that eventually things got better and the Gowers made an indelible mark on their new community.

Charlotte Reeves Robertson 1751-1843
wife of ancestor Gen. James Robertson


The Heroics of a Gower Teen. That deadly encounter in 1780 was not the first time the Gowers had experienced a life threatening conflict with Native Americans. In "Indian Wars and Warriors" (Tennessee Historical Magazine, Vol. IV) Albert Goodpasture writes about Nancy Gower (1761-1831) the daughter of Abel Gower Jr. and his wife Mary. During the Gowers' dangerous river journey from Virginia to the frontier of Tennessee, on one occasion the Gowers were attacked by Indians on the Tennessee River. While the men were fully engaged in warding off the raiders, 18 year old Nancy took the helm of their boat and carefully steered it down river. When she finally guided their craft past the Indian attack and were safe from danger, Nancy's mother Mary noticed blood stains on her daughter's dress. Only then did they realize that Nancy had been shot in the thigh. They bandaged her wound and in time she recovered fully and lived to tell the harrowing tale of this dangerous episode.

The Father of Middle Tennessee. The above mentioned Abel and Mary Gower had a grandson, Gen. James Robertson (1742-1814), who was very instrumental in leading their frontier community. He was such a significant leader that he has become known as "The Father of Middle Tennessee" and is honored as such even today. In 1791 President George Washington got word of Robertson's outstanding leadership and appointed him brigadier general of the U.S. Army for the entire region south of the Ohio River.

Marker at the Nashville burial site
for Gen. James Robertson and
his wife Charlotte Reeves Robertson

A Doctor and a Mayor.
Gower ancestors James Robertson and his wife Charlotte Reeves Robertson (1751-1843) had 9 children, the 4th of whom was Felix Robertson (1781-1865). Born Jan 11, 1781, he was the first white male child born in the historic Cumberland Settlement. Felix was trained as a Physician at the University of Pennsylvania, and went on to practice medicine in early Nashville for 40 years. In 1818 and 1819 he was selected the Mayor of Nashville for two different terms. He was also the president of the Medical Society of Tennessee.

The early years of the Gowers in Tennessee were difficult and fraught with conflict and even death. But after a difficult beginning our Gower ancestors made an indelible mark on the Cumberland Settlement which became the city of Nashville. They will forever be remembered in the history books of that famous city. 

Leroy Gower and Ellen Taylor Gower,
the first Gowers to leave Tennessee
and settle in Stone County, Arkansas

From Tennessee To Arkansas.
Our Gower ancestors first began to settle in Nashville in 1780 and continued to be members of that community for several generations. Abel and Mary Gower's Great Grandson Jackson William Gower (1831-1902) and his wife Mary Anderson Gower (1833-1912) were the first Tennessee Gowers to continue the inevitable move westward. After marrying in 1849, Jackson and Mary moved out west to the Mountain View area of Stone County, Arkansas where they settled and raised their family. 

Their first child, Leroy Gower -- born in 1854 -- was the first Gower child to be born in Arkansas. This Leroy Gower (1854-1909) and his wife Ellen Taylor Gower were the Grandparents of Leroy Ertin Gower (1899-1974), who was "Grandpa Gower" to many of us. The source from whom I received the picture above on the right claims that "this is the oldest known picture of any Gowers in Arkansas." I could find no date for this remarkable photo, but both these folks died in their early 50s in 1906 and 1909, respectively. It may have been taken around the turn of the 20th century.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he/him/his)

Monday, September 07, 2020

The Gowers in Tennessee: The Clover Bottom Tragedy

I have written before about our earliest Gower ancestors who settled in Virginia in the early 1600s. One of them was Abel Gower (1640-1710) who had migrated from England. In the subsequent three centuries our Gower ancestors made their way all across our country. Leroy and Nola Gower, my Grandparents, were the first of our Gower ancestors to make it to the West Coast when they arrived in Southern California in 1942. Here in San Diego some of their descendants still live today. 

Purportedly Abel Gower Jr.
(1725-1780)
The Westward Migration to Tennessee. As our Gower ancestors made their way across country, one of the places they settled for a number of years was Nashville, Tennessee. My 7X Great Grandparents, Capt. Abel Gower Sr. and his wife Eleanor Salmon Gower, were part of the early migration from Virginia that joined the Cumberland Settlement of Middle Tennessee. They were accompanied by their son Abel Gower Jr. and his wife Mary Robertson Gower. ("Abel" was the first name of choice for many of our Gowers in the early years.)

This historic immigration into Tennessee, begun in December, 1779 was led by frontiersmen John Robertson and Col. John Donelson. They and those they led, endured an arduous journey of nearly 1000 miles of wild frontier, including confrontations with Native Americans. Much of their travel was overland, while a good portion was on the Cumberland River as a part of "the Donelson flotilla," a collection of nearly 30 vessels of various kinds with immigrants in each one. After journeying for several months they arrived April 24, 1780 and joined the Cumberland Settlement which eventually became the city of Nashville, Tennessee.

