Thursday, April 27, 2017

Important Memories, April 27, 2017

Families are made in the heart.
~C. Joybell C.

Three very memorable celebrations in our family occur this week.

Beverly Russell Wilk. Today, April 27, is the 78th anniversary of the birth of Beverly Russell Wilk, my cousin who died in 1974 of a brain aneurysm at just 35 years old. Born in Two Buttes, Colorado in 1939. Bev was just a year old when her family moved from Colorado to San Diego in 1940. Her parents Bill Russell and Pauline Shepard Russell, and her grandparents William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard with their children, were the first members of our family to move to San Diego.

Ever since 1940 -- 77 years ago -- some descendants of Will and Bura Shepard have lived in San Diego. As best I can tell, that is longer than any place that our Shepard ancestors have lived.

Tomorrow, April 28, is the birthday of my father Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) and my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004).

The first picture I am including today shows my dad Gene Shepard with his niece Beverly Russell Wilk in the 1950s, alongside the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ in San Diego, which was the family's church at the time.

Dad was born in 1921 in rural Logan in Beaver County, Oklahoma, the third of the four children of William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard. Just before World War II he and his family moved to San Diego, where he lived the longest part of his life, nearly 40 years. In 1978 he and wife Maida retired to Anacortes, Washington where they made their home until his death in 2003.

Gene and his mother-in-law Nola Shannon Gower were born on the same day of the year, 18 years apart. Interestingly, the other birthday person this week, Beverly Russell Wilk, was born 18 years after my dad Eugene, almost to the day.

Nola Shannon Gower was born April 28, 1903, the last of the 9 children of Sam and Finetta Shannon. In 1925 she and husband Leroy Gower moved to Okemah, Oklahoma. Then in 1942 they moved with their three children to San Diego, just two years after the Shepards had also moved to San Diego from Oklahoma. It wasn't until the Shepards and the Gowers had settled in California that they met each other. That occurred in 1943 when my mom and dad, Maida Gower and Gene Shepard, met each other and were married in 1945.

The second picture was taken in 1962 at the Gower home on Lynne Street in East San Diego. From left to right are Leroy and Nola Gower, Maida (holding son Russell) and Eugene Shepard. In front is Starlene Gower next to Barbara and Darrell Shepard.

This week of the birthdays of these three -- Beverly Wilk, Gene Shepard, and Nola Gower -- is a time to celebrate three well loved and much respected people in our family tree. I am thankful for the life and family legacy of all three of them.

In a special way, I celebrate my father and my grandmother today in the very place they spent the last years of their lives. At the Shepard home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Spencer Connection, April 24, 2017

The family --
that dear octopus
from whose tentacles
we never quite escape,
nor ever quite wish to.
~Dodie Smith

Greetings to all of you, family and friends! The Shepard's Crook is coming to you today from Anacortes, Washington where I happen to be this week while visiting family here. In particular I am catching up with my siblings Gary and Barbara, and my mom Maida Shepard, the senior member of our Shepard clan.

I received an email recently from my cousin Kim Boyd Clark who said that she and her husband Jeff visited Spencer, Indiana last weekend with her mother Thelma Shepard Boyd. They were there ostensibly to do some shopping, but they also chose to make it something of a genealogical trek. 

I am reminded of how important that little town is in the history of our family, in particular the Davis part of our family. My grandmother Bura Davis Shepard was born there in 1896 and lived there for the first 16 years of her life until her family moved to Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1913. Her Davis family had been settled in Indiana since about 1850 when her Great Grandparents Alexander and Jane Davis migrated from Monroe County, Ohio to Morgan County, Indiana.

Thelma Boyd, Kim Clark
When Kim, Jeff and Thelma visited Spencer recently, they went to the New Union Cemetery just outside Spencer. That Cemetery is next to the location where the New Union Church of Christ once stood, the home church for dozens of our Davis and Spear kinfolk in the second half of the 19th century. Indeed some of our kinfolk were members of that congregation until 1957 when the church finally closed its doors.

