Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Maida's Graveside Service

Yesterday we laid my mother to rest as she took her final resting place in Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego. Maida Imogene Gower Shepard (1924-2023) lived until just a few months short of her 99th Birthday. She lived a wonderful life. From Arkansas to Oklahoma to San Diego to Washington, hers was a life well lived. As a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a Christian she lived a resplendent life and touched numerous others with her infectious spirit, beautiful heart and deep faith. 

Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego is the resting place of numerous members of our family. The plot where Mom now resides is next to her husband Eugene Shepard, and a few steps away from her daughter Linda. A few steps in a different direction are our Shepard grandparents and our Gower grandparents, plus various aunts, uncles and cousins. The family stories and memories represented by the family members there are too numerous to count. They tell the multi-faceted tale of our family in San Diego since 1940 when the Shepards first came to California from Oklahoma and Colorado.

With Cindy and me at the gathering yesterday was cousin Kim Clark and husband Jeff. We had a very  meaningful but short service of thanks for Maida as we recounted her life and asked God's blessing on her and her family.

May God bless the memory of Maida Shepard who meant so much to all her family. Her memory will be a blessing to our family for generations to come.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Thelma Shepard Boyd (1936-2023)

Hello Family and Friends,

Youngster Thelma with her mother
Bura Davis Shepard (abt. 1941)
Many of you may already know that my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd passed away last month in San Diego. She had been in failing health and had resided in care facilities for the last several months. She had been cared for by her family here in San Diego, especially her daughter Kim Boyd Clark. 

Thelma was the last of her generation in our family. She was the youngest child of my grandparents William and Bura Shepard, and the younger sister of my father Eugene Shepard. Her other siblings were her older brother Elmer Shepard, and an older sister (by 20 years) Pauline Shepard Russell. 

Thelma was born in the spring of 1936 in Two Buttes, Colorado, a small rural town in the southeast corner of that state. Several members of our Shepard family lived in tiny Two Buttes from 1928 until 1940. At just 4 years old Thelma's family made a major move from the little country town of Two Buttes to Southern California. They settled in San Diego which has been home to numerous family members ever since. 

Thelma (right) with daughter Kim
and Kim's husband Jeff Clark
Other than a few years in Gallup, New Mexico, San Diego was Thelma's home for most of her life. It is where she graduated from Hoover High School, and where she and her family were long time members of the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ. San Diego is also where she met Terry Boyd, who she married in 1958 in Yuma, Arizona. San Diego is also where many of their children and grandchildren were born.

I always experienced my aunt Thelma as a gentle soul, a loving mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She was a kind spirit, a faithful Christian, and a lifelong devotee of the Church of Christ. She loved her family and enjoyed her children, her 6 grandchildren and her 8 great grandchildren.

Thelma will be laid to rest tomorrow, October 18, at Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego. She will take her place alongside her parents, siblings, and other loved ones. Our best wishes are extended to all Thelma's family at this time of sadness. We are grateful to God for the wonderful life she lived. 
- - -
Steve Shepard
October 18, 2023 

Friday, August 18, 2023

Maida Gower Shepard (1924-2023)

It is with great sadness that I share with all of you that my mother Maida Shepard, passed away earlier this month. Late in the evening on August 6 she passed away peacefully at her home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington. She had her family around her as she gently slipped away and into the gentle arms of a waiting savior.

Maida Imogene Gower was born in Mountain View, Arkansas on November 1, 1924. When a year old her parents Leroy Gower and Nola Shannon Gower moved with Maida and her older brother Hendrix to Okemah, Oklahoma where sister Vicky was born, the last of their three children.

In 1942 during Maida's senior year at Okemah High school, her family moved to San Diego where Maida graduated from San Diego High in 1943. It was quite an adjustment from small town life in Oklahoma to the growing metropolis of San Diego. But it turned out to be a good move. The family remained settled in Southern California for 36 years. 