An artist's rendering of
The Donelson flotilla, 1780
During their first summer in Tennessee, Col. Donelson and his group planted some crops in prime growing land a few miles away from the Settlement in an area known as Clover Bottom, near the confluence of the Cumberland and the Stones Rivers. On November 1, 1780, a group of about a dozen settlers went to harvest the crop of Corn and Cotton. The harvesters were led by our ancestor Capt. Abel Gower and included his son Abel Gower Jr. 

A Surprise Attack at Clover Bottom. When they finished the harvest, they loaded their boats with the corn and the cotton and headed back home. They had gone only a short way when they were suddenly attacked by a large band of Chickamauga Indians, natives who had lived in the area for generations. The settlers were outmanned and suffered great losses in the attack. Abel Gower Sr. and his son were shot and killed during the raid. In all the chaos their bodies floated down the river and were never recovered. Also killed in the attack was James Robertson, the son of one of their leaders Col. John Robertson. Only three of the harvesting settlers lived to tell the tale. Those three survived the attack by hiding in the nearby forest and laying low until they could make their way back to the safety of the settlement.

An historical marker today in
Davidson County, Tennessee

November 1, 1780 was a fateful day in the life of our Gower ancestors when they lost two important family members. The effects of that tragedy on the lives of their surviving family is hard to fathom. This illustrates how difficult it was to settle this untamed wilderness that was our nation in earlier times. It also brings to our attention what a great debt of gratitude we owe our forebears. Their courage, determination and resilience is an inspiration to us. 

In my next post I will write about the Gower response to the tragedy at Clover Bottom and the remarkable impact our ancestors made on the Cumberland Settlement of Middle Tennessee. That in itself is a memorable story.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Tale of Forbidden Love

 
Sewellsville Cemetery and Church
Belmont County, Ohio
I have mentioned before in this blog about the young teenage friends and neighbors James Sheppard Jr. (1813-1887) and Matilda Reynolds (1814-1876), Ohio teenagers who fell in love and married in 1833. My 3X Great Grandmother Matilda was a Quaker, while my 3X Great Grandfather James and his Sheppard family were mainly Methodist-Episcopal, and were members of their congregation in Kirkwood, Ohio where they lived. The Quakers required their members to marry only within the Quaker family which created a problem for Mattie who wanted to marry James. But as we know, people will respond to the call to love and marriage regardless of what the Church, one's family, or the local community thinks. 

Disowned By Her Church. When Mattie and James chose to ignore her church's rule and marry anyway, the Quakers tossed her out of the church. And it was solely on the basis of her marrying outside the faith. It did not matter to them that her beau James Sheppard was a respected member of the community, a model citizen, and even a practicing Christian. The only thing that mattered was that he was not a Quaker. So the overseeing Quaker body, at their meeting on Christmas Day, 1834, made the decision to "disown" her. (Merry Christmas, Mattie!) Her ouster from her church must have been difficult for this young, head-strong woman, and embarrassing within the tight knit community in which the Sheppard and Reynolds families lived. 

The part of their story that I did not know until recently was how much support Mattie and James received from her brother Jeremiah Reynolds and his wife Mary. Uncle Jeremiah was the oldest of the 8 children in the Reynolds family with Mattie born just two years after him in 1814. They developed a strong bond that lasted throughout their lives. Uncle Jeremiah and Aunt Mary were not just relatives and neighbors of Mattie and James, they were fully supportive of Mattie and her decision to marry James. 

Blood Is Thicker Than Water. Uncle Jeremiah and Aunt Mary were Quakers themselves, yet they knew where their priorities lay. When James and Mattie got married at the County Courthouse, Uncle Jeremiah was there to vouch for them and to swear that they were both old enough to marry. He literally stood with them as they took their vows and were married. The oppressive Quaker rule was not going to affect his love for his sister and his support of her and James. Uncle Jeremiah was living by the old adage that "blood is thicker than water," even if it is "holy water."

Jeremiah Reynolds with his wife Mary Bonar Reynolds
Belmont County, Ohio, about 1850

Not long ago I came across this old picture of Uncle Jeremiah and Aunt Mary Reynolds, from the mid 19th century. It shows two very straight laced folks, with high collars, plainly clothed in black and white, no smiles, who are barely comfortable in front of the camera. They are simply dressed, very much like the Quakers of their day. They are pure Americana, simple farming folk who lived in what was still the Ohio frontier. This picture makes them look stern and resolute, yet there is something in their eyes that speaks of tenderness and welcome. The fact is they were remarkably generous people. Beneath the stiff exterior of these two were generous hearts who made a tremendous impact on family members with long lasting effects. They were quick to support kin, especially in trying times. They believed in the power of love, even in the face of religious opposition. 

A Close Knit Family. Uncle Jeremiah was a close personal friend of James Sheppard Sr., his sister's father-in-law. He was actually one of the two signers of the elder James Sheppard's will of 1840. Uncle Jeremiah's mother Esther Sidwell Reynolds, after being widowed later in life, married the elder James Sheppard in 1839, after his wife Hannah Sheppard died. 

