Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween 2018, October 31, 2018

Ancestors are important...
Without them we are nothing.
~Hank Ketchum

Greetings to all of you on this spooky week of Halloween! This week when we celebrate the dark, scary side of life, it would seem to be the perfect time for me to continue my series looking at infamous characters of our family tree. But no. Something else will take priority.

Maida Gower Shepard and Eugene Shepard
about 1945
All Saints Day. This is also the week of my mother's birthday. Thursday, November 1 she will turn 94 years old, which makes her the senior member of our family. It has always been the great misfortune of my mother Maida Gower Shepard to have been born the day after Halloween. At least she has expressed that sentiment to me on numerous occasions in years passed. On the other hand, she was born on All Saints' Day. Since my mom has always been a saint in my book, November 1 is the perfect day for her to have been born.

She was born in Stone County, Arkansas, near the town of Mountain View. Her parents Leroy Gower and Nola Shannon Gower were both originally from Sylamore, a community a few miles west of Mountain View. They married in 1921 when Leroy was 22 and Nola had just turned 18. Their firstborn was a son, Hendrix Gower. Then in the fall of 1924 Maida came along. Work was hard to come by for Leroy, so when their daughter Maida was a year old, barely old enough to travel, they moved to Okemah, Oklahoma where Leroy found work and where they lived for 17 years. During that time they added another daughter, Vicki, to their family.

Maida and oldest son Gary Shepard, 2011
In 1942 the Gowers moved to San Diego, which is where Maida met Gene Shepard. In 1945 they married and began a joyful 58 year marriage. San Diego is also where they raised their 6 children, and where they lived for 36 years. When Gene retired they moved to Anacortes in Skagit County, Washington. Mom has lived in the family home on Wildwood Lane for the last 40 years.

These days she stays home most of the time with several family members helping to care for her in these sunset years of her life, including her oldest son Gary (pictured above with mom). Her memory is failing, but she still loves to visit with people and to attend church when she is up to it. Best wishes to Mom as she celebrates 94 years!

Creepy Family Fun. Mom is one of the many family members who find themselves in the following music video that I put together to celebrate Halloween. Some of the pictures in this video you have seen before while some of them are new to this Halloween video. Some images are from many years ago, while some were taken in recent days. This video includes creepy family members from California, Washington, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and even Pennsylvania. Happy Halloween to everyone!

- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, October 26, 2018

Bad Boy Jesse James, October 26, 2018

It is a sad truth, but we have lost the faculty
of giving lively names to things.
Names are everything.
I never quarrel with actions.
My one quarrel is with words.
~Oscar Wilde

Celebrating my aunt Vicki Johnston! Last week my aunt Vicki Gower Johnson celebrated her 85th birthday. Aunt Vicki lives in Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, near her daughter Paula Harrell Tuzzolino. The sister of my mother Maida Gower Shepard, we honor Vicki as one of the senior members of our family. Born in Oklahoma, but raised in San Diego, Vicki lived for 40 years in Oak Harbor, Washington before moving to Arizona a few years ago. Congratulations to Vicki on turning 85! The first picture from 2008 shows Vicki on the right with her sister Maida.

Shifting Gears. In recent weeks I have posted about famously named people in our family tree. Now I will take a break from the famously named and look at a few people who were not so famously named. They are the infamous characters in our family history, the bad girls and bad boys among our ancestors. People like Jessie James Emery.

A Youthful Indiscretion. My GGG Grandparents Jackson and Mary Gower had one daughter among their four children, Hannah Elizabeth Gower (1870-1943). These Gowers lived in the small rural community of Sylamore in Stone County, Arkansas, birthplace of my maternal Grandparents, Leroy Gower (b. 1899) and Nola Shannon (b. 1903). In the fall of 1893, 23 year old Hannah Gower struck up a relationship with an 18 year old fellow with the colorful name of Jessie James Emery. He had recently come from Pettis County, Missouri, some 250 miles to the north, very possibly to help with the harvest or to seek some other kind of work. The devastating economic depression of 1893 had people like Jesse James Emery all across the country on the move looking for employment.

