Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Amazing Anniversaries, December 12, 2018

Marriage is a coming together
for better or for worse,
hopefully enduring,
and intimate to the degree of being sacred.
~William O. Douglas


Celebrating 50 Years. This month is the occasion of Cindy's and my 50th wedding anniversary. It is a pretty awesome milestone. We are both glad to still be around, and to have great family, and to still be in good health. On the other hand, any kind of 50th celebration is humbling. You cannot celebrate 50 years of anything without being forced to ponder one's mortality. Whether it is a 50th birthday, a 50th High School reunion, a 50 year friendship, a 50th year in a particular house, or a 50th wedding anniversary. Even so, we can't help but approach this 50th remembrance in a spirit of celebration. 

Another Anniversary. Our anniversary gets put in perspective when we consider another milestone wedding anniversary occurring this month. Today, December 12, is the 360th Anniversary of my 10X Great Grandparents, Laurens Van Buskirk (1630-1694) and his wife Janettje Jans Van Buskirk (1629-1694). Church records show that these two Dutch immigrants were married on this day in 1658 in the Dutch Reformed Church of New Amsterdam, which is now New York City. 


It is rare to find a clear line of ancestors who lived so long ago, which is part of what makes these ancestors so unique. They are among the founding families of New Jersey. "The Descendants of the Founders of New Jersey" is a group open to anyone who can document that they are descended from one of the founders. Their website lists Laurens and Janettje Van Buskirk among the list of founders. 

Laurens and Jannetje are related to us through my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard, whose Great Grandmother was Jane Buskirk Davis. Jane was a 5X Great Granddaughter of Laurens and Jannetje Van Buskirk. Laurens was originally from Holstein, Denmark and migrated across the Atlantic in 1655 when he was 25. Jannetje was originally from Noord-Holland, Netherlands and had migrated a few years earlier. 

Laurens and Jannetje did not know each other before coming to America. The story of how they met is an interesting one. It is found in the online cemetery record for the now defunct Van Buskirk Cemetery in New Amsterdam (New York) where they were both buried in 1694.

A Match Making Orphan Master. In July of 1658, the director of an orphanage in New Amsterdam asked Laurens to visit a widow in South River, Delaware to see if he could help her out in some way. The woman's husband, a Dutch immigrant carpenter named Christian Barentsen Van Horn, had died in a recent epidemic that had decimated their community, and left her with four children. In 1658, a single woman with four mouths to feed faced extreme hardship. It often meant the children had to be placed in an orphanage. Laurens found a way to provide assistance to Jannetje far beyond the expectations of the Orphan Master. Four months after meeting Jannetje, the two of them, with her four children, made their way back to New Amsterdam and were married in a Dutch Reformed Church, with the children becoming part of the newly formed family. 


Original Van Buskirk homestead in New Jersey
The family man Laurens went on to become a successful businessman in this budding community of just a few thousand people in what would eventually become New York City. He became a land owner and a dry goods merchant in New Amsterdam, and went on to live a very productive life, even becoming a judge and a Justice of the Peace. He also was instrumental in the establishment of a Lutheran Church. This second picture shows the original Van Buskirk homestead, which was located on Constable Hook near Bayonne, New Jersey.

The Westward Family Journey Begins. He and Jannetje added four more children to their family in the years after their marriage. In 1688 they relocated to Hackensack, New Jersey where they both lived until their deaths in 1694. Their move to Hackensack was just the beginning of the westward movement of these Van Buskirks. Throughout the 18th century our Van Buskirk ancestors made their way to Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, then on to western Pennsylvania and then to Monroe County in South Eastern Ohio. That is where our ancestor Jane Buskirk was born and where she married Alexander Davis in 1841. By the time Jane was born the family had dropped the "Van" part of their name and they became simply Buskirk. 
Bura Davis Shepard 
with husband William Shepard, about 1950

Alexander Davis and his wife Jane Buskirk Davis were the first of our kinfolk to leave Eastern Ohio and settle in the area around Spencer, Indiana in the middle of the 19th century. Some of their descendants, including my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard, settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma in the early 20th century. By 1940 others of this family had made their way westward as far as San Diego, California where some their descendants, including my family, still live today.

A Long Journey From East to West. It has been a long journey from New Amsterdam in 1658 to San Diego in 2018; from a young couple marrying in a Dutch Reformed Church on the East Coast to a 50 year anniversary here on the West Coast. The journey encompassed 15 generations of Buskirks, Davises and Shepards. But it is one more part of this grand tale that is our family history.

