Sunday, June 25, 2017

My Gower Grandfather, June 25, 2017

I have a lot of great memories,
but I can't imagine anything more exciting
than the life I live now.
~Rob Lowe

This month of June is the month of Father's Day, and brings to my mind a few important fellows in our family.

My Gower Grandfather. I am thinking first of all of my grandfather Leroy Ertin Gower (1899-1974), who was born in Timbo, Arkansas, 118 years ago today. Of my four grandparents, he died the youngest at age 75. He was a stern fellow who made a huge change in his life when he and his wife Nola moved from the little town of Okemah, Oklahoma to the city of San Diego, California in 1942. He was born and spent the first 25 years of his life in the hills of northern Arkansas, which was also the home of his wife Nola Shannon, and was where they were married in 1921.

Leroy M. "Babe" Gower and Daughter Vergie
He was named after his uncle Leroy Monroe "Babe" Gower who lived next door to his parents when Leroy was born, in the community of Sylamore, a few miles west of Mountain View, Arkansas. This first picture from about 1940, shows Leroy's namesake, his uncle Leroy "Babe" Gower, and Babe's special needs daughter Vergie Gower.

Leroy's oldest brother Alford Gower died at just 4 months old, 5 years before Leroy was born. The second child of the family, Leroy's older brother Lloyd W. Gower, died at just 18 years old in WWI when Leroy was just 15. Combine those experiences with the difficulty of making a living on the family farm in the early 20th century in Northern Arkansas, and you get an early life for Leroy that was hard and trying. It explains a lot about his stern demeanor, his serious approach to life and his simple lifestyle.

Leroy Ertin Gower
In the 1910 US Census, as a child of 10 years, Leroy was listed as a "farm laborer" and a "wage earner." He was also listed as "able to read and write," so it appears he had attended school for some (probably short) period of time in his early life. Even so, his life as a laborer and wage earner defined him from the time he was a boy. This second picture shows my grandfather Leroy Gower in work overalls (appropriately enough) probably in the 1930s.

When the family did move to California, Leroy came first in the summer of 1942, with son Hank and his young wife Starlene. Leroy had to come first to get work and be a wage earner before wife Nola and daughters Maida and Vicki could come to San Diego, which they did in December of that year.

The Gowers had been small time farmers in Stone County, Arkansas for several generations. Making the switch to life in Southern California was obviously a big change for them, a "sea change" in how they saw the world and approached life. Leroy and Nola did have their Baptist church connection which was one familiar thing for them during their transition to life in the city. There were some tough times as they settled into life in Southern California. A few years after they moved to San Diego their 15 year old daughter got pregnant, then became a teenage bride, an incident that created great strain on the family. But through it all they endured as Leroy and Nola made a good life for themselves on Lynne Street in what was then called East San Diego.

Leroy has a rich Gower heritage that stretches back nearly 4 centuries in North America. I have discovered that finding family links that reach into the early 19th century and occasionally into the 18th century is not difficult. My grandfather Gower's lineage, however, can be traced back to the early 17th century in Colonial America.

A key person in his lineage was Abell Gower (1640-1689), the first of our Gower ancestors to be born on American soil. Born in 1640 in the town of Henrico, Virginia near Richmond, he is the earliest American birth among all our known ancestors.

The year 1640 was 135 years prior to the Revolutionary War, long before the declaration of Independence and the creation of "The United States." In 1640 the total population of Colonial America was only 26,600. (1,500 times that number of people live today in California alone!)

He is described in The Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography (page 245) this way: "Gower, Abell was a justice of Henrico County, Virginia from 1679 till his death in 1689; sheriff in 1681, and a member of the house of burgesses in 1679. He married Jane, daughter of Edward Hatcher, of Henrico. He appears to have been a son of Abell Gower of Boulton, county Gloucester, England, esquire."

I am thankful for the life of my grandfather Leroy Gower and the rich and wonderful heritage we can claim because of him.

Joe Paul Harris (1950-2009). I am also thinking this month of my wife Cindy's brother Joe Paul Harris, who was born June 23, 1950. He spent his early life in San Diego before moving to Naknek, Alaska where he lived for about 20 years until he died in June, 2009. 

