Friday, July 31, 2009

Shepard Family Update, July 31, 2009

In every conceivable manner,
the family is link to our past,
bridge to our future.
-- Alex Haley

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

This past Tuesday, as Cindy and I drove up a tree lined country lane near Spencer, Indiana, it was as if we were going back in time. Earlier that day we had left Indianapolis where we are attending the General Assembly of the Christian Church, a fellowship that I have served as a minister for over 30 years now. From Indianapolis we made our way west on I-70 and then south on Hwy 231 to Owen County. It was about an hour's drive, but it felt like going back several generations in time.

As we drove that county lane, our guide in the back seat said, "Slow down, it should be just up ahead." Our guide was Ruth Wheeler Fortner, an octogenarian from Spencer whose Ggrandfather, Charles Edward Davis, is my GGgrandfather. We had been introduced to her earlier that day, and after a short visit she had agreed to show us the way.

I slowed down as we came up over a rise and rounded a slight curve, and there it was on the right, at the corner of Rattlesnake Creek Rd. and Shepard Patrick Rd. (You read that right: Shepard Patrick Rd.) We were looking for the New Union Church of Christ, which had been the spiritual home to several dozen of our Davis kinfolk, including Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986), for the first 14 years of her life. What we found instead was a beautiful, grassy, but empty corner lot.

The New Union Church had started in the 1850s. Among its very first members was my GGGgrandfather Robert Alexander Davis (1819-1866). The church had served families in these back woods for 100 years until it finally died in 1956. That's when the last few members -- including our guide Ruth Fortner -- closed the doors and joined the Spencer Church of Christ, 5 miles away. The Spencer church still has New Union's old membership book in which one can read name after name of Davis relatives, including Bura Davis ("received by immersion Aug 10, 1908" the record says), her mother and father, both her grandmothers, and her uncles Thomas and Mort (who was the minister of the New Union Church in 1924).

On arriving at the old Church's location, we parked the car and walked out onto that grassy corner lot. We could only imagine what the Church once looked like, because nothing of it remained, not a foundation, not the steps, not a plank or brick. I have an old picture of it from a book, a modest, white wooden structure with a chimney on the right side and two entrances in front, one for the men and one for the women, which was typical back then. But none of that was here now, it was simply a vacant, grassy expanse. The emptiness of what had once been a thriving country church reminded me of the transient nature of all life. One day there will be emptiness where we each now stand, and others will follow us to ponder our lives.

Even though we found nothing of the old church building, we did find the well-tended New Union Cemetery, which adjoins the area where the Church once stood. In the cemetery we found the final resting places of several Davis relatives. Since the church never had an indoor baptistry, nearby Rattlesnake Creek was where Bura Davis and many others were baptized during those 100 years. "Sometimes," Ruth told us, "they even had to break the ice to do baptisms. That's what they did when my mother Lucy was baptized." (Sure enough. I checked the record book: "Lucy Davis, received by immersion, Dec 11, 1916." Brrr!)

After a peaceful time at New Union, we found our way farther back into the woods (wishing I had 4 wheel drive!) to an even more secluded Pleasant Grove Cemetery, near the junction of Fish Creek Rd and Bandy Rd. Set in a quiet, sacred-feeling forest of tall green trees, it is a beautiful resting place for several other relatives, including Bura's Ggrandparents John Pouty Williams (1806-1898) and his wife Sarah Richardson Williams (1801-1877) (see picture above).

With gratitude for her help, we took Ruth back to her home in Spencer, where she has lived for nearly all of her 86 years. We then retraced our steps and found our way back to the 21st century in Indianapolis. We felt fortunate to have spent some quality time with relatives of long ago.

The closest link within our Shepard clan to our relatives in Indiana is Elmer Shepard, second child of Bura Davis Shepard, who was born in 1918 just 8 years after she moved with her family to Oklahoma. The second picture I am including today shows the two surviving children of Bura Davis and Will Shepard: Elmer Shepard and Thelma Shepard Boyd. Thelma is holding her Ggrandson Damian, son of Desiree and Jeremy Ortiz of El Cajon, California. This picture was taken at the recent family reunion in Newcastle, Oklahoma, where Damian and Elmer were recognized for being the oldest and youngest persons in attendance at 2 and 92 years old.

