To forget one’s ancestors
is to be a brook without a source,
a tree without a root.
Elvira Owens Shepard and her Owens Heritage. The first of July was the 155th anniversary of the birth of my Great Grandmother Elvira Owens Shepard (1863-1931). She was the wife of William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915). Elvira has always held special interest for me because she is the connection to our Owens family heritage. My Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard had run away from his Indiana home as a teen in the 1880s and started a new life in Southwest Illinois. That's where he met Elvira. After marrying her in 1886 and having two children with her (Sadie and William), this young family moved westward and settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1905. Some of their descendants eventually made it all the way to California and settled in San Diego, where a few of their descendants live to this day.
Elvira Owens Shepard
with grandchildren Elmer and Pauline Shepard
about 1919 in Oklahoma
Elvira's Grandfather Edmond Owens Jr. (1795-1864) was actually born in South Carolina after his family had moved there from Virginia. But the Owenses were not in South Carolina very long. With his wife Sara Rives, Edmond Jr. migrated farther west to Davidson County, Tennessee where their son Payton Owens (1826-1872) was born. Payton moved on westward to Illinois as a young man. When just 19 he married another teenager Mary Wheeless in Washington County, Illinois, not far from Saint Louis. In 1865, near the end of the Civil War, Payton and Mary, living in Madison County, Illinois, gave birth to my Great Grandmother Elvira, the 7th of their 8 children.
So our Owens roots trace from Sussex County, Virginia to South Carolina to Davidson County, Tennessee to Madison County, Illinois. That's where Elvira Owen married my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard.
|Edmond Owens Jr. about 1850|
Edmond was part of the Western Tennessee Militia in this second War with Great Britain, also known as the War of 1812. He fought with Andrew Jackson in the famous Battle of New Orleans in January, 1815. He was part of a very diverse group of American soldiers who served together: Tennessee farmers, former Haitian slaves, frontiersmen, outlaws and pirates.
When Edmond and his ragtag group of soldiers first arrived in New Orleans to fight with Andrew Jackson, they did not make a good impression. They were not trained soldiers. They were pioneers and farmers. They wore woolen hunting shirts and dyed pantaloons, raccoon skin caps, and belts of untanned deerskin with hunting knives and tomahawks. They had long unkempt hair and were unshaven. They might be right at home in New Orleans today, but 200 years ago they would have appeared undisciplined and unfit to take on the invaders from across the Atlantic. The second picture of this post shows Edmond Owens later in life, probably about 1850, looking much neater and cleaner than in those earlier days of battle when fighting the British.
Edmond Owens Land Grant, 1851
(click on picture for larger view)
We are indebted to Great Grandmother Elvira Owens Shepard for this Owens heritage that we can be proud of. They are one more part of the great American tapestry that is the history of our family.
Remembering Paula Harris. I mentioned in my last post that my mother in law Paula Harris passed away in early June. Select this link to view a video that honors her life and family. This was part of the Memorial Service we had for her on June 23. We are grateful to God for the wonderful life of Paula Harris (1923-2018).
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