The first picture shows Thelma and Kim in the New Union Cemetery at the grave of Alexander Davis and his daughter Elizabeth Davis Carter. Six years ago several of you who are readers of this blog shared in an effort to replace the 144 year old headstones for Alexander and Elizabeth. The remnants of those headstones are on either side of Thelma and Kim. Select this link to read more about the new headstones.

This picture also shows that headstone that honors Alexander and Elizabeth Davis, who were among our first ancestors in Morgan County, Indiana and among the founding members of the New Union Church.

Many thanks to Thelma, Kim and Jeff for sharing this picture of their visit to Spencer and being a reminder of how important this little town is to the history of our family.

Bud Davis and sisters
Speaking of Davis kinfolk, I also heard recently from Bud Davis, a first cousin of my late father Gene Shepard. Bud's father Jesse Davis was the brother of my Grandmother Bura Davis. Bud recently posted on Facebook a picture of him and his 4 sisters. There was a fifth sister, Becky Davis, who passed away a few years ago.

Bud identified his sisters for me: Front row, left to right, are Jessie Bushong, Charlotte Taylor, and Nordeen Cochran.  Kathy Villanueva is in the back with Bud. All the sisters live in Bartlesville, Oklahoma except Nordeen who lives in Spearman, Texas.

Thanks so much to Bud for this picture. Select this link to view a wonderful Davis family video that Bud put together recently which includes a number of historic images.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, April 10, 2017

Happy Sibling's Day! April 10, 2017

Siblings are the people we practice on,
the people who teach us about fairness
and cooperation and kindness and caring, 
quite often the hard way.
~Pamela Dugdale

Today is Sibling's Day. Sibling relationships are usually the longest relationships a person will have in their entire life, often longer than the relationship a person will share with either of their parents. My relationship with my older brother Gary has lasted the entire 68 years of my life. And when it is all said and done that relationship will probably be the longest lasting relationship of my life.

I am grateful for the siblings with whom I have shared life for all these many years. This first picture shows me and my 4 sibings in a photo from 1983. From left to right are Barbara, Russell, Darrell, me and Gary. This picture was taken in front of our parents' home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes. 

With my mother's advancing age and growing health concerns, the past year has been more difficult that any other in the life of my siblings and me. The challenges have been many as we have made our way through the struggles that have resulted from our mother's advanced years and the need to care for her in the best way possible. It has drawn us together, but it has also tested our mettle as siblings. Through it all I remain humbly grateful for the brothers and sisters I have been blessed with.

Jerry Clark. I am also grateful today for Jerry Clark of Lubbock, Texas. For one short year long ago, he was married to my late sister Linda (1950-1971). But for 46 years now he has remained a brother in heart within our family. Last Saturday was the 11th anniversary of Jerry and his wife Cathrina Clark. Best wishes and "Happy Anniversary!" to both of them.

Rachel Shepard. Happy 30th Birthday this Friday to my niece Rachel Shepard of Bothell, Washington! Rachel is the daughter of my sibling #3, Darrell Shepard and his wife Mary. This second picture taken a few months ago, shows Rachel with her son Kellan.

A Fascinating Pair of Siblings. One of the most interesting pairs of siblings in our family was William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) and his brother Frank J. Shepherd (1860-1950). They were the only children of our Great Great Grandparents William and Mary (Sprague) Shepherd. 

The father of these siblings, William Shepherd, died in the Civil War in 1862 when Frank was just 1 1/2 years old and the younger William was just 5 months old. Mary Shepherd, after just 3 years of widowhood, married a fellow by the name of William Ragsdale, in Montgomery County, Indiana where she had been raised. 

The only problem was the widower Ragsdale already had 9 children, which meant that suddenly brothers Frank and William had to share their mother with their 9 new step brothers and sisters. Their mother Mary then gave Mr. Ragsdale 3 more children, increasing the new blended family to a whopping 14 kids.