We don't know much about the quality of the relationship Jesse James and Hannah had. Compared to today, you could get away with a lot in the sparsely populated hills of Northern Arkansas. All we know for sure is that their relationship brought about Hannah's unplanned pregnancy. No "shotgun wedding" took place, even though it must have been an embarrassment for the Gower family in this small peaceful farming community where they lived.

Getting On With Their Lives. In June, 1894 Hannah gave birth to her baby and gave him the name Marvin Almus Emery Gower. Young Marvin stayed with his mother Hannah and her family and took their name, Gower, as his last name for the rest of his 86 years. In 1900, when Marvin was just 6 years old, Hannah found a responsible father for her son when she married a local man named James Henry Pierce. Together they began a family of their own, which included young Marvin.

In 1895, just a year after the birth of Marvin, his biological father Jessie James Emery married a local woman with the unique name of Olive O. Oyler, and together they started a family of their own, which did not include young Marvin Gower. The US Census records for the year 1900 show that Hannah Gower's family, and Jessie James Emery's family were neighboring farmers in close proximity in Sylamore. But not for long. Soon after the turn of the century, the negligent father Jesse James Emery left Arkansas with his new family and made their way some 1,500 miles to Montana where they settled and where he died in the summer of 1929 near Billings, Montana.

Named After the Famous Outlaw? Bad boy Jessie James Emery was born in Southwest Missouri just 90 miles from the home of the outlaw Jesse James (see picture from about 1882). Our Jessie James was born in 1875 when the infamous James Gang was at the height of its criminal activity, robbing banks, trains and stagecoaches, and staying on the run from the law. Western Missouri was known as "Little Dixie" in those post Civil War days, because of the many southern sympathizers who lived there, including the James Gang, who targeted Union Soldiers and Civilian Abolitionists.

It may have been no accident that Jessie James Emery was named after one of the most infamous yet popular outlaws ever to come out of Southwest Missouri. In those days Missourians were fond of glamorizing outlaws like Jesse James as a way of rooting for the underdog and snubbing their noses at the authorities. Many thought of the James gang as being like Robin Hoods who curried favor with the common folk. It was against this backdrop that bad boy Jessie James Emery was born and given his name. Jesse James Emery therefore is the first of several disreputable characters in our past that I will highlight in coming weeks.

It is quite a shift to write about infamous characters in our family tree. It reminds us that our family, like all families, is a mixed bag. There are those whose lives and stories we gladly celebrate, but then there are those whose lives are cautionary tales. Yet even they have their place in our family history. Their stories also need telling even if simply to give us perspective when we think "too highly of ourselves."
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, October 19, 2018

Cousins With the Same Name, October 19, 2018

In real life, unlike in Shakespeare,
the sweetness of the rose
depends upon the name it bears.
Things are not only what they are.
They are, in very important respects,
what they seem to be.
~Hubert Humphrey

Last month I included in my list of famously named ancestors, William Henry Harrison Sheppard, who was named after President Henry Harrison. I have since discovered that there are actually two Sheppard individuals in our family tree with that exact same name. We already have another person -- William Henry Harrison Loyd -- who was named after President Harrison. But now we have two Sheppard ancestors named after that 19th century President.

The first William Henry Harrison Sheppard was born July 5, 1840 and died in the Civil War in 1862. The second William Henry Harrison Sheppard, the son of a cousin of the first one, was born May 16, 1841, just 10 months after the first one. He also served in the Civil War, but survived, and lived into his 90s. He died in 1932, not far from where he was born in Belmont County, Ohio.

President Henry Harrison, 1773-1841
What an unusual occurrence. Two Sheppards with the very same unique name, born less than a year apart, who were cousins of each other. Both these fellows named William Henry Harrison Sheppard were born in Belmont County, Ohio -- probably within about 10 miles of each other. They were descendants of my 5x Great Grandparents John and Mary Hudson Sheppard, who were among the first of our Sheppard ancestors to migrate to the Ohio frontier in 1812.