Furthermore, Jeremiah and Mary Reynolds, after raising 10 kids of their own, adopted a child named William Whorton. I don't know his story yet, other than he appears in the 1880 Census records as their adopted son. They welcomed him into their family and gave him their name. Uncle Jerry and Aunt Mary were exceptional people. It is not often in family research that I find so much evidence for the generous lives of outstanding ancestors. But in the case of Uncle Jeremiah and Aunt Mary, the evidence is plentiful. They were open-hearted and supportive even in difficult circumstances. We are honored to be descended from people such as these.

Re: Hershell Gower (1943-2020): I received word from Lloyd Gower, son of my cousin Hershell Gower who passed away recently. Lloyd invites everyone to visit this Website, to pay one's respects to Hershell and to leave a remembrance.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Monday, August 17, 2020

Remembering Hershell Gower

Saying goodbye is often 
another way of saying 
"I remember."

My cousin Hershell Orley Gower passed away this past Thursday evening, August 13. He died from Covid 19 in Bullhead City, Arizona where he and Shelly have lived for many years. Our heart felt condolences go out to Shelley and to Hershell's sons Shaun and Lloyd and their families. 

Hershell and Janet on their wedding day
October, 1966, Ploughley, England
Hersh had the distinction of being the first Gower grandchild to be born in California. His mother Starlene Bass Gower was actually pregnant with him when she and husband Hendrix Gower with Grandpa Gower migrated to San Diego in the early summer of 1942. After Grandpa Gower and Hendrix found jobs, they sent for the other members of the family they had left behind in Okemah, Oklahoma -- my mom Maida, my aunt Vicki, and Grandma Nola Gower.  In December of that same year Grandma and the two Gower daughters arrived by bus in San Diego. Though conceived in Oklahoma, Hershell was born in San Diego in February of 1943 just two months after the family was reunited in Southern California. 

Hershell grew up in the Claremont area of San Diego where his parents Hendrix and Starlene owned a home for many years. Hershell, like his brother Jim, graduated from Mission Bay High School. After finishing High School in 1962, Hershell enlisted in the United States Air Force and was stationed in England. While in the U.K. he met an English woman named Janet Nolan and married here there in the fall of 1966. (See first picture. Thanks to Lloyd's wife Tammy for posting this picture on Facebook.) Hershell and Janet's first child Shaun was born in England in 1967. I remember the happiness of our whole family when Hershell, Janet and Shaun returned to San Diego in 1968 and Grandma and Grandpa Gower were presented with their first Great Grandchild.

I always looked up to Hershell when we were kids. He was the oldest of us 12 cousins, the dozen grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Gower. Hersh was the one who led the way when we cousins got together. He was the first to tell the off color jokes, the first to play the pranks, and the first one to feel on his behind Grandma’s disciplinary switch. He also showed us how to appreciate the cobblers and Tommy Tarts that Grandma Gower loved to cook. 

Hershell, his father Hendrix Gower and his grandmother
Nola Gower on her 100th Birthday celebration
in 2003 in Anacortes, Washington


Though he lived for a period of time in Oak Harbor, Washington in the 1990s, most of Hershell's life was spent in the San Diego area. He was a plumber for many years, a skill he taught his sons Lloyd and Shaun. His later years were spent in the retirement community of Bullhead City, Arizona. In Arizona he contracted Covid 19 and spent the last month in the hospital struggling with the Virus.

Though the firstborn of the 12 Gower grandchildren, Hershell was not the first to go. My sister Linda Shepard Clark died tragically in a car accident in 1971 at just 20 years old. Her death occurred 49 years ago this month. In 2016 our cousin Gloria Harrell Watson was taken from us at 63 years old. Hershell now is the third of those dozen cousins to pass away. At just 3 years short of 80, he lived a good life, leaves a good family, and will be missed by his family and friends. May God grant him eternal peace.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Friday, July 31, 2020

July 31, 2020: A Remarkable Coincidence


Recently, while researching immigrants in our family tree, I discovered a most interesting coincidence when the lives of two of our 17th Century ancestors came together in a surprising way.

In the last couple of weeks I have been delving into the history of my grandfather Leroy Gower (1899-1974) who is descended from the immigrant Abell Gower (1640-1710), originally from Gloucestershire, England. In 1672, my 8X Great Grandpa Abell Gower sailed across the Atlantic and settled in Henrico County, Virginia. Not long after 37 year old Abell Gower stepped off the ship, he became a leader in his new community. The Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography (Vol. 1) documents Abell Gower being elected to the House of Burgesses (the representative body governing the Virginia Colony) in 1679. It also mentions that he served as Henrico County Sheriff in 1681. From 1679-1689 he was one of the Justices of the Peace for Henrico County, Virginia. He was a busy civic leader to be sure!

Justices of the Peace were the local law enforcement individuals in the Colonies in the 1680s. Their job was to keep the peace, to settle minor disputes and to make sure order was maintained. They were important since there were only a few thousand colonists in the county in the 1680s with very little infrastructure. 100 years later, in 1790, the first population records show there were just 12,000 colonists in all of Henrico County.


