Saturday, March 23, 2019

Women of Perserverance, March 23, 2019

Greetings to all of you from San Diego on this first Saturday of Springtime 2019!

My brother Gary Shepard (right) and I
in Anacortes, Washington, 
on his birthday in 2016
Happy Birthday to my older brother Gary Shepard. Gary, who lives in Oak Harbor, Washington, turns 73 years old today. He and his wife Cindy have lived in Western Washington for 16 years, ever since they moved northward from San Diego. These days they are an important part of the support team for our 94 year old mother Maida Shepard. The oldest of the 6 children of Maida and her late husband Eugene Shepard, Gary, like all this siblings, was born and raised in San Diego. Best wishes to Gary for a healthy, happy birthday!

The Young Widow Esther Reynolds. In my last blog post I wrote about my 4XG Grandmother Esther Sidwell Reynolds (1791-1874). She was the maternal grandmother of Civil War soldier William Shepard. In 1829, Esther and husband Richard Reynolds were in their 30s and living in Kirkwood, Ohio. Unexpectedly husband Richard died at just 39 years old. Suddenly Esther became a young widow with 5 children under 17 years old with no means of support for her and her family. Obviously she had a monumental struggle on her hands. For 10 years she worked hard to finish raising her children and make ends meet. Then in 1839 at 41 years old she married long time neighbor and friend James Cross Shepard Sr., 23 years her senior. Hannah, his wife of 41 years, had recently died. It seems to have been a marriage of convenience for Esther and James, but most importantly it was an opportunity for Esther to provide her and her children with some stability they might not have otherwise.

Evansville, Indiana grave of soldier
William Shepard (1835-1862) husband of 
war widow Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale
Mary Shepard Ragsdale. Esther Reynolds was not the first young mother in our family tree to find herself widowed. If you have been a reader of The Shepard's Crook for very long, you know about the Civil War widow Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale, wife of soldier William Shepard (1835-1862). When the soldier William died, his 22 year old wife Mary was left with two young boys, an infant and a 2 year old. She struggled as a war widow for many long months in Indiana before finally marrying an older widower (23 years her senior) and eventually becoming a mother or step-mother to 14 children.

There are other instances of women in our history who were left in crisis when their husbands unexpectedly died. The following are two others who, like Esther Reynolds before them, had to struggle to get back on their feet after the untimely deaths of their husbands. All these women lived in the 19th century, in a time before Social Service agencies that we take for granted.

Lydia Warford Williams. I have written before in this blog about Lydia Warford Williams (1782-1829), the GG Grandmother of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. In 1813 Lydia's 31 year old husband John Williams died (possibly in the War of 1812) leaving her with 4 young children, aged 3, 5, 7, and 9. After 13 years a widow, she married 81 year old William Jones in Putnam, Indiana, a long time friend and widower who was 37 years her senior.

Sam Shannon (with wife Finetta). He was just
5 years old when his widowed mother Peggy
Shannon moved their family of 8 to Arkansas.
Peggy Gray Shannon. One of the most tragic, yet redemptive stories of widowhood among our ancestors concerns Peggy Gray Shannon (1829-1899), the Grandmother of my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. Peggy's husband David Reid Shannon died in the Civil War, leaving her in dire poverty in rural Louisiana. She was just 35 when her soldier/husband died and Peggy was left with 7 children between 2 and 16 years old. Fortunately Peggy's father and a couple of her brothers came to the rescue when they bravely traveled the war-torn South and moved all 8 of them to their family homestead near Mountain View, Arkansas. You can read more about Peggy's story here and here.

These are just some of the inspiring stories of women in our family history who had to fight against incredible odds to survive with their children. Their persistence and perseverance, along with the support of other family, made all the difference between desperate poverty and a thriving family life. They remain an inspiration for all of us who are their descendants.

Do you know of other women in our history whose stories could be added to these? I would be glad to hear from you about them.
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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Our Family Grows, March 13, 2019

Lyliana Stockmoe, born March 1, 2019
The Newest Family Member. The newest member of our family was born recently in Washington State. My niece Linda Shepard Stockmoe, and her husband Jamie Stockmoe had a baby girl on the first day of this month. Lyliana Stockmoe was born Friday, March 1 in Anacortes, Washington. She arrived several weeks earlier than expected so she will have to remain in the Neonatal Unit of a hospital in Everett, Washington for several weeks. Congratulations to Linda and Jamie on the birth of their first child.

Lyliana is the first Grandchild of Russell and Pam Shepard, and Great Grandchild #13 for Linda's Grandmother Maida Shepard. Lyliana arrived just in time to celebrate with her Grandfather Russ Shepard and her Uncle Steven Paul Shepard, both of whom live in Anacortes, Washington. Today, March 13, Grandpa Russ turns 57 while Uncle Steven Paul turns 29.

Happy Birthday Jerry! Best wishes to my "brother by another mother" Jerry Clark. Tomorrow, March 14, Jerry will celebrate yet another birthday. Retired and living the good life, Jerry and his wife Cathrina live in Lubbock, Texas.

Jerry Clark with Maida Shepard
at a Shepard Family Reunion
Over the years one of my favorite subjects of family research has been my Great Great Grandfather William Shepard (1835-1862), the Civil War soldier who died in the war at just 27 years old. Because of him I have discovered great information about our Shepard ancestors before his time. The "Gold Star" mother of the soldier William Shepard was Matilda Reynolds Shepard (1814-1876). William was the oldest of the 7 children born to Matilda and husband James Cross Shepard Jr. They were married in Belmont County, Ohio in 1833 and migrated to Indiana just a few years later.

Matilda Reynolds Shepard (1814-1876). I have written in this blog numerous times about the ancestors of the Indiana soldier William Shepard, but never about his mother Matilda Reynolds Shepard. She and her parents, Richard Reynolds and Esther Sidwell, were from Southeastern Pennsylvania, before migrating to Belmont County, Ohio where they became neighbors of the Sheppards. In Pennsylvania the Reynolds were faithful members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Nottingham, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

One of my interests when researching ancestors is religious affiliation. We know that many of our kinfolk were Church of Christ people, especially those from Belmont County, Ohio. But I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that a number of our ancestors were Quakers. Among the Quakers in our family ancestry are the maternal grandparents of the soldier William Shepard, my 4X Great Grandparents, the aforementioned Richard Reynolds (1790-1829) and Esther Sidwell Reynolds (1791-1874).

Richard and Esther were married April 16, 1812 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, but not without the approval of their church fellowship. It was customary in some churches in those days that when a couple wanted to marry they needed their parents and their Church to give official consent.

Here are a couple of entries from the Meeting Records for the Nottingham, Pennