Wednesday, June 02, 2021

On This Day


Gary and Cindy in about 1990
with Eugene Shepard
On this day in 1979 my brother Gary and his wife Cindy of Oak Harbor, Washington were married at our home in Los Alamitos, California. The first 24 years of their life together were spent in the San Diego area. The last 18 years have been spent in Western Washington to be near our mother and other family in the Anacortes, Washington area. Gary and Cindy are an important part of the care-giving team for our mother Maida Shepard. Happy 42nd Wedding Anniversary and best wishes to Gary and Cindy for many more happy years together!

On this day in 1915 my Grandparents William Shepard (1888-1976) and Bura Davis (1896-1986) were married in Beaver County, Oklahoma. It was 106 years ago that Will and Bura were united in marriage at the home of the local minister of the South Flat Church of Christ in their community. In San Diego in 1975, just a year before William Shepard died, and after 60 years of marriage, he reminisced about his wedding day, and his bride, by saying this: 


She was quite a Sunday School girl. I had just come into the church myself [the South Flat Church of Christ] in December [1914]. My dad had come in a little earlier than that. He was on his death bed with cancer and wanted to see me become a Christian before he died. So I did.

I had my first model T car. To get married we had to go to another sod house where the preacher lived. It was a real wet spring and water was standing everywhere. We didn't have highways. Just old roads. I didn't think we could make it by the regular road so we went on the higher country and ran into a lake and got stuck. We sat there in that car in the mud nearly all day. Finally an old gentleman who lived there pulled us out with his team of horses. It was about 3 or 4 o'clock. The preacher then tied the knot and we went home the way we should have when we went out to see him. He must have done a good job tying the knot because it is still tight.

On this day in 1870 my Great Grandfather James Brooks Davis was born near Spencer, Indiana. He was the much admired father of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard, who chose her father's birthday as the day to marry William Shepard in 1915. James died at 58 years old in Beaver County, Oklahoma of a stomach ailment.

James Brooks Davis (in middle, without coat)
with father Charles Davis and brothers
In 1913 Jim Davis, after living in Indiana his entire 43 years, packed up and moved west to Beaver County, Oklahoma, a move of some 900 miles. He migrated with his wife Callie, also a native Indianan, their 7 children (ages 5 to 16), AND his wife's special needs brother Clayton Spear. To pack up and move a family that size and configuration required an ambitious pioneering spirit.

But Jim Davis was from pioneering stock. It was in his blood. His grandparents Alexander and Jane Davis had braved the American wilderness some 60 years earlier when they migrated from Monroe County, Ohio to Owen County, Indiana. And they did so with several young children, including my Great Great Grandfather Charles Davis. The stories of their adventures must have been the stuff of many a conversation around Davis dinner tables during James' early years. We remember him, on this his birthday, with admiration for his love of family and his willingness to work for a better future. He is buried today alongside his wife Callie in Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, May 31, 2021

Our Shannon Ancestry in California

In recent months I have connected with a part of our Shannon ancestry with which I was unfamiliar. It is the family line of Dee Shannon, wife of my cousin Joan Shepard of Chico, California. It was an unexpected surprise to learn that Dee, like me, is descended from the 17th century Irish couple Robert and Annel Shannon. Their four sons Thomas, Andrew, William and Robert, migrated around 1700 from Munster, Ireland to Pennsylvania. The oldest of their four sons, Thomas Shannon, is my ancestor via my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower, while William Shannon is Dee's ancestor via her Grandmother Marie Shannon Ostrom.

For those of you who are familiar with Shannon family history, Thomas Shannon (1686-1737) is the Irish immigrant described in detail in the anthology Shannon by the late Dexal Shannon. Thomas Shannon's brother William Shannon (1682-1742) is the sibling about whom most of us are not nearly as familiar.

ancestor Jefferson Milam Shannon
an early pioneer in California
Both Shannon brothers -- Thomas and William -- migrated to Lancaster County, in Southeast Pennsylvania when they arrived in Colonial America in the early years of the 18th century. In time, the families of both brothers began journeying westward across America. Thomas Shannon's descendants migrated to Davidson County, Tennessee, then to Stone County, Arkansas, and then to Oklahoma. In 1942, these Shannons finally made their way to the West Coast when Nola Shannon Gower and husband Leroy settled in San Diego. 

The descendants of brother William Shannon took a different route to get across country. From Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, they made their way into Fayette County, Kentucky, then on to Marion County, Missouri. In Missouri Nathaniel Shannon, Jr. had a large farm outside the town of Palmyra, on which he and wife Isabella raised a large family. 

