Friday, August 28, 2009

Shepard Family Update August 28, 2009

Nor need we power or splendor,
wide hall or lordly dome;
The good, the true, the tender
-- these form the wealth of home.
-Sarah J. Hale

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

Greetings from the Great Northwest, in particular Anacortes, Washington where Cindy and I are visiting with my mom Maida Shepard and other family members here who "form the wealth of home." I am struck again by the fact that August is a wonderful time to be in this part of the world.

As I continue to reflect on my visit to Indiana earlier this summer, I can't help but be struck by how Church affiliation has been a strong value in our family for many generations. To be sure, almost all American families are church related to some degree. But ours has church connections that seem to be stronger and more enduring than most.

I have mentioned before that our family has an exceptionally long history in the Churches of Christ, at least as far back as 1866. That's when my GGGgrandfather Alexander Davis became the first of many family members to belong to the New Union Church of Christ near Spencer, Indiana. The connection may go back even farther, because Alexander Davis came to Indiana from Belmont County, Ohio, which was just a few miles from where the Stone-Campbell Movement originated in the earliest years of the 19th century. In 1866 (which, coincidentally, was the year that Alexander Campbell died) the Stone-Campbell Movement was still young. So young, in fact, that there was no distinction between Churches of Christ, Christian Churches, or Disciples of Christ. Those three groups were not separate identities until the 20th Century.

The New Union Church of Christ outside Spencer was just the first of many congregations where people in our family have clustered for several decades at a time. There were members of our family in the New Union Church for most of its 100 history until it died in 1956.

About 1910 some of our Davis kin (including Bura Davis) migrated from Indiana to Beaver County Oklahoma, where they helped start the South Flat Church of Christ. It became the church home for Will and Bura's family until 1928. It was also home to many other Davises for many decades after that.

The first picture I am including was taken in front of the South Flat Church in Oklahoma in 1989. On the front steps is my father, Eugene Shepard, who was baptized at this church (in a horse trough!) as a youth.

When Will and Bura moved to San Diego in 1940, the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ became the church home for them and some of their family for nearly 60 years. Other Church of Christ congregations in the San Diego area where some of our family have belonged include Linda Vista, Allied Gardens, Bostonia, El Cajon, and Poway. For over 30 years now the 32nd St. Church of Christ in Anacortes has been the spiritual home for many of Eugene and Maida Shepard's part of the family.

There are, of course, many other congregations that folks in our larger family have been affiliated with over the years in Oklahoma, Texas, California, Washington and elsewhere. If you are a part of our larger family and belong to another congregation, I would be glad to hear from you. You are welcome to send me an email with the particulars.

This brief summary of Church affiliation does not even include the ways that some in our family (including myself) have developed religious ties to groups besides the Churches of Christ. And a number of our family members, of course, have chosen to develop no official religious ties at all. Yet it remains true that one way to tell our family's history is through the congregations around which they have clustered over the last 150 years.

Happy 19th Birthday tomorrow to Lyndsey Aquiningoc! The second picture shows Lyndsey in a picture taken last month at Weatherford, Texas where she and her family live, including mom Kerri and sister Mandi. She is the first GGgrandchild of Will and Bura Shepard. In the picture with her is one of her Ggrandmothers Maylo Enderle. Thanks to Barbara Shepard for this picture.

-- Steve

Friday, August 21, 2009

Shepard Family Update, August 21, 2009

I came up out of those chilly waters
a bearcat for the Lord,
and have remained that way ever since!
-Carrie Nation
(19th Century activist)

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

Greetings from the cool, green mountains of the High Sierra in Northern California. Cindy and I are looking forward to a pleasant weekend here with Nathan and Chenda.

I begin on a somber note. Today would have been the 59th birthday of my younger sister Linda Shepard, who died in 1971. It has been 38 years since the car accident that took her life, but the impact of her 21 years remains indelible on those who knew her. The first picture I am including was taken in 1970 and was one of the last family pictures with all 6 children. It shows Eugene and Maida Shepard on the back left. Seated next to them are Gary, me and Linda. In front are Darrell, Russell and Barbara.

