Monday, March 30, 2015

Whatever Happened To Uncle Frank? March 30, 2015

Her voice, those silver sounds, so soft, so dear,
The listener held his breath to hear.
~Sir Walter Scott

Happy Birthday Joan! Tomorrow my cousin Joan Shepard celebrates yet another birthday. She lives with her wife Dee Shannon in Dixon, California, near Sacramento. They are the parents of grown children Ryan, Tim and Havilah. Joan's parents are the late Elmer and Beryl Swinney Shepard. What's more, she is the 8th of the 12 grandchildren of Will and Bura Davis Shepard. Joan was born and raised in the San Diego area but has lived now for many years in Northern California. Best wishes to Joan for a wonderful birthday!

Joan: "Dee and I celebrated my birthday at the UC Davis Arboretum. We enjoyed a perfect spring day in the Sacramento Valley. It was delightful to be back in the gardens where we married just last summer. Dee loves to visit the Equestrian Center, where she took a class a few years ago and made lasting friendships with the resident horses. They and the birds seemed to celebrate the day with us. All our children and Dee's mother are enjoying life, so we feel especially blessed as time goes by."

The first picture show Joan in a recent photo taken at the abovementioned Equestrian Center of UC Davis. 

The second image is from a photo taken in 1961 in San Diego and shows Joan (bottom left) with her brother Dane (behind her) and 4 of her Shepard cousins: me, Linda, Gary and Darrell (next to Joan). 

Whatever Happened To Uncle Frank? Recently I mentioned in this blog that my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) was NOT an only child, as I had thought for many years. By the way, it is not unusual for information of this sort to turn up. New information is being made available all the time. It makes family research that much more exciting. 

William Elmer Shepard had a previously unknown older brother by the name of Frank J. Shepherd. Younger brother William Elmer was born February 5, 1862, 5 months after their father left home for military service. Frank was probably born around January, 1861, since their parents were married March 11, 1860. 

After I mentioned this information in a previous post, I heard from our friend Diane in Tucson who asked, "So what happened to the "other" brother Frank J. Shepard? Inquiring minds want to know." I took her response as a challenge to find out whatever I could about this newly discovered ancestor Frank J. Shepherd.

After a few hours of searching online I turned up some fascinating data. I already knew that our Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard left Montgomery County, Indiana in a huff in the early 1880s and went south as a young man, married Elvira Owens in Madison County, Illinois, had two children, and then lived the rest of his life with his family in Beaver County, Oklahoma.

But what of his brother, my Great Grand Uncle Frank? Indiana marriage records show that older brother Frank married a woman almost 10 years his junior, named Lida Moore, in 1889 in Montgomery County, Indiana where he had been raised. The next record I found shows that in 1900 they were living 130 miles north in Plymouth, Marshall County, Indiana. 

Flossie Shepherd

For the rest of his life Frank took the spelling "Shepherd" for his last name, while his brother William Elmer took the spelling "Shepard".  Remember, Mary Shepard, the mother of these boys, remarried when they were just 3 and 4 years old and had the last name Ragsdale for the rest of her life. Confusion about exactly how to spell their dead soldier/father's last name is understandable.

So, whereas William Elmer went south to Illinois and then Oklahoma, his older brother Frank with wife Lida went north and settled in Plymouth, Indiana. They appear in the Census Records for 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 in Plymouth. In most of those Census Records Frank is listed as a "mail carrier". In 1957 Lida appears in a city record for South Bend, Indiana (30 miles north of Plymouth) as the 85 year old widow of Frank Shepherd.

Frank J. Shepherd and Lida Moore Shepherd had but one child, a daughter named Frances (Flossie) Shepherd, who graduated from Plymouth (Indiana) High School in 1911. Her picture appears online in the 1911 Plymouth Senior Annual, and is included in this post. I do not know much about Flossie (yet), although the search continues. The 1920 Census (when she was 26) lists her as unmarried, living at home, and a cashier in a dry goods store. Something of the kind of person Flossie was can be gained from the quote attached to her in her High School Annual: "Her voice, those silver sounds, so soft, so dear, The listener held his breath to hear.From the looks of her picture, she could pass for the first cousin of my Grandfather William Shepard. Unfortunately Granddad probably never knew her; probably never even knew she existed. 

So there you have it: two brothers, Frank J. Shepherd and William Elmer Shepard, whose father died in the Civil War when they were just infants. They were raised in their stepfather's household, but separated as young men -- perhaps under unpleasant circumstances -- probably never to meet again. But such was the fate of many Americans whose lives were torn asunder by the effects of the Civil War. We are fortunate to know as much as we do about them, and are honored to share their legacy.