Here are the specifics of this 15 generation lineage over the last 360 years.
  • Laurens Van Buskirk (1630-1694) - wife Janettje Jans (1629-1694)
  • Thomas Van Buskirk (1668-1748) - wife Margrete Brickers (1668-1719)
  • Johannes Van Buskirk (1694-1747) - wife Marytie Hooglandt (1696-1738)
  • George Van Buskirk (1721-1800) - wife Sarah Ashton (1720-1779)
  • John Van Buskirk (1743-1829) - wife Mary Blackmore (1742-1823) 
  • Samuel Blackmore Buskirk (1765-1847) - wife Charity Ann Foggin (1762-1841)
  • John Foggin Buskirk (1795-1873) - wife Mary Terry (1807-1886)
  • Jane Buskirk Davis (1823-1895) - husband Alexander Davis (1819-1866)
  • Charles Edward Davis (1849-1926) - wife Malinda Wright (1846-1920)
  • James Brooks Davis (1870-1928) - wife Caroline Spear (1865-1951)
  • Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986) - husband William Shepard (1888-1976)
  • Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) - wife Maida Gower (b. 1924)
  • Steven Shepard (b. 1948) - wife Cindy Harris (b. 1948)
  • Nathan Shepard (b. 1977) - Chenda Sou (b. 1980)
  • William Q. Shepard (b. 2012)
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Three Celebrations, November 29, 2018

We must believe in ourselves
or no one else will believe in us.
~Rosalyn Yalow

Today, November 29, is the birthday of three people in our family, spread out over 6 generations: my cousin Kim Boyd Clark, her grandson Damian Ortiz, and our Great Grandmother Caroline Spear Davis.

Caroline "Callie" Spear Davis (1865-1951) was the mother of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. Callie was born 153 years ago today, in the late fall of 1865 near the town of Spencer in Owen County, Indiana. Callie Spear's kinfolk, like the kinfolk of her husband James Davis, had migrated from Monroe County in Southeastern Ohio to Indiana just before the Civil War. Both the Davises and the Spears were from the same area in Monroe County, Ohio before moving westward.

Caroline Spear Davis at 6 different stages of her life
The Spears and the Davises may have known each other in Ohio before settling in Indiana. What we know for sure is that they were founding members of a little Church of Christ a few miles northwest of Spencer Indiana when that church began in the 1860s. It seems likely the Spears and the Davises brought their Church affiliation with them when they traveled the dusty Cumberland Trail from Ohio to Indiana. In the mid 19th century when they left Ohio, the Spears and the Davises were probably part of the newly formed and rapidly growing Restoration Movement, also known as the Campbell-Stone tradition. It was a religious affiliation that many of us still proudly adhere to, some 150 years later.

No Stranger to Heartbreak. Callie was the 2nd of 9 children and was raised on a farm in rural Owen County, Indiana. Throughout her early years Callie was no stranger to heartbreak. Consider this:
  • One of her sisters, Margaret, died at just a year old when Callie was 9. 
  • Another sister, Nona, also died at just a year old when Callie was 14. 
  • Her youngest sister Effie died of tuberculosis at just 18 years old. 
  • Callie's oldest sibling Isolena was a half-sister who was the child of Callie's namesake aunt Caroline who had died in her early 20s (read more about that sad story here). 
  • To top it all off, Callie's brother Clayton Spear, 5 years younger than her, was a mentally disabled individual for whom Callie took responsibility for many years. 
She had more than her fair share of family sorrow and hardship. And all this happened in the wake of the Civil War, which brought its own pain and heartache to innumerable families. Yet from all indications those experiences deepened Callie's life and did not weaken it. Indeed it made her appreciate her own life and family that much more.

Callie and James. In that rural community outside Spencer, Indiana Callie Spear and close neighbor James Davis struck up a close friendship. It was a relationship that blossomed within the context of the New Union Church of Christ, the little country church to which both their families belonged. On a wintry New Year's Day in 1896 they were married in Owen County, Indiana. Callie was 30 years old at the time, 5 years older than James. Nevertheless in the following 11 years they brought 7 children into the world and created a strong, happy Hoosier family. Those of us who are descendants of Callie and James can consider ourselves fortunate to be their heirs and recipients of the Midwest values that their original family espoused.

Their Migration to Oklahoma. In March, 1913, Callie and James Davis packed up the entire family of 7 kids, left Indiana, and moved westward over 800 miles to Beaver County, in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Several of James' brothers and their families had already relocated to Oklahoma from Indiana. There Callie and James lived out the rest of their lives. James died in 1928, while Callie lived until the summer of 1951. She lived long enough to see all her children grow and have families of their own, and to enjoy her many grandchildren. Callie and James are buried in the Sophia Cemetery close to the family's church, the South Flat Church of Christ, in the small farming community of Sophia, Oklahoma. On this day of remembering her birth, we celebrate this wonderful woman whose life was well lived and whose legacy we gladly claim.

The collage above I put together a few years ago. It shows Callie Spear at 6 different stages of her life. Across the top are three images from the time when she lived in Indiana: in about 1880 as a young woman, in 1896 as a 30 year old bride, and then in 1908 as a mother of 7 children. Across the bottom are three images from when she lived in Oklahoma: in 1922 as a Grandmother with one of her grandchildren Bernard Kilpatrick; in 1936 as a Great Grandmother with one of her great grandchildren Rex Russell; and in 1947 just a few years before the end of her life.