We all make mistakes. Last week I sent a family picture from the 1940s in which I identified the young man in the picture as Rex Russell. The other child in the picture -- Thelma (Shepard) Boyd -- emailed me to say that the boy in the photo was NOT Rex. Instead it was Norman Getz, who was Rex's second cousin, and about the same age. (One has to work very hard to put something past Thelma!)

More About the Davises. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Lucy Davis, the daughter of Tom Davis, and cousin of Bura Davis, all of whom were members of the New Union Church of Christ, near Spencer, Indiana about 100 years ago. Lucy had been baptized in 1916 in frozen Rattlesnake Creek, where the ice had to be broken to get her in the water. When I first heard that story, I must admit I was a little skeptical. Not just because I tend to be skeptical, but because I know how family stories DO get exaggerated sometimes! However, I have since learned that years ago, being baptized in a frozen creek was not all that unusual. For some, it even became something of a badge of honor, a point of pride. The following true story illustrates this. (I heard this in Indianapolis last month, told by TCU Church historian Newell Williams. This is my recollection and not a direct quote.)

Carrie Nation (1846-1911) was a 19th century temperance crusader adamantly opposed to the evils of drinking alcohol. She was also a member of the Stone-Campbell Movement (the movement that gave birth to the Churches of Christ, the Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ). Carrie Nation was in the habit of storming into a bar, with hatchet in hand (see her picture, hatchet and all), and driving out the drinkers and tearing up the place -- the tables and chairs, the bar, even the picture of the half naked lady behind the bar -- all "in the name of the Lord". Later a reporter asked her about such extreme behavior. She proudly reported that when she came to the Lord and was baptized, it was on the coldest day of the year. They had to saw a hole in the ice to get her into the river for baptism. "I came up out of those chilly waters a bearcat for the Lord, and have remained that way ever since!"

Call me a sissy, but I'm proud of my immersion in the heated waters of the indoor baptistry of the Linda Vista Church of Christ in San Diego (50 years ago last month!). Even so, you have to admire the spunk of a young person like Carrie Nation or Lucy Davis, who responds to God's call and is baptized outdoors, in the Midwest, in winter. Bura Davis was much more sensible. She had the good sense to be baptized in August! (See picture at left of Rattlesnake Creek near the New Union Church of Christ, taken this summer. This is the creek where they did their baptisms.)

I'd like to think that cousin Lucy Davis' icy December baptism in Rattlesnake Creek was something that she, like Carrie Nation, was proud of all her life. But no matter how full of pride Lucy may have been in her private moments, she would never have acted in such a rash, albeit purposeful manner as Ms. Nation. Our family has always valued modesty and decency too much for that. Lucy may have thought highly of that crusader, and may have even felt a kinship in spirit, but I doubt she would have acted with such abandon.

Even though Lucy may not have thought of her baptism as making her a "bearcat for the Lord", she was a devout Christian. Five years after her baptism, she married Frank Wheeler, who had been a fellow teen with her in the New Union Church. He had actually begun preaching at age 16, the same year as Lucy's icy baptism at age 13. (Hmm. A connection perhaps?) Their dream of a life together was cut short, however, when Frank died after just two years of marriage at age 24 of Typhoid fever while preaching for the Linton (Indiana) Church of Christ. Two children were born to that short marriage: Lloyd Wheeler (who also became a Church of Christ preacher) and Ruth (Wheeler) Fortner, who Cindy and I had the pleasure of spending time with recently in Spencer, Indiana.

Happy Birthday, Amanda. This coming Tuesday is the Birthday of Amanda Ortiz, one of Will and Bura (Davis) Shepard's 20 Ggrandchildren. Amanda lives in Blue Springs, Missouri with Jeff and (her mother) Kim Clark. She was part of Thelma (Shepard) Boyd's family who attended the family reunion in Oklahoma last month. In the picture surrounding Amanda are Desiree Ortiz on the left, Cindy Shepard and Barbara Shepard in the back, and on the right are Kori Boyd (in purple) and Kim Clark. Amanda is holding her niece Ashlyn Ortiz.

