Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Voice From the Past, December 23, 2015

They went into the house, 
and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, 
they knelt down and worshiped him. 
They brought out their gifts 
of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, 
and presented them to him.
~Matthew 2:11

Merry Christmas to all of you! May your holiday be filled with the joy of Christmas and the happiness of family.

On Christmas Day, 127 years ago, my Grandfather William Shepard was born in Alton, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from Saint Louis, Missouri. He was the first child of William Elmer Shepard and Elvira Owens.

This picture shows William Shepard on the far right next to his wife Bura Davis Shepard, and their 4 children Elmer, Thelma, Eugene and Pauline. This picture was taken in San Diego in 1975, the year before he died.  

I have included in this post an audio recording of my Grandfather William Shepard. You may recall that back in the spring, I shared with you a different recording of Granddad, one in which he told about his wedding to his wife Bura in 1915. That recording, as well as this one, was made in the 1970's when Granddad was well into his 80's. It was recorded by his son Elmer and daughter-in-law Beryl Swinney Shepard, with whom he and his wife Bura were living at the time. As I recall, Beryl was the one most interested in recording Granddad telling about his life and the stories he could recall. And Granddad was indeed quite the raconteur; he loved to tell stories about his life.

In this recording that is linked below, Granddad's story begins by him telling what it was like, at 16 years old (about 1905), when he moved to Beaver County, Oklahoma, which he calls "the wild and woolly west." He shares his regret at moving away from Illinois and his desire to return where he was raised.

Later in life William was a person who enjoyed venturing out and exploring new territory. This made it difficult at times for his family who found themselves without a husband and father for periods of time. He probably learned that adventurous spirit from his own father, who had left home in Indiana about 1880 as an older teenager and wandered on his own from Indiana to Illinois. That's where he met his wife Elvira Owens who became the mother of their two children.

You will also notice in this recording that when he was in his 80's Granddad was very hard of hearing. Beryl is clearly heard asking him questions, but he is oblivious to her. He was such a story-teller, however, that a little thing like deafness was not going to keep him from expressing himself and weaving his tales!

In this recording Granddad refers to a number of medical issues and the archaic ways they were dealt with in the early years of the 20th century. In particular he tells us about the death of his father William Elmer Shepard in 1915, and the death of his wife's father, James Brooks Davis, in 1928, both of whom died and are buried in Beaver County, Oklahoma. He gives some interesting, almost eerie, details of their deaths. How much is fact and how much is guesswork remains an open question. Even so, it makes for a fascinating recording as we hear this voice from the past.

For those of us who remember Granddad William Shepard it is worth it just to hear his familiar voice. For those of you who may never have known him, it is interesting and insightful to hear this voice from our family's history speak first hand about what life was like in the early years of the 20th century.
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Steve Shepard

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