One of their sons, Jefferson Milam Shannon (1831-1902), left his family in Missouri for the West Coast. In 1849 Jefferson Milam Shannon made his way from Palmyra, Missouri to the new State of California which at the time only had a population of 92,000. As people like Jefferson Shannon flocked to California the population boomed. (Today there are 75 cities in California with more than 92,000 people.)

Rebecca and Jefferson Shannon headstone
Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, Ca.
Jefferson Shannon appears in a special 1852 California Census as a young farmer in Solano County. Family records indicate that Jefferson's father Nathaniel Shannon Jr. (1800-1852), had come to California from Missouri a year or so before his son. But the record is clear that Jefferson Shannon arrived before 1852. In the early 1850s Jefferson made his way to Fresno and nearby Millerton where he established himself and accumulated significant wealth as a farmer and landowner. He married a local girl named Rebecca Margaret Baley, and with her raised four children: Mary Shannon Idria, Scott Shannon, Sidney Shannon, and Leland Stanford Shannon.

While in Fresno, Jefferson was fortunate enough to be acquainted with four of the biggest tycoons of early California: Collis P. Huntington, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker and Leland Stanford, the founder of Stanford University. Not surprisingly the Shannons named their youngest son after Leland Stanford. 

After nearly 40 years in the Central Valley, Jefferson and Rebecca Shannon relocated in 1888 to the Bay Area to get advanced education for their sons. They spent their last years in the town of Alameda, California. Jefferson and Rebecca died in 1902 and 1906 respectively and are buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

For most of my life I was under the impression that my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower was the first of our Shannon ancestors to come to California. But I now see that that distinction belongs to Jefferson Milam Shannon and his father Nathaniel Shannon from Palmyra, Missouri. They arrived in California about the time of Statehood, before the Civil War, and 90 years prior to Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower's 1942 arrival in San Diego. It is a proud Shannon ancestry we have in California.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Born a Century Ago


Eugene Shepard with wife Maida
San Diego, 1975
Today is the 100th birthday of my father Eugene William Shepard (1921-2003). He was born exactly 100 years ago, out on the family farm in the rural community of Logan, Oklahoma, some 15 miles southeast of the county seat of Beaver, Oklahoma. He was the third child of William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard, whose family struggled to make ends meet farming in the Oklahoma Panhandle. My father was a kind and gentle man who never thought too highly of himself. He was a devoted father of his and Maida’s 6 children and thoroughly enjoyed them as well as his 9 grandchildren, who were born between 1968 and 1993. He also had great respect for his own parents who both finished their lives living in Mom and Dad’s home. 

His first 8 years were spent on the farm in Beaver County. The family then lived for 12 years in rural Southeast Colorado where he graduated from Two Buttes High School, being one of just 7 graduates in the class of 1939. In 1940, as a lanky 19 year old, he and his family migrated from Two Buttes, Colorado to San Diego, California. It was not only a great distance geographically, but an even greater distance socially and economically from quiet, dusty Two Buttes to wartime Southern California and the burgeoning city of San Diego. 

Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower
December, 1976
Soon after arriving in San Diego, Gene met a young woman named Maida Gower. Theirs was a challenging wartime romance. Since he was in the Navy and stationed 100 miles away in Orange County, he could only visit her on the weekends. But finally his military stint ended and they were married at the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ in the spring of 1945. Their life together began just as WWII was coming to an end. They spent the next 33 years together making a good life for themselves in San Diego and raising their 6 children. In 1978 they left the big city for small town life in Anacortes, Washington where Gene spent the last 25 years of his life. His family and his Church were the two most important loves of his life. A big reason for his and Maida's move to Washington was to support the Fidalgo Island Church of Christ.

I honor my father on this 100th anniversary of his birth. He died in 2003 at home on Wildwood Lane after a long struggle with COPD. I accept the honor of helping his memory live on. I owe him that much. He came from a wonderful set of parents, and he left a great legacy: a wife who has now outlived him by 18 years (and counting), 6 children, and 9 grandchildren, all of whom have great respect for his memory and who proudly affirm their family of origin. We his children and grandchildren continue to lift up his memory and remember with fondness the great person he was. Thanks be to God for the life of Eugene Shepard.

Phil Wilk and Beverly Russell
San Diego about 1965
I cannot remember my father Eugene Shepard without also remembering two other family members, one of whose birthday was also today, and the other whose birthday was yesterday.

Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). My maternal Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower was born April 28, 1903 in Mountain View, Arkansas. Her early years were spent in Arkansas until she and husband Leroy Gower moved to Oklahoma in 1925. They then settled in San Diego in 1942 and lived there until Leroy died in 1974. Grandma Gower remained in her home on Lynne Street for 23 more years until she moved to Anacortes, Washington in 1997 where she died at 101 years old in 2004. 

