Thursday, September 27, 2018

Famously Named Ancestors, Part III, September 27, 2018

Family isn't defined only by last names or by blood;
it's defined by commitment and by love.
~David Willis

I continue my series on "The Pantheon of the Famously Named," sharing with you people in our family tree who were named after famous people. In my last two posts I mentioned 5 ancestors who were named after Presidents. But there are others in our family tree who were also famously named. Not after Presidents, but named after other famous people of history.

Emperor Julius Caesar
by 16th century artist Paul Rubens
Julius Caesar Vessels. My wife Cindy's GG Grandfather was given the beautifully ostentatious name of Julius Caesar, which automatically gives him a place in my "Pantheon of the Famously Named."  He was named after the emperor of the Roman Empire, who lived in the first century before Jesus. He was a Roman politician and one of the most famous military generals in all recorded history. 

He is referred to a number of times in the New Testament, most memorably by Jesus, when he commented on the question of paying taxes. Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matt. 22.21) It is one thing to be named after a U.S. President. It takes things to a whole different level to be named after the leader of a world empire and one of the most famous men in world history.

Our ancestor Julius Caesar Vessels (1842-1928) was born in rural Limestone, Alabama. He became an adult when America was ready to plunge into the horrors of the Civil War. He served in the Southern Army, in the 53rd Regiment out of Alabama in the 1860s, which puts him in another select category of soldier-ancestors who served in the Civil War. During the War he married Fannie Narcissus Bradford, who herself was given a remarkable name from Greek mythology, Narcissus. Before the War ended Julius Caesar and Fannie began their family of 11 children, the 7th of whom was Edna Pearl Vessels McGowan, Cindy's Great Grandmother.

Julius Caesar Vessels
about 1870
Julius Caesar Vessels was a hearty Alabaman who lived to be 86, very old by 19th century standards. He outlived three of his children, and his first wife Fannie by almost 30 years. He married a second time to a Texas girl named Sally Bates and relocated to North Texas to live with her. Though 10 years older than her, he outlived her by 27 years! Julius Caesar Vessels therefore takes his rightful place as the 6th member of our "Pantheon of the Famously Named."

Julius Theophilus Vessels. The aforementioned Julius Caesar Vessels and wife Fannie Vessels gave the 4th of their 11 children the name Julius Theophilus Vessels (1871-1942). Theophilus, a greek word meaning "lover of God," is the famous name of the person to whom the Book of Acts in the New Testament was written (cf. Acts 1.1). To be fair it must be said that the Biblical Theophilus is famous primarily to those who are students of the New Testament. Even at that, not very much is known about the original Theophilus. The mystery surrounding him is part of the reason he is of interest to so many.

Julius Theophilus Vessels
with family, about 1920
Our ancestor Julius Theophilus had a heavy burden when it came to his name. To say nothing of his father who was named after one of the most famous men in all history, and his mother who was named after a legendary character of Greek mythology. Julius Theophilus, like his father, was born on a farm in Limestone County, Alabama in 1872. With his family he migrated to North Texas in the 1890s and died at 70 years old after living his last years in Plainview, Texas, north of Lubbock. Julius Theophilus therefore takes his place as the 7th member of our "Pantheon of the Famously Named."

This whole matter of naming children has changed over the generations. These days common names are often the norm. But in years past it was not unusual for our ancestors to give children names of outstanding people of history. The 7 famously named people I have mentioned in recent posts were all from the 19th century. Their thinking seems to have been that the more glorious the name, the better. Many of the 19th century folk from whom we are descended were poor dirt farmers, some of them from the South. To give their children outstanding names may have been a way of reaching for something better in life than what they had experienced so far, a way of claiming a sense of southern sophistication that had eluded them.

Kambree and Karver
Do you know of others in our family tree who deserve a place in this "Pantheon of the Famously Named?" If so let me know.

From the Ancient to the Contemporary. After all this talk about people of long ago, the last word today needs to be about what's happening these days in our family. 

Last weekend our family in and around Weatherford, Texas celebrated the 4th birthday of Lyndsey Aquiningoc's son Karver. Among those attending that celebration was Karver's cousin Kambree, the daughter of Mandi Aquiningoc. Karver and Kambree are the only two (so far!) Great Great Grandchildren of my mother Maida Gower Shepard of Anacortes, Washington. Happy birthday to Karver and best wishes to him and his family! And thanks to the family for sharing this picture of them on Facebook recently.

