Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Best Is Yet to Come, March 23, 2017

Forget the past;
look forward to the future,
for the best things are yet to come.

Happy Birthday to my brother Gary Shepard of Oak Harbor, Washington. Born in 1946, Gary is the first of the 6 children of Maida and Eugene Shepard. He was born and raised in San Diego and lived there until 2003 when he and his wife Cindy moved to Western Washington to be near our aging parents. Today Gary and Cindy live in Oak Harbor, Washington. He is one of the primary care givers for our mother Maida Shepard who lives in nearby Anacortes.

The first picture above was taken last week when I was in Washington visiting Mom and our family there. This particular photo was taken on the deck of Mom's house on Wildwood Lane, during a break in the spring rains we were having. Our mother Maida Shepard is on the left with three of her children: Gary, Barbara and me. Gary and Barbara are especially helpful in caring for mom at home these days.

Gary is the third of the 12 Grandchildren of our Grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Interestingly he is also the third of the 12 Grandchildren of our other Grandparents William and Bura Davis Shepard.

The second picture is an oldie, taken in San Diego in 1980, 27 years ago. It shows Gary on the left, his wife Cindy on the right, and his Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower in the middle. This picture was taken at Grandma Gower's home on Lynne Street in East San Diego. She was 77 years old at the time, just a few years older than Gary is now.

Best wishes to Gary for a very happy birthday!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!, March 17, 2017

May you have the hindsight to know where you've been,
The foresight to know where you are going,
And the insight to know when you have gone too far.
~Old Irish Blessing

Happy Saint Patrick's Day Today! Best wishes to those of you of Irish descent, which includes most who are in our family tree. The Irishness of us Shepards and Gowers is one of the best things about us!

Happy Birthday to Kaylan! Birthday wishes go out this Sunday, March 19, to Kaylan Shepard who turns 18 this month! Her picture is on the right. With her auburn hair, green coat and beautiful smile, she looks very Irish and could be our family's poster person for Saint Patrick's Day! 

Kaylan is the daughter of my cousin Dane Shepard and his wife Cindy of Blanchard, Oklahoma. Born in California in 1999, Kaylan has spent most of her life in Oklahoma. She is the last of the 21 Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard.

Finetta Dearien Shannon. One of the most important family strains of Irish descendants in our family tree is the lineage belonging to my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). I have written about Grandma Gower's celtic ancestry numerous times in this blog, including herehere and here.

Grandma Gower's mother Finetta Dearien Shannon was a native Arkansan who experienced a difficult past that has been remembered through the years and is still remembered today because it was so troubling. In view of the conflict we have been having in our family these days, it might be helpful to take a detailed look at this part of our family history. 

My Great Grandmother Finetta Dearien Shannon (1861-1960) was born 156 years ago this week. She was the child of Augustus Marvin Dearien and Mr. Dearien's own step-daughter, a teenager named Roena Norton. Finetta's father Augustus Dearien compounded his grave error by causing the disappearance of his step-daughter Roena after she had given birth to his child. 

Sam Shannon and Finetta Dearien Shannon

We don't know exactly what became of Roena. Not long after Finetta was born, Roena simply disappeared, never to be heard from again. One family legend has it that her step-father caused her death in some famous local caves, probably the nearby Blanchard Springs Caverns. Another legend says that she was simply taken away never to return. In recent years I have tried to locate Roena in the genealogical records available to me from the mid 19th century, but to no avail. 

Roena's daughter Finetta was raised by her Grandmother Elizabeth Mitchell Dearien and her unscrupulous father Augustus Dearien. It was an unpleasant situation that caused a great amount of contention, heartache and conflict and was one of the most embarrassing domestic developments ever in our family. 

The US Census records for the period from 1830 to 1880 tell an interesting story about Finetta and her incestuous father Augustus Dearien.

The 1830 US Census shows the family of 16 year old Augustus Dearien living in Virginia, in a household that reported owning 4 slaves. It may have been in that household that the teenager Augustus Dearien learned that some people were not to be valued, but were simply to serve the needs of the head of the household.

