Friday, March 23, 2018

Happy Birthday to Gary Shepard, March 23, 2018

Spring has returned.
The Earth is like a child
that knows poems.
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Greetings to all of you, wherever you may be, from beautiful San Diego on this first week of spring, 2018!

Happy Birthday today to my older brother Gary Lee Shepard. He and his wife Cindy Ann Shepard live in Oak Harbor, Washington. Gary, like all my siblings and I, was born and raised in San Diego. Gary, however, unlike his siblings, remained in San Diego for almost his entire working life. It was not until 2003 when he retired from the County of San Diego, that he left Southern California for the Northwest. He and his wife Cindy have lived on Whidbey Island in Western Washington now for 15 years.

Gary is the oldest of the 5 children of our parents Maida Gower Shepard and the late Eugene Shepard. Gary and our sister Barbara have accepted the largest share of the responsibility for caring for our elderly mother Maida, who lives in nearby Anacortes, Washington. These days in addition to his own health concerns, Gary is one of the primary caregivers for our mom. It is a very important job that does not get all the thanks that he and Barbara so richly deserve.

Leroy Gower, Maida Gower Shepard, Gary and Jason Shepard, 1973
Gary was given the middle name "Lee" by our parents as a nod to our maternal Grandfather Leroy Ertin Gower (1899-1974). Leroy was a native Arkansan who had moved his family to San Diego in 1942, just 4 years before Gary was born. Grandpa Gower often went by the name "Lee" among his friends. It was also the way I remember Grandma Gower referring to him. Lee is also the middle name that Gary gave to his son Jason Lee Shepard who lives today in Fort Worth, Texas.

This first picture (above) was taken in 1973 and shows Gary on the right holding his son Jason Lee Shepard. Grampa Leroy Gower is on the left with his daughter Maida Gower Shepard in the middle.

Our Grandfather Leroy was named after his uncle Leroy Monroe Gower (1875-1965) who went by the name "Babe" (think Babe Ruth) presumably to avoid confusion over all the "Leroy Gowers" in the family. Uncle "Babe" Gower was a young man of 23 and a neighbor of Grandpa Gower's when our Grandfather was born just months before the start of the 20th century. They all lived in the small farming community of Newnata, a few miles west of Mountain View, Arkansas.

Leroy Monroe "Babe" Gower with daughter Vergie, about 1900
This second picture, taken about 1940 in Arkansas, shows Leroy Monroe "Babe" Gower with his special needs daughter Vergie Gower.

Yet another of Gary's namesakes in our Gower family tree is Grandpa Gower's Grandfather, who was also named Leroy Gower (1854-1909). As best as I can tell this Leroy Gower was the first one with the name Leroy in our entire Gower family line. Born before the Civil War in 1854, he was the very first Gower to be born in Izard County (later renamed Stone County), Arkansas. His parents Jackson William Gower and Mary Anderson Gower had come to the hills of Northern Arkansas about 1850 from Wayne County, Tennessee about 100 miles southwest of Nashville. They may have been the very first Gowers to settle in Stone County, Arkansas.

Leroy Gower with wife Ellen Taylor Gower about 1900
This last picture shows my GG Grandparents Leroy Gower and his wife Ellen Taylor Gower. The source from whom I received this picture claims that "this is the oldest known picture of any Gowers in Arkansas." I could find no date for this remarkable photo, but both these folks died in their early 50s in 1906 and 1909, respectively. It may have been taken around the turn of the 20th century.

The following is a map showing the 168 year, 3,348 mile journey of the folks mentioned in this post. It begins with GGG Grandparents Jackson and Mary Gower who, in 1850, left Wayne County, Tennessee. It concludes with Gary and Cindy Shepard who have lived in Oak Harbor, Washington since 2003. The stops along the way include a 75 year stop in Arkansas, a 17 year stop in Oklahoma, and a 71 year stop in San Diego. 

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Steve Shepard

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Celebrating Irish, March 13, 2018

St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time
a day to begin transforming
winter's dreams into summer's magic.
~Adrienne Cook

Celebrating Our Irish Heritage! Happy Saint Patrick's Day this coming Saturday! I have not mentioned for some time in this blog two of our most prominent Irish ancestors, 18th Century Immigrants Thomas and Eigness Shannon. They are my 6X Great Grandparents via my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). The following is a summary of their descendants' migration across our country since they arrived nearly 300 years ago.

Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, San Diego, 1972
Pennsylvania. Thomas and his wife Eigness sailed across the Atlantic from Derry, Ireland to Pennsylvania about 1725, and eventually settled in Sadsbury, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania about 60 miles west of Philadelphia. State records show that in 1734 Thomas Shannon purchased 200 acres of land in Lancaster County on which he and his family got their start in America.

Virginia. He and Eigness had 5 children. Their first, Samuel Shannon (1727-1811), was born about 1727 in Pennsylvania, and is the one from whom we are descended. Samuel and his wife Jean Reid Shannon (1725-1806) migrated 400 miles westward in 1772 and settled in the frontier town of Poplar Hill, Virginia. They eventually made their way farther west to the area south of Nashville, Tennessee. 

Tennessee. Samuel and Jean's first child was David Shannon (1756-1823). He was born in Virginia but settled in Tennessee with his parents. In Tennessee David married a girl from North Carolina named Jane McKnight (1759-1830), whose ancestors had also migrated from northern Ireland in the early 1700s. (Our Irish blood thickens.) Life in Tennessee after the Revolutionary War was good for David and Jane McKnight Shannon who brought into the world a total of 11 children. 

Mississippi. The first of David and Jane Shannon's 11 children was David McKnight Shannon (1790-1860). He married Anna Pickens (1785-1867), who herself had several ancestors who were Irish immigrants. (Our Irish blood thickens even more.) David and Anna then migrated a couple of hundred miles southwest where they settled in Itawamba County, Mississippi.

Samuel Pickens Shannon and Finetta Dearien Shannon,
Arkansas, 1920s
Louisiana and Arkansas. The first of David and Anna Shannon's 10 children was David Reid Shannon (1821-1864), who married Peggy Gray (1829-1899). David and Peggy migrated to Southern Louisiana where they had 9 children. The Civil War took the life of 42 year old father David, leaving a distraught and poverty stricken widow Peggy Shannon. Her father and brothers rescued her and the children from their desperate plight in Louisiana and moved them to Stone County, Arkansas in 1867. (Read more about that touching story here.)

Oklahoma and California. The 7th child of that rescued brood was my Great Grandfather, 8 year old Samuel Pickens Shannon (1859-1930). Some 14 years after relocating to Arkansas he in turn rescued a young girl from a different kind of tragic life when he married Finetta Dearien (1861-1960). Read about their story here. The two of them bore 9 children in Arkansas, the last one being my grandmother Nola Agnes Shannon, who after marrying fellow Arkansan Leroy Gower, migrated to Oklahoma and then on to San Diego.

Russ and Steven Paul Shepard, 2012
Anacortes, Washington
So there you have it: the 3 century trail of our Shannon Irish ancestors across our country from Southeast Pennsylvania all the way to California. It is one part of our great Irish heritage to remember and to celebrate this Saint Patrick's Day!

Happy Birthday to Russ and Steve. Birthday wishes today to my brother Russell Shepard and his son Steven Paul Shepard, who were both born on March 13. There is a certain symmetry about this birthday for the two of them: Russ at 56 years old is exactly, to the day, twice as old as Steve at 28 years old. Russ is a native of San Diego while Steven has lived his entire life in Anacortes, Washington. Steven and Russ (and Russ' wife Pam) live at the Shepard home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes. They are part of the care-giving team for our mother Maida Shepard who at 93 needs plenty of loving care and attention.

Linda and Jerry Clark, Cindy and Steve Shepard
San Diego, August 1970
Best Wishes To Jerry Clark. Happy Birthday tomorrow to my brother-by-another-mother Jerry Clark who lives with his wife Cathrina in Lubbock, Texas. Originally from Albuquerque, Jerry has lived in Lubbock nearly his entire adult life. He has been a part of our family ever since he and my late sister Linda were married back in August, 1970 in San Diego.

Happy Birthday Kerri. Earlier this month, on March 3, a very special birthday was had by my eldest niece Kerri Shepard Aquiningoc of Weatherford, Texas. Born in Walled Lake, Michigan 50 years ago (can that be right?), Kerri was raised in San Diego. She is the first born daughter of my brother Gary Shepard and Jackie Perry.
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Steve Shepard