Why Henry Harrison? What was so special about Henry Harrison that two of our 19th century families would name their sons after him? Henry Harrison was originally from Virginia but spent a good part of his life in Ohio. Our Sheppard ancestors came from Maryland to Belmont County in Eastern Ohio in the first decade of the 1800s when it was still being settled, and when Harrison's career was taking off. 

Here is a short list of Harrison's major accomplishments:

  • He was a decorated major General in the US Army.
  • He became a state senator in Ohio in 1819. 
  • He was elected a US Senator from Ohio in 1825. 
  • In 1836 he ran for President as the Whig Party candidate but lost to Martin Van Buren. 
  • In 1840 he ran once again against Van Buren but this time was victorious, and became our 9th U.S. President. 
It was obviously a time of great excitement for all Ohioans when Harrison took office March 4, 1841. (In those days the Presidential Inauguration took place in March, not in January.) But in a tragic turn of events Harrison became ill and died of pneumonia on April 4, 1841 after just 31 days in office. He was the first US President to die in office, and remains to this day the President with the shortest tenure.

The FIRST William Henry Harrison Sheppard, the 7th child of John and Elizabeth Sheppard, was born in Belmont County on July 5, 1840, the day after America's 64th birthday. He was named by his family while Harrison was in the throes of the Presidential election campaign. Ohioans were riding this wave of excitement about one of their own possibly being elected to the highest office in the land. What better way to make tangible their hopes and dreams for America's future than to give their son Harrison's name?

Grave of the SECOND William Henry Harrison Sheppard
Hope Cemetery, Hendrysburg, Ohio
The SECOND William Henry Harrison Sheppard, the 9th child of Hudson and Rebecca Sheppard, was also born in Belmont County, but on May 16, 1841 just one month after President Harrison died. He was given President Harrison's name while Ohioans, and the entire nation for that matter, were grieving this terrible loss. What better way to honor their fallen President than to give their son his name? 

These two William Henry Harrison Sheppards had another cousin with the name William Sheppard (with no middle name), who was also born in Belmont County, Ohio. He was born in 1835, just a few years before his other two cousins. This William Sheppard (1835-1862) was the Grandfather of my Grandfather William Shepard (1888-1976). In 1840, when just a child, his parents left Ohio and were among the first Sheppards to settle in Indiana. It was there, when just 21 years old, that he entered the military and fought for the North, as did his cousins, in the Civil War. More about this story here.

I realize that it is hard to keep these three William Sheppard cousins straight. One had no middle name at all, while two were given middle names of a President. All were born within a 6 year period in Belmont County, Ohio, and all of them served in the War, fighting for the Union:
  • William (no middle name) Sheppard (1835-1862)
  • William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1840-1862)
  • William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1841-1932)
The Sheppard Clan of Belmont County. All three of these fellows were part of the influential clan of James Cross Sheppard Sr. (1775-1843) and Hannah Gatchell Sheppard (1781-1839) who helped settle Kirkwood in Belmont County, Ohio. I have written before about how James and Hannah were affluent pillars of their community and were therefore very invested in the political life of Southeastern Ohio, especially in the pre-Civil War years. It is no surprise then that this clan was very supportive of the Ohio politician Henry Harrison who eventually ascended to the Presidency. It makes perfect sense then that two of the families of this Sheppard Clan would name their sons after the revered President Harrison.