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Steve Shepard

Monday, March 23, 2015

Springing Into Spring, March 23, 2015

The most beautiful things in life
are not things at all,
but moments in time 
moments that we know will flow on.
~Patricia Adams Farmer

Greetings to all of you as spring begins and winter has passed.

Happy Anniversary! Happy 15th Wedding Anniversary this past weekend to my cousin Michael Harrell and his wife Carole of Zionsville, Indiana. (Yes, Virginia, there really is a Zionsville!) Mike is the older son of Vicki Gower Johnston of Oak Harbor, Washington. Best wishes to Mike and Carole for many more happy years together!

Happy Birthday today to my brother Gary Shepard, the first born of our parents Maida Gower Shepard and our late father Eugene Shepard. Gary was born in San Diego way back before I was born. Okay... just two years before I was born. We were among the very first in our family in what has become known as the "baby boom" generation. Gary was raised in San Diego and lived virtually his entire life in our fair community until he retired 12 years ago and moved to Oak Harbor, Washington. 

He and his wife Cindy live in Oak Harbor today, not far from our mom Maida Shepard and other family members in Anacortes, Washington. Happy Birthday to Gary on this last birthday that begins with a "6". The first picture shows Gary with his wife Cindy and our mother Maida. This picture was taken last summer in Anacortes, Washington by Steven Paul Shepard.

Happy Birthday Preslea! This coming Thursday is the 5th Birthday of our oldest grandchild Preslea Maida Shepard who lives just a stone's throw down the hill from us here in the San Carlos community of San Diego. She lives with her mom and dad, Nathan and Chenda Shepard, as well as her brothers Logan and William, plus an assortment of Koi and gold fish.

The following photo presentation celebrates Preslea's 5th year and the many activities and special moments in her young life: at home, at church, on vacation, and with friends and family. Best wishes to Preslea for a wonderful birthday!


- - -
Steve Shepard 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! March 17, 2015

Always remember to forget
The things that made you sad.
But never forget to remember
The things that made you glad.
~old Irish blessing

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! The first picture I am including was posted earlier today on Facebook by Rachel Shepard, the mother of this little fellow with the very Irish name of Kellan Shepard. He is one of the very youngest descendants of the Irish immigrants mentioned below.

My grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004) was the most Irish person I have ever known in our family. There are numerous persons in her family tree -- probably more than she ever knew about -- who were Irish immigrants who came to America long before she was ever born. Even though she was very Irish and proud of that fact, I do not remember her ever being particularly interested in Saint Patrick's Day. As a country girl from small town Arkansas in the early 20th century, her people were hard working, pious Baptists, who never got very excited about things.

Saint Patrick himself was Catholic, and the celebrations of his day are often given to excessive drinking, two things not highly valued in the lives of most of our Arkansas ancestors.

Even so, today is a day to celebrate our Irish heritage. Numerous ancestors of ours took great risks by sailing across the Atlantic and journeying to America with high hopes for a better life. They are folks like Thomas and Eigness Shannon who came from Londonderry about 1700, and James Alexander and family who came from Raphoe in northern Ireland in the late 1600s; and folks like John and Lucy Maxwell also from northern Ireland in the mid 1600s; and Robert and Mary Alexander who came from Scotland also in the 17th century.

And then there was William Henry Pickens (1670-1735) originally from La Rochelle, France, who crossed over to Ireland and married an Irishwoman named Margaret Pike. Then, from the town of Limerick in central Ireland, with several children in tow, William and Margaret sailed to America and settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. The second picture has appeared in this blog before, and shows a descendant of these Pickenses, Samuel Pickens Shannon with his wife Finetta Dearien Shannon, parents of my grandmother Nola Shanon Gower.

Happy 16th Birthday this Thursday to Kaylan Shepard of Newcastle, Oklahoma. Kaylan is the youngest of the 21 great grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard, and their last descendant born in the 20th century. 

Kaylan: "I am enjoying my sophomore year of high school by playing volleyball and bowling. I also love the art class I'm taking! Thank you so much for thinking of me! Hope you and your family are doing well! Thanks again, and have a blessed day."

Best wishes to Kaylan and to her family! This picture shows Kaylan (on the left) with a friend of hers, taken last month.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, March 13, 2015

Warm Love and Great Hopes, March 13, 2015

We're all ghosts.
We all carry, inside us,
people who came before us.
~Liam Callanan

Merry Milestones. Happy Birthday today to my brother Russ Shepard and his son Steven Paul Shepard. Steven has lived his whole life in Anacortes, Washington, while Russ has lived there for 37 years now, ever since the Shepards moved to Washington in 1978. Even though it is Friday the 13th, best wishes to both of them as together they celebrate their birthdays, very possibly at Grammie Maida Shepard's home in Anacortes!

