Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Original Father of our Family, June 26, 2014

Before I got married
I had six theories about raising children;
now, I have six children
and no theories.
~John Wilmot

Today's blog post is a perfect example of how The Shepard's Crook seeks to be both genealogical and contemporary. It concerns three fellows who are directly related, but whose births span 5 centuries and 14 generations. One was born in the 17th century, one in the 19th century, and one in the 21st century. 

Leroy Gower (1899-1874). Yesterday, June 25, was the 115th annversary of the birthday of my maternal grandfather Leroy Gower. He was born in the last year of the 19th century in Mountain View, Arkansas, which is where he was raised and where he met and married Nola Shannon, his wife for 53 years. They lived for 17 years in Okemah, Oklahoma before moving to San Diego where they lived the largest part of their lives.

The first picture, taken in 1968 in front of their home on Lynne Street in San Diego, shows Grandpa Gower in the middle, proudly holding his first two Great Grandchildren, Sean Gower on the left and Kerri Shepard on the right. Leroy and Nola would eventually have 14 Great Grandchildren. Also in this picture are his wife Nola, upper left, his son Hendrix, upper right, and several other family members.

The Original Father of our Family. This being the month of Father's Day, I want to mention another outstanding father in our family tree: Abell Gower (1640-1689), the 7x Great Grandfather of Leroy Gower. 

Abell Gower was the son of English immigrant Abell Gower Sr. of Gloucester, England. He married Jane Hatcher, also a child of English immigrants, and with her he fathered several children. Abell and Jane were both born in 1640 in Henrico, Virginia, and are the first persons in our entire family tree born on American soil. 

Abell was a justice of Henrico County from 1669 until his death in 1689, and was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the first legislative assembly of elected respresentatives in North AmericaHe also may have served as a naval officer and eventually lost his life in a skirmish with Native Americans.

In 1640 when Abell was born, most of North America was unexplored and the American Revolution was still over 100 years away. George Washington would not even be born until the next century, and the entire population of Colonial America was estimated to be only 26,600. Native Americans outnumbered colonialists in the new world by perhaps 100 to 1. 

Abell Gower was the first of what is now 15 consecutive generations of family members to be born in America. Conceivably we might someday discover another ancestor who was born before Abell Gower in America, but until then he deserves the title of "The Original Father of our Family" in North America.

Happy Birthday, Kyle. Today, June 26, is the 10th birthday of Kyle Christian Sauvage of Weatherford Texas. Kyle is one of Leroy Gower's 13 Great Great Grandchildren and the son of James and Kelly Shepard Sauvage. He is also the grandson of Jackie Perry and my brother Gary Shepard.

Mom Kelly: Kyle will be 10 years old this week. Crazy how fast time flies. Kyle is keeping busy playing on a little league baseball team and also a select team. He made the all star team again this year. His team has made it to the championship game in all four tournaments they have been in and have finished 1st place in two of them. He has proven to be a really good pitcher. He stays so calm and relaxed while I'm a nervous wreck when he's pitching. His dream is still to play for the Padres! His other hobbies include basketball, football and any other sport involving a ball. He definitely keeps me busy.
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Steve Shepard

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Remarkable Father Story, June 20, 2014

The heart of a father
is the masterpiece of nature. 
~Antoine François Prévost

Happy Anniversary to Chenda and Nathan Shepard on their 5th wedding anniversary tomorrow. They were married at the Point Loma tide pools here in San Diego on the day of the Summer Solstice in 2009. The last 5 years have brought lots of changes to them and their family: Chenda has made great strides in adjusting to life in America, 3 children have been born to them, Nate has changed jobs within the company he works for, and they have moved to San Diego from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Congratu- lations to Nathan and Chenda on 5 years together! The first picture was taken earlier today and shows Nathan and Chenda at their home in San Diego.

Last month in celebration of Mother's Day I mentioned several "remarkable Mothers" who can be found in the branches of our family tree. It is only fair that I reciprocate in regard to Fathers. So in the next few weeks I will bring to your attention several outstanding Fathers and share a little of their life stories.