Beverly Russell Wilk (1939-1974). Yesterday would have been the 82nd birthday of my cousin Beverly Russell Wilk, had she not died tragically in 1974 of a brain aneurism. Beverly was a beautiful woman whose life was cut tragically short but whose family line continues through her daughter Shannon Wilk and her granddaughter Emma Wilk. Shannon and Emma live today in Atchison, Kansas. Yesterday Shannon posted on Facebook several old pictures of her mother Beverly. It was great to see these old photos and to remember those days. One of those pictures I have included in this post.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he/him/his)

Monday, April 26, 2021

Remembering Aunt Vicki

My aunt Vicki Gower Johnston of Chandler, Arizona died earlier this month on April 13. Vicki has been one of the great treasures of our family as one of the senior members of our clan. At 87 years old, she experienced all that life had to offer. 

Vicki (on the right) with sister Maida
and parents Nola and Leroy Gower
taken about 1942
Early Life. She was the third of the three children of my grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Her older siblings were Hendrix and Maida. She was the only member of our family to be born in Okemah, Oklahoma during the years the Gowers lived in that small town about an hour's drive east of Oklahoma City. Born in the fall of 1933, her first 9 years were spent in the quiet country confines of Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. In 1942 Vicki, with her sister Maida and her mother Nola made a difficult bus ride from Okemah to San Diego, California. They joined the rest of their family who earlier that year had driven to Southern California to find work during the economic boom of World War II. Vicki and her siblings were very much a part of the Gower clan that prospered during the post war years in San Diego.

Vicki was a free spirit who often resisted the status quo in her life. She married for the first time at just 17 in 1951 and had her first two children, Paula and Gloria, by husband Jerry Kerr. In her second marriage to serviceman Carl Harrell she gave birth to sons Michael and David during the time Carl was stationed in Japan. Her parents named her Melva Bernice Gower at birth, but as a young woman she legally changed her name to Victoria. It was the name she carried for the rest of her life.  

Vicki with husband Carl Harrell and children
Gloria, David, Michael and Paula in 1959
In Western Washington. After living in San Diego for over 30 years Vicki and then husband Al Perry chose to relocate to Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island in Western Washington in 1975. Vicki was the first of our extended family to move to Washington when she and Al Perry moved there. Three years later my parents Maida and Gene Shepard retired and moved from San Diego to Northwest Washington. Today at least 20 members of our Shepard and Gower families live in that area, and it all started when Al and Vicki settled in scenic Northwest Washington.

Unfortunately her husband Al died after only four years in Oak Harbor. Vicki continued to make a good life for herself in Oak Harbor for 40 years. One of the best things to happen to her there was to meet and then marry Judge Duke Johnston. After 28 years of marriage to Duke, Vicki was widowed once again when Duke passed away from cancer in 2015. Later that year Vicki moved to Chandler, Arizona to live in a care facility near her daughter Paula.

Vicki with brother Hendrix, sister Maida
and mother Nola Gower in 2004
Her Life's Journey. Vicki's life journey took her from the dusty little town of Okemah, Oklahoma to the bustling city of San Diego to Whidbey Island in Western Washington. Her final move was in 2015 to the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, where she lived comfortably until her death earlier this month.

Vicki's remarkable life was multifaceted. She suffered her share of hardship, but also enjoyed all that life offered her. It was a great sadness for her when daughter Gloria died in 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee. One of her great joys was her granddaughter Heather Robson Cotten of Plano, Texas, and her great-granddaughters Victoria and Alexandria. 

Vicki is survived by her daughter Paula Harrell Tuzzolino of Sun Lakes, Arizona, and her sons Michael Harrell of Zionsville, Indiana, and David Harrell of Whidbey Island, Washington. Paula plans to take her mother's ashes and bury them in Oak Harbor. Our best wishes and sincere condolences are extended to Vicki's family in this time of loss. We will miss her very much.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he/him/his)

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Cousin Connections

For each petal on the shamrock,
this brings a wish your way:
Good health, good luck, and happiness
for today and every day.
~Irish Blessing

Discovering An Irish Connection. Before this Irish month of March is over I want to mention a recently discovered Irish connection. Dee Shannon is the wife of my cousin Joan Shepard. Ever since I met Dee a few years ago I have wondered about her last name and whether or not there might be an actual historical family connection. Shannon is a very common name, so I did not pursue the matter at first. But after some recent research I did find a connection, due in large part to the help of the book Shannon, by the late Dexal Ray Shannon. 