The 1860 US Census (taken 9 months before Finetta was born) lists Augustus and Elizabeth Dearien and their family living in Richwoods Township, Stone County, Arkansas. The child Roena J. is listed as being 20 years old (which may have been inaccurate). The Census was taken in September, 1860, just about the time Roena became pregnant with Finetta.

snippet from the 1870 U.S. Census

The 1870 US Census (a snippet from which is seen above) indicates that the Deariens were living in Sylamore Township in Stone County, Arkansas at the time. One of the children of this family is named "Mitchell Dearien" and was 8 years old, which would have been Finetta's age. This may be a reference to Finetta. The other family members are listed with their ages. Could it be the family gave 8 year old Finetta the name "Mitchell"? Mitchell was Finetta's Grandmother's maiden name, and was the last name given to Finetta in the 1880 Census, 10 years later (see next paragraph). 

snippet from the 1880 U.S. Census

The 1880 US Census (a snippet from which is seen above) shows the Deariens still living in Sylamore Township in Stone County, Arkansas. This listing only shows father Augustus M., mother Lucinda, and one child, 18 year old "Vinettie Mitchel." Vinettie is surely a reference to Finetta, whose grandmother's maiden name was Mitchell. The information given to the Census taker was that this 18 year old was not one of the children but was simply a "boarder." Finetta is not even afforded the privilege of being a member of the family!

It is a sordid and tragic story that comes together when looking at the history of Finetta and her incestuous father. It was a situation that made for conflict, unhappiness and embarrassment, much of which has continued through the years. But the good news is that the ill-born Finetta went on to make a good life for herself with husband Sam Shannon, in the very community where she was born and raised. The last of the 9 children born to Finetta and Sam was my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. 

This historical survey in the last few posts of conflicts in our family has been interesting to say the least. Whether it helps in dealing with our present squabble remains to be seen. If nothing else it reminds us that we are all too human and susceptible to dissension. The fact of the matter is that conflicts sometime come our way, the important thing is how we choose to deal with them.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, March 10, 2017

An Inheritance Dispute, March 11, 2017

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
~Albert Einstein

Birthday Wishes to Steve and Russ! Happy Birthday this coming Monday to my brother Russell Shepard and his son Steven Paul Shepard who were born on the same day of the year, March 13. Russ turns 55 and Steven turns 27 on Monday. Russ is originally from San Diego, while Steven Paul was born in Anacortes, Washington, which is where they both live today.

This first picture takes us back a few years. It was taken in the year 2000 and shows my brother Russ on the left next to his son Steven Paul at just 10 years old. On the right is Russ' father Eugene Shepard.

Happy Birthday Jerry! This coming Tuesday, March 14 is the birthday of Jerry Clark. Jerry and his wife Cathrina live in Lubbock, Texas. Jerry has been a part of our Shepard family ever since he and my sister Linda Shepard were married in 1970 when they were students at Lubbock Christian University. 

This second picture shows Jerry Clark with Linda on the left in August, 1970 when they were married. On the right is my wife Cindy and me. This picture was taken in San Diego in front of the Shepard family home on Armstrong Street.

An Inheritance Dispute. In my last post I made reference to a family dispute that occurred among our Shepard kinfolk some 140 years ago. Central to that particular crisis was my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard. It was that same William Elmer Shepard who is tied to another conflicted time in our family several decades later, a squabble that has some surprisingly similarities to the problems we are encountering today. 

When William Elmer died in Oklahoma in 1915 after almost 30 years of marriage, his wife Elvira Owens Shepard (1865-1931) was just 49 years old and still had a lot of living to do. After just 3 years of widowhood, she married Calvin Williams, a handsome young neighbor in their farming community of Logan, Oklahoma. Cal was 17 years younger than Elvira, and just 6 years older than Elvira's SON William Shepard. 

Cal's family had come from Missouri around the turn of the 20th century and settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma and the county immediately to the south, Lipscomb County, Texas. Cal was a bit unusual. As a single man he farmed a parcel of land in Logan Township within Beaver County and made a good living for himself. He was a member of the South Flat Church of Christ in nearby Elmwood which was where he met the Shepard family, including Elvira. It was Cal's first marriage, when in 1918 at 37 years old he tied the knot with the widow Elvira, who was a 54 year old grandmother of 4 at the time.

Elvira spent the last 13 years of her life with Cal Williams. She died in 1931 at 66 years old when Cal was just 49. I have always found it a little odd that when Cal buried his wife Elvira he gave her a beautiful headstone, but he misspelled her first name, spelling it Alvira rather than Elvira. Click here to see a picture of her headstone. Interestingly, less than two years after Elvira's death, he married yet another older widow, Francis Pearl Huffman Phinney, and spent the rest of his life with her.

When it came time to settle Elvira's estate there was a question over who should inherit her property, her children William Shepard and Sadie Shepard Pruett who had lived on and worked the farm with their parents for many years, or Cal Williams, who had met and married her later in life. 

With this post is a picture, taken in Oklahoma in 1930, that shows what appears to be a happy Shepard and Davis family gathering, with the dapper Cal Williams on the far right, and his smiling wife Elvira Owens Shepard Williams the second from the left. Others pictured here include Elvira's son William Shepard, his wife Bura Davis Shepard, and other members of the Davis family.