In 1943 Maida, who was raised as a Baptist, had a Church of Christ friend named Janelle who invited Maida to a social event at the El Cajon Boulevard Church of Christ in San Diego. There she met a young Navyman named Eugene Shepard. At first their relationship was long distant because Eugene was stationed in Orange County. But eventually their relationship grew and they were married on May 24th, 1945 in a private ceremony at the minister's house behind the church in San Diego. 

Between 1946 and 1962 Maida and Eugene brought 6 children into the world, all of whom were raised at their San Diego home on Armstrong Street, with the Linda Vista Church of Christ being their spiritual home. Maida and husband Eugene were pillars of the Linda Vista Church, and were a blessing to that congregation for 20 years.

Maida was a woman of deep faith and strong conviction and as such was the spiritual heart of our family. She loved Church activities and could always be counted on to support the programs and fellowship of her church. She loved sewing, quilting, gardening, cooking and crocheting.  

Maida was a devoted mother of her 6 children, and with Eugene loved them through the many trials of growing up. When their older daughter Linda died in a car accident at just 20 years old, it was a crushing blow to the whole family, but Maida and Eugene endured with grace and faith. 

After their children were grown, Maida and Eugene left Southern California in 1978 and relocated to Anacortes, Washington where they became members of the Fidalgo Island Church of Christ. For 45 years Maida was a faithful member of that congregation. With her death recently at 98 years old, her labors have ended, but her great legacy remains and will be felt in the lives of her family and friends for years to come.

Maida is survived by 6 children, 12 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren, and 5 great great grandchildren, who are scattered throughout Northwest Washington, Southern California and North Texas.
Maida was preceded in death by a daughter Linda in 1971, and her husband Eugene in 2003.

In the near future Maida will be laid to rest at Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego next to numerous family members, including her parents, her daughter Linda (1950-1971) and husband Eugene (1921-2003).

A memorial service for her will be held tomorrow (Aug. 19, 2023) at the Fidalgo Island Church of Christ in Anacortes.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Thelma Shepard Boyd

I have had the opportunity in recent days to spend some quality time with my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd. She has been in the hospital here in San Diego recently. At 87 years old her health is not what it once was. She has been diagnosed with some serious illness. Fortunately, she is being provided great care by her daughter Kim Clark and other family members. 

Kim & Jeff Clark and Thelma Boyd
Kim's husband Jeff Clark posted the following prayer request on Facebook recently which gives you an idea of how she is doing.

Please keep my mother-in-law Thelma Boyd and my wife Kim Clark and Thelma’s grandkids and great grandkids in your prayers. Thelma has had congestive heart failure for the last five years and Dementia for the past three or four years and Alzheimer’s for the past year to year and a half.  Thelma has dealt with this (with daily staff visits and multiple daily reminders) while she lived at her independent senior living facility in El Cajon.  But her situation has now changed. The progression of the Dementia and Alzheimer’s has increased and daily visits and reminders are now not enough.  

She was taken to the hospital last Wednesday evening (July 5) very dehydrated (forgetting to drink).  She has been getting fluids but still not eating much. Doctors said that is part of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.  A person not knowing or wanting to eat or drink.  We are trying to get her placed in a facility where she will have more care but not a nursing home.  Hospice is helping with this. With congestive heart failure and Dementia hospice will help and since she has had both for years they could have been helping her for years, allowing Kim and the grandkids to be a daughter and grandkids instead of the stress of being a caregiver too.

Maida and Barbara Shepard
Thelma is a very special person in our Shepard family. She is the last remaining child of my Grandparents William and Bura Shepard. Thelma at 87, and my mother Maida Gower Shepard at 98, are the last surviving members of their generation in our family. They are both wonderful women who have lived exemplary lives and are living reminders of the great family to which we belong.

Speaking of my mom Maida Shepard in Anacortes, Washington, she too has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and Dementia. Fortunately, she is also being provided good in-home care by her family, in particular by her daughter Barbara.

During this time of illness, please remember Maida and Thelma and those who care for them. Thanks be to God for these two wonderful women who represent the larger family of which we are privileged to be a part.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, July 08, 2023

"The Surgeon of Ann Arundel"

Every so often when researching our family, I come across a person whose life story is so interesting that it needs to be told. My 9th Great Grandfather is one such person. He was Dr. Richard Wells (1609-1667), and was known as "the Surgeon of Ann Arundel." Ann Arundel is a county in Maryland some 50 miles east of Washington, D.C.