The first picture, taken just yesterday, shows father Russ on the right and son Steven on the left. Thanks to sister Linda Shepard for taking the picture.

Happy Birthday tomorrow, March 14, to my brother-by-another-mother Jerry Clark. Jerry lives today with his wife Cathrina Helms Clark in Lubbock, Texas where he has worked for Taylor Publishing Company for many years. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico Jerry attended Lubbock Christian University in the late 1960s, which is when he met and married my sister Linda Shepard (1950-1971) also a student at LCU.

That's when Jerry became a member of our family, and has remained a part of us ever since. The second picture shows Jerry and Cathrina Clark with Jerry's brother Terry Clark and his wife Susan.

A 100th Wedding Anniversary. Later this spring, in early June, we will have opportunity to remember the 100th wedding anniversary of my grandparents William and Bura Davis Shepard. It will be a very special occasion marking a significant milestone in our history.

A 155th Wedding Anniversary. Wednesday of this week marked the 155th anniversary of the wedding of Granddad Shepard's grandparents, William Shepard and Mary Sprague. The story of my Shepard Great Great Grandparents is as heartbreaking as it is important in our family history. Here is a lineage from our Civil War soldier-ancestor William Shepard to his namesake, my grandson William Shepard. 
  • William C. Shepard (1835-1862) who married Mary Ellen Sprague
  • William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) who married Elvira Owens
  • William Shepard (1888-1976) who married Bura Davis
  • Eugene William Shepard (1921-2003) who married Maida Gower
  • Steven Shepard (b. 1948) who married Cindy Harris
  • Nathan William Shepard (b. 1977) who married Chenda Sou
  • William Quincy Shepard (b. 2012)
The third picture shows two of the William Shepards listed above, the one on the left my grandfather William Shepard (1888-1976) and on the right my grandson William Quincy Shepard (b. 2012).

Here is a timeline of the important events of the early 1860s, when William and Mary Shepard were married:
  • March 11, 1860: Marriage records for Indiana show that on this day William C. Shepherd (note the spelling of his last name) and Mary E. Sprague were married in Montgomery County, Indiana, 50 miles northwest of Indianapolis. 
  • June 1, 1860: U.S. Census records show William and Mary living in Ladoga, Montgomery County, Indiana. (Those Census records show their last name spelled Shepheard.) 
  • June 22, 1860: U.S. Census records shows William Sheppard (note yet a different spelling) living some 100 miles away in Wabash County, Indiana in the home of a farming family.
  • December, 1860: In late 1860 or early 1861, William and Mary's first child, Frank, was born.
  • February 2, 1962: Their second son, William Elmer Shepard, was born in Wabash County, Indiana.
  • July 22, 1862: William Shepard dies after being injured in the Civil War.
  • November 12, 1865: Mary E. Sprague Shepard marries William Ragsdale and lives the rest of her life as Mary Ragsdale.
William and Mary had what turned out to be a war time romance, with all the drama and tragedy that often attends young people married in war time. Married as the Civil War was ramping up, they had their first child within a year. Another one was on the way when William was drafted into military duty in September, 1861. He died in the summer of 1862, leaving his wife Mary with two young boys, Frank (18 months old) and William Elmer (5 months old). William and Mary were only married 18 months when he left for the war, never to return. What we know about his stint in the military is a story unto itself and you can read about it here.

New Information About Our Shepard Ancestors. For several years I thought that William and Mary's son (Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard, 1862-1915) was an only child, but I uncovered new information in recent weeks showing that there was another son, Frank J. Shepherd, born to them in late 1860 or early 1861.

Here's how I found out about the TWO sons of William and Mary Sprague Shepard: After Great Great Grandfather William Shepard died in the Civil War, Great Great Grandmother Mary E. Sprague Shepard went back home to Montgomery County, Indiana. 3 years later she married an older widower named William Ragsdale, who had several children already. Together they had several more children and went on to create a blended family. As a result, 19 year old Mary Sprague, who became Mary Shepard for 5 years, became Mary Ragsdale for the last 54 years of her life. Over time, her short but exciting war time marriage to the ill fated soldier William Shepard faded into the background.

An 1880 U.S. Census record, pictured above, lists the family of William and Mary Ragsdale with the 8 children in their household. The two oldest of those 8 children are listed as "step-sons", and are the children of Mary Shepard Ragsdale and her first husband William Shepard. The older child is Frank J. Shepherd, born in 1860 or 1861, and the younger one is William Shepherd, born in 1862. (You may have to click on the picture to see the document better, although at 135 years old it is understandably hard to read!)