I have mentioned the Shannon book before in this blog. It was self-published in 1990, just a year before the death of the author, who was a 3rd cousin of mine. (He was a 1st cousin of my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower.) A number of those among our Shannon kinfolk have the book. In recent years I have discovered that it is increasingly in high demand among genealogists in general. It is a great resource for family history research, cataloguing thousands of Shannon descendants in America. I do not know if copies of the Shannon book are available for purchase anywhere. If someone reading this post has information about the book's availability, please let me know by email or by posting in the comment section.

Thanks to the Shannon book and other online research, I discovered that Dee Shannon and I are both direct descendants of the Irish couple Robert Shannon Sr. (1630-1724) and his wife Annel Wood Shannon (born 1635). Four of their sons migrated to America from Ireland about 1700. One son was Thomas Shannon, from whom I am descended through my maternal Grandmother Nola Agnes Shannon. Another son was William Shannon from whom Dee is descended through her maternal Grandmother Marie Margaret Shannon. Dee and I are therefore 8th cousins, sharing a common and proud Irish heritage. 

Another Cousin Connection. In recent weeks I have also discovered another new cousin, this one on the Shepard/Davis side of my family. My paternal Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986) was the granddaughter of Malinda Wright Davis (1846-1920). Malinda is our connection to a wonderful, colorful, very Quaker part of our family history. 

Via a comment left on The Shepard's Crook, I connected with Jean Schubert who lives on the Olympic Peninsula of Western Washington. Jean and I are both descendants of Quaker ministers Rachel Wells Wright and her husband John Wright, making her and me 5th cousins. Ministers Rachel and John had a daughter named Charity Wright Cook (1745-1822) a well known, and very well traveled, Quaker minister in her time. She may have been the most well traveled Quaker minister in all of Colonial America. I have written before in this blog about Charity and about her parents John Wright and Rachel Wells Wright. Charity's life and travels are so compelling and heartwarming that cousin Jean has written a novelization of Charity's life. 

Published just last year, Of Hearth and Highway & A Bold Quaker Woman is a fascinating book about religious life in Colonial America and the adventures of one particular Quaker woman, who happens to be an ancestor of ours. It tells the story of Charity Wright Cook's deep faith and her courageous life as an itinerant minister serving the Lord far and wide. This devout Quaker woman and her family are folks from whom we are descended, which means that to some degree their story is our story. They tell us about ourselves as well as about their lives. I just completed reading Jean's book about Charity and found it both engrossing and inspiring. I highly recommend it. If you would like to obtain a copy, email Jean Schubert at jeans05@embarqmail.com. She will gladly send you all the info on how to purchase a copy. 

Happy Easter to all of you!
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he/him/his)

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

This day always reminds me how Irish our roots really are. We have numerous immigrants in our family tree who came to America generations before our nation was born. Today is an opportunity to celebrate our Irish ancestry, and to remember those who made a great effort to migrate across the Atlantic.

My grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004) was the most Irish person I ever knew. There are numerous persons in her family tree -- probably more than she realized -- who were Irish immigrants to America long before she was born. Even though she was very Irish and proud of that fact, I do not remember her ever getting particularly excited about Saint Patrick's Day. As a country girl from small town Arkansas in the early 20th century, her people were hard working, pious Baptists.

Numerous ancestors of ours took great risks by sailing across the Atlantic and journeying to America with high hopes for a better life. They are folks like Thomas and Eigness Shannon who came from Derry in Northern Ireland about 1700. Also James Alexander and family who came from Raphoe, in northern Ireland in the late 1600s, and John and Lucy Maxwell in the mid 1600s, and Robert and Mary Alexander who came from Scotland in the 17th century. We have a few dozen Irish ancestors who can be identified in our family history, and for them all we are grateful.

Image of an Irish Immigrant ship
arriving in America
A Remarkable Ancestor. Among the most interesting Irish immigrants in our history is William Henry Pickens (1670-1735) and his wife Margaret Pike Pickens (1672-1740). Originally from La Rochelle, France on the Atlantic coast, William was probably among the Hugenots, Reformed Protestant Christians who suffered severe religious persecution from the established Catholic Church in France. In response to that persecution 6X Great Grandfather William Pickens crossed the England Channel and migrated to Ireland. There he married an Irish woman named Margaret Pike with whom he had 10 children. 

From the town of Limerick in central Ireland, William and Margaret Pickens obtained passage for themselves and their children and sailed across the Atlantic to the new world. In the early 18th century ocean voyages were dangerous ventures, especially for a large family like the Pickenses. From what little we know about their journey, the family survived the difficult ocean crossing safely and arrived in Philadelphia in 1722. They settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania just north of Philadelphia.

