Thursday, July 28, 2016

More July Celebrations, July 28, 2016

How many tumbles must it take
before you learn to fly?
I'm going to help you spread your wings,
my universal child.
~Annie Lennox

Today, July 28, three birthdays are celebrated in our family: Jeff Clark, Barbara Shepard and William Quincy Shepard.

Jeff Clark is the husband of my cousin Kim Boyd Clark, who is one of the 12 grandchildren of William and Bura Shepard. Jeff and Kim live in Blue Springs, Missouri, near Kim's mom Thelma Shepard Boyd, and several of their family.

Kim posted the following on Facebook this morning in celebration of Jeff's big day: "Happy birthday to my hubby eating breakfast with Amanda Ortiz Davis then off to the airport heading to Texas to watch the Kansas City Royals play the Texas Rangers for Jeff Clark's birthday weekend. I have pain pills in tow and doctor approved this trip." Best wishes to Jeff for a very happy birthday celebration. Go Royals!

This first picture shows Jeff with his wife Kim on the left and Kim's mother Thelma Boyd on the right.

Barbara Shepard. This day is also the birthday of my sister Barbara Shepard. She is the fifth of the six children of Maida and the late Eugene Shepard. Barbara, like all her siblings, was born and raised in San Diego. For most of the last 38 years she has lived in Anacortes, Washington, where she is one of the primary caregivers of our mom Maida, in addition to being the friendliest check-out clerk at Safeway. 

She is celebrating her birthday by taking a trip to the big city with a friend to visit one of her favorite places: the Seattle "Experience Music Project" Museum. Best wishes to Barbara for a memorable birthday!

This second picture shows Barbara in the middle with me on the right and granddaughter Preslea on the left.

William Shepard. And finally, this day is also the birthday of our youngest grandson William Quincy Shepard, who is named after several William Shepards in our family, including his 4X Great Grandfather, Civil War soldier William Shepard (1835-1862), who I blogged about last week. Birthday boy William, the youngest son of Nathan and Chenda Shepard, lives in the San Carlos Community of San Diego with his family, including big brother Logan, and big sister Preslea. 

The following YouTube Slide Show, with scenes primarily from the last year, celebrates William's 4th birthday, and is set to the music of Annie Lennox.

- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Celebrations Around the Country, July 23, 2016

It's not how big the house is,
it's how happy the home is.

This weekend is the occasion for three different birthdays in our larger family: Tori, Shannon and Logan. May they and their individual families all have great celebrations!

Birthday Wishes to Tori! Happy 9th Birthday to Victoria Cotten of Austin, Texas. Tori is the older of the two daughters of Heather Robson Cotten and her husband Sean. She is also the granddaughter of my cousin Paula Tuzzolini. 

In case you haven't seen it yet, here's mom's birthday wishes to Tori on FacebookHappy birthday Victoria aka Tori aka Tori bear! You are beautiful, smart, talented and a great big Sister! You made us parents for the first time and we thank God everyday he picked us to be your parents! Love you sweet girl!

This first picture was taken earlier th
is summer and shows Tori on the left with her mother Heather. Also pictured is Tori's little sister Lexi. Tori and Lexi are the Great Grandchildren of my aunt Victoria Gower Johnston, after whom Tori is named. Great Grandma Vicki, who lives in Chandler, Arizona is one of the senior members of our family.

Happy Birthday Shannon! Tomorrow, July 24, is the birthday of Shannon Wilk, daughter of my late cousin Beverly Russell Wilk. Shannon was born in San Diego, but lives today with daughter Emma in Atchison, Kansas. Happy 43rd birthday to Shannnon! This second picture was taken just a few weeks ago and shows Shannon with her daughter Emma.

Logan J. Shepard Turns 3! Tomorrow is also the birthday of Logan Joseph Shepard of Bothell, Washington. Logan is the older son of my nephew Patrick Shepard and his wife Nicole Haw Shepard, and the first Grandson of my brother Darrell Shepard and his wife Mary. Happy 3rd Birthday to Logan. This final picture shows a smiling Logan in his child seat and was taken earlier this summer.