Another recent discovery. I have wondered many times over the years why Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale never filed for a widow's pension. Who would be more deserving than a 22 year old widow left with two very young boys? As it turns out she did file for a widow's pension. 

I recently uncovered a record in the "U.S. Civil War and Later Wars Index to Remarried Widow Pensions Applications 1860-1934." It shows that "Mary E. Ragsdale", the remarried widow of Civil War soldier "William C. Sheppard" of the Indiana Cavalry, filed for a pension on June 10, 1901. By that time the soldier William had been dead nearly 40 years, and her second husband William Ragsdale had been dead 14 years. Mary was 61 years old and would live another 18 years. 

Civil War pensions were given out for many years, well into the 20th century. And the rules for dispensing them kept changing. Widows who remarried (like our Mary Shepard Ragsdale) were ineligible at first. But in 1901 (the year Mary filed for a pension) the rules were changed and a Civil War widow became eligible for a pension even if she remarried, as long as she was a widow again. That was exactly the situation with Mary and explains why she waited until 1901 to apply. Did she ever actually receive a pension? I will let you know when I find the answer to that question.

Didn't These People Know How To Spell? As indicated above, there were various spellings for the last names of William and Mary and their sons William and Frank: Shepheard, Shepherd, Shephard, Sheppard, and Shepard. Some historical records indicate that many of these folks could neither read nor write, making variant spellings understandable. Even so, the other information about them indicates they are our ancestors. It was not until after the Civil War, that "Shepard" became the common spelling for members of our family.

May Their Memory Live Forever. So this week we celebrate the 155th anniversary of the wedding of our ancestors William Shepard and Mary Sprague in 1860. But we do so realizing that theirs was a short lived marriage filled with warm love and joyful births, great hopes and terrible tragedy -- a story mutiplied half a million times during the conflict of the 1860s.

Though Mary moved on with her life as Mrs. Ragdale, surely the soldier, father and husband William Shepard retained a special place in her heart for the rest of her long life. In a similar way we, their descendants, remember their great sacrifice and honor their love for one another and their place in our family history and our nation's history. May the memory of William and Mary Shepard live among us forever.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Grim Reaper and This Mortal Coil, March 3, 2015

In the end it is not
the years in your life that count,
but the life in your years. 
~Abraham Lincoln

Happy Birthday to my niece Kerri Shepard Aquiningoc, oldest first born daughter of my brother Gary Shepard of Oak Harbor, Washington, and oldest first born grandaughter of Maida Gower Shepard of Anacortes, Washington. Kerri lives in Weatherford, Texas and became a grandmother for the second time last fall with the birth of Karver Bearden of Weatherford. The year before her first granddaughter Kambree Bowman was born.

The following picture shows birthday girl Kerri in the middle, with her daughter and grandson Lyndsey and Karver Bearden on the left, and her daughter and granddaughter Mandi and Kambree Bowman on the right. Happy Birthday to Kerri!

I have mentioned a number of times that this blog is not only concerned with genealogical matters, it also celebrates our ongoing family. Which is to say its focus is not only on those who have died, but also on those of us who still count ourselves among the living. With that sobering thought in mind, I am including today the following article. Originally found in the Washington Post, it seems appropriate for us and is offered for your edification, amusement or enlightenment, whichever fits you best. And besides, when was the last time you read about "this mortal coil"? 
Does The Grim Reaper Have Favorite Days?
Want to live longer? Maybe you should take extra care on your birthday and the days you get paid. On the website for Men’s Health magazine, Markham Heid assembles information from various studies that show days (or times of day) when you are more likely to shuffle off this mortal coil.
Your chances are 25 percent higher of dying on your birthday than the average day of the year, says economist Pablo Pe, author of one of those studies, who says “risky behaviors” involving alcohol, driving and stress are probably the cause. For similar reasons, chances of dying also jump — though to a lesser degree — on the two big holidays, Christmas and New Year’s, according to a different study.
“More mystifying: Rates of death for all sorts of common diseases — from cancer to cardiovascular disease — also swell on the first day of the year,” Heid writes.
Several studies, including one from the University of Maryland, find that you are more likely to die soon after you get your paycheck. Again, increases in drinking and driving appear to be the cause.
As for the most lethal hour, Heid doesn’t really explain why — but if you’re reading this after 11 a.m., you’ve made it through the most dangerous time of day. Relax.
- - -
Steve Shepard