An Outstanding Father. One of the most incredible stories concerns the father of the aforementioned Chenda Sou Shepard, our daughter-in-law, and one of the newer members of our family. His name is Sou Penh, and he is the other grandfather, the Cambodian grandfather, of Chenda and Nathan's children. He is in his late 60s and lives today in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, Chenda's home village, which is about an hour's drive from the capital city of Phnom Penh. He is not in good health, but considering the life he has lived and the family struggles he has endured, it is no wonder.

Sou Penh was a young adult when the notorious Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia in the 1970s, and suffered greatly, along with the entire population, during their rule. Social engineering was their aim which led to forced relocations, torture, murder and genocide. Over 2 million Cambodians died during their reign of terror. It was the subject of the 1984 award winning motion picture The Killing Fields. Even though Chenda was born at the very end of the reign of the Khmer Rouge, her father's life and the life of his family was very difficult.

Penh had been a general in the Army of the Cambodian king, which meant that when the Khmer Rouge came to power, he was a wanted man and feared for his life. As a result, his first wife (Chenda's mother) disappeared when Chenda was but 10 months old and was never seen or heard from again. This single father took his family, changed their name, and was on the run from the authorities for a period of time. All this occurred with a badly damaged foot that never healed properly and makes walking difficult even today. His second wife, with whom he has several children, was the result of an arranged marriage by the government.

Chenda's father kept the family together as best he could and saw his 6 children reach adulthood, albeit with emotional and physical scars that will never fully heal. This father's amazing story is filled with sadness, injury and tragedy, but also survival. He and much of his family live today in relative stability in what remains one of the poorest and most impoverished countries in the world.

The second picture, which shows Nathan with Chenda's father, was taken at the family home in Kampong Speu, Cambodia in the spring of 2009 just a few weeks before Chenda came to America. Chenda has not seen her father in the 5 years since she arrived here in California. The reports she receives from home indicate that he had what appears to have been a serious stroke a year or two ago. (The language difference makes understanding his precise medical condition difficult.) We cannot help but appreciate this truly remarkable father and marvel at his strength and fortitude.

Although he and I are separated by thousands of miles, to say nothing of the language and cultural differences, we are both grandfathers of the same 3 wonderful grandchildren. I will ever be grateful to this outstanding father and all he has done for his own family.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Celebration of Fathers! June 13, 2014

My father would lift me high
And dance with my mother and me
and then spin me around till I fell asleep.
Then up the stairs he would carry me
and I knew for sure I was loved.
~Luther Vandross

Happy Birthday Scott! Today is the 29th Birthday of Scott Ortiz, the son of Kim Boyd Clark and her late husband Gabe Ortiz. Mom Kim tells me that Scott works for Anderson Electric in El Cajon, near San Diego, and lives in Chula Vista with a group called Stranger Band. Scott is originally from Gallup, New Mexico, and was raised in New Mexico and San Diego. 

Today's blog post is even more image intensive than usual, with the many pictures I am including telling our family story much better than words ever could. Thanks to mom Kim for this first recent picture, which shows Scott with his girl friend Christa. 

Sunday is Father's Day! To help offset the gloom and doom that some feel on Friday the 13th, the following Celebration of Fathers is offered. It is a collection of pictures of Dad's and their children and grandchildren that span over 100 years of our family's life. The oldest picture is from 1908 and the most recent picture from just days ago. Thank God for the memory of good fathers, and for the blessing of present day dads who give so much for their kids!


Five Years in America. It was 5 years ago today that our daughter-in-law Chenda Sou arrived in the U.S. from her native Cambodia. She and our son Nathan had met there in one of Southeast Asia's poorest countries almost 2 years earlier but it took that long for the immigration process to be completed.

This next picture, taken just a few days ago, shows our daughter-in-law Chenda with her and Nathan's youngest child William in front of their home in the San Carlos community of San Diego. 
Today Chenda and Nathan live in San Diego with their 3 children Preslea, Logan and William. Chenda has made great strides in the last 5 years but continues her adjustment to life in America and her journey toward citizenship. 