- - -

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shepard Family Update, July 24, 2009

A person travels the world overin search of what they need,and returns home to find it.
-- George Moore

Hello Shepard Family and Friends.

Greetings to all of you from home in sunny San Diego, where Cindy and I have returned after last weekend's trip to Oklahoma. The Newcastle Family Reunion is over, but the memories remain. It was a grand event as 40 of our family members met outside Oklahoma City in the small throw-back town of Newcastle, Oklahoma. Most of those present were descendants of Bura Davis and Will Shepard, but we were also honored to have a dozen or so other Davis relatives (one of whom rightly reminded us that all of us Shepard descendants are also "Davis relatives").

The first picture I am including today shows the group who attended the reunion, including people with the last names of Shepard, Davis, Taylor, Sauvage, Millikan, Jenkins, Villanueva, Ortiz and Boyd. (Click on the picture to see a larger view.) Select this link to see the pictures that appeared in my PowerPoint presentation at the reunion. But be patient, there are lots of pictures, so it takes a while to load. The good news is there is a feature that allows you to download the pictures if you choose. Select this link to see a much smaller collection of some pictures that were taken last weekend.

The day began with a time of renewing family ties with people we had not seen in many years. In some cases family members were meeting for the very first time. We also shared a great meal catered by a local barbeque, and then viewed lots of old (and new) family pictures from photo albums as well as on a big screen. We also recognized special people among us, including the oldest and youngest members of the Shepard clan: 92 year old Elmer Shepard (Dane's dad), and 2 year old Damian Ortiz (Thelma's Ggrandson). Special thanks go to Dane Shepard and his cousin Kim Clark who formed the core of the planning team for the reunion.

BIRTHDAYS. Today is the birthday of Shannon Wilk of Atchison, Kansas, granddaughter of Pauline Shepard Russell. Shannon was planning to attend our reunion last week, but health concerns prevented her from coming. Best wishes to Shannon for good health and a happy birthday!

This coming Tuesday is the birthday of Barbara Shepard of Anacortes, Washington, who reaches a major milestone on July 28. Tuesday is also the birthday of Jeff Clark, husband of Kim Clark of Blue Springs, Missouri. The second picture shows these two birthday kids, taken last week at the family reunion. As you might guess from the camera in his hand, Jeff was the photographer of the group picture above.

And finally I would like to pass on some family emails I received just before the reunion.

From Eric and Ruth Russell of Red Rock, Nevada,
Hello Steve... Sorry we haven’t gotten back to you sooner. Work has been busy and dad was in the hospital two weeks ago with pneumonia. He’s doing well now. This past week was dealing with two wild fires near our houses. All is well now. I did find some photos of dad that you might enjoy. We are still trying to locate old family photos that you were asking about. We do enjoy reading your e-mails, and print them out for dad to read. Best wishes.
(Eric and Ruth graciously sent some photos of their father Rex, which I will include in an upcoming email.)
From Joan Shepard of Dixon, California,
Right now I'm concentrating to reach a deadline with my work. And I'll miss you all very much. I wanted to thank you for the inspiring comments in the family emails. Havilah and I appreciated your discussion so much. Thank you for your loving altruism. I'm also so delighted about Nathan and Chenda. My best to them. I've attached some memories for Dad. Perhaps you can read it at the reunion. Thanks so much, Steve. Have a wonderful weekend.