Within a year or so of this picture being taken, Elvira died and the family splintered over the inheritance issue. It became a contentious and drawn out conflict, which was not settled until 1937, 6 years after Elvira's death, by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. They ended up ruling in favor of her second husband, the dapper Cal Williams. Clearly this did not settle well with her children William Shepard and Sadie Shepard Pruett who had initiated the lawsuit in the first place. (Click here for a website that details that historic case.) To them it must have appeared that Cal Williams took advantage of their older mother Elvira by marrying her simply to get her property.  

Some 50 years later, when my dad told me this story, it was still a matter than bothered him and caused him some consternation. It was yet one more family squabble that has been remembered for generations. It reminds us that conflict is nothing new in our family, even if the pain and disappointment seem to be novel and unique. Will we learn from our family's history or keep allowing family squabbles to take their toll? 

- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, March 03, 2017

The Runaway, March 2, 2017

Peace is not absence of conflict,
it is the ability to handle conflict
by peaceful means.
~Ronald Reagan

Happy Birthday Kerri! Today is the birthday of Kerri Shepard Aquiningoc of Weatherford, Texas. Kerri is the oldest child of my brother Gary Shepard and Jackie Enderle Perry. Kerri was the first grandchild of my parents Eugene and Maida Shepard. I still remember what a joy it was for my parents when Kerri was born. She actually came into the world in Walled Lake, Michigan where her parents were living at the time. But within months they moved back to San Diego where Kerri was raised. Kerri has two daughters, Lyndsey and Mandi, and two grandchildren, Kambree and Karver. Best wishes to Kerri as she enters the last year of her 40s! 

Lyndsey and Kerri Aquiningoc
The first picture shows Kerri Aquiningoc with her older daughter Lyndsey.

We've been having an unsettling family squabble in the Northwestern part of the family these days. As a result I have been thinking about other times when there was conflict in our family. In my lifetime we have been, for the most part, free from the kind of conflict that is troubling us today. And for that we can be grateful. But looking at the larger historical picture of our family there have been some doozies over the years when it come to squabbles in our midst. 

The Runaway William Elmer. We have clear evidence of a serious family conflict that took place over a century ago, during the years following the Civil War. It was more painful and destructive of our Shepard family back then than what we are dealing with now. 

My Great Great Grandfather William Shepard died in the Civil War in 1862, leaving a grief stricken wife Mary Shepard, and two young sons, Frank and William Elmer, both in diapers. Just three years later the widow Mary married a widower living in Montgomery County, Indiana. Her second husband was William Ragsdale, who was 23 older than her, and already had 9 children. Into that family Mary brought her two young sons who were just 3 and 4 years old. In the ensuing years she gave birth to three more children by Mr. Ragsdale. Frank and William Elmer Shepard were raised in the household of this blended family, but when they became teens conflict arose. Before even reaching adulthood William Elmer ran away from home never to return. 

We don't know the details of the problems that lead to William Elmer breaking the family apart. We do know that it was a difficult time socially and economically in the rebuilding years following the Civil War. We also know that it was challenging family to begin with: 14 total children from two different marriages, spread out over 35 years. Frank and William Elmer were the only two of those 14 who were not fathered by Mr. Ragsdale and therefore did not have his name. The grieving widow Mary Shepard was alone with her two baby sons after her husband died. When she married Mr. Ragsdale she was suddenly the mother of 9 other children, and in the following years she was pregnant three more times. Imagine the stress of that blended family situation! It must have been incredibly intense and difficult for her.

Bura and William Shepard, William Elmer's son

The family story my father told me was that William Elmer could not get along with his step father and felt the need to leave and stay away for the rest of his life. It is interesting to note that the teen William Elmer also had his differences with his own brother Frank, who chose the spelling "Shepherd" for his last name, while William Elmer chose the spelling "Shepard", which we all have unquestioningly used ever since the young man William Elmer separated from his Indiana family.

Mary Shepard Ragsdale outlived her runaway son William Elmer Shepard, who died in Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1915 at just 53 years old. She died in 1919 at 79 years old, in Indianapolis, Indiana where she lived the last 20 years of her life. Tragically there is no evidence they ever reunited after their separation in about 1880.

Family squabbles can lead to great heartbreak that lasts for many years. The fact of the matter is that families have long memories. Serious conflict is remembered for generations because of how much pain it brings. Here I am, almost 140 years later, recalling a conflicted family incident from the 19th century! Memories of this painful incident have been passed down all these years. 

Will we ever learn?

- - -
Steve Shepard