An Amazing Life Journey. What an amazing life journey our 6X Great Grandfather William Pickens had. Born in a small French town amid religious persecution, he fled to Ireland where he settled and raised a family, before making his way across the Atlantic ocean to America. For the 18th century his was a life journey that included an incredible amount of cultural, ethnic and family transition. What an adventurous spirit!

From the historical records of the Abington
Presbyterian Church, showing the marriage of
Lucy Pickens and Matthew Gillespie in 1722


Once William, his wife Margaret and their children settled in Pennsylvania, the Pickens family continued in their Reform Protestant tradition and joined the Abington Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, a congregation that still exists today. As a youth in France, William was persecuted for being a Reformed Protestant. In America he and his family freely shared their faith in a new church setting. Historical records of the Abington Church show that 299 years ago, in 1722, the very year the Pickenses arrived in Pennsylvania, their 20 year old daughter Lucy Pickens married a young man named Matthew Gillespie. It was the first marriage for this family in the new world. What a joyous occasion it must have been! From that union our family line is descended: 

  • Lucy Pickens (1702-1762) married Matthew Gillespie (1700-1728)
  • son Matthew Gillespie Jr. (1726-1793) married Anna Pickens (1726-1775)
  • daughter Mary Q. Gillespie (1756-1789) married Andrew Pickens (1753-1844)
  • daughter Anna Pickens (1785-1867) married David McKnight Shannon (1790-1860)
  • son David Reid Shannon (1821-1864) married Peggy Gray (1829-1899)
  • son Samuel Pickens Shannon (1858-1930) married Finetta Dearien (1861-1960)
  • daughter Nola Shannon (1903-2004) married Leroy Gower (1899-1974)
  • daughter Maida Gower (b. 1924) married Eugene Shepard (1921-2003)
  • son Steve Shepard (b. 1948) married Cindy Harris (b. 1948)

Our proud Irish ancestry is something worth remembering. There is much more to learn about that part of our family. Today we pause and remember their place in our heritage and we celebrate all they went through to bring us to this day.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, February 19, 2021

Black History Month, February 19, 2021

My humanity is bound up in yours,
for we can only be human together.
~Desmond Tutu

February is Black History Month. Like most families in America, our extended family has a mixed history when it comes to race relations. In my lifetime our family's attitudes toward Blacks has been varied. As a child growing up in San Diego, I remember my Grandfather, who like many of his generation, regularly used the n-word. Many in our family, like me, winced whenever he spoke it. In addition, his comments and anecdotes regarding blacks were often demeaning. His language was reflective of his upbringing at the turn of the 20th century in a time of racial strife. 

Jesse and Mary Bradford, just one
among many slave holding families
among our ancestors.
In my lifetime our culture has evolved a great deal in regard to race relations. And yet, no matter how much the culture has changed, we have a history of slavery in our country and in our family that we cannot ignore. Owning another human being is inexcusable. Whether it happened 2,000 years ago or 200 years ago, it cannot be condoned. It was just plain wrong and should have been resisted.

Slave Holding Ancestors. In my family history research I have discovered that numerous members of our family were slave holders in the early 19th century. Even though slavery was an integral part of the culture at the time, it is still discouraging to read of ancestors who owned slaves. U.S. Census records in the early 19th century clearly document families who owned slaves and how many they owned. 

The following is a list of just some of the slave holding families in our history (according to US Census Records):

  • Andrew Pickens of Virginia (my 4X Great Grandfather) owned 2 slaves in 1810.
  • William Dearen of North Carolina (my 4X Great Grandfather) owned 11 slaves in 1810.
  • Sarah Rives of Virginia (my 4X Great Grandmother) owned 8 slaves in 1820.
  • David Shannon of Tennessee (my 4X Great Grandfather) owned 6 slaves in 1820.
  • William Gray of Tennessee (my 4X Great Grandfather) owned 13 slaves in 1830.
  • Thomas Shannon of Virginia (my 4X Granduncle) owned 16 slaves in 1840.
  • David McKnight Shannon of Mississippi (my 3X Great Grandfather) owned 5 slaves in 1840.
  • Katherine Bradford of Tennessee (4X Great Grandmother) owned 13 slaves in 1840.
  • Jesse and Mary Bradford of Alabama (3X Great Grandparents) owned 3 slaves in 1840.

One other slave owning family in our family tree was my 5th Granduncle William E. Gower and his wife Charlotte Garland Gower of Nashville, Tennessee. Born in 1776, the year of our nation's birth, William served as a Methodist minister for over 50 years. Uncle William and Aunt Charlotte built Gower's Chapel, next to Gower Cemetery which still exists today on Gower Road in Nashville, Tennessee. 