Kambree Turns One! Happy Birthday tomorrow, June 14, to Mandi Aquiningoc's baby Kambree Kay of Weatherford, Texas, one of the youngest members of our extended family. 

Kambree lives with her mom Mandi and her father Stephen Bowman in Mineral Wells, Texas, not far from her Grandmother Kerri Shepard Aquiningoc. Kambree is the Great Granddaughter of my brother Gary Shepard, and the first Great Great Granddaughter of Maida Gower Shepard.

This last picture shows Kambree in patriotic stars and stripes, getting ready for the upcoming Independence Day Celebration. Happy Birthday to Kambree and best wishes to Mandi and Stephen!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Nuts Make the Tree Worth Shaking, June 6, 2014

Some family trees have beautiful leaves,
while others just a bunch of nuts.
Remember, it is the nuts
that make the tree worth shaking.

My grandfather William Shepard was the child of a woman from Illinois by the name of Elvira Owens. I do not write about our Owen heritage as much as other family lines in this blog. Nevertheless Elvira's family is an important part of our family history and worthy of celebrating. She is on my radar screen today because next Wednesday marks the wedding anniversary of her parents Payton and Mary Owens.

My GG Grandparents Payton Owens and Mary Wheeler were married June 11, 1846 in rural Washington County, Illinois, about 50 miles Southeast of St. Louis, Missouri. Payton, born in 1826 in Davidson County, Tennessee came to Western Illinois with his family as a child. Mary Wheeler was born in 1825 in Wood River, Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis, and lived her entire life in Western Illinois. She was 20 and he was just 19 when they were married in the town of Nashville, the Washington, Illinois County Seat, in the late spring of 1846.

By the time the Civil War started 15 years later in April, 1861, Mary and Payton had 6 children. Records show that he did not register for the Civil War draft until the summer of 1863. At that time he was 36 years old, he and Mary owned and farmed hundreds of acres of land, and they had a large family, all of which demanded their attention. I have found no record that Payton ever served in the military. After the Civil War, Mary and Payton had 3 more children, one of whom was Elvira Owens. 

The first picture shows Payton Owens, probably about 1860. I have shared this picture with you before when I was under the impression it was a picture of Payton's father Edmond Owens. But on the back of the original photo it states that it is Payton Owens.

In the 1880s when Elvira's family had moved to Madison County, Illinois, she met a wanderer who had come over from Indiana by the name of William Elmer Shepard. They eventually married and started their own family. In 1906, they moved away from Illinois in 1906 to Beaver County, Oklahoma with their children William and Sadie, and a whole new chapter of our family history began. Some of our Owens kinfolk still live in Western Illinois, a place that continues to be significant in our family history.

History Repeats Itself. Here's an interesting quirk of history: Mary and Payton Owens' wedding date of June 11, 1846 is exactly 100 years before the day that one of their Great Grandsons married his bride. On June 11, 1946, after the conclusion of World War II, my late aunt and uncle, Elmer Shepard and Beryl Swinney, were married in San Diego, California.

The second picture shows Elmer Shepard and Beryl Swinney in January, 1946 just months before they were married in June. Standing on the right is Elmer's brother Eugene Shepard with his wife Maida Gower Shepard (my parents). It is a little hard to tell but Maida is 10 months pregnant with their first child Gary.

Happy Birthday Emma! One of Payton and Mary Owens' GGGG Grandchildren is Emma Beverly Jean Wilk, who celebrates her 9th birthday today. She is the daughter of Shannon Wilk of Atchison, Kansas. The third picture shows Emma with "Papa Frank", who for 28 years was the partner of Shannon's dad Phil.

Shannon: "We are doing good. Emma is having a party on Sunday, she is getting excited. Still can't believe she is nine!! Couldn't wait for her to walk, now I am telling her to slow down. Couldn't wait for her to start talking, now I wish she would sshhhh! Can't help loving the kid. Hope all is well with you."