Have a great week. And as these long, warm days of August continue, let the thought of an icy baptism keep you cool. And full of spunk!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shepard Family Update, August 14, 2009

A people without history
is like wind on the buffalo grass.
-Native American Proverb

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you! This blog entry is coming to you from our home in San Diego where Cindy and I are cooling our heels, as we make our way through these warm, dog days of summer.

REGARDING OUR SHEPARD ROOTS. After my comments last week, I received word from an historian in Wabash, Indiana about one of our Shepard ancestors. I had mentioned that the 1860 census shows a William Sheppard living in Wabash, Indiana with a family named Baker. Susan Neff is the historian for the Dr. James Ford Museum in Wabash, and is herself descended from the family with whom William was living. She says, among other things, that our ancestor William was a part of "the farm household of George and Rhoda (Stradley) Baker and their young daughter Catherine. Rhoda was from a prominent family of local physicians - i.e., her father Dr. Daniel W. Stradley and two brothers, Dr. Ayres and Dr. Daniel N. Stradley." You can read her very interesting message at the end of my blog posting for Aug 7. I am very grateful for Susan Neff's response and her insights and suggestions.

Even though this William Sheppard's name is spelled with two p's, I am certain this is my GGgrandfather. Everything about this William from Wabash fits with what we know. And name misspellings were not uncommon among census takers, or among other people for that matter, including the military. In Evansville, Indiana where the military buried him, the cemetery has in their office records "William Sheppard," but when you go to the headstone in that cemetery his name is spelled "William Shephard". This would certainly not be the first time the government has misspelled the name of a young person in their service.

Add to all this the interesting family story that this William's son, William Elmer Shepard, who never knew his father, ran away from home in Wabash in the late 1870's and separated forever from any Shepard kin he might have known. Perhaps, somewhere between Wabash, Indiana and Madison County, Illinois, where he settled, he chose to simplify the spelling of his name to Shepard. Or maybe he was just unsure of how it was spelled. In view of all of this, is it surprising that the name spelling is so confusing? Fortunately, after Ggrandad William Elmer Shepard married and settled in Illinois, the name has always been spelled "Shepard" and remains so to this day.

Back to 1860: Why William from Wabash was living with the Bakers just before the Civil War, we do not know. There is no indication that any other family members of this William Sheppard were living in the area at the time, so perhaps he had recently moved there by himself or with friends.

The 1860 census record also indicates that William, who was 24 at the time, had "personal property" valued at $550, which was a significant amount of money. It was enough to buy a large parcel of land for a farm in Indiana in 1860, which may very well have been what William intended to do. Unfortunately he died in the Civil War just 2 years later, as did any hopes or dreams he might have had for the future.

So now the search continues for information about the widow Sheppard, who was left behind with an infant child when William died in July, 1862. It appears that William was single at the time of the 1860 census, so their marriage must have occurred in the 15 months between the census of June, 1860 and September, 1861 when he enlisted in the Army. Their son William Elmer was born in February, 1862, so that narrows their probable marriage date down even further. Unfortunately there is no record of their marriage in Wabash County during that time, although record keeping was not consistent. I know that this may seem tedious to some of you, but I find it fascinating and look forward to the next bit of information that will be discovered.

The first picture I am including, from the early 1940s, shows the only two grandchildren of that Civil war casualty William Sheppard: my grandfather also named William Shepard (1888-1976) and his sister Sadie (Shepard) Pruett (1892-1980). They are the two adults in the middle of the picture. On the far left is Will's wife Bura (Davis) Shepard, and next to her is Will and Bura's young daughter Thelma (Shepard) Boyd. On the right is their first grandchild Rex Russell.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LINDA SHEPARD! One of Wabash William Sheppard's GGGgrandchildren is Linda Shepard of Anacortes, Washington whose 16th birthday is this Sunday. See a photo presentation celebrating her birthday.

Linda is Pam and Russ Shepard's daughter, and Maida Shepard's youngest grandchild. She spent most of a month this summer visiting family and friends in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas, and attending the Newcastle family reunion. Her favorite part of this summer was spent in Weatherford, Texas hanging out with cousins Kerri, Lyndsey and Mandi Aquiningoc.