The above graphic shows the 4,100 mile route our Gower ancestors took, over 3 centuries, to get from Henrico, Virginia in 1672 to San Diego, California in 1942, and then to Western Washington in the 1970s. It should also be noted that my aunt Vicki Gower Johnston, one of the senior most Gower family members, also made the move from San Diego to Western Washington in the 1970s, but came back south four years ago and today lives in Chandler, Arizona.

Capt. William Randolph
A Small World
. Historical Records for Henrico County refer not only to Abell Gower's 10 year stint as a Justice of the Peace. They also mention four other Justices who served with him. Here is the reference to them from Henrico Records, 1677-1692, Book 1, p. 256:

At a court held at Varina for laying the levy for the County of Henrico, the 8th day of October, by his Majesty's Justices of the Peace in the year of our Lord 1683, and in the 35th year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord Charles by the grace of God of Great Brittain, France and Ireland, King, defender of the faith, etc. Present: The honorable William Byrd, esq., Capt. Thomas Cocke, Mr. Richard Cocke, Capt. William Randolph, Mr. Abell Gower, Justices of the Peace.

In addition to Abell Gower, the list above includes Capt. William Randolph, a name that sounded familiar to me when I read it. Then it dawned on me why. Capt. William Randolph -- are you ready for this? -- was the 8X Great Grandfather of my wife Cindy Harris Shepard. My ancestor Abell Gower and Cindy's ancestor William Randolph (1651-1711) knew each other, may have been neighbors, and worked together in peace keeping in late 17th century Colonial Virginia. What a remarkable coincidence that my 8X Great Grandfather and Cindy's 8X Great Grandfather served together on the same group of Justices for Henrico County, Virginia in 1683. 

The image above on the right is a portrait from Wikipedia of Cindy's ancestor William Randolph who served with Abell Gower in the 1860s in Virginia. 

I know of no other connection between my ancestors and Cindy's ancestors in the three centuries between 1683 when Mr. Gower and Capt. Randolph were Justices of the Peace in Virginia, and 1968 when Cindy and I were married here in San Diego. 



Over the past three centuries my ancestors and Cindy's ancestors made similar journeys across country. The graphic above shows the three century, cross country route of Cindy's ancestors. From Henrico County, Virginia, they migrated to Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and finally California. On the West Coast they settled first in Visalia (where Cindy was born) before moving, in 1950, to San Diego where Cindy and some of her Harris family members still live today.

This is one more indication that we are descendants of some remarkable ancestors. Many of their stories have been hidden to history. I am grateful for the proliferation of resources that continue to come to light and tell us about them. The more we know about them, the more we can understand ourselves, our past, and our future.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

July 28: "Birthdays Are Good For You"

Birthdays are good for you. 
Statistics show that 
the people who have the most 
live the longest.
~Larry Lorenzoni

Today, July 28, is one of those special days on the calendar when two members of our family have birthdays. My sister Barbara and our grandson William are both celebrating another year today.

Barbara and William enjoying a moment
last year on Wildwood Lane 
Barbara was born in San Diego sometime in the last century, as were all of her siblings as well as most of her cousins. In the spring of 1978, the year after graduating from San Diego's Kearny High School, her parents Maida and Eugene Shepard left Southern California and moved to Western Washington. Barbara and mom Maida still live today in the house Mom and Dad bought 42 years ago when they settled in Anacortes, Washington. Barb had a recent bout with breast cancer but received some wonderful news from her doctor not long ago: she is now cancer free.

Barbara is the primary care giver for our mother Maida and receives lots of help in caring for Mom from our brother Gary and his wife Cindy who live not far away. With her 96th birthday coming up in November, Mom's needs continue to grow. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Barb, Gary and Cindy, and all those who are helping our dear mother through these sunset years. Best wishes to Barb for a very Happy Birthday today!

William and "Mimi" celebrating
their birthdays in San Diego in 2015
Our Grandson William Shepard is the other birthday celebrant on this day. He was born in San Francisco eight years ago, the third child of Nathan and Chenda Shepard. For the last 6 years he has lived with his Dad Nathan, brother Logan and sister Preslea in the San Carlos community of San Diego, not far from where Cindy and I live. William and his siblings seem to be enduring the Pandemic shut-down quite well. When the time is right William and his siblings look forward to going back to school, playing hockey, visiting friends and going to places they have had to avoid. Happy Eighth Birthday to William!

On a few occasions in recent years Barb and William have been able to share their birthdays together physically, even though they live nearly 1,500 miles apart. Last year, for example, a whole group of us were together in Las Vegas to celebrate with Barb and "Mimi" on their special day. But this year, because of Covid, an actual face to face birthday celebration will not happen. At least not in the traditional fashion. Instead they will get together virtually in a Zoom celebration, to blow out candles, eat cake, and sing Happy Birthday. Best wishes to both of them!

Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Friday, June 19, 2020

100 Years of Fathers, June 19, 2020

A father carries pictures 
where his money used to be. 
~Steve Martin

Happy Father's Day! This weekend is an occasion to honor all fathers in our midst, and to celebrate our own fathers. We also remember men who have had a fatherly impact on our lives. I hope all of you can celebrate with your father this weekend in person. If not I hope you can remember your father with great fondness. Few relationships are more important to our well being than the relationship we have (had) with our father. Theirs is an influence that will impact us for our entire lives.