Richard Wells is our ancestor through my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). He is also the Great Grandfather of our ancestor, the Quaker Rachel Wells (1720-1771), who I have written about several times in this blog. Here is Richard Wells' family line:

Wells Family Coat of Arms
Richard Wells (b.1609)
Frances Wells (b.1657)
Joseph Wells (b.1697)
Rachel Wells (b. 1720) 
Joseph Wright (b. 1740) 
John Wright (b.1774) 
Nancy Wright (b. 1811) 
Malinda Wright (b. 1846) 
James Brooks Davis (b.1870) 
Bura Davis Shepard (b.1896) 
Eugene Shepard (b.1921) 
me (b.1948)

Richard Wells' life in Colonial America began when he immigrated at 28 years old from England to the colony of Virginia in 1637. He was a staunch Puritan of wealth and influence in a time when Puritans were in power. He married Francis Elizabeth White (1622-1711) while living in Virginia and with her had 11 children, a normal sized family for colonists like the Wellses who sought to populate the new world.

Being a Liberal Puritan, Richard felt the urge to move northward to Maryland where Lord Baltimore had established freedom of religion. The Puritans were a significant group of activists within the Church of England. They sought to rid the Church of all Catholic influence. They were purists who resisted the Church straying from its roots. They had a major impact on life in Colonial America, and eventually became the Congregational Church, which is today part of the United Church of Christ.
A physician's 17th century
blood-letting tool chest. 

It was in 1653 that the Puritan Richard Wells and his family of 11 children and 6 slaves relocated to the western shore of Herring Bay in the southeastern part of Ann Arundel County. Once they settled in Maryland, Richard immersed himself in civic affairs. He was appointed a member of the Parliamentary Commission the year after arriving and served on that body from 1854 to 1858. It was an appointed commission of eight who controlled Maryland's Government. 

Richard is best known for being given the moniker, The Surgeon of Ann Arundel. It suggests that he had some familiarity with the practice of medicine, although historical details of that are hard to find. In the 17th century, during Richard's lifetime, there were no medical schools, and one became a doctor simply by practicing. Among his functions as a surgeon was blood-letting, a common medical procedure at that time. The image above shows a blood-letting "tool chest" for 17th century doctors such as Richard Wells.

In Maryland, Richard and his family did very well and accumulated significant wealth, primarily through land ownership. Soon after he arrived he was granted 600 acres on the shore of Herring Bay, an estate he named "Wells". His accumulation of land went far beyond that and eventually included several thousand acres of land. In his Will, which was probated in Ann Arundel County in 1667, Richard Wells bequeathed to his 5 sons parcels of land that totaled nearly 3,000 acres. In 1658 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace and was also on the Puritan Council. Clearly our ancestor Richard Wells was a leading citizen of early Maryland. We are honored to have ancestors such as Richard Wells and Frances White Wells in our family tree.

- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Celebrating Mothers

Mother's Day 2023

With Mothers' Day this weekend, I am reminded of the many women in our family tree who have had an immeasurable impact on our family history. My mother Maida Shepard is just one of many moms in our family whose lives deserve great honor. 

At 98 years old, my mother Maida has celebrated Mothers' Day 77 times! Her first born Gary came into this world in March of 1946. Two months later, as a young mother of just 21 years old, she held the two month old child of her and Eugene Shepard and celebrated the holiday in a very personal way for the very first time. Maida was also fortunate enough to celebrate the day with her own mother, our Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. Grandma and Grandpa Gower lived on Arizona Street in San Diego at the time and surely made the most of that special day.

In my family research I am constantly amazed at the dedicated mothers who sacrificed so much for their families. In addition to my own wife and my own mother, I celebrate my Grandmothers Bura Davis and Nola Shannon, two wonderful women who have made a lasting impression on our family. 

