Friday, February 06, 2009

Shepard Family Update, February 6, 2009

The family is a haven
in a heartless world.

~Christopher Lasch

Dear Shepard Family and Friends,

Hello everyone from San Diego where a "fierce" winter storm has been raging. The drizzle has been relentless with winds up to 20 mph, and temperatures in the mid 50s. I am not sure how much more of this we can take. ;-)

This next Wednesday, Feb 11, is the 154th anniversary of the birthday of my great grand uncle Josiah Owens (1855-1903), the older brother of my great grandmother Elvira Owens Shepard (1864-1931). They are both members of the Owens branch of our family tree. This particular branch was rooted in Madison County in Southern Illinois when Grandad's father William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) married Elvira there in 1886.

William Elmer Shepard was the young man whose father had died in the Civil War a few months before he was even born. At its best a family is "a haven in a heartless world", but for the young William Elmer such was not the case. The family story I heard recounted many times by my father is that life was so unbearable for William Elmer with his step-father that he ran away from home in Wabash, Indiana as a teenager, never to see his family again. What we do know for a fact is that he made his way (by himself?) to Madison County, Illinois, some 330 miles southwest, just across the Mississippi River from St Louis, Mo.

I wonder if, on the way, he went down to Evansville, Indiana, to visit the grave of his biological father (whose grave one can visit even today in the Civil War section of Oak Hill Cemetery). This was the father he had never met, the father who had given his life in the Union cause, the father whose death had been the root cause of the unhappiness of this young wandering nomad. I suspect we will never know for sure what route he took, but I cannot help but think that thoughts of his father weighed heavy on his mind as he traveled.

Today you can drive from Wabash south on Hwy 31 to Indianapolis, catch Interstate 70, and skoot on over to Madison County, Illinois in 5 or 6 hours. In the 1870s God only knows how long it would take a teen to travel that far by himself. However he finally arrived "out west" in Madison County, whatever adventures he had on the way, whatever side trips he happened to take, it was in Illinois that he eventually met and then married Elvira Owens (whose great grandchildren 12 of us would become, some 3 generations later). In 1886 when he and Elvira married, the 23 year old William Elmer, so far from his mother and step-family, must have been thrilled to suddenly belong to the Owens family, a large, well established family in that part of Southwestern Illinois.

The convergence of the Owens line and the Shepard line is a fascinating aspect of our family history. There is more I want to share about these folks and their place in our family tree. But I need to save that for another time. Since most of what I have been sharing took place over 100 years ago, precious few photos of these folks exist that I can share. Hopefully as more research is done, and more networking takes place, more photos and more interesting stories will surface.

The first photo I am including is a small collection of Owens pictures. The first 3 images are of Elvira Owens, the first in 1919 showing her young grandson Elmer Shepard on her lap. The next two are from 1920 with her young daughter-in-law Bura Davis Shepard. The third image is Elvira's grandfather Edmond Owens Jr. (possibly her great grandfather Edmond Owens, Sr.).

The second picture I am including shows some of the family of Kim Clark. In the picture is one of Elvira Owens' great great grandchildren Jeremy Ortiz and his wife Desiree Ortiz of El Cajon, California, with their three children Ciara, Damian and Ashlyn. On the left is Jeremy's sister Amanda Ortiz, of Blue Springs, Mo. This picture was taken this past Christmas at the home of Jeff and Kim Clark.

I received an email from Kim recently who said: "Ciara is now starting softball and Jeremy coaches and Desiree is team mom. Ashlyn is in preschool and is really liking it but she is on the shy side. Damian was in the hospital for 3 days. He is home on a monitor now and seems to be feeling ok."

Remember to put the Shepard Family reunion on your calendar for July 18, 2009, at the Newcastle Community Center, in Newcastle, just south of Oklahoma City. Kim Clark will be sending out an announcement about the event. If we do not have your physical address, or if you know of a family member or friend who would like to receive an announcement by USMail, please send Kim or me an email with their address.

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