The following graphic is a snippet from the 1880 U.S. Census which lists siblings Frank and William Shepherd as step-sons in the household of William and Mary Ragsdale. It also lists 6 of the 12 step-siblings of Frank and William. 

Frank seemed to do pretty well growing up in this new living arrangement, but young William didn't. About 1880, when he was an older teen, he had had enough of his family -- his mother, his one biological brother, his 12 step siblings, his step-father, all of them -- and he left home in anger, never to see them again. We don't know what exactly caused him to leave. One family story has it that young William and his step father simply could not get along. So before they even reached adulthood, the brothers Frank and William were separated, at William's initiative, and were never reunited. 

Frank ended up settling in Marshall County in Northeast Indiana, where he became a long time US Mail Carrier, and died in 1950. William Elmer went to Illinois, where he married Elvira Owen and with her had two children, William (my Grandfather) and Sadie. In 1905, with his new family, William Elmer moved on to Beaver County, Oklahoma where he lived the rest of his life. He died in 1915 and is buried in Beaver County's Sophia Cemetery.

For some reason, as the years went by, Frank used the spelling "Shepherd" for his last name, while his brother William used the spelling "Shepard." Why would these two brothers -- children of the same parents, who grew up together -- choose different spellings for their last name?

It's a very curious question that may never be answered. The fact of the matter is that Shepard and Shepherd were commonly used variations of their last name. In the mid 19th century attention to correct spelling was simply not as common as it is today. The Civil War record of the father of Frank and William shows his last name as Shepard, but on the same form it lists Shepherd as a possible alternate. And remember this: from the time they were babies Frank and William were the only ones in their entire family who had the last name Shepard or Shepherd. Even their mother Mary used her second husband's last name Ragsdale for the rest of her life. 

The time came in each of the boys' life when they had to choose for themselves how they wanted to spell their last name. It is possible that young William Elmer, when he angrily left his family, deliberately chose the spelling "Shepard" as a way of distinguishing himself from his Indiana kinfolk, and in particular his brother Frank. What we know for sure is that Frank consistently used the spelling "Shepherd" for the rest of his life, while his brother William consistently used the spelling "Shepard". The latter is, of course, the way the last 6 generations have consistently spelled our last name, ever since 1880 when young William separated from his family in Indiana.

Frank and William's curious story is filled with adversity and sadness but also hope. They were a unique pair of siblings in our family and are worth remembering on this "Siblings Day 2017."
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Day The Lord Created Hope, April 3, 2017

The day the Lord created hope
was probably the same day
he created Spring.
~Bernard Williams

Nathan Shepard's Birthday. Today, April 3, is the birthday of our son Nathan Shepard, who was born in San Diego on this day 40 years ago! He lives today in San Diego and works for Wells Fargo Bank. He is the father of Preslea, Logan and William. 

For Nate's birthday this year I decided to do something a little different photo-wise. Since daughter Preslea's birthday was just 8 days ago, the above YouTube photo presentation consists entirely of pictures of Nathan and Preslea, which span the last 7 years. Best wishes to Nathan for a very happy birthday!

Happy Birthday Ciara! Tomorrow, April 4 is the birthday of Ciara Ortiz. Ciara is the oldest of the 5 children of Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz of El Cajon, California. She is also the oldest grandchild of my cousin Kim Boyd Clark who lives with husband Jeff in Grain Valley, Missouri.

This second picture was taken several months ago and shows birthday girl Ciara Ortiz on the right with her younger sister Ashlyn. Best wishes for a very happy 15th birthday to Ciara and her entire family as they celebrate with her!

Birthday wishes to Jimmie Gower. April 4 is also the birthday of my cousin Jimmie Gower. I have not been in touch with Jimmie much in recent years but I did have a conversation with him not long ago. He and his wife Cheryl are doing well and still happily retired in Fort Mojave, Arizona on the Colorado River, not far from his older brother Hershell Gower who lives in nearby Bullhead City. Jim was born in San Diego in 1944 and was raised here. He is the second of the 12 grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Best wishes to Jim for a very happy birthday.
- - -
Steve Shepard