So instead of just one William Henry Harrison Sheppard included in the "Pantheon of the Famously Named," there are two. One born in 1840, the other in 1841. But both are deserving and take their rightful place among the others of our family tree who were famously named.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Woman Named America, October 12, 2018

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

I have been writing recently about individuals from our family tree who were named after famous people. The list of those in our "Pantheon of the Famously Named" now includes the following:
  • George Washington Sheppard (1829-1900)
  • William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1840-1862)
  • William Henry Harrison Loyd (1841-1920)
  • Benjamin Harrison Davis (1888-1963)
  • James Abram Garfield Gibbs (1881-1955)
  • Julius Caesar Vessels (1842-1928)
  • Julius Theophilus Vessels (1871-1942)
  • Robert Columbus Shannon (1893-1923)
  • Christopher Columbus Webb (1858-1907) 
America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick. Today I am adding a 10th person to the Pantheon, a woman whose name is as unique as it is famous. She is yet another child of the 19th century. Her name is America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick (1874-1954). Two of her sons (William and Barney Kilpatrick) married two of my Great Aunts (Myra and Winona Davis) in Oklahoma in 1918 and 1924. America Kelley was born in Tennessee Oct 18, 1874, and was just a year old when the 100th anniversary of America occurred on July 4, 1876. She married Samuel Allen Kilpatrick in Tennessee at just 16 years old in 1891. 
America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick (1874-1954)

America was named after her aunt (her mother's sister) whose name was America Emaline Grinnell (1850-1884). Being of Irish descent, it may have been this clan's joy at migrating safely across the Atlantic that led their parents to give both these girls the name America.

How America Got Its Name
. Even though Christopher Columbus is credited with discovering our continent in 1492, just a few years later another Italian explorer named Amerigo Vespucci, arrived in the "New World." In an interesting historical twist of fate, it is after Vespucci, not Columbus, that the American continent received its name. Therefore America as a first name had precedent from the very beginning. Here's another interesting fact: today there are almost 5,000 people with the first name America in the U.S., according to this website. Almost all of them are women.

America Kelley is the first person I have found in our family tree who was named after an entire continent. Several members of our family were named after States. As a matter of fact America and her husband Samuel Allen Kilpatrick named their fourth child Albertha Tennessee Kilpatrick (1895-1987). Elsewhere in our family tree my GGG Uncle Jackson Gower married a woman named Tennessee Hall (1879-1955). My Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower had a sister named Arizona Shannon (1895-1949), and she had an aunt named Indiana Shannon (1867-1931). 

Tennessee-Oklahoma-Colorado-California. In 1904, when just 25 years old, America and her husband Samuel Allen Kilpatrick migrated from Tennessee to Beaver County in the panhandle of Oklahoma. They had 6 children at the time, and would eventually bring 4 more into the world. In Oklahoma is where they developed a close family relationship to the Davis, Gibbs and Shepard families, leading to several instances of intermarriage within these families. By 1930 members of these families had moved 165 miles northwest to the little town of Two Buttes in Baca County, Colorado. One of the reasons for relocating was to establish a Church of Christ congregation in that rural community. 

By the time of the 1940 US Census, America and her family had left the devastating dust bowl of the Southwest and moved on westward to California, as did other members of the Davis, Gibbs, Kilpatrick and Shepard families. America and her Kilpatrick family settled in the small San Joaquin Valley town of Chowchilla, which is where she died at 79 years old in 1954 just 2 years after the death of husband Samuel Allen Kilpatrick.
Members of the Shepard and Kilpatrick families, 1972
Edwin and Ruby Kilpatrick are the 3rd and 4th from the right

Edwin Dale Kilpatrick. A
mong the many grandchildren of America and Samuel Allen Kilpatrick was Edwin Dale Kilpatrick (1932-1979) who was an important part of our Shepard family history. In the 1960s, Edwin served as the minister of San Diego's Linda Vista Church of Christ, which my Shepard family attended. Edwin and wife Ruby and their 5 children were close family friends of ours. Edwin was a very important influence in my young life, encouraging me to become a minister, which I did in 1970, serving in that capacity for 40 years. Edwin also presided at Cindy's and my wedding 50 years ago this coming December.