The following is a music video that celebrates 100 years of Fathers in our family. This collection ranges from some Davis ancestors in Indiana in 1908 through some Shepard and Gower kinfolk in the 1920s and on through the decades with images of Russell, Boyd, Harris, Ortiz and Clark fathers, including some images from recent months.



Memorable Fathers. My own father Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) was a man I remember with great respect and honor. All my siblings would echo the same thing. I also remember my two grandfathers, Leroy Gower and William Shepard. Both of them I had the great privilege of knowing and relating to for many of my early years. The first 23 years of my life were spent in San Diego when my father and both grandfathers lived there. I consider myself fortunate to have had such a wonderful father, and to have been close to both of my grandfathers. 

On this father's day weekend I am also remembering my father-in-law Joe Harris (1922-1999), a man of faith and integrity, who had a positive impact on my life for many years. As the father of my wife Cindy, Joe Harris was very much like my own father Gene Shepard. They were very different from each other in many ways, but it is uncanny how the span of their lives was remarkably similar. Both men were born in small towns in Oklahoma in the early 1920s, both were from families who migrated to California and settled in San Diego around the time of World War II. Both served in the United States Navy during the war. Both had wives who were raised in Oklahoma, while both had children who were raised in San Diego. And both were devoted church leaders as were their wives.  For many years both men were Elders of Church of Christ congregations in San Diego; my father at the Linda Vista Church of Christ, and Joe at the Allied Gardens Church of Christ. Both men died within just a few years of each other, Cindy's dad in 1999 and my dad in 2003. 

Paula Harris and daughter Cindy Shepard
Like all of you, Cindy and I are proud of our fathers and honor them both as we remember their lives, their influence and their legacy on this weekend of Father's Day 2020.

Remembering Paula Hicks Harris (1923-2018). This post celebrates fathers, but what would we fathers be without the spouses in our lives? So I must mention a particular woman who is being remembered this month. Cindy's mother Paula Hicks Harris (1923-2018) was the wife of Joe Harris, one of the fathers mentioned above. She died at 94 years old on June 2, just two years ago. She was a lovely lady who lived a full life and is remembered for her faith, her fortitude, and her love of family.

Poor People's Campaign. As a way of standing with all those who support racial justice, I invite you to consider the Poor People's Campaign by selecting this link. It is led by nationally known minister William Barber, who serves Greenleaf Christian Church in North Carolina, a congregation of the Campbell Stone tradition with which many of us are familiar.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)  

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

June 2, 2020

To remember the past is to see 
that we are here today by grace.
~Frederick Buechner

Gary and Cindy Shepard
Anacortes, Washington
Happy Anniversary Gary and Cindy!
Congratulations today to my brother Gary Shepard and his wife Cindy Dillon Shepard on 41 years of marriage. Gary and Cindy live in Oak Harbor, Washington and are an important part of the team caring for our mother Maida Shepard in nearby Anacortes, Washington. Best wishes to Gary and Cindy as they celebrate 41 years together!

Celebrating a Sesquicentennial. Today is the 150th Birthday (the Sesquicentennial) of my Great Grandfather James Brooks Davis (1870-1928), the father of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). He was a leading member of our Davis family in Owen County, Indiana in the late 19th Century. Jim Davis' Grandparents, Alexander Davis and Jane Buskirk Davis migrated to Indiana from Ohio around 1850. Jim Davis was the first Davis child to be born in Indiana. He was raised northwest of Spencer, Indiana in a community where numerous members of three closely related families lived: the Davis family, the Williams family, and the Spear family. 

On New Year's Day, 1896, Jim Davis married Callie Spear, a young woman whose family was closely connected to the Davises. The families had known each other in Southeastern Ohio in the early part of the 19th century and may have come together to Indiana when they migrated westward just before the Civil War. Jim and Callie Davis had 7 children, all born in Indiana, the first being my Grandmother Bura Davis.

Young James Brooks Davis
About 1890
Closely Interrelated Families.
The marriage of Jim Davis and Callie Spear was just one of the many ways these families were connected. Seven years after Jim and Callie were married, Jim's younger brother Zaley Davis (1882-1966) married Callie's sister Pearl Spear (1876-1945). This was another instance in our family of brothers marrying sisters. Select this link for other instances.

A few years earlier Jim Davis' father-in-law William Spear (1830-1883) had married into the Williams family not once, but twice. The first time was in 1861 when he married Caroline Williams, who died at just 23 years old, after two years of marriage and the birth of a baby girl. The widower William Spear then married his own sister-in-law Margaret (Maggie) Frances Williams. Select this link to read more about them.

The Davis, Williams and Spear families were not just neighbors within the same rural community of Morgan Township in Owen County, Indiana. They were all founding members of the New Union Church of Christ near where they lived. Select this link for more about the New Union Church.