Grandmother Kim Clark with Damian
and Ashlyn, Dominic and Isaac
Happy Birthday Kim Clark! Today is also the birthday of my cousin Kim Boyd Clark, who is one of the 93 great grandchildren (give or take a few) of James and Callie Spear Davis. Kim and husband Jeff Clark, along with Kim's mother Thelma Shepard Boyd, spend a lot of their time these days traveling around the US in their motor home visiting family and enjoying famous sites. Kim was born in San Diego and split her growing up years between San Diego and Gallup, New Mexico.

Happy 12th Birthday Damian Ortiz! And thirdly, today is also the birthday of Kim's grandson Damian Ortiz of El Cajon, California. He is one of the 5 children of Kim's oldest child Jeremy and his wife Desiree.

The second picture was taken this past summer when Kim and husband Jeff and their family were visiting Yellowstone National Park. It shows grandmother Kim in the middle with grandson Damian on the left. Also pictured are three other grandchildren: Ashlyn, Dominic and Isaac Ortiz.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving! November 18, 2018

Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~G.K. Chesterton

Happy Thanksgiving! On this week of Thanksgiving I want to say how grateful I am to all of you who are readers of The Shepard's Crook. Researching our family history and sharing my findings in this blog has been a very enjoyable endeavor for the past 11 years. It has provided insights into our family history that I never thought possible. I have learned about ancestors, especially from pre-Civil War times, who were unknown to my parents and my grandparents. More than once I have wished I had known this or that about our heritage while my father or my grandparents were still alive. And amazing discoveries continue to be made. Some have reflected negatively upon our family. But more often they have been pleasant and have been cause for celebrating those who went before us.

So thanks to all of you who read this blog and who are willing to journey with me in the discovery of ancestors. Some have been lost to history for many years, but thanks to the advances in genealogical research their stories are now available. I appreciate all of you who have shown an interest in The Shepard's Crook and wish you all the very best for Thanksgiving 2018!

One Reader's Response. I received word just last week from one particular reader of The Shepard's Crook who provided me with some significant family information that I never knew about my own Grandfather. She did not give her name but said she was a daughter of my Grandfather Gower's half sister. I never knew Grandpa Gower had any half siblings. But after searching online and following up on the information she gave me, I discovered that Grandpa Gower did most certainly have other siblings. He had three half-siblings who were much younger than him.

George William Gower's rustic grave marker
Highland Cemetery, Okemah, Oklahoma
A Late In Life Marriage. Here's how it all happened: Grandpa Gower's father, George William Gower (1873-1944) had 7 children by my Great Grandmother Serena Elizabeth Turner Gower (1876-1931), my Grandpa Leroy Gower being #3. After his wife Serena died in 1931, Great Grandpa George Gower decided he was not satisfied being a widower so he married a second time late in life. As 59 years old, George was the father of 5 adult children and the grandfather of 5 young children (including my mother Maida Gower). Nonetheless, soon after his wife Serena died, he married a 22 year old young woman named Phoebe Edna Root, who was 37 years younger than him.

Now there is some question about the order of events here. The 1930 US Census (see image below) shows that Serena Elizabeth Gower and husband George Gower were still living on the family farm in Morse, Oklahoma, about 80 miles east of Oklahoma City. Morse was a small farming community a few miles north of Okemah in Okfuskee County. Death records show that Serena died the next year on May 15, 1931. But George and young Edna's first child was born in 1929, which is something of an embarrassing anomaly. It appears that Great Grandpa Gower got started on his second family a little early. I won't try to guess at how to explain that. There may be a number of different factors to consider. But it nevertheless is a bit disconcerting.
Snippet from the 1930 US Census for Morse Township, Oklahoma
With young Phoebe Edna, the elder George Gower had three children: George Wayne, Georgia Lou and Gary Dale, all three of whom were therefore half siblings of my grandfather Leroy Gower, who was 40 years older than the youngest of the three. So in the 1930s as Great Grandpa George entered his 60s he was once again a father of youngsters as he and young Edna raised this second set of children on the farm in rural Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. George lived until 1944 when he passed away at the age of 70. He left a young widow in her 30s with three children who were 14, 10 and 5 years old.

Grave of Serena Elizabeth Gower (1876-1931)
Highland Cemetery, Okemah, Oklahoma

A Visit to Highland Cemetery. When my mother and I visited Okemah, Oklahoma a few years ago, we went to the grave of her Grandfather George William Gower. We were surprised at the rustic headstone which marks the place where he lay in Highland Cemetery just northeast of Okemah. His marker is just a flat slab of rock with no words on it at all, just the letter "G" scratched on it, almost haphazardly. I could not imagine a more basic, unadorned, carelessly crafted headstone. Sadly it seems that whoever was responsible for his burial was unwilling to make arrangements for anything other than the simplest stone imaginable. One can only wonder why.

