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.


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