The accompanying picture shows Joe Paul at Christmas 2008 in San Diego, standing behind his mother Paula Harris, with his aunt Juanita Eeds on the left. His sister Cindy Shepard and nephew Nathan Shepard are on the right.

Kyle Sauvage. One other important June birthday to mention today: Kyle Sauvage, who will turn 12 years old tomorrow, June 26. Kyle is the younger son of James and Kelly Shepard Sauvage, and the grandson of Jackie Perry and my brother Gary Shepard. James lives with his parents and his brother Nate in Weatherford, Texas. 

This final picture, taken in March, shows Kyle Sauvage while at spring training in Arizona with a ball signed by San Diego Padres' Will Myers.
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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Plethora of Williamses, June 14, 2017

Life yields only to be conqueror. 
Never accept what can be gained by giving in. 
~William the Conqueror

Mandi and daughter Kambree with cousin Kyle
Happy Birthday Kambree! Kambree Kay Bowman celebrates her 4th birthday today, June 14. Kambree is a 3X Great Grandchild of William and Bura Shepard. She is also a 3X Great Grandchild of Leroy and Nola Gower. Kambree and her mother Mandi Aquiningoc live in Weatherford, Texas.

Best Wishes to Emma and Shannon. Earler this month on June 6 Emma Wilk of Atchison, Kansas celebrated a birthday. She is the daughter of Shannon Wilk and the granddaughter of my late cousin Beverly Russell Wilk (1939-1974). Emma's Great Great Grandparents are William and Bura Shepard, early 20th century ancestors who were the first in our Shepard family to live in California. Best wishes to Emma and her mom Shannon as Emma turns 12!

Emma Wilk and "Pappa" Frank
Kambree and Emma are both descendants of a family line that includes my Grandmother Bura Davis's Grandmother Maggie Williams Spear (1845-1904), of Spencer, Indiana. We have had a plethora of people named William in our family over the years, most recently persons who have William as their first or middle name. 

As far back as I can get information there has never been a time when our family has been without at least one William in our family. My grandson William Quincy Shepard is the youngest of the fellows in our family today with that first name. But there have been others, many others, going all the way back to the pre-Civil War days, and probably long before that.

Maggie Williams Spear
A Plethora of Williamses. My Great Great Grandmother Maggie Williams Spear takes the name William to a whole different level in our family tree by connecting us to the surname Williams. She was born in Spencer, Indiana, the 9th and last child of Sally Richardson Williams (1801-1877) and John Pouty Williams (1806-1898). John Pouty was the 2nd of the 4 children of John Williams and Lydia Warford Williams, prominent citizens of Shelby County, Kentucky, 150 miles Southeast of Spencer, Indiana. 

I have written about our Williams ancestors in Kentucky in this blog several times, including here, and here.

John Pouty Williams had a Grandfather in Kentucky, named William Williams (1745-1801). This William Williams was the first in his family to settle in Kentucky, having migrated from Loudon County, Virginia, west of Washington, D.C. with his wife Elizabeth Averett (or Everett) just before the turn of the 19th century. William and Elizabeth were Quakers, having their marriage of September 6, 1769 recorded in the "Monthly Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 of Loudon County", a snippet from which is included below.

1769 Wedding Record for William Williams & Elizabeth Everett
John Pouty Williams not only had a grandfather named William Williams, he also had a brother named William Williams (1804-?). John and wife Sally also named the 5th of their 9 children William H. Williams (1834-1904). In the midst of all these William Williamses, at least they had the good sense to add a distinguishing "H" to this William William's name. In an interesting historical twist, it became not so distinguishing when William H. Williams and his wife Sarah named one of their sons William H. Williams (1881-1939).