From Joan's daughter Halilah Reynolds, who lives just outside Salt Lake City, Utah,

I so wish that I could be there at the family reunion. I send my love to the family! Thanks for the updates, as always. Enjoy the day! -Havilah

From Bud and Janet Davis,

Please say hello to our family members for us, as we are not able to make the trip from the Tacoma, WA area. Sounds like you will have a great time at the reunion. Thank you for doing such a good job with your family email and website. It helps us hold on to memories. Great pictures of the Davis family including my dad Jesse. Jessie and Charlotte should have some pics to share and wish we could be there too. ...Bud and Janet Davis

And lastly, these insightful words from brother Darrell Shepard of Kenmore, Wa.,

I loved the quotes this week. I presume you are just being nice and upbeat regarding those quotes for the sake of the family reunion. Because quite frankly as funny as those quotes are, I think they reveal a usually unspoken truth about family dynamics. (Please don't make me sight examples or individuals, mainly because I would have to present myself as exhibit "A".) I believe when it comes to family self image, we like to present ourselves as we would like to be. Otherwise we might lose sight of how important and valuable and wonderful family relationships really are - in spite of all the quirkiness. If we hold that image of who would like to be as as a family up to ourselves and the world, we might move closer to actually being that someday.

Anyway, I will be with you all tomorrow in spirit. I hope you all have a terrific time. The family web site and the old pictures you post are a blessing to all of us. Especially my kids, and in fact all the younger members of our family. Thank you for the recent picture of Gram, me and Mary taken in 1984. My kids love that picture and it has launched many a story telling session about the "older days." It really gives them a strong sense of family and history and belonging to something bigger than themselves. It binds us all together more closely - quirks and all.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Shepard Family Update, July 17, 2009

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you from the (not quite 5 star) Newcastle Hotel in Newcastle, Oklahoma where Cindy and I find ourselves on this day before our Family Reunion! Everything is just about ready for our celebration. We anticipate a wonderful time with family and friends, including some Davis relatives who will be joining us.

Many of you are not able to be with us because of distance or health or other commitments. Please know that we will be thinking of you and hope you will be able to attend future reunions.

A lot of work has gone into the planning and preparing for this event, especially by those who are traveling quite a distance. Special thanks go to Kim Clark, and our local host Dane Shepard. The graphic at the bottom is just one of the many things Dane created in getting ready for our gathering tomorrow.

The first picture I am including today shows two of the people who will be with us at the reunion tomorrow, both children of Will and Bura: Elmer Shepard of Oklahoma and his sister Thelma Shepard Boyd of Gallup, New Mexico. This picture was taken in the early 1950s in San Diego. Elmer has the honor of being the senior member of our Shepard family.

I set out to find an appropriate quote for this week of our family reunion, and had a very difficult time. I'd like to share with you some of what I found. First, a few quotes I rejected.
"When our relatives are at home, we have to think of all their good points or it would be impossible to endure them." (George Bernard Shaw)

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." (Robert Frost)

"Every one sees in their relatives, and especially in their cousins, a series of grotesque caricatures of themselves." (Henry Louis Mencken)

"Family is just accident. They don't mean to get on your nerves. They don't even mean to be your family, they just are. (Marsha Norman)

"A friend who is near and dear may in time become as useless as a relative." (George Ade)
Ouch! I would never use these quotes when thinking about our family! They are just too negative, if you ask me. "Grotesque caricatures"? "Useless as a relative"? Family "getting on your nerves"? These are all quotes from people who should know better. What were they thinking?

The following are a few more quotes that I also rejected. They do not reveal quite the depth of cynicism and cheap humor as the foregoing, but they still don't make the grade, as far as I am concerned.
"If you don't believe in ghosts, you've never been to a family reunion." (Ashleigh Brilliant)

"I wish I could relate to the people I am related to." (Jeff Foxworthy)

"Remember, as far as anyone knows, we're a nice, normal family." (Homer Simpson)

"Nothing is so soothing to our self-esteem as to find our bad traits in our forebears. It seems to absolve us." (Van Wyck Brooks)

"Some family trees have beautiful leaves, and some just have a bunch of nuts. Remember, it is the nuts that make the tree worth shaking." (Author Unknown)
See what I mean? I guess I'm going to have to keep looking, because it is hard to come up with the right quote when thinking about our family and our reunion. On the other hand... maybe I am missing something here. Do you suppose these quotes DO provide some valuable insight into what it means for us to be family?