On the other hand, only a few feet away from his grave is the marker for his first wife Serena Elizabeth Gower, whose headstone is more elaborate by comparison. It is not ornate certainly, but at least a modicum of care was taken in purchasing a fitting marker for this beloved lady who died at just 54 years old.

This may not be the most uplifting family story, but it is one more reminder to be thankful for all the ancestors who went before us, the saints and the sinners. They were a mixed bag of individuals who faced a variety of difficulties and sought to make the best of what life brought them. 
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Contrasting Lives, November 8, 2018

Families are the compass that guides us.
They are the inspiration to reach great heights,
and our comfort when we occasionally falter.
~Brad Henry

This post concerns two people in our family tree who lived about the same time, but whose lives could not have been more different.

Bura Davis Shepard and daughter Thelma, about 1941
Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). Today is the 122nd anniversary of the birth of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. She was born November 8, 1896 outside Spencer, Indiana. She was raised in Owen County, Indiana but as a teenager was a part of the migration of several Davis family members from Indiana to Oklahoma in the early years of the 20th century. At just 18 years old she married William Shepard in Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1915. In 1928 they moved with three of their four children to Southeast Colorado where they struggled for 12 years to survive the dust bowl era. Life became so difficult in the small town of Two Buttes, Colorado that they moved on to San Diego in September, 1940. They lived in Southern California for most of the rest of their lives, benefitting from the economic boon of the post war years, and enjoying their extended family, including all 12 of their grandchildren.

This first picture shows Bura with their youngest daughter Thelma in the early 1940s, not long after they moved to San Diego.

Bura was a devout Christian and a faithful member of the Church of Christ all her life. Her father's Davis roots and her mother's Spear roots both went back to Southeastern Ohio and the very beginning of the "Restoration Movement" in the early 19th century. At the same time she proudly shared her commitment to the Church with her descendants, many of whom have continued with that same Church affiliation to this day. Bura was a small woman with a big heart and a great love for God. She will be forever loved and respected by those who knew her. She and husband William are buried in San Diego's Greenwood Cemetery alongside a dozen or so other family members.

Edgar Lee Vessels (1910-1972). In contrast to the beautiful life of Bura Davis Shepard, one of the more infamous people in our family tree is a fellow from the early 20th century named Edgar Lee Vessels. His life story is as tragic as it is horrifying. Ironically he was a grandchild of perhaps the most famously named member of our larger family, Julius Caesar Vessels (1842-1928), who is Cindy's GG Grandfather.

Edgar Lee Vessels was born in Parker, Texas May 28, 1910, into the farming family of Claude and Minnie Vessels. At 18 years old he married Vivian Brashears who was from the small town of Terral in the southern part of Oklahoma along the Red River. That is where Edgar and Vivian lived and raised their 3 children and where Edgar was a truck driver. As a married father of 3 teenagers, in 1951 at just 41 years old, his life was forever changed. He was convicted of murder in Henrietta, Texas and sent to Huntsville Prison in South Texas to serve a sentence ranging from 2 years to life.


I am not aware of the details of his crime. His prison record shows that he was convicted in October, 1951, then served 17 years in prison before being paroled in 1968. In 1970 he was given a full pardon. Two other bits of important personal information are found in his prison record. First, he had an unrepaired cleft palate, which he had to live with his entire life. And second, he was unable to read or write, having spent just 2 years in school as a child. The poor guy had a serious physical problem, a cleft palate, that brought with it a speech impediment which probably created psychological issues that must have contributed to his other difficulties in life. Besides that he was illiterate, which would have made his life even more difficult. 

Ida Lee Jacobson Vessels, about 1967

Curiously, w
hile he was serving his prison sentence he married for a second time. Presumably his first wife Vivian, the mother of his three children, had divorced him while he was incarcerated. So in the summer of 1967, after 16 years in prison and just a year before being paroled, Edgar married Ida Lee Jacobson, a woman from the area not far from the prison (see second picture). Could his marriage to a local woman have been a contributing factor in his being paroled and released into the community? 


After being released from prison, Edgar and his wife Ida Lee lived in Brazoria County on the Texas Gulf Coast, not far from Ida Lee's home. On the morning of Feb 22, 1971 just a year after being given a full pardon, Edgar and his wife Ida Lee were found dead on the side of Hwy 288 just south of Angleton, Texas. Edgar's death certificate says he died of "two self inflicted .22 caliber gunshot wounds in the head." Ida Lee's death certificate says that she also died of "two .22 caliber gunshot wounds in the head," and that she also had a gunshot wound in her shoulder. Her death certificate further says "gunshot wound inflicted by husband." 


A few questions come to mind. How could Edgar have shot himself twice in the head? It is not possible. If there were no witnesses, how can one say he killed his wife? Even after nearly 50 years, this seems to be a cold case that needs reinvestigating. Regardless, Edgar's life and death were filled with sadness and tragedy. I call him an infamous character in our family tree, but that only begins to tell the story of this ill fated ancestor. 

- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween 2018, October 31, 2018

Ancestors are important...
Without them we are nothing.
~Hank Ketchum

Greetings to all of you on this spooky week of Halloween! This week when we celebrate the dark, scary side of life, it would seem to be the perfect time for me to continue my series looking at infamous characters of our family tree. But no. Something else will take priority.

Maida Gower Shepard and Eugene Shepard
about 1945
All Saints Day. This is also the week of my mother's birthday. Thursday, November 1 she will turn 94 years old, which makes her the senior member of our family. It has always been the great misfortune of my mother Maida Gower Shepard to have been born the day after Halloween. At least she has expressed that sentiment to me on numerous occasions in years passed. On the other hand, she was born on All Saints' Day. Since my mom has always been a saint in my book, November 1 is the perfect day for her to have been born.

She was born in Stone County, Arkansas, near the town of Mountain View. Her parents Leroy Gower and Nola Shannon Gower were both originally from Sylamore, a community a few miles west of Mountain View. They married in 1921 when Leroy was 22 and Nola had just turned 18. Their firstborn was a son, Hendrix Gower. Then in the fall of 1924 Maida came along. Work was hard to come by for Leroy, so when their daughter Maida was a year old, barely old enough to travel, they moved to Okemah, Oklahoma where Leroy found work and where they lived for 17 years. During that time they added another daughter, Vicki, to their family.

Maida and oldest son Gary Shepard, 2011
In 1942 the Gowers moved to San Diego, which is where Maida met Gene Shepard. In 1945 they married and began a joyful 58 year marriage. San Diego is also where they raised their 6 children, and where they lived for 36 years. When Gene retired they moved to Anacortes in Skagit County, Washington. Mom has lived in the family home on Wildwood Lane for the last 40 years.

These days she stays home most of the time with several family members helping to care for her in these sunset years of her life, including her oldest son Gary (pictured above with mom). Her memory is failing, but she still loves to visit with people and to attend church when she is up to it. Best wishes to Mom as she celebrates 94 years!

Creepy Family Fun. Mom is one of the many family members who find themselves in the following music video that I put together to celebrate Halloween. Some of the pictures in this video you have seen before while some of them are new to this Halloween video. Some images are from many years ago, while some were taken in recent days. This video includes creepy family members from California, Washington, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and even Pennsylvania. Happy Halloween to everyone!




- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, October 26, 2018

Bad Boy Jesse James, October 26, 2018

It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty
of giving lively names to things.
Names are everything.
I never quarrel with actions.
My one quarrel is with words.
~Oscar Wilde

Celebrating my aunt Vicki Johnston! Last week my aunt Vicki Gower Johnson celebrated her 85th birthday. Aunt Vicki lives in Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, near her daughter Paula Harrell Tuzzolino. The sister of my mother Maida Gower Shepard, we honor Vicki as one of the senior members of our family. Born in Oklahoma, but raised in San Diego, Vicki lived for 40 years in Oak Harbor, Washington before moving to Arizona a few years ago. Congratulations to Vicki on turning 85! The first picture from 2008 shows Vicki on the right with her sister Maida.

Shifting Gears. In recent weeks I have posted about famously named people in our family tree. Now I will take a break from the famously named and look at a few people who were not so famously named. They are the infamous characters in our family history, the bad girls and bad boys among our ancestors. People like Jessie James Emery.

A Youthful Indiscretion. My GGG Grandparents Jackson and Mary Gower had one daughter among their four children, Hannah Elizabeth Gower (1870-1943). These Gowers lived in the small rural community of Sylamore in Stone County, Arkansas, birthplace of my maternal Grandparents, Leroy Gower (b. 1899) and Nola Shannon (b. 1903). In the fall of 1893, 23 year old Hannah Gower struck up a relationship with an 18 year old fellow with the colorful name of Jessie James Emery. He had recently come from Pettis County, Missouri, some 250 miles to the north, very possibly to help with the harvest or to seek some other kind of work. The devastating economic depression of 1893 had people like Jesse James Emery all across the country on the move looking for employment.

We don't know much about the quality of the relationship Jesse James and Hannah had. Compared to today, you could get away with a lot in the sparsely populated hills of Northern Arkansas. All we know for sure is that their relationship brought about Hannah's unplanned pregnancy. No "shotgun wedding" took place, even though it must have been an embarrassment for the Gower family in this small peaceful farming community where they lived.

Getting On With Their Lives. In June, 1894 Hannah gave birth to her baby and gave him the name Marvin Almus Emery Gower. Young Marvin stayed with his mother Hannah and her family and took their name, Gower, as his last name for the rest of his 86 years. In 1900, when Marvin was just 6 years old, Hannah found a responsible father for her son when she married a local man named James Henry Pierce. Together they began a family of their own, which included young Marvin.