Here are other women who have gone before us and whose lives reflect great love and dedication for their families: Lydia Warford Williams, Hannah Sheppard, Peggy Ann Gray, and Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale. These are just some of the women whose life stories are recounted at some length in the posts of The Shepard's Crook. Click on one of the links to jump to the story of that particular woman.

So wherever you are this Mother's Day, I wish you the very best in celebrating with your mother and the other women who are important to you. May all the mothers of our family have a wonderful Mother's Day!

- - -
Steve Shepard


Friday, April 28, 2023

Remembering My Father

Today is the anniversary of the birth of two of the more important people in my life. My father Eugene Shepard was born in 1921, 102 years ago today, on a farm in the panhandle of Oklahoma. He has been gone for 20 years now, but his legacy remains. The family of his father William Shepard had migrated from Madison County, Illinois to the OK panhandle in 1905. His mother Bura Davis and her family had migrated to Oklahoma in the spring of 1913 from Indiana. Soon after relocating, farming neighbors Bura Davis and Will Shepard met, fell in love, and then were married in 1915. My Dad was the 3rd birth of Will and Bura. 

Eugene Shepard
in 1995 in Anacortes, Wa.
From the Panhandle to Western Washington. My Dad's first 7 years were spent on the Shepard farm in the Oklahoma Panhandle. In 1928 he and his family then moved 170 miles northwest to Southeast Colorado where they sought a better life. But after 12 years in Colorado the Shepards decided that rural Colorado was not the place for them. So they moved again, this time from rural Two Buttes, Colorado to the bustling city of San Diego. It was obviously a huge change in life style for all of them, even though I never heard my Dad or his family complain about that transition. 

In San Diego, during World War II, he met Maida Gower and after an extended wartime romance, they were married. Life in San Diego was good for them for 38 years, until 1978 when they upped and relocated to Anacortes, Washington. It was in Western Washington that Dad lived happily for the last 25 years of his life. 

Nola Shannon Gower
about 1990
A Life Well Lived. On this, the anniversary of his birth, I celebrate the good life he lived, the long career he had at the Point Loma Fuel Supply Depot, the devoted family man he was, and the family legacy he left behind. He was a great father to all 6 of his children. He loved his grandchildren. His descendants today stretch from Western Washington to North Texas to San Diego, and number a total of 32.

Eugene was born on the 18th birthday of the woman who would be his mother-in-law, Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). So today I also celebrate my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower on the 120th anniversary of her birth in Mt View, Arkansas. She was the consummate grandmother who loved and respected her 12 grandchildren and their families. As a young mother she and husband Leroy relocated to Okemah, Ok in 1925 where they lived for 15 years before moving to San Diego. After almost 60 years in Southern California, she moved to Anacortes in her 90s, and lived her last years there with her daughter and family.

These two very important people in my life -- Eugene Shepard and Nola Shannon Gower -- I celebrate with great honor and respect today as I remember their birthdays. Thanks be to God for the wonderful lives they lived and the lasting impact of their many descendants.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Women's History Month

With the recently concluded month of March being Women's History Month, I feel compelled to write about a couple of women in our family history. There are actually numerous women in our family tree whose life stories are fascinating: Elizabeth Maxwell, Lydia Warford, Lulu Lee McGee and many others. But there are two people I find exceptionally worthy of mention.

Jane Buskirk Davis (1823-1895) was a remarkable woman who deserves special consideration. Jane was the Great Grandmother of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. The very old picture below is one of the few pictures that we have of Jane Buskirk. She is important to mention for two main reasons: First, Jane's ancestry shows a clear line to the first immigrants among our ancestors to America from Holland. 

Jane Buskirk Davis
Jane and her siblings were born in the rural community of Adams, in Monroe County, Ohio. It was there in Southeastern Ohio that Jane met and married Alexander Davis. He and Jane and their first four children were the first of our Davis ancestors to immigrate from Ohio to Spencer, Indiana. In Spencer they settled for several generations. Among the family members born in Spencer was my Grandmother Bura Davis (1896-1990).