1860 Newspaper Notice
of Gower Slaves For Sale
When William died in the fall of 1861, his widow Charlotte put their slaves up for sale. In the May 8, 1860 edition of the Nashville Union and American newspaper, a notice appeared regarding the sale of their Gower owned slaves. It read: 

Sale of Negroes 

In pursuance of a decree of the County Court of Davidson County, rendered in the case of the heirs of William Gower, deceased, I will offer for sale at the Court House in Nashville, on Saturday the 2nd Day of June, next, the following negroes, to wit:

Rachel, about 57 years of age
Isaac about 40 years of age
Harriet about 27 years of age, and her two children
Laura about 5 years of age
Charles about 3 years of age.

Terms - - $100 in cash will be required, and for the balance notes endorsed, payable in back, at twelve months.

F.R. Cheatham, 
Clerk and Master

Could the woman in this photo
be Beverly Russell Wilk? 

It is hard to believe that ancestors of ours -- or anybody for that matter -- could traffic in human lives like this, offering men, women and children for sale on the open market. Thank God we have come a long way since then.  

Do You Recognize This Woman? I read an article earlier this month in the San Diego Union-Tribune, which recognized Black History Month. Included was a picture of a "sit-in" protest in downtown San Diego in 1963 at the San Diego Gas and Electric office building on 6th Ave. In the photo a woman is entering the building and making her way past the protesters. She looks to me remarkably like my late cousin Beverly Russell (1939-1974), who worked for many years at SDG&E, and would have been 24 years old when this picture was taken. Those of you who knew Beverly, what do you think? Could this be our cousin Bev?

Black History month is a time to recognize this dark and unsettling chapter in our family's history. It is difficult to believe, yet it is true, that numerous ancestors of ours were part of the slave culture in early America, buying, selling and enslaving other human beings, including children. This month therefore becomes a time to ponder the questions: What does this part of our history say about who we are today? And how will we be judged by our descendants 200 years from now?
- - -
Steve Shepard

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

A Tale of Two Soldiers

A Tale of Two Soldiers

Like each of you, I have 8 GG Grandfathers in our family tree. Six of them had the misfortune of being just the right age for service in the American Civil War. The other two were too young to serve in the military. Two of my GG Grandfathers served in the Confederate Army: David Reid Shannon and Augustus Dearien. Four of them served in the Union Army: William Shepard, Payton Owens, William Spear and John M. Turner. Most of these men were farmers who simply took a break from their domestic affairs to serve their time in the War. Four of those who served returned home from the War relatively unscathed. Two of my GG Grandfathers gave their last full measure of devotion and died in combat. One was a Union Soldier, the other a Confederate Soldier. 

William Shepard (1835-1862) and David Reid Shannon (1821-1864). William Shepard is a GG Grandfather on my father's side of the family. David Reid Shannon is a GG Grandfather on my mother's side of the family. The life journeys of these two soldiers were somewhat similar, although different in notable ways. 

My ancestor William Shepard, originally from Ohio, joined the Union Army in Wabash, Indiana in September 1861. Three years later and 1,000 miles to the South, ancestor David Reid Shannon, originally from Mississippi, joined the Confederate Army in Alexandria, Louisiana in April 1864. 

Each man had a wife and children. Once they left home to join the military and serve their country in the Civil War, neither man was ever seen by their families again. It was a tragedy duplicated countless times across our country during the years of the War. When William Shepard departed Wabash, Indiana, he left a 21 year old pregnant wife, Mary Shepard, with their one year old son named Frank. When David departed his family farm near Sugartown, Louisiana, he left his wife Peggy Shannon with 7 children between the ages of 2 and 14. 

They Were On Their Own. As the war dragged on, both wives eventually came to the awful realization that they were not going to see their husbands again. They were on their own to support themselves and their children. Both women did what they had to do to survive. Years later, after the war, they would each receive a widow's pension with some financial relief. But during the war it was a very difficult struggle for each woman and her children. 

Evansville, Indiana Grave of
Soldier William Shepard (1835-1862)
Mary Shepard, after finally realizing that husband William was never coming home, made her way back to her hometown in Ladoga, Indiana west of Indianapolis. Shortly after the war ended she remarried an older gentleman farmer named William Ragsdale who already had 9 children, adding her two young boys to the mix. She spent the rest of her life in that large blended family. We don't know how much she ever knew about what happened to her soldier-husband William Shepard. She did receive a small pension some 40 years after the war so she likely knew something about his death. 

