Thursday, November 10, 2016

Remembering Bura Davis Shepard, November 10, 2016

How important it is
for us to recognize and celebrate
our heroes and she-roes!
~Maya Angelou

Veteran's Day. Tomorrow is Veteran's Day, an opportunity to honor all those who have served our country in military service. We have many folks in our extended families who deserve our appreciation on this day. Thanks to all of them for the many various ways they have served: men and women, Davises and Shepards, Shannons and Gowers, and many others. Your commitment to our country blesses our family. 

Remembering Bura Shepard. Tuesday of this week was the 120th anniversary of the birth of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). Born in Indiana in 1896, she and her family, in the spring of 1913, left Owen County, Indiana and migrated westward. They settled in the panhandle of Oklahoma, where, within just two years, Bura met and married William Shepard, my grandfather.

100 years ago this fall, William and Bura were a young couple living in Beaver County. They were still adjusting to married life in a rural setting, having celebrated their first wedding anniversary on June 2, 1916.

Bura Davis (Shepard)
Will and Bura's first child arrived in late December, which meant that for most of 1916, 19 year old Bura was pregnant. She had moved to Oklahoma just 3 years earlier, and now as a young pregnant housewife, had to endure the heat of a dusty Oklahoma summer, the physical demands of a young farming couple, the difficulties of adjusting to being married, and much more. Even though there were a number of other Shepard and Davis family members in Beaver County, life for Will and Bura, out in the Oklahoma countryside, must have felt very lonely at times, especially when transportation was primarily by foot, horseback or a horse drawn wagon.

Bura, the oldest of 7 children, was from a large and robust family which was an integral part of her identity. In the fall of 1916 Will's parents, William Elmer and Elvira Shepard, lived elsewhere in Beaver County, as did Bura's parents, James and Callie Davis. In the household of the elder Davises lived Bura's 6 younger siblings, who ranged in age from 8 to 18 years old. The teen bride Bura was no longer in the middle of that happy and vibrant family circle. Instead she and her new husband were on their own and sought to make their own way in life.

When Bura's 20th birthday arrived on November 8, 1916, she was just weeks away from bringing into the world a baby girl they would name Pauline, the first Shepard child of the next generation, and the first of Will and Bura's 4 children.

The 1920 U.S. census shows that Will and Bura Shepard were living in Logan Township within Beaver County, in the very Southeastern corner of the Oklahoma panhandle, walking distance from the Texas state border. They were 35 miles southeast of the small town of Beaver, the county seat. According to the 1920 Census, none of their family were living in the immediate area where they resided and where they worked their small family farm. They were 15 miles on a dirt road from the South Flat Church of Christ, to which they and other family members belonged, and which was a major source of social contact. Being pregnant on the Oklahoma frontier, removed from family and friends most of the time, must have been very difficult.

A Few Historical Notes: In 1916 nearly 14,000 people lived in Beaver County, more than had ever lived in that county before that time, or since. It was a unique time of significant growth for this part of the state, known as the Cherokee Strip. The growth was a result of the historic land rush of 1893, when upwards of 100,000 people participated in a run to claim land. 1916 was the height of the population growth for Beaver County. Today the population is less than half what it was when Will and Bura lived there.

November 7, 1916, the day before Bura's 20th birthday, was election day in the U.S. with Democratic incumbent Woodrow Wilson elected president for a second term. It was the last day that Bura was 19 years old, but she was not allowed to vote, even if she had wanted to. The Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote, did not become a part of the U.S. Constitution until the summer of 1920. 

Art Colgain, Havilah Wardle
Bura likely voted in that 1920 election, the first one open to women voters, making her one of the first women ever in our family to vote in a Presidential election. It would have been an incongruous distinction for Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard, who was a soft spoken, but devout woman, who shied away from accolades and was most comfortable living humbly away from the spotlight.

Two other family milestones this week. This past Monday, one of William and Bura Shepard's Great Grandchildren, Havilah Colgain Wardle, celebrated her 34th birthday. Congratulations and best wishes to Havilah who along with husband Kevin, lives in the Salt Lake City area. She is the daughter of my cousin Joan Shepard of Dixon, California, and Art Colgain of the Salt Lake City area. This second picture shows Havilah with her dad in a photo taken back on Father's Day.

Russ Shepard, Shaun Gower
Happy Birthday on Tuesday of this week to Shaun Gower, who with his wife Tracy, lives in Escondido, California. Born in England in 1967 when his father was in the service, Shaun is the son of my cousin Hershell Gower, and the youngest Great Grandchild of my grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Shaun is one of the few descendants of my Gower grandparents who still lives in the San Diego area.

This last picture, taken in 1990, shows Shaun Gower (on the right) with his cousin Russ Shepard at Lake Erie, near the home of my parents Maida and Eugene Shepard of Anacortes, Washington.
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Steve Shepard

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