In 1895, just a year after the birth of Marvin, his biological father Jessie James Emery married a local woman with the unique name of Olive O. Oyler, and together they started a family of their own, which did not include young Marvin Gower. The US Census records for the year 1900 show that Hannah Gower's family, and Jessie James Emery's family were neighboring farmers in close proximity in Sylamore. But not for long. Soon after the turn of the century, the negligent father Jesse James Emery left Arkansas with his new family and made their way some 1,500 miles to Montana where they settled and where he died in the summer of 1929 near Billings, Montana.

Named After the Famous Outlaw? Bad boy Jessie James Emery was born in Southwest Missouri just 90 miles from the home of the outlaw Jesse James (see picture from about 1882). Our Jessie James was born in 1875 when the infamous James Gang was at the height of its criminal activity, robbing banks, trains and stagecoaches, and staying on the run from the law. Western Missouri was known as "Little Dixie" in those post Civil War days, because of the many southern sympathizers who lived there, including the James Gang, who targeted Union Soldiers and Civilian Abolitionists.

It may have been no accident that Jessie James Emery was named after one of the most infamous yet popular outlaws ever to come out of Southwest Missouri. In those days Missourians were fond of glamorizing outlaws like Jesse James as a way of rooting for the underdog and snubbing their noses at the authorities. Many thought of the James gang as being like Robin Hoods who curried favor with the common folk. It was against this backdrop that bad boy Jessie James Emery was born and given his name. Jesse James Emery therefore is the first of several disreputable characters in our past that I will highlight in coming weeks.

It is quite a shift to write about infamous characters in our family tree. It reminds us that our family, like all families, is a mixed bag. There are those whose lives and stories we gladly celebrate, but then there are those whose lives are cautionary tales. Yet even they have their place in our family history. Their stories also need telling even if simply to give us perspective when we think "too highly of ourselves."
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, October 19, 2018

Cousins With the Same Name, October 19, 2018

In real life, unlike in Shakespeare,
the sweetness of the rose
depends upon the name it bears.
Things are not only what they are.
They are, in very important respects,
what they seem to be.
~Hubert Humphrey

Last month I included in my list of famously named ancestors, William Henry Harrison Sheppard, who was named after President Henry Harrison. I have since discovered that there are actually two Sheppard individuals in our family tree with that exact same name. We already have another person -- William Henry Harrison Loyd -- who was named after President Harrison. But now we have two Sheppard ancestors named after that 19th century President.

The first William Henry Harrison Sheppard was born July 5, 1840 and died in the Civil War in 1862. The second William Henry Harrison Sheppard, the son of a cousin of the first one, was born May 16, 1841, just 10 months after the first one. He also served in the Civil War, but survived, and lived into his 90s. He died in 1932, not far from where he was born in Belmont County, Ohio.

President Henry Harrison, 1773-1841
What an unusual occurrence. Two Sheppards with the very same unique name, born less than a year apart, who were cousins of each other. Both these fellows named William Henry Harrison Sheppard were born in Belmont County, Ohio -- probably within about 10 miles of each other. They were descendants of my 5x Great Grandparents John and Mary Hudson Sheppard, who were among the first of our Sheppard ancestors to migrate to the Ohio frontier in 1812.

Why Henry Harrison? What was so special about Henry Harrison that two of our 19th century families would name their sons after him? Henry Harrison was originally from Virginia but spent a good part of his life in Ohio. Our Sheppard ancestors came from Maryland to Belmont County in Eastern Ohio in the first decade of the 1800s when it was still being settled, and when Harrison's career was taking off. 

Here is a short list of Harrison's major accomplishments:

  • He was a decorated major General in the US Army.
  • He became a state senator in Ohio in 1819. 
  • He was elected a US Senator from Ohio in 1825. 
  • In 1836 he ran for President as the Whig Party candidate but lost to Martin Van Buren. 
  • In 1840 he ran once again against Van Buren but this time was victorious, and became our 9th U.S. President. 
It was obviously a time of great excitement for all Ohioans when Harrison took office March 4, 1841. (In those days the Presidential Inauguration took place in March, not in January.) But in a tragic turn of events Harrison became ill and died of pneumonia on April 4, 1841 after just 31 days in office. He was the first US President to die in office, and remains to this day the President with the shortest tenure.

The FIRST William Henry Harrison Sheppard, the 7th child of John and Elizabeth Sheppard, was born in Belmont County on July 5, 1840, the day after America's 64th birthday. He was named by his family while Harrison was in the throes of the Presidential election campaign. Ohioans were riding this wave of excitement about one of their own possibly being elected to the highest office in the land. What better way to make tangible their hopes and dreams for America's future than to give their son Harrison's name?

Grave of the SECOND William Henry Harrison Sheppard
Hope Cemetery, Hendrysburg, Ohio
The SECOND William Henry Harrison Sheppard, the 9th child of Hudson and Rebecca Sheppard, was also born in Belmont County, but on May 16, 1841 just one month after President Harrison died. He was given President Harrison's name while Ohioans, and the entire nation for that matter, were grieving this terrible loss. What better way to honor their fallen President than to give their son his name? 