An amazing amount of information about the Civil War is now accessible online, information that was not easily available before. Sitting at a home computer today one can learn much more about William's Civil War travels and battles than his wife Mary ever knew. Fortunately Mary was able to get on with her life by remarrying. It is unclear whether she ever visited William's grave in Oak Hill Cemetery, Evansville, Indiana.  

Two Resilient Women Who Survived. In Louisiana, Peggy Shannon was not so fortunate. She waited all through the war to receive word about her husband David Shannon but never heard anything. Communication was maddeningly slow and inconsistent during the Civil War in rural America. One can only imagine how difficult it must have been during the War for a single woman with 8 children on a farm in rural Louisiana, 200 miles west of New Orleans. After a year of hearing nothing, Peggy finally made her way to the enlistment center in Alexandria, Louisiana and demanded some word about what happened to her husband. Finally she received confirmation that her husband had died.

Word got back to Peggy's 62 year old father Richard Gray in Arkansas of her plight, and his heart was touched. He accepted the difficult task of traveling 400 dusty miles -- probably in a wagon -- from Mountain View, Arkansas to Sugartown, Louisiana to gather up Peggy and her children and move them to Arkansas. What else but a father's love for his only daughter could make a man do what he did? 

A Post War Journey. Moving Peggy Ann Shannon and her 7 children from Southern Louisiana to Northern Arkansas in the aftermath of the Civil War was no easy task. It was a slow, difficult journey that must have taken weeks. The South had been decimated in the war, people were desperate, poverty was rampant and travel had great risks. To undertake this journey required a heart full of love, a pocket full of greenbacks, and lots of help. The help Richard received from his sons -- Peggy's brothers -- James, Samuel and Lawson, who made the journey with him to rescue their family. The family was reunited and they lived out their lives on homesteaded property west of Mountain View, Arkansas. 

New Orleans Cemetery where Soldier David
Reid Shannon (1821-1864) is buried
By the way, the graves of both soldiers are in beautiful cemeteries that are easily accessible today. William Shepard rests in Oak Hill Cemetery, in Evansville, Indiana, a grave I have visited a couple of times. David Reid Shannon rests in Chalmette Cemetery in New Orleans. It is a grave I look forward to visiting some day. 

Mary Shepard and Peggy Shannon were women who survived tragic, desperate situations. Their resilience was remarkable. We, their descendants, owe them a great debt of gratitude. Both women, from different parts of the country, went on with their lives and had children and grandchildren whose life journeys took them westward. 

First Into Oklahoma. For Mary it was a Grandson (my Grandfather) named William Shepard (named after his soldier-grandfather) whose family settled in 1905 in the panhandle of Oklahoma. For Peggy it was a Granddaughter (my Grandmother) named Nola Shannon Gower whose family settled east of Oklahoma City in 1925. Both these grandchildren, William Shepard and Nola Gower, with their respective families, eventually made their way to San Diego in the early 1940s. It was in San Diego that William's son Eugene Shepard, and Nola's daughter Maida Gower, met and married. 

And, as they say, "the rest is history."
- - -
Steve Shepard (he, him, his)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Looking Ahead To A New Year, January 2021

Where there is a stepping stone,
there is a milestone.
~P. S. Jagadeesh

Milestones in the Year Ahead. Like all of you, I am grateful for this new year of 2021. The last year was very difficult for our country as we struggled with the Pandemic, social upheaval, political strife, and economic problems. There will be a number of notable milestones in this coming year in our family history. I plan to highlight several of them in The Shepard's Crook as we move through 2021.

Our Grandparents Nola and Leroy Gower.
September 29, 2021 will be the
100th Anniversary of their wedding.
  
These milestones will include the 100th anniversary of my father's birth, the 100th wedding anniversary of my Gower Grandparents, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Civil War soldier David Reid Shannon, and much more. They are all milestones in our family that are worth remembering and celebrating. But most of all they contain family stories that remind us of where we came from and who we are when at our best.

A 5 Year Mark. This month marks the 5 year mark since our mother was diagnosed with Dementia. It has been quite a journey for all of us in her family. We have walked with her and cared for her through this difficult period of time. On a positive note, she has done surprisingly well physically in the last few years. She visited her doctor recently who said that her vitals were fine and that she appears to be in good overall health for 96 years old.

Over these last 5 years Mom has received excellent care from her immediate family. She has been able to remain in her own home, which is a big plus of course. Daughter Barb and son Gary have been her primary care givers, but in recent years she has also received support from all her family, in particular her daughter-in-law Cindy, her son Russ and his family, as well as her Church family and friends. These helpers are all in addition to other trained care givers who have been brought in and have been an important part of the caregiving team. 