Family man James Brooks and Callie Davis
with their 7 children, in Indiana,1908 

A Recent Discovery.
One other interesting link between these families I recently discovered while researching my Shepard ancestors. I have known for some time that the Spears, Davises, and Shepards were all rooted in Eastern Ohio in the early 19th century, before any of them ever moved westward into Indiana. But what I discovered recently was that Callie Spear Davis' great uncle William Spear (1791-1873) lived in the same farming neighborhood as my Shepard ancestors in 1850 in Kirkwood Township of Belmont County, Ohio. As far as I knew, my Shepard and Spear ancestors never knew each other until my Great Grandparents William Elmer Shepard and Callie Spear Davis became neighbors in Oklahoma in 1913. But my recent discovery shows that some of our Spear ancestors and some of our Shepard ancestors were neighbors in Ohio in 1850 and probably knew each other. And so it is that the historical connections between these families grows.

A Man of Character. In many ways James Brooks Davis showed us his character through his life and his actions. He was a devoted family man, a beloved father, a welcoming individual, a faithful Christian, a hard worker, and he was ambitious. The best example of his ambition occurred in the early spring of 1913. In March of that year James Brooks Davis gathered his family of 7 children (ages 4-16) and migrated to Oklahoma. 

James Brooks Davis in 1923 with one of
his 31 Grandchildren, Eugene Shepard

The opportunities of that new state had already drawn several members of his Indiana family, including his parents Charles and Malinda Davis. So following in the footsteps of others, Jim and Callie heeded the call of the wild west. As a young couple in their 40s, they made their way by wagon, 850 miles from their home outside Spencer, Indiana to the panhandle of Oklahoma. 

They took along with them Callie's special needs adult brother Clayton Spear (1870-1944) who lived with them for many years in Indiana and then Oklahoma. Eventually he had to be institutionalized in Oklahoma where he lived the last years of his life. Even that act of receiving his brother-in-law into his family shows the kind of people Jim and Callie Davis were. They lived the last years of their lives in Oklahoma and are buried in the Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County. Select here to visit their grave online.

James Brooks Davis is a very important individual in our family tree. I celebrate his life and honor his memory today on the 150th Anniversary of his birth.
- - -
Steve Shepard
he/him/his

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Love In a Time of War: May 24, 2020

Love doesn’t make the world go round.
Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.
~Franklin Jones

On this day, 75 years ago my parents Eugene Shepard and Maida Gower were married in San Diego. Dad passed away in the summer of 2003 in Anacortes, Washington, not long after they celebrated their 58th anniversary. But Mom is still living in the home they bought when they moved from San Diego to Anacortes in the spring of 1978. Though Dad is gone, and Mom is a frail 95 years old, this anniversary is still significant and worth remembering and celebrating. The last 75 years are a witness to the love of these two who have had an amazing impact on innumerable lives. 
 
A Critical and Uncertain Time. The day they married, May 24, 1945, was during a critical and uncertain time in the history of our country. Our nation had been engaged in World War II for 3 1/2 years, ever since that fateful day in December, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The very existence of the United States was on the line. Countless young men had been sent to a conflict far away, many of them never to return. Families were under great stress as they awaited word about their loved ones. The war eventually took the lives of over 400,000 Americans. World wide over 70 million people died, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.

A young Eugene Shepard about 1942
in San Diego with his '41 Ford Sedan
 
By the spring of 1945, World War II was winding down. On April 30, 1945 Hitler committed suicide, realizing all was lost for the Third Reich in Germany. On May 7, Germany officially surrendered, which began the process of liberating the horrendous Concentration Camps. The War did not actually end until August, 1945 when atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. But things were definitely looking good for America in May of 1945. Spirits were high even though there was work to be done to bring a complete end to the war. So in late May when Mom and Dad were married the War was not over, but it was nearing its end. It was still a time for concern, but optimism and hope ran high.

A Commuter's Romance. In the spring of 1945 my father, 24 year old Navy man Gene Shepard was stationed in Los Alamitos, California, 100 miles north of San Diego. He drove to San Diego every chance he got in his 1941 Ford Sedan. He wanted to visit his family who lived in the Hillcrest neighborhood. But even more he wanted to be with Maida, his betrothed, who lived with her parents, Leroy and Nola Gower, on Arizona Street, not far from where the Shepards lived on Albatross Street. On his visits to San Diego he and Maida dated and their romance blossomed.

Maida Gower and Eugene Shepard 
about 1944
Mom and Dad met in 1944 at a social gathering at the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ, just a short walk from where Maida lived with her parents and her young sister. Maida had graduated from San Diego High School the previous year. It was a High School friend named Janelle Davis who had introduced the two of them. 

A Simple Ceremony in the Minister's Home. In September of 1940, just a year out of High School, 19 year old Eugene had moved with his family from Colorado to San Diego. They had promptly joined the El Cajon Blvd Church which then became the family's church for many decades. So it was only natural that Gene and Maida would choose that church in which to marry. Because of Gene's limited amount of leave from the Navy, their options were limited. They contacted the minister of the church who was available to marry them on a Thursday afternoon. It was not a big church wedding, but a simple ceremony in the minister's home behind the Church. I do not remember Mom or Dad ever saying why they did not plan a Church wedding with family and friends and a reception. With Dad commuting back and forth a formal event may have been impractical. In any case the deed was done that Thursday afternoon and their life together as husband and wife began. 

