Sunday, January 27, 2019

Remembering Sadie Shepard, January 27, 2019

I've learned that regardless
of your relationship with your parents,
you'll miss them when
they're gone
from your life.
~Maya Angelou

As January draws near its close the time is right to remember my great aunt Sadie Shepard Pruett (1892-1980). The younger sister (and only sibling) of my Grandfather William Shepard (1888-1976), Sadie was born January 27 (127 years ago today), and died January 29 (39 years ago). 

Sadie and William Shepard, 1892
Remembering Sadie Shepard Pruett. Sadie's father William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) had a terrible falling out with his parents as an older teen in Indiana about 1880. We don't know the details of the conflict, just that it had something to do with his relationship to his step-father William Ragsdale who was his mother's second husband. Theirs was a blended family of his 9 kids from his first marriage, her 2 sons from her first marriage, and their 3 children together. Even though they lived on a farm outside Ladoga, Indiana, it was a stressful living arrangement, especially for William Elmer, one of the only two in the entire family who had the last name Shepard.

So with great anger in his heart, this hot headed young man left home, and ran away 350 miles to Madison County, Illinois. From all indications he never reconnected with his Indiana family. It was a bitter family conflict that had long term ramifications. First of all William Elmer's wife Elvira Owens, who he met and married in Illinois, never got to know her husband's Indiana family. It also meant that their children William (my Grandfather) and Sadie, who were born in Illinois, never got a chance to meet their paternal grandparents in Indiana or any of their relatives on that side of their family. 

Frances (Flossie) Shepherd, about 1920
The Family They Never Knew. That Indiana family dispute also meant that Sadie and William Shepard probably never knew their father's only biological brother, their uncle Frank Shepherd or his wife, their aunt Leona. Nor did Sadie and William realize that uncle Frank had taken a different spelling for his last name, one of those anomalies not uncommon in post Civil War America. Furthermore Sadie and William probably never knew that they had just one first cousin on the Shepard side of their family, a young woman named Frances (Flossie) Shepherd who was nearly the same age as Sadie. One can only imagine the wonderful relationship cousins Flossie and Sadie might have shared.

And perhaps most regrettable, Sadie and William never knew their grandmother Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale (1840-1919) and her remarkable life story. She became a Civil War Widow with two babies at 22 years old. She remarried at 25 years old and went on to be mother/step mother to 14 children. She was widowed a second time at 47 years old but persevered nonetheless. At 61 years old -- 39 years after the war ended! -- she finally received a modest Civil War Widow's pension. And she lived her final 15 years comfortably in Indianapolis where she died at 79 years old in 1919.

Sadie Shepard Pruett (left) in 1942, with brother 
William Shepard and William's daughter Thelma
Sadie Shepard and her brother William Shepard migrated as teens with their parents from Illinois to Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1905. And they both went on to have families of their own and make good lives for themselves. But somewhere inside each of them there must have been a sense of loss, a longing to know their father's family of origin. But because of their father's conflict with his own family, it was not to be, to the great misfortune of his descendants.

The Miracle of the Digital Age. I continue to be amazed that in the early 20th century, my grandfather and his sister Sadie Shepard Pruett could live their lives and never know their father's family. Yet here we are 100 years later and we have a wealth of information about those people who were unknown to them. The Internet has made possible research that helps us know ancestors like never before. For that I am very grateful. Unfortunately the Internet cannot change our susceptibility to conflicts and disputes within families. We will always have to deal with that, and the fall out that comes as a result. 
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Steve Shepard

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