Linda is also honing her driving skills, in hopes of getting her driver's license next week. In just a few weeks she begins her junior year at Anacortes High School. Best wishes to Linda for a very happy birthday!

I have more I want to share about our recent trip to Indiana, regarding our Davis family, but I will save that for next time.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Shepard Family Update, August 7, 2009

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton,
you may as well make it dance.
-George Bernard Shaw

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

It is a pleasant, warm summer day here in San Diego, in contrast to some of you who may be enduring scorching summer heat in your part of the world. Thanks to my brother Darrell for suggesting the quote at the top, from George Bernard Shaw. Food for thought: which particular family skeletons would you like to make dance? Just asking. ;-)

Cindy and I are now home from our pilgrimage to Indiana which was primarily to attend the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Indianapolis. But as I mentioned last week, it also gave us a chance to visit the birthplaces of some Indiana ancestors and learn some valuable things about our roots.

REGARDING OUR SHEPARD ROOTS. This past Monday, on our way out of Indianapolis, we stopped at the Indiana State Archives just off I-70 in that city to research our Shepard ancestors. The attendant we met searched the archives and -- lo and behold! -- found the Civil War service record for William Shepard (1835 -1862), who was my grandfather's grandfather. (The two men share the same name.)

We then drove 2 hours north of Indianapolis to visit the small town of Wabash, Indiana, where my grandfather Will Shepard's father William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) was born. Wabash is also the place where Grandad's Grandfather, had enlisted in the Union Army, which resulted in his death in the Civil War in 1862. We searched the archives of their local library only to realize that there is scant information to be found about our Shepard ancestors in Wabash.

What we do know is that a young 24 year old named William Shepard shows up in the 1860 census, living in Wabash with a family named Baker. In 1861 he entered the Army, was soon wounded, and died within a year of Typhoid fever at a hospital in Evansville, Indiana, which is where he is buried today (see a picture of his grave). His son, William Elmer Shepard, was born the very year he died, 1862.

What happened to this soldier's young widow we do not know. We don't even know her name, for that matter. An old family story says that her son, W. E. Shepard, ran away from home as a teenager and was never reunited with his family in Wabash. We do know that he eventually settled in Madison County, Illinois where he started his own family, which included a son, Will Shepard, my grandfather. (See picture of him on the left in the 1950s with wife Bura).

In the early 1900s this family moved to Beaver County, Oklahoma, which is where W.E. Shepard died in 1915. Most of what we found earlier this week simply confirmed what we already knew. I am certain that there are other details to be uncovered, but finding them is difficult. Yet the effort continues.

I have more to share about our trip to Indiana, but I need to leave it there for now and move on to matters relating to "live" people. Dane Shepard emailed me recently to send his thanks to everyone who supported last month's family reunion, especially financially. He also sent me some recordings of Grandad Will Shepard that were made before he passed away in 1976. They are fine quality recordings that capture him talking about a variety of subjects. Dane is still in the process of converting the recordings he has to MP3 format that can be shared over the internet. We are still considering the best way to make them available to everybody. More about that in upcoming weeks.

Dane and Cindy were the host team that welcomed the reunion goers a few weeks ago to their fine town of Newcastle, and their beautiful home. One of my enduring memories of the reunion will be of sitting on their front porch, resting with several other family members after that long day. We were looking out over the beautiful placid pond of their lovely "Deer Run" subdivision. Kids were romping in the grass while others were riding some kind of skate board contraption (too dangerous for my liking) and everyone was in good spirits. It was a most pleasant ending to a wonderful day. Thanks Cindy and Dane (and Nathan and Kaylan!) for your gracious hospitality.

Happy Birthday this coming Wednesday to Jeremy Ortiz of El Cajon, California. (See picture on the right with his mother Kim.) Hard working Jeremy was unable to attend the family reunion last month because of his responsibilities as manager of Pizza Hut in San Diego. But at the reunion were his grandmother Thelma Boyd, his mother Kim Clark, his wife Desiree, and his 3 children who represented their part of the family well. Among his children was mohawked Damian, who received the award for being the youngest person in attendance, at 2 years old.

Have a good week making those skeletons dance!