Eugene and Maida, 1992
Lake Wallowa, Oregon
Their wedding took place at the beginning of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. So their honeymoon may not have been much more than the few days of that long weekend. It included a visit to a new Amusement Park that had recently opened in Orange County by the name of Knotts Berry Farm. After their marriage Gene continued to commute to San Diego from Los Alamitos until December of 1945 when he was finally released from the Navy. He and Maida then settled into life together in their own place in San Diego. 

A Genuine Love, Grounded in Grace. The first 33 years of their married life they lived in San Diego. Their final home in California was the house they owned on Armstrong Street in Kearny Mesa, where they finished raising their 6 children. In 1978 they moved to Anacortes where they lived the rest of Gene's life and where Maida lives today. Over the 58 years that they had together they influenced many lives in countless ways. They had a happy marriage, provided a stable family life for their 6 children, and were always devoted to their local Church wherever they lived. Theirs was a genuine love, grounded in the grace of God and generously shared with family and friends. The 40 members of their family today are a living legacy to the quality of their lives. On this occasion of remembering their wedding 75 years ago, I give thanks to God for their lives and their witness.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Happy Birthdays, May 14, 2020

A good many family trees are shady.
~Robert Gonzales

Happy Birthday tomorrow to our grandson Logan Alexander Shepard of San Diego. Born in San Francisco in 2011, Logan is now finishing up third grade in public school. Like all kids in San Diego schools these days, he is engaged in distance learning. He interacts with his teacher and classmates by video conference, and does much of his learning on his personal computer. The Corona Virus is making this a very different school year for everyone, a year that none of us will forget.

Despite the shut-down that is affecting us all, we are planning a happy celebration for Logan's birthday tomorrow. The following is a music video celebrating his 9th birthday. These images of Logan were taken over the course of the last year.




Happy Birthday Aunt Thelma! Today is the birthday of my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd. Born in the spring of 1936, Thelma is the youngest of the last three members of her generation in our family. The other two are my mother Maida Shepard of Anacortes, Washington, and Maida's sister, my aunt Vicki Gower Johnston of Chandler, Arizona. Those three women are the senior members of our family and are to be honored for their place in our larger family.

I connected with my aunt Thelma earlier today. Unfortunately she is in Grossmont Hospital here in San Diego having had some surgery. She is planning to go home soon. I assured her that being in the hospital is not the best way to spend her birthday. She agreed. Best wishes to Thelma for a speedy recovery!

The picture on the right shows Thelma (second from the left) with her three siblings and her parents in San Diego in 1973. This was one of the last pictures of these 6 all together. Granddad passed away in 1976, just 3 years after this picture was taken. Also in the 70's Eugene and his family moved from San Diego to Washington, while Elmer and his family relocated from San Diego to Texas. Sitting in front are Thelma's parents William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard. Standing in the back are their children, Eugene Shepard, Thelma Shepard Boyd, Pauline Shepard Russell, and Elmer Shepard.

Birthday boy Logan, who is pictured above, is one of the 25 Great Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Shepard. Those 25 are dispersed throughout San Diego, the Seattle area, North Texas, and Northeast Kansas. They range in age from 30 years old to 1 year old. Unfortunately Will and Bura Shepard were two people Logan never had the opportunity of meeting. 

My aunt Thelma is our last remaining family link to Two Buttes, Colorado, a small town in the Southeast corner of that state, where our Shepard family lived from 1928 until 1940. Thelma was born in Two Buttes but moved to San Diego with her family in the fall of 1940 when she was just 4 years old. In 1958 she married Terry Boyd (1937-2013) in Southern California and with him had two children, Kim and Darren, who were raised in San Diego. Thelma lives today in a comfortable apartment complex in El Cajon, very near some of her 6 grandchildren who assist her as needs arise. Best wishes to Thelma on this, the occasion of her 84th birthday!

Related Celebrations. Today also happens to be the 30th birthday of Thelma's Granddaughter Courtney Boyd Slaughter who was born in 1990, on her grandmother's 54th birthday. And to make it a trifecta, today is the 36th birthday of my nephew Christopher Shepard of Seattle, the son of my brother Darrell and his wife Mary. Best wishes to all of them!
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

An Ancestor Named Kitty, May 6, 2020

My gift of John Marshall 
to the people of the United States 
was the proudest act of my life.
~President John Adams (1735-1826)