Whether or not you'll be at the reunion tomorrow, celebrate our family with a sense of humor. It's the only way to go.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Shepard Family Update, July 10, 2009

The lack of emotional security of our young people
is due to their isolation from the larger family unit.
No two people are enough
to provide emotional security for a child.
He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk,
persons allied to himself by an indissoluble bond
which he cannot break,
for nature has welded him into it
before he was born.
~Pearl S. Buck

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you wherever you may be. Cindy and I are enjoying a few days with our son Nathan and his wife Chenda, in San Francisco. I am being reminded again that this is one of the most beautiful cities in the world! And that is saying a lot, coming from someone who lives in another one of the world's beautiful cities, San Diego. (Okay, okay, I may not be giving OKC, DFW, SEA or even LUB enough credit -- to say nothing of NYC -- but don't hold that against me!)

With our family reunion coming up next weekend just outside OKC in Newcastle, I am still thinking about those members of our larger Davis family who will be with us. The first picture I am including today is yet another old photo of Bura Davis Shepard and the other 6 children of James Brooks and Callie Davis (plus a couple of spouses). It looks very much like another picture I have of this same group dated 1968, taken on the steps of the South Flat Church of Christ in Beaver County, Oklahoma (click here to see that picture).

Becky Davis emailed me recently concerning this image. "Steve... Have never seen that picture before and it is a great one. I know the people in it but don't know where it was taken. Left to right: My dad Jesse, Marjorie Millikan, Nona and Myra Kilpatrick, Bura [and husband Will], Esther Jenkins [and husband Perry], and Lawrence [with wife Lou]. All 7 [Davis siblings] are there. They all look great and it must have been fun for them all to get together. Someone surely knows when they were all able to get together. Where are you coming up with all these old pictures? Keep them coming. ...Becky

Gary Millikan also emailed and reminded me that Jesse Davis (on the far left) passed away in the spring of 1969, so this may have been one of the last pictures of all 7 Davis children.

Like many of the old photos I have, I cannot remember where I got it. Most of the ones I have are from the photo collection of my mom Maida Shepard in Anacortes, Washington. But in recent months I have also received pictures from my cousin Dane, and my aunt Thelma and her daughter Kim. Unfortunately I cannot give credit to the one from whom I received this particular photo, but thanks to that person nonetheless.

The second picture I am including shows Bura Davis Shepard with one of her grandsons Darrell Shepard and his wife Mary. This picture was taken in 1984 in Anacortes, Washington where Bura lived with her son Eugene and his family for the last few years of her life, until she died in 1986.

Darrell and Mary, along with their three kids Chris, Rachel and Patrick, now live in Kenmore Washington, a suburb of Seattle. They are only part of our family who presently live in Washington State. Unfortunately the distance from Washington to Oklahoma is such that only a few of our kinfolk from the great Northwest will be with us when we gather next week in Newcastle, including Maida, Barbara, Steve and Linda Shepard of Anacortes. Those four will probably be coming the farthest distance to the reunion. Anyone coming from a greater distance?

In case you missed it before here is the location of our reunion in Newcastle, Oklahoma, which will be held from noon till 5 pm. As a final reminder, be sure to bring whatever old (or new) family photos you would like to place on our picture table at the reunion for all to see.

Dane wants me to tell everyone -- especially those of us coming from the west coast -- to be prepared, the temperature will probably be in the 90s. Best wishes to all for safe travels next week for our gathering on Saturday.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Shepard Family Update, July 3, 2009

In each family a story is playing itself out,
and each family's story embodies its hope and despair.
-- Auguste Napier

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

Best wishes to all of you for a safe and sane July 4th weekend, on our nation's 233rd birthday! We have had family members in this country for all of those years. One Yankee Doodle Dandy was Vashti Wright (the Ggrandfather of James Brooks Davis) who was born in South Carolina in 1775, the year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He was part of the westward movement that brought our ancestors in the 19th century to Indiana. Our family's history has been primarily an American story for more than two centuries.