Maida Gower Shepard, with Barbara, Gary and me
at her home in Anacortes, Washington

A Challenging Time. The last 5 years have not been without some challenges. It has been very stressful at times as Mom's children and grandchildren have struggled with decisions about her care and well being. We are not unlike many other families. When the beloved matriarch of a particular family moves into the sunset years of her life, it is normally very upsetting and difficult to deal with. But in the midst of it all we continue to remind ourselves that the bottom line is Mom's health and her overall well being. 

All those who have been involved in her care -- family, friends and professionals -- are to be thanked for their great efforts. Mom's good physical health at this stage of her life is a witness to their good work. They have given of themselves in a way that honors our parents. Living at a distance I am especially appreciative of all those who have had a part in caring for Mom.

Five years is a significant milestone. There have been some bumps in the road, some heartaches and some emotional turmoil. Our family has been tried and tested like never before in the last 5 years. Even so we continue to do our best for our dear mother. I hope and pray we can do just as well for the next 5 years, God willing.
- - -
Steve Shepard (he, him, his)

Monday, December 28, 2020

Old Drawer Discoveries, Dec 28, 2020

Funny how the new things are the old things.
~Rudyard Kipling

13 years ago today I first began this family blog. It has been an interesting journey to say the least. I have enjoyed very much writing about our extended families. This blog has encompassed Shepards and Gowers, Harrises and Davises, and many other relatives. In recent years I have traced our Shepard and Harris ancestors to the earliest years of America, writing about John Shepard, Abel Gower, James Keith, John Marshall, and numerous other early American ancestors. The more research I do, the more discoveries I make about ancestors who have been hidden to history, and whose stories tell us much about our history and in some ways about ourselves. Thanks to all of you who are readers of The Shepard's Crook and who have expressed your gratitude. It has been a labor of love. I look forward to sharing more with you about kinfolk from whom we are descended.

Cindy and me, December 27, 1968
Happy Anniversary. Yesterday, Cindy and I celebrated 52 years of marriage. We were married Dec 27, 1968 in front of a large group of friends and family at the La Mesa Church of Christ, a few miles from where we live now in Allied Gardens. A lot has changed in our lives and in our larger family over those many years. Beloved family members have passed away. Wonderful new family members have been added by birth or marriage. Beautiful happy memories have been made, while our share of sorrow has been experienced. Through it all Cindy and I find ourselves grateful for all our family and for the memories that have been made over the years.

Remembering Pauline Shepard Russell (1916-2000). My aunt Pauline Shepard Russell was born on this date 104 years ago in 1916. She was the first child of my Grandparents William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard. Not long after marrying Bill Russell in Colorado, Aunt Pauline and Uncle Bill were among the first family members to migrate to California. In September, 1940, the Shepard family of 7 packed up and made their way across 1,150 miles of the American Southwest from Two Buttes, Colorado to San Diego. 

Pauline Shepard Russell (right) with her
mother Bura Davis Shepard, about 1945
Bill and Pauline both lived here in San Diego for the rest of their lives. Bill died in 1997 and Pauline died 3 years later. They were both wonderful people who contributed in a very positive way to the life of our larger family. Their grandson Eric Russell lives in the Reno, Nevada area, while their granddaughter Shannon Wilk and her daughter Emma live in Atchison, Kansas. 

Old Drawer Discoveries. We have recently remodeled our garage. It was a total reboot of a space that has been collecting family stuff of all kinds for over 60 years. In one dusty box we found dozens of old Harris and Hicks family pictures, most of which, unfortunately, have no writing on the back to identify the people. The most remarkable find, however, was an old family Bible, titled "The Good Leader Bible," copyright 1946. It was given to Cindy by her parents Joe and Paula Harris. The first page says, "Presented to Cynthia Harris (Cindy), by Mother and Dad, January 7, 1948." 

"The Good Leader Bible" is definitely showing its age (aren't we all!). Its cover is cracked and split, and its binding literally creaks when it is opened, like a treasure chest that had been sealed for decades. Its insides and margin notes indicate that it was well used by a serious Bible student for a period of time. But that time is long past. It has been hidden from view in a dusty garage for God knows how long. Despite its age and its sentimental value, it is probably time to give it a final resting place. Cindy's mom and dad, Joe and Paula Harris, are both gone now, but this Bible gift of theirs remains. It was a heartwarming discovery of a 73 year old treasure, reflecting the joy of a newborn child and a young father and mother's hopes and dreams for the future. 

Best wishes to all of you for a very Happy New Year!
- - -
Steve Shepard (he, him, his)