In a recent post I wrote about Cindy's Civil War era ancestors Julius Caesar Vessels and his wife Narcissus from northern Alabama. The Grandmother of Narcissus Vessels was a woman named Katharine "Kitty" Keith, Cindy's 4X Great Grandmother. She is the link to our impressive Keith ancestors of early America. Below is a 12 generation lineage that includes Kitty Keith, and traces this family line back to 17th Century Scotland. I included this in a recent post but I am sharing it again to highlight two of the oldest individuals in this lineage.
  • Preslea Maida Shepard, b. 2010, the daughter of...
  • Nathan Shepard, b. 1977 (wife Chenda Sou) the son of...
  • Cindy Harris Shepard, b. 1948 (husband Steve Shepard), child of
  • Sammie Joe Harris, 1922-1999 (wife Paula Hicks), son of...
  • Mary Lee McGowan, 1899-1985 (husband Fred Harris) child of
  • Edna Pearl Vessels, 1882-1967 (husband S. A. McGowan) child of
  • Fannie Narcissus Bradford, 1845-1891 (husband Julius Caesar Vessels) child of
  • Jesse David Bradford, 1813-1885 (wife Mary Chandler) son of...
  • Katherine Keith, 1779-1831 (husband James Bradford) child of...
  • Alexander Keith, 1748-1822 (wife Margaret Harned) son of...
  • James F. E. Keith, 1696-1752 (wife Mary Isham Randolph), son of...
  • William Keith, 1663-1712 of Peterhead, Scotland
Katherine "Kitty" Keith was born in 1779 just 3 years after the establishment of our country, and was born into one of the founding families of the United States. The Keith Family was from Fauquier County, Virginia, 60 miles southwest of Washington, DC. 

James F. E. Keith (1696-1752)
A Missionary to the Colonies. Kitty was the granddaughter of an immigrant from Scotland named James Francis Edward Keith. Born in the town of Peterhead on the east coast of Scotland, James Keith was ordained an Anglican minister in January, 1729. Just two months later he received a grant from the King enabling him to secure passage to America. He was in essence a Christian missionary from Europe to the American colonies. He arrived in 1728 and settled in Virginia. His first assignment was at St John's Church, located on the plantation of the esteemed Randolph family, where he spent 4 years. At 35 years old James married the teenage daughter of the Randolphs, a 17 year old named Mary Isham Randolph, but not without questions raised about its appropriateness.

The Elk Run Church. James then served as the first minister of the historic Elk Run Anglican Church in Catlett, Virginia. He served the Elk Run Church faithfully for nearly 20 years, during which time he and his young wife Mary brought 8 children into the world. Rev. Keith died sometime in the winter of 1752 leaving his wife Mary with eight children between the ages of 18 and 4 years. Of their five sons, James Keith Jr. spent his life as a lawyer, while the other four fought in the American Revolution. James and his wife Mary are buried under the chancel of the old Elk Run Anglican Church.


Katherine "Kitty" Keith
(1779-1831) 
Their youngest son Alexander Keith was a child of 4 when his father died. In the early years of America, Alexander Keith, like several others in his family, migrated westward down the Shenandoah Valley along the Cumberland Trail and settled in Kentucky and Tennessee. It was a popular westward route made famous by Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. In Kentucky Alexander Keith married Margaret Harned, with whom he had 14 children, the second of whom was the aforementioned Katherine "Kitty" Keith.

One of 83 Cousins. James and Mary Keith had 8 children, each of whom married and had large families resulting in at least 83 grandchildren. Kitty Keith was therefore one of 83 cousins, spread out from Virginia to Tennessee. With communication being slow in the early 19th century, and with all those Keith descendants spread out all over the frontier, those cousins may not have even know each other.

We do know, however, that many of those 83 Keith grandchildren were notable citizens on the young American frontier. Kitty's brother was Judge Charles Fleming Keith who studied law in Virginia before spending his life as a Circuit Judge in McMinn County, Tennessee. Other Keith grandchildren included Elder Benjamin Franklin Keith and Elder Enos Keith, who were well known Baptist ministers in Hardin County, Kentucky.
Supreme Court Chief Justice 
John Marshall (1755-1835)

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The most famous individual in this part of our family tree was John Marshall, a Grandson of James and Mary Keith, and a cousin of Kitty Keith. He entered the Continental Army in 1775 at age 20 and was appointed lieutenant. He fought with George Washington during the harsh 1777-1778 winter of Valley Forge. After the Revolutionary War, at the age of 24 John studied law at the College of William and Mary. In August 1780 he was admitted to the Bar in Fauquier County, Virginia. In March 1801 President John Adams appointed John Marshall as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a position he kept until 1835. Prior to serving on the Supreme Court, he was Secretary of State during the Presidency of John Adams. Later Adams said, "My gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life." 

An Ancestral Journey Across America. Kitty Keith's father Captain Alexander Keith served honorably in the Revolutionary war in the Virginia 10th Regiment. After the war he made his way with his family to Hardin County, Kentucky. It was there that their oldest daughter Kitty met James Bradford and together they made a life for themselves and their 7 children. Kitty and husband James moved the family on westward into Tennessee and finally into Alabama. After the Civil War their descendants moved to North Texas and Oklahoma where Cindy's parents were born. World War II brought the family into California, first to the San Joaquin Valley, and finally to San Diego. The image below shows the route of the 300 year, 3,300 mile, migration of this part of Cindy's Keith ancestors from Catlett, Virginia on the East Coast to San Diego on the West Coast.


The route of a 300 Year Migration 3,300 miles across America
from Northern Virginia to Southern California
This is just one of the many family stories that can be told of our ancestors as they made their way across this great land of ours. It is one more story of kinfolk whose lives teach us, inspire us and give us hope.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)