Jane Buskirk Davis is also notable because of the breadth of her life history. Born and raised in the community of Adams, Ohio, in 1852 she and husband Alexander relocated 365 miles along the National Highway to Spencer, Indiana. 

When Alex and Jane Davis settled in Indiana in the 1850s they were among the first members of a new church start in Owen County called the New Union Church of Christ, which was part of the Restoration Movement, also called the Stone-Campbell movement. That movement had its beginning in the area just east of Monroe County, Ohio. It appears Alex and Jane brought their Stone-Campbell affiliation with them when they settled in Indiana. 

In the 1880s, Jane was among our Davis kinfolk who left Indiana and migrated even further west to Oklahoma. At 70 years old, Jane with their youngest son William Alexander Davis, "ran for land" in the Cherokee Strip in 1893. They staked a claim and settled on it, in what eventually became the town of Helena in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma.

Maida Gower Shepard and daughter Barbara
Jane died just two years later in 1895. Land had been donated for a cemetery but it had not yet been plotted. Even so, they allowed Jane's burial, and she became the first person buried in Good Hope Cemetery just south of Helena. Today she lays to rest there beside her son William Alexander Davis and his wife Mary. 

Jane Buskirk Davis's life, from her beginning in Ohio, to Indiana, and eventually to Oklahoma, covered over a thousand miles.

This family post about Women's History would be incomplete without mentioning my mother Maida Gower ShepardMom has lived in Anacortes, Washington for 45 years, ever since 1978 when she and husband Eugene left San Diego for the Great Northwest. She is still in her home on Wildwood Lane with her daughter and full time caregiver Barbara.

At 98 years old, Maida's life has encompassed an amazing amount of history. Born in Arkansas in the roaring 20's, she lived through the Great Depression, married Eugene Shepard in San Diego during World War II, with him raised 6 children, and had to suffer through the tragic death of her older daughter Linda at just 20. She has experienced an amazing amount of history. Her life story from Arkansas to Oklahoma to San Diego to Western Washington has covered over 3,000 miles.

We are proud of all the women in our Family Tree who are worthy of honor as we remember Women's History Month.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, March 02, 2023

A Presidential Love Story

Ann Mayes Rutledge (1813-1835) was a distant cousin of mine related to me through my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). Born in Kentucky in 1813, Ann's family migrated to Illinois and were among the founders of the little town of New Salem, Illinois, 20 miles northwest of Springfield. Shortly after the town's founding Ann's father built a tavern and an Inn with lodging for travelers. 

An Artist's Rendering of
Abe Lincoln and Ann Rutledge
A new resident to the town came and stayed for a while at the Rutledge Inn, a young man by the name of Abraham Lincoln. He and Ann took a liking to one another. Unfortunately, Ann was already engaged to a fellow from New York named John MacNamar. In 1832 John made a trip home to New York and promised to marry Ann when he returned. Time passed and John did not return. After a full year John never returned, nor was he heard from. As time passed Abraham began to develop a close friendship with Ann, a friendship that blossomed into romance. Abraham told her that he wanted to marry her, after he obtained his law degree, for which he was studying.

Called to Her Bedside. In 1835 Ann became very ill with Typhoid Fever. As her condition worsened and death drew near, Ann called for Lincoln who came to her bedside to console his dying friend. On Aug 25, 1835 Ann died at the age of just 22. It was a devastating experience for Abraham to have to deal with the death of his first love. He became depressed. Historians say this was the first of several severe bouts of depression. Some friends said he might have been suicidal.

Ann's sister Nancy Rutledge was heard to have said, "I can never forget how sad and broken-hearted Lincoln looked when he came out of the room from that last interview with Annie. No one knows what was said at that meeting, for they were alone together." 

“I ran off the track,” said Lincoln years later. “It was my first. I loved the woman dearly and sacredly. She was a handsome girl. She would have made a good loving wife. I did honestly and truly love the girl and think often, often of her now.”