This is not to diminish that part of our story where we have embraced, through marriage, other ethnicities such as Irish, Mexican, Colombian, Native American, and most recently Cambodian. But it is to celebrate the degree to which our roots are deeply ingrained in the American landscape.

More on Our Davis Roots. The first picture I am including today -- like last week's picture -- illustrates our Davis roots, by showing the 7 children of James and Callie Davis. In last week's picture (from 1908) the children were all between 11 years old and just a few months old. They have grown considerably by the time of this week's picture, taken 14 years later, in about 1922.

Bura Davis, the oldest, was the tall girl in last week's picture, but this week (on the far right, at 25 years old) she appears to be the shortest one of the bunch. (Was the camera tilted, giving a false impression? What do you think?) When this picture was taken, she was married to William Shepard and the mother of their first 3 children, Pauline, Elmer and Eugene.

Next to her is Jesse Davis, about 21 years old. (You gotta love the preppy hair styles on the boys!) Moving to the left, the next person is Myra Davis, about 22 years old, married to William Allen Kilpatrick at the time, and the mother of their first two, Geneva and Bernard. Behind her is Marjorie Davis, the youngest at 14 years old.

Next to Marjorie is Esther Davis, in the blouse with the interesting designs. She is about 17 years old here, and married Perry Jenkins the summer of the following year. Next to her is Lawrence, the oldest son at 24. On the far left is Winona, who was about 19 years old at this time.

If any of you have other insights into this picture, regarding date, place, circumstances, etc., I would appreciate you dropping me a line with your thoughts.

It must have been an interesting time for the James and Callie Davis family. These 7 siblings were maturing into adulthood and beginning to leave home, with three of them married, and 5 grandchildren on the scene. It is very interesting to compare this picture with one I shared with you last June. That picture (select this link to view it) appears to have been taken at the same time, and in the same setting, as this picture. It shows James and Callie Davis with their first 5 grandchildren (they would eventually have 31).

Among the people scheduled to attend the reunion in two weeks will be 2 of Bura's children (Elmer and Thelma) plus other descendants of hers (including the two boys pictured below), and at least 2 of Jesse's children (Charlotte and Jessie), perhaps other descendants of his as well. I do not have the entire list of those planning to attend, but other descendants of the 7 Davis kids may also be with us.

Happy Birthday to Kelly and James Savage's older son Nathaniel, of Weatherford, Texas, who turns 7 this coming Tuesday. I mentioned his younger brother Kyle last week, whose 5th birthday was last Friday. The second picture shows these two young San Diego Padre fans at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, just last weekend. Their family moved from San Diego to Texas several years ago, but have kept their love for the San Diego team.

Nathaniel and Kyle are two of Bura Davis and Will Shepard's GGgrandchildren. Gary Shepard is the proud grandfather of these two. Their mother Kelly said in a recent email...

"The whole family, including the four of us, [my] mom, Rick, Kerri, Lyndsey, Mandi and Jason enjoyed it very much when the Padres came to Texas to play the Rangers for the weekend and won two out of three!
We braved the over 100 degrees every night. Kyle was so excited because he thought the Padres came all the way to Texas for his birthday. They put his name on the rolling score board and brought him a gift bag. Kyle turned 5 on June 26th. Loves the Padres! His favorite players are Adrian Gonzalez and Tony Gwynn Jr. He finished his first season of soccer this past Spring. He did a great job and loved to play. He can't wait to play T-ball next season!

Nathaniel ('Nate') turns 7 on 7-7. He just finished his second season of T-ball. He was on the Padres!! He has played soccer and is an orange belt in Karate. Nate loves to do anything that gives him a chance to run and get dirty. He never misses an opportunity to tell a stranger he loves them and/or give them a hug."

Best wishes for a very happy birthday this coming week!