Happy Birthday to Emma! Here is her lineage to Mary and Payton Owens:
  • Payton Owens (1826-1872) - wife Mary Wheeler (1825-1871)
  • Elvira Owens (1865-1931) - husband William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915)
  • William Shepard (1888-1976) - wife Bura Davis (1896-1986)
  • Pauline Shepard (1916-2000) - husband Bill Russell (1908-1997)
  • Beverly Russell (1939-1974) - husband Phil Wilk (1935-2007)
  • Shannon Wilk (b. 1973)
  • Emma Beverly Jean Wilk (b. 2005)
- - - 
Steve Shepard

Sunday, June 01, 2014

James Brooks Davis and Descendants, June 1, 2014

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
~Maya Angelou

The Birthday of James Brooks Davis. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the birth of my Great Grandfather James Brooks Davis, who was born outside Spencer, Indiana on June 2, 1870 -- 144 years ago.

James' grandparents, Alex and Jane Davis, had migrated from Ohio to Owen County, Indiana about 1850 and were the first of our Davis ancestors to settle there. James' father Charles, a young child when his family left Ohio, met a young Indiana native as a teenager by the name of Malinda Wright, and eventually married her in Owen County in 1869. The following spring, baby James Brooks arrived and became the first Davis child to be born a Hoosier.

James was raised near Spencer, Indiana and at 25 years old married another native Indianan, Callie Spear, on New Year's Day 1896. In the first 12 years of their life together they had 7 children, their oldest being my grandmother Bura Davis. Their other children were Lawrence, Myra, Winona, Jesse, Esther and Marjorie. The first picture from 1908 shows James surrounded by 4 of their daughters, including their youngest, Marjorie, in his lap.

In March, 1913, James and Callie uprooted their family of 9 -- all of whom had lived their entire lives in Owen County, Indiana -- and moved them all to "the land of opportunity", the panhandle of Oklahoma. At the time their children ranged in age from 4 to 16 years old. They settled in Beaver County and joined the ranks of hard working farming families on the Oklahoma frontier.

A few of the descendants of James and Callie still live in Beaver County today. Over the last century since the family settled in Oklahoma, however, most of them have moved away and today live elsewhere in Oklahoma or in places like Washington, California, Missouri and Texas. In Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County James Brooks Davis is laid to rest alongside his wife Callie. Select this link to visit their grave online.

The Anniversary of William and Bura Davis Shepard. 100 years ago this year -- shortly after moving from Indiana -- James and Callie's oldest daughter Bura got to know another recent immigrant to Oklahoma by the name of William Shepard. The following spring Will and Bura decided to marry. Because of the high regard in which she held her father, James' 45th birthday, June 2, 1915, seemed the best day to tie the knot. So on Wednesday, June 2, after a very rainy spring in the panhandle, 18 year old Bura and 26 year old William got into his new Model T Ford, braved the mud mired roads and ventured out to the country home of their Church of Christ preacher and the deed was done. 

It's been 99 years since Will and Bura were married, but their love and devotion remains a great influence on those of us who knew them. The top couple in the tryptich on the right is William and Bura in San Diego in 1975, the year they celebrated 60 years of marriage. William died the following year, and Bura 10 years after that.

The Anniversary of Gary and Cindy Shepard. One of the Great Grandchildren of James Brooks Davis, my brother Gary Shepard, also chose June 2 as the wedding day for him and his bride Cindy. On Saturday, June 2, 1979 -- 35 year ago tomorrow -- Gary married Cindy Ann Dillon at the home of me and my wife Cindy in Los Alamitos, California, in a small beautiful ceremony attended by a few friends. Happy Anniversary and best wishes to Gary and Cindy! The middle couple on the right is Gary and Cindy on their wedding day in 1979.

The Anniversary of Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz. Today, June 1, is the anniversary of Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz of Blue Springs, Missouri. Jeremy is one of the Great Great Grandchildren of James and Callie Davis and the oldest grandchild of Thelma Shepard Boyd. He is the first born of Kim Boyd Clark. Jeremy and Desiree were married when they were living here in San Diego 12 years and 5 children ago. The bottom couple on the right is Desiree and Jeremy. Best wishes and happy anniversary to them!

Father's Day is in two weeks. If you have a picture of your father or grandfather that you would like me to include in my upcoming Father's Day photo presentation, please send it my way.
- - -
Steve Shepard