These two William Henry Harrison Sheppards had another cousin with the name William Sheppard (with no middle name), who was also born in Belmont County, Ohio. He was born in 1835, just a few years before his other two cousins. This William Sheppard (1835-1862) was the Grandfather of my Grandfather William Shepard (1888-1976). In 1840, when just a child, his parents left Ohio and were among the first Sheppards to settle in Indiana. It was there, when just 21 years old, that he entered the military and fought for the North, as did his cousins, in the Civil War. More about this story here.

I realize that it is hard to keep these three William Sheppard cousins straight. One had no middle name at all, while two were given middle names of a President. All were born within a 6 year period in Belmont County, Ohio, and all of them served in the War, fighting for the Union:
  • William (no middle name) Sheppard (1835-1862)
  • William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1840-1862)
  • William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1841-1932)
The Sheppard Clan of Belmont County. All three of these fellows were part of the influential clan of James Cross Sheppard Sr. (1775-1843) and Hannah Gatchell Sheppard (1781-1839) who helped settle Kirkwood in Belmont County, Ohio. I have written before about how James and Hannah were affluent pillars of their community and were therefore very invested in the political life of Southeastern Ohio, especially in the pre-Civil War years. It is no surprise then that this clan was very supportive of the Ohio politician Henry Harrison who eventually ascended to the Presidency. It makes perfect sense then that two of the families of this Sheppard Clan would name their sons after the revered President Harrison.

So instead of just one William Henry Harrison Sheppard included in the "Pantheon of the Famously Named," there are two. One born in 1840, the other in 1841. But both are deserving and take their rightful place among the others of our family tree who were famously named.
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Steve Shepard

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Woman Named America, October 12, 2018

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
~Shakespeare

I have been writing recently about individuals from our family tree who were named after famous people. The list of those in our "Pantheon of the Famously Named" now includes the following:
  • George Washington Sheppard (1829-1900)
  • William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1840-1862)
  • William Henry Harrison Loyd (1841-1920)
  • Benjamin Harrison Davis (1888-1963)
  • James Abram Garfield Gibbs (1881-1955)
  • Julius Caesar Vessels (1842-1928)
  • Julius Theophilus Vessels (1871-1942)
  • Robert Columbus Shannon (1893-1923)
  • Christopher Columbus Webb (1858-1907) 
America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick. Today I am adding a 10th person to the Pantheon, a woman whose name is as unique as it is famous. She is yet another child of the 19th century. Her name is America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick (1874-1954). Two of her sons (William and Barney Kilpatrick) married two of my Great Aunts (Myra and Winona Davis) in Oklahoma in 1918 and 1924. America Kelley was born in Tennessee Oct 18, 1874, and was just a year old when the 100th anniversary of America occurred on July 4, 1876. She married Samuel Allen Kilpatrick in Tennessee at just 16 years old in 1891. 
America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick (1874-1954)

America was named after her aunt (her mother's sister) whose name was America Emaline Grinnell (1850-1884). Being of Irish descent, it may have been this clan's joy at migrating safely across the Atlantic that led their parents to give both these girls the name America.

How America Got Its Name
. Even though Christopher Columbus is credited with discovering our continent in 1492, just a few years later another Italian explorer named Amerigo Vespucci, arrived in the "New World." In an interesting historical twist of fate, it is after Vespucci, not Columbus, that the American continent received its name. Therefore America as a first name had precedent from the very beginning. Here's another interesting fact: today there are almost 5,000 people with the first name America in the U.S., according to this website. Almost all of them are women.


America Kelley is the first person I have found in our family tree who was named after an entire continent. Several members of our family were named after States. As a matter of fact America and her husband Samuel Allen Kilpatrick named their fourth child Albertha Tennessee Kilpatrick (1895-1987). Elsewhere in our family tree my GGG Uncle Jackson Gower married a woman named Tennessee Hall (1879-1955). My Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower had a sister named Arizona Shannon (1895-1949), and she had an aunt named Indiana Shannon (1867-1931). 

Tennessee-Oklahoma-Colorado-California. In 1904, when just 25 years old, America and her husband Samuel Allen Kilpatrick migrated from Tennessee to Beaver County in the panhandle of Oklahoma. They had 6 children at the time, and would eventually bring 4 more into the world. In Oklahoma is where they developed a close family relationship to the Davis, Gibbs and Shepard families, leading to several instances of intermarriage within these families. By 1930 members of these families had moved 165 miles northwest to the little town of Two Buttes in Baca County, Colorado. One of the reasons for relocating was to establish a Church of Christ congregation in that rural community. 