Present Day Grave of Ann Rutledge
in Oakland Cemetery, Petersburg, Illinois
Buried and Re-Buried. Ann was buried in the Concord Graveyard, a few miles northwest of New Salem, Illinois. Lincoln was said to have visited her grave many times. More than 50 years later, after Lincoln's Presidency, after the Civil War, even after his death, the townspeople of nearby Petersburg sought to take advantage of Lincoln's popularity. By this time he had become a legend and his fame had grown immensely. The Petersburg folks dug up Ann's coffin and re-buried "Lincoln's Sweetheart" in Oakland Cemetery in the town of Petersburg. They made her grave an attraction that drew people to their young town, in hopes of "putting it on the map." Her grave remains there to this day. Were you to visit the grave of our ancestor Ann Mayes Rutledge today, you would read on her headstone the following words:

I am Ann Rutledge
who sleeps beneath these weeds,
Beloved of Abraham Lincoln,
Wedded to him, not through union,
But through separation.
Bloom forever, O Republic,
From the dust of my bosom!

- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

A Record Setter

Many ancestors in our family tree were parents of numerous children. For example, I was one of six children. Other parents in our larger family brought even more children into this world. My Grandmother Bura Davis was one of 7 children. My Grandfather Leroy Gower was one of 13 children. It was common for our ancestors in the 19th century to have large families. They were pioneer people, moving ever westward, driven to populate this young country of ours.

Ancestor Sarah Bates
A Charismatic Missionary. Recently I discovered an ancestor who sets the record -- at least in our family tree -- for having the most children. This particular story begins with Sarah Marinda Bates (1817-1888), who was a distant cousin of my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. Sarah was born and raised in Henderson, New York. As a young adult she met and married a charismatic missionary named Orson Pratt (1811-1881) who introduced Sarah to Mormonism which she practiced wholeheartedly for many years. Rev. Pratt, an accomplished and capable religious leader, was also an historian, a civic leader, a world traveler, a scientist, a mathematician and an author. He was chosen to be one of the original 12 Apostles of the Latter Days Saints movement. As such Orson Pratt embraced polygamy. For many it was a repulsive, anti-Family and un-American practice, but it had its day in the history of Mormonism. Since Sarah's husband embraced the practice, it meant that Sarah was just the first of Mr. Pratt's numerous wives. 

With Sarah, Mr. Pratt had 14 children. He went on to gather around him 9 other women whom he married and with whom he fathered children. In the early years of Mormonism polygamy was not uncommon. It was encouraged, as a way of increasing the numbers of this new sect. To her credit, our ancestor Sarah Bates refused to be married to anyone besides her one husband. Other men sought to make her one of their "spiritual wives," but she refused.  Among her suitors was the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith himself, according to a reputable article regarding Mormon history on Wikipedia. 

Rev. Orson Pratt (1811-1881)
The Man Who Fathered 38 Children. Sarah Bates' husband Orson Pratt fathered 38 children by his 10 wives between 1834 and 1877. How does a father bring 38 children into the world and give them the attention they deserve? He doesn't. Because he can't. Mr. Pratt obviously was not motivated by any sense of family love but simply from a base desire to procreate, regardless of the consequences. Because of its detriment to healthy families, the Mormons finally repudiated polygamy publicly in 1890. The practice became a felony in 1935.

Yet the historical record remains clear about Mr. Pratt's 38 offspring. What is also clear is Sarah Bates' refusal to accept Polygamy, despite her husband's full embrace of it. She even became an outspoken critic of the Mormon practice. As you might expect it created a serious rift between her and her husband leading to the end of their marriage. 

Sarah later became a founder of the Anti-Polygamy Society in Salt Lake City. In 1874 she was excommunicated from the Mormon Church. The following year she described herself by saying, "I am the wife of Orson Pratt. I was formerly a member of the Mormon church. I have not been a believer in the Mormon doctrines for thirty years, and am now considered an apostate." 

The full story of our family's history includes the feel-good episodes as well as the head-scratching stories of people whose actions we rightly call into question. Like most families, our history is a checkered one, including people we can be proud of, as well as others whose stories we might not want to repeat. But even from them we can nonetheless learn valuable lessons. Wisdom comes from discernment.
- - -
Steve Shepard