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Steve Shepard

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Pantheon of the Famously Named, Part II, September 21, 2018

There is nothing in all the earth
that you and I can do for the dead,
They do not need us,
but forever and forever more
we need them.
~President James Abram Garfield

Greetings to all of you from warm and sunny San Diego as fall is set to arrive tomorrow! In my last post I shared about 3 different people in our family tree who were named after U.S. Presidents. They are part of what I am calling "The Pantheon of the Famously Named."  There are a few others tucked away in various branches of our large family tree who also were given the names of famous people. Here are two more...

James Abram Garfield Gibbs. When I connected with my "shirt-tail cousin" Ron Gibbs a few weeks ago, he proudly mentioned to me someone I had never known about: his grandfather James Abram Garfield Gibbs (1881-1955). Ron's Grandfather had been given the name of the 20th U.S. President, James Abram Garfield. Unfortunately, President Garfield only served for six months after his inauguration on March 4, 1881. He was assassinated while in office and died September 19, 1881.

President James Abram Garfield
about 1880
 James Abram Garfield Gibbs is related to us via my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. Bura's two sisters, Nona and Myra Davis, married Kilpatrick brothers, Barney and William. Those two Kilpatrick brothers had a first cousin, Harriet Smith, who married James Abram Garfield Gibbs. My genealogical app says that James Abram Garfield Gibbs is "the husband of the 1st cousin of the husband of my great-aunt." Try to get your head around that!

Our ancestor James A.G. Gibbs was born October 16, 1881, just one month after the tragic death of President Garfield. It is therefore easy to understand the thinking of parents Alfred and Cora Gibbs, when they named their first born. Father Alfred Gibbs was a native Ohioan just like beloved President Garfield, which may have been a big reason James Abram Garfield Gibbs was given his name. He therefore becomes the fourth person to find his place in our "Pantheon of the Famously Named."

For many readers of The Shepard's Crook, President Garfield has special importance because he was one of only two Presidents who were members of the American religious tradition (the "Restoration Movement") which gave birth to the Churches of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Garfield was not only a member of that religious tradition, he was a minister within that group before he went into politics and became President. For more about President Garfield in this blog select this link.

Benjamin Harrison Davis. A fifth member of our "Pantheon of the Famously Named" is also from my Grandmother Bura Davis' side of our family. Benjamin Harrison Davis (1888-1963) was the youngest of the 7 children of my GG Grandparents Charles and Melinda Davis. My 2nd Great Uncle Benjamin Harrison Davis was named after our 23rd President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901). This President Harrison was the Grandson of the 9th President William Henry Harrison who was mentioned in my last post.

Uncle Benjamin Harrison Davis (left)
President Benjamin Harrison (right)
My Uncle Benjamin Harrison Davis was born in Indiana August 25, 1888. His parents Charles and Melinda therefore named their son 3 months before the election of  President Benjamin Harrison, a popular Hoosier politician. Once again timing was everything. As was location. President Harrison was born in Ohio but lived much of his life in Indiana, much like the parents of my Uncle Benjamin, Charles and Melinda Wright Davis. My Uncle Benjamin lived his last years in Lipscomb County, Texas, just south of Beaver County, Oklahoma. He died by drowning at 74 years old when his pickup was swept into a swollen creek during a flash flood in the spring of 1963.

This second picture shows my uncle Benjamin Harrison Davis on the left, with his name sake President Benjamin Harrison on the right. Welcome to Benjamin Harrison Davis who is the fifth person to be added to our "Pantheon of the Famously Named."

For my next post: more people in "The Pantheon of the Famously Named." Believe it or not there are others in our family tree who belong in this Pantheon who are even more famous than the Presidents I have already mentioned. Next time I will share about a couple of others. If you happen to know of other people who belong in this Pantheon, please let me know. I do not want to overlook any famously named people in our family tree!
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Steve Shepard

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Pantheon of the Famously Named, September 14, 2018

Observe good faith and justice toward all nations.
Cultivate peace and harmony with all.
~George Washington

In recent months I have done considerable research into our Sheppard ancestors of Eastern Ohio in the early 19th century. These were our Sheppard ancestors who spelled their name with two PPs. It was not until our vagabond ancestor, my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915), that our name was consistently spelled -- by his descendants anyway -- with one P.