Austin, Texas - Atchison, Kansas - and Bothell, Washington: The birthday kids this weekend are scattered all over, but they are all within the family and all deserving of our best wishes for wonderful celebrations!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mary Shepard: Civil War Widow, July 22, 2016

Look deep into your heart
and you shall find that it is only 
that which has given you sorrow 
that is giving you joy.
~Khalil Gibran

One of the more fascinating, compelling -- and heartbreaking -- stories in our family tree concerns a woman named Mary Shepard. Not my brother Darrell's wife Mary Medina Shepard. She is the most contemporary "Mary Shepard" in our family. But I am referring today to a different Mary Shepard. This one is my Great Great Grandmother Mary Sprague Shepard.

Here is her lineage:

  • Mary Sprague (1840-1919) married William Shepard (1835-1862);
  • their son William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) married Elvira Owens (1863-1931);
  • their son William Shepard (1888-1876) married Bura Davis (1896-1986);
  • their son Eugene William Shepard (1921-2003) married Maida Gower (b 1924);
  • their son Steven Shepard (b. 1948) married Cindy Shepard (b. 1948),
  • their son Nathan William Shepard (b 1977) married Chenda Sou (b. 1980),
  • their children are Preslea, Logan and William Shepard.

Mary Sprague Shepard was born January 25, 1840 in Montgomery County, Indiana, some 50 miles west of Indianapolis. When barely 20 years old she married a young man 5 years older than her, named William Shepard (the first of several "William Shepards" in our family) on March 11, 1860, also in Montgomery County. Later in 1860 William and Mary moved because of a job opportunity, to Wabash, Indiana, 80 miles north of Indianapolis, where Mary gave birth, in early 1861, to their first child Frank.

In May of 1861 Mary became pregnant with their second child. But before the baby was born, husband William went off to fight in the Union Army. In February, 1862, the very month that Mary's second child William Elmer was born, husband William was injured in battle at Bowling Green, Kentucky, and was sent to a hospital in Evansville, Indiana. There the soldier William languished for 5 long months before he died on July 22, 1862 (154 years ago today), in all likelihood never having seen his second baby boy.

Enough Sorrow and Joy For a Lifetime. So between March 11, 1860 and July 22, 1862 -- a period of just 27 months -- the following occurred in the life of Mary Sprague Shepard: she and William were married, she gave birth to their first child Frank, she got pregnant with their second child, her soldier husband left home for active duty, she gave birth alone to their second child William Elmer, and finally she became a Civil War widow. In just a little over 2 years she experienced enough joy and heartbreak, enough happiness and sorrow, to last her a lifetime. When you take into account that William left for the war in September, 1861, their married life together only lasted 18 months! But what an amazing time it was.

We know almost nothing about Mother Mary after her husband William died, until 1865. That was the year the Civil War finally ended and a new chapter in the life of our nation arrived after incredible destruction, death and sorrow. 1865 was also the year Mary's life changed. On November 12, 1865, back home in Montgomery County, Indiana she married the widower William Ragsdale, a father of 9 children who was 23 years her senior but who provided well for her and her two young boys. Mary and Mr. Ragsdale made a good life together for the next 22 years until he died in 1887 in Ladoga, a farming community of Montgomery County. About 1904 an aging Mary Shepard Ragsdale left the farm and moved into Indianapolis, probably to be near some of her children, and lived there until she died in 1919.

Recent Discovery. The first image (above) is a copy of Mary's death certificate, which I recently found online. Nearly 100 years old, this document fills in a few of the many gaps we have in our knowledge of Great Great Grandmother Mary Ellen Sprague Shepard Ragsdale and her family. It shows she died February 17, 1919 at 79 years old, of Arterio Sclerosis in Indianapolis. It also shows that her father was a native Hoosier, while her mother, whose maiden name was Chapman, was from Kentucky. It also shows that she was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, which I already knew, having visited her grave there in 2011 (see second picture).

2X Great Grandmother Mary only carried the Shepard name from 1860 to 1865, but she remains an outstanding figure in our family history. She is a person whose story needs to be remembered for generations to come, for its pathos and inspiration, and for its direct family connection to a most tragic yet formative time in the history of our nation and our family.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, July 04, 2016

Independence Day! July 4, 2016

 All we have of freedom,
all we use or know --
This our [parents] bought for us
long and long ago.
~Rudyard Kipling

Happy Independence Day to everyone! I hope the holiday is a fun filled one for you and your family.

Happy Birthday Desiree. Wednesday of this week, July 6, is the birthday of Desiree Ortiz, wife of Jeremy Ortiz who lives in El Cajon, California. Jeremy is one of the Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard.