By the time of the 1940 US Census, America and her family had left the devastating dust bowl of the Southwest and moved on westward to California, as did other members of the Davis, Gibbs, Kilpatrick and Shepard families. America and her Kilpatrick family settled in the small San Joaquin Valley town of Chowchilla, which is where she died at 79 years old in 1954 just 2 years after the death of husband Samuel Allen Kilpatrick.
Members of the Shepard and Kilpatrick families, 1972
Edwin and Ruby Kilpatrick are the 3rd and 4th from the right

Edwin Dale Kilpatrick. A
mong the many grandchildren of America and Samuel Allen Kilpatrick was Edwin Dale Kilpatrick (1932-1979) who was an important part of our Shepard family history. In the 1960s, Edwin served as the minister of San Diego's Linda Vista Church of Christ, which my Shepard family attended. Edwin and wife Ruby and their 5 children were close family friends of ours. Edwin was a very important influence in my young life, encouraging me to become a minister, which I did in 1970, serving in that capacity for 40 years. Edwin also presided at Cindy's and my wedding 50 years ago this coming December.

America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick therefore becomes the next one to find her place in this "Pantheon of the Famously Named." Have you noticed that every member of this Pantheon was born in the 19th century? It was a common occurrence for people from that era to name their children after famous people. Are those of us from the 20th and 21st centuries missing out here?
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Steve Shepard

Monday, October 08, 2018

Another in "The Pantheon of the Famously Named," October 8, 2018

Following the light of the sun,
we left the Old World.
~Christopher Columbus

Greetings to all of you from mild and pleasant San Diego on this Columbus Day -- or Indigenous People's Day -- however you prefer to celebrate it. I have enjoyed writing my recent series of posts on famously named people in our family tree. More than just an opportunity to notice people with outstanding names, this series has given me a chance to highlight certain individuals among our ancestors and share something about their lives and their place in our family's history.

Robert Columbus Shannon. On the Gower side of our family there is an individual famously named Robert Columbus Shannon (1893-1923), who  deserves to be remembered on this particular day. He takes his place in what I am calling "The Pantheon of the Famously Named." The older brother of my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower, he was the 5th of the 9 children of Samuel Pickens Shannon and Finetta Dearien Shannon. Born in the spring of 1893 in Mountain View, Arkansas, he may have been given the name Columbus because he had an uncle named Christopher Columbus Webb (1858-1907). Uncle Christopher Columbus had married Margaret Shannon in 1888 and became a part of the Shannon family just a few years before his nephew Robert Columbus was born.

Maida Gower Shepard in 2013 at the grave of 
Christopher Columbus Webb and Margaret Shannon Webb
This first picture was taken five years ago when my mother Maida Gower Shepard (pictured here) and I visited Gray Cemetery outside Timbo, Arkansas. That is where uncle Christopher Columbus Webb is buried alongside his wife, my Great Aunt Margaret Shannon Webb (1862-1890). She died very young at just 27 years old, which may explain this interesting grave. It is a century old elaborate stone monument, an expression of the deep sorrow her husband Christopher Columbus felt at the loss of his young wife Margaret. If it appears these cemetery grounds appear overgrown and unkept it is because they were. After this picture was taken a number of local family members took on the job of cleaning up Gray Cemetery.

In the summer of 1911 when just 18 years old, Robert Columbus married another teen, Alice Moore, who was from a neighboring family in the farming community of Sylamore, Arkansas just a few miles west of Mountain View. In Arkansas he and Alice had two daughters, Rutha and Edna Mae, before they uprooted themselves in 1915 and moved to Granbury, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth, where Robert Columbus farmed for just a couple of years. In Texas they added to their family a son, Marvin, before returning to Arkansas about 1919. 

Grave of Robert Columbus Shannon
in Cypress Cemetery, Vilonia, Arkansas
Robert Columbus and Alice Shannon and their family settled in the little town of Vilonia, Arkansas, some 80 miles south of Mountain View. In Vilonia their 4th and final child, Samuel, was born in 1922. Robert Columbus tragically died the following year on Apr 8, 1923, just a few weeks after his 30th birthday. He is buried in Cypress Cemetery outside Vilonia. I don't know how Robert Columbus died. A farming mishap? A flu epidemic? Respiratory illness? I just know that he left his young, 29 year old wife Alice, with their four children, all under 10 years old.

Christopher Columbus. Robert Columbus Shannon -- and his uncle before him -- was named after the famous explorer Christopher Columbus who is credited with discovering America in 1492. Yet our Columbus and the explorer Columbus had very little in common. Actually they are quite a contrast: the one never traveled more than 500 miles from home; the other discovered a new world some 6,000 miles away from his home. One tilled the soil for his living; the other famously sailed the ocean blue. One was a southern Protestant with Baptist roots; the other was commissioned by the Catholic Monarchy of Spain. Our Columbus died at just 30 years old; the other lived to the ripe old age (for those days) of 55.

Even in 19th century America, folks were infatuated with the Italian explorer Columbus who was born 4 centuries before our Robert Columbus. He and his uncle Christopher Columbus therefore take their place with the others from our family tree in "The Pantheon of the Famously Named."

In my next post: A Girl Named "America."
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Steve Shepard