America Mary Lee Kelley Kilpatrick therefore becomes the next one to find her place in this "Pantheon of the Famously Named." Have you noticed that every member of this Pantheon was born in the 19th century? It was a common occurrence for people from that era to name their children after famous people. Are those of us from the 20th and 21st centuries missing out here?
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, October 08, 2018

Another in "The Pantheon of the Famously Named," October 8, 2018

Following the light of the sun,
we left the Old World.
~Christopher Columbus

Greetings to all of you from mild and pleasant San Diego on this Columbus Day -- or Indigenous People's Day -- however you prefer to celebrate it. I have enjoyed writing my recent series of posts on famously named people in our family tree. More than just an opportunity to notice people with outstanding names, this series has given me a chance to highlight certain individuals among our ancestors and share something about their lives and their place in our family's history.

Robert Columbus Shannon. On the Gower side of our family there is an individual famously named Robert Columbus Shannon (1893-1923), who  deserves to be remembered on this particular day. He takes his place in what I am calling "The Pantheon of the Famously Named." The older brother of my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower, he was the 5th of the 9 children of Samuel Pickens Shannon and Finetta Dearien Shannon. Born in the spring of 1893 in Mountain View, Arkansas, he may have been given the name Columbus because he had an uncle named Christopher Columbus Webb (1858-1907). Uncle Christopher Columbus had married Margaret Shannon in 1888 and became a part of the Shannon family just a few years before his nephew Robert Columbus was born.

Maida Gower Shepard in 2013 at the grave of 
Christopher Columbus Webb and Margaret Shannon Webb
This first picture was taken five years ago when my mother Maida Gower Shepard (pictured here) and I visited Gray Cemetery outside Timbo, Arkansas. That is where uncle Christopher Columbus Webb is buried alongside his wife, my Great Aunt Margaret Shannon Webb (1862-1890). She died very young at just 27 years old, which may explain this interesting grave. It is a century old elaborate stone monument, an expression of the deep sorrow her husband Christopher Columbus felt at the loss of his young wife Margaret. If it appears these cemetery grounds appear overgrown and unkept it is because they were. After this picture was taken a number of local family members took on the job of cleaning up Gray Cemetery.

In the summer of 1911 when just 18 years old, Robert Columbus married another teen, Alice Moore, who was from a neighboring family in the farming community of Sylamore, Arkansas just a few miles west of Mountain View. In Arkansas he and Alice had two daughters, Rutha and Edna Mae, before they uprooted themselves in 1915 and moved to Granbury, Texas, southwest of Fort Worth, where Robert Columbus farmed for just a couple of years. In Texas they added to their family a son, Marvin, before returning to Arkansas about 1919. 

Grave of Robert Columbus Shannon
in Cypress Cemetery, Vilonia, Arkansas
Robert Columbus and Alice Shannon and their family settled in the little town of Vilonia, Arkansas, some 80 miles south of Mountain View. In Vilonia their 4th and final child, Samuel, was born in 1922. Robert Columbus tragically died the following year on Apr 8, 1923, just a few weeks after his 30th birthday. He is buried in Cypress Cemetery outside Vilonia. I don't know how Robert Columbus died. A farming mishap? A flu epidemic? Respiratory illness? I just know that he left his young, 29 year old wife Alice, with their four children, all under 10 years old.

Christopher Columbus. Robert Columbus Shannon -- and his uncle before him -- was named after the famous explorer Christopher Columbus who is credited with discovering America in 1492. Yet our Columbus and the explorer Columbus had very little in common. Actually they are quite a contrast: the one never traveled more than 500 miles from home; the other discovered a new world some 6,000 miles away from his home. One tilled the soil for his living; the other famously sailed the ocean blue. One was a southern Protestant with Baptist roots; the other was commissioned by the Catholic Monarchy of Spain. Our Columbus died at just 30 years old; the other lived to the ripe old age (for those days) of 55.

Even in 19th century America, folks were infatuated with the Italian explorer Columbus who was born 4 centuries before our Robert Columbus. He and his uncle Christopher Columbus therefore take their place with the others from our family tree in "The Pantheon of the Famously Named."

In my next post: A Girl Named "America."
- - -
Steve Shepard