The first picture is a selfie and shows lovely Desiree with some friends and was taken just two weeks ago.

Birthday Wishes to Nate. Thursday of this week, July 7, is the birthday of Nate Sauvage. He, his brother Kyle and parents James and Kelly live in Weatherford, Texas. He is one of the Great Great Grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Gower, as well as William and Bura Davis Shepard. He is also a grandson of my brother Gary Shepard. 

The second picture was taken just a few months ago and shows Nate in a hoodie with his brother Kyle.

Happy Anniversary.This Thursday is the 2nd Wedding Anniversary of my cousin Joan Shepard and Dee Shannon of Dixon, California. Joan is one of the Grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard. With the last name of Shannon, one would think Dee might be related to Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower, but as yet we have found no direct historical connection. But the search continues, even though Dee has now married into our family. Best wishes to Joan and Dee for a very happy anniversary!

Remembering Elvira Owens Shepard (1863-1931). The first day of this month was the anniversary of the birth of Elvira Owens Shepard. Great Grandmother Elvira was from Madison County, Illinois an area little known to most of us. My guess is that there only a few of the readers of this blog can even locate Madison County, Illinois on a map. Am I right?

But you can rest assured that Madison County figures quite prominently into the history of our family, especially the history of our Shepard and Owens relatives. It is just across the Mississippi River from Saint Louis, Missouri. My Grandfather William Shepard was born in that county, in the small riverside community of Alton. Grandad's mother Elvira was born in the Eastern part of the county, in the small farming town of New Douglas, Illinois.

She was born on the first day of July, 153 years ago, during the darkest days of the American Civil War. That conflict was still in full swing when she was born just 3 days before the Independence day holiday. The war must have put quite a damper on the County's celebration, and her family's celebration of her arrival. She was the 8th child of Madison County native Mary Wheeless (1825-1871) and long time citizen Payton Owens (1826-1872), who were established residents of the area, and owners of at least 160 acres of farm land.

When the young woman Elvira met the young wanderer William Elmer in Madison County in the mid 1880s, it was the coming together of two very diverse individuals. Elvira was from an established, even prominent, family in this part of Western Illinois, while William Elmer was a new comer to the area without a family member anywhere near. He was a fatherless vagabond from Montgomery County, Indiana, his father having died in the Civil War. Feeling unwanted and mistreated, he had abandoned his mother's new family and struck out on his own as a teenager. He landed in Madison County, fell in love with local girl Elvira and his luck suddenly changed forever.

They were married in September, 1886 and made a good life for themselves for the next 20 years in Madison County, where they raised their two children, William, born in 1888, and Sadie Shepard, born in 1892. About 1905, William and Elvira decided to move westward. Saint Louis, just across the river, was after all the "Gateway to the West." The famous Gateway Arch wouldn't be built for another 60 years, but had it stood in their time they may have had a view of it from their front porch. 

Perhaps the wanderer William Elmer was feeling the need to move on once again, or perhaps it was simply the lure of the open west that drew the entire family. For whatever reason they moved to the land of opportunity, some 700 miles away in the panhandle of Oklahoma, where they settled for the rest of William and Elvira's lives. She is buried in Beaver County's Sophia Cemetery, next to William Elmer and her second, late-in-life, husband Cal Williams.

Elvira and William Elmer's move in '05 to Oklahoma turned out to be a good one for them, but the direction of both their lives was determined by their experiences in Madison County, Illinois, where they left many family members when they moved, and where some of their kinfolk live to this day.

The black and white image above was taken in Oklahoma probably in the 1920s (after William Elmer's death), and shows a smiling Elvira (second from left, in her 60s at the time) with several family members. Among the others in this picture are her daughter-in-law Bura Davis Shepard (to the right of Elvira), her son (my grandfather) William Shepard (second from the right in the overalls), and Elvira's second husband Cal Williams (far right in the Stetson). This is quite a period piece, with the photographer shooting through a confining wire fence, and a patch of barren Oklahoma landscape in the foreground. Elvira seems to be the only one smiling, while the appearances, barefootedness and plain dress of the others suggest hard work and common farming folk in difficult times. What we can see of the house indicates a fairly nice home for a farming family in the panhandle in the 1920s. Could it have been the home of Cal Williams, a man of some means, who married the widow Elvira?

- - -
Steve Shepard