These are just some of the many, many Williams that are in our family tree. There were (and ARE) numerous other Williams among the clan of these 19th century Williams ancestors of ours, and their descendants. We may even have roots that extend to the famous William the Conqueror (1028-1087), the first Norman King of England. But I am not ready to tackle that research! These Williams I have listed here are confusing enough. They clearly show that "William" has been -- and continues to be -- a favorite name of people in our family.
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Steve Shepard

Friday, June 02, 2017

Celebrate Your Life, June 2, 2017

The more you praise and celebrate your life,
the more there is in life to celebrate.
~Oprah Winfrey

A Shepard Anniversary. Today is the 38th wedding anniversary of my brother Gary and his wife Cindy Ann Shepard of Oak Harbor, Washington. They were married June 2, 1979 in a small garden wedding in Los Alamitos, California. Only a handful of us were in attendance but it was a beautiful event. Those of us who were there remember it well. Happy Anniversary to Gary and Cindy!

Gary and Cindy lived in the San Diego area for most of their married life. They moved to Western Washington in 2003 to help care for our aging father Eugene Shepard who died in the summer of '03. Today they are an indispensable part of the small team of folks who are caring for our mother Maida Shepard. Gary has had his own health concerns in the last year but is doing better. Mom continues to need constant care but is doing quite well for 92 years old.

Another Shepard Anniversary. It was 102 years ago today that Gary's grandparents William and Bura Davis Shepard were married in Beaver County, Oklahoma. At the time they had known each other for less than 2 years. In the spring of 1913, the Davis family moved into the part of Beaver County where the Shepards lived. It was a sparsely populated farming community where potential marriage partners were in short supply. So when 26 year old William met 18 year old Bura, he knew she was someone special. They were married in 1915 on the 45th Birthday of Bura's father James Brooks Davis (1870-1928).

In 1975, the year before William Shepard died, he reminisced about his 1915 wedding day, and his bride, by saying this:

She was quite a Sunday School girl. I had just come into the church myself [the South Flat Church of Christ] in December [1914]. My dad had come in a little earlier than that. He was on his death bed with cancer and wanted to see me become a Christian before he died. So I did.

I had my first model T car. [To get married] we had to go to another sod house where the preacher lived. It was a real wet spring and water was standing everywhere. We didn't have highways. Just old roads. I didn't think we could make it by the regular road so we went on the higher country and ran into a lake and got stuck. We sat there in that car in the mud nearly all day. Finally an old gentleman who lived there pulled us out with his team of horses. It was about 3 or 4 o'clock. 

The preacher then tied the knot and we went home the way we should have when we went out to see him. He must have done a good job tying the knot because it is still tight.

Yet Another Anniversary. Yesterday was the 15th wedding anniversary of Will and Bura Shepard's Great Grandson Jeremy Ortiz and his wife Desiree of El Cajon, California. Best wishes to them for a very happy anniversary! The triptych above shows all three sets of anniversary celebrants: Will and Bura at the top, then Gary and Cindy, and then Jeremy and Desiree.

Congratulations to Graduates. I have mentioned numerous times in this blog my Grandfather William Shepard's sister, Sadie Shepard Pruett (1892-1980). I have been corresponding with one of Sadie's Granddaughters, Lisa Allred Parks of Forth Worth, Texas. Second cousin Lisa responded to my last post concerning this spring's graduates by sharing about two young folks in her part of our family.

Best wishes and kudos to Kenny Wheeler, the son of Lisa's sister Shawna Allred Wheeler. Kenny graduated from High School in Fort Worth just last week. Congratulations also to the daughter of Lisa's brother Steven Allred. Angela Allred Kornegay graduated from the University of Texas at Tyler with a Civil Engineering degree. We celebrate both of them on these fine achievements!

The diptych on the left shows graduate Kenny at the top with a friend, while the bottom section shows graduate Angela with her proud father Steven Allred.

One More Celebration. I recently heard from my cousin Michael Harrell, son of Vicki Gower Johnston of Arizona. Michael and his wife Carole live in Tokyo on a 3 year assignment for Mike's work. He was back in the U.S. last month and contacted me. He and Carole are doing well almost a year into their time in Japan. He reiterated his welcome to any family members who might be visiting Japan to be sure and let them know. If you would like Mike's contact info just let me know and I will gladly pass it on to you.

Mike had a birthday just a few days ago, on May 29. Happy Birthday to Mike and best wishes to him and Carole on their extended stay in Tokyo! To keep up with Mike and Carole, visit them on Facebook.
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Steve Shepard