My research into our Sheppard ancestors from Belmont County, Ohio has centered on the prominent, early 19th century, family of James Sheppard and Hannah Gatchell Sheppard. They had a total of 13 children, their 7th child being James Cross Sheppard Jr., the one from whom we are descended, and the one about whom I have written numerous times in this blog. James and Hannah's last child was George Washington Sheppard. It was an interesting choice and it piqued my interest. How often have people in our family tree named their kids after Presidents?

I have found five instances among our ancestors where people were so named. There may be others hiding in the branches of our large family tree that I have not yet identified. If you know of ancestors who were named after Presidents, please let me know. I'd be glad to add them to what I am calling "The Pantheon of the Famously Named."

George Washington Sheppard. The first one is George Washington Sheppard (1829-1900), the 13th child of my GGGG Grandparents James Cross and Hannah Sheppard of Kirkwood, Belmont County, Ohio. In 1829 when he was born, the original George Washington, our first President, had been dead about 30 years. G.W. Sheppard's parents James and Hannah were born in 1775 and 1781 respectively. They were children, in the area of Washington DC, during the years of George Washington's greatest accomplishments. It is no wonder they named one of their children after him.

William Henry Harrison Sheppard
William Henry Harrison Sheppard. The second person in this "Pantheon of the Famously Named" is William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1840-1862). He was named after our 9th President, William Henry Harrison (1773-1841). President Harrison only served for a short time in 1841. He died of pneumonia just one month after his inauguration, making him the President with the shortest tenure. Our ancestor William Henry Harrison Sheppard was the 7th of the 11 children of John and Elizabeth Donahoo Sheppard, and was a grandson of the aforementioned James and Hannah Sheppard of Belmont County, Ohio. Here's a curious bit of trivia: Parents John and Elizabeth Sheppard named their son after Harrison in July, 1840, before Harrison was actually elected President in November, 1840. So technically they named their son after a beloved politician and Presidential candidate who later became President. But who's quibbling? He still gets added to this Pantheon!

This first picture purports to show William Henry Harrison Sheppard in a Civil War uniform, probably about 1862.

By the way, our ancestor William Henry Harrison Sheppard was another of the many fellows named "William Shepard" in our family tree. Sadly, William Henry Harrison Sheppard died in 1862 in the Civil War at just 21 years old. Interestingly, he was the first cousin of my GG Grandfather William Shepard (1835-1862) who also died in the Civil War, also in 1862. So not only were these first cousins who were given nearly the same name, they also died the same year, in the same war. It would be unusual for first cousins today to be given the same name. But 200 years ago, when families were large, migration was prevalent, and communication was often lacking, it was not unusual.

William Henry Harrison Loyd
William Henry Harrison Loyd. The third member of our "Pantheon of the Famously Named" was also named after President William Henry Harrison, a fellow by the name of William Henry Harrison Loyd (1841-1920). He was connected to the part of our Shepard family in Indiana, and probably knew very little about the Sheppards of Belmont County, Ohio. William Henry Harrison Loyd was the husband of the step-daughter of my GG Grandmother Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale of Ladoga, Montgomery County, Indiana. Mary was the widow of my GG Grandfather, the soldier William Shepard. Read about their story here.

William Henry Harrison Loyd was born April 17, 1841, just 13 days after the death of President Harrison on April 4, 1841. Before he was President, William Henry Harrison had been the Governor of the Indiana Territory, and was well known and beloved by many in that state. It is very understandable then that while the country was mourning the death of this new President, parents would give their son his name.

I am very fortunate to have found this very old image of William Henry Harris Loyd looking very distinguished, almost Presidential. He died in 1920 at nearly 80 years old, which means this picture was probably taken around the turn of the 20th Century.

I have others to add to this "Pantheon of the Famously Named," and I will share about them in my next post. Stay tuned.

A Milestone Birthday. Last Sunday I celebrated a milestone birthday when I turned 70 years old. It is a milestone that I accept with a mixture of joy and trepidation. I am glad to be as healthy as I am at this point in my life, realizing that the average age of the 19th century ancestors I like to write about, was less than 50. 

This second picture shows Cindy and me. It was taken just a couple of weeks ago here in San Diego on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Thanks to young grandson William Shepard for taking this picture.

I am grateful to God for all the many the joys of life, especially those that come from being part of such a wonderful family -- both my immediate family and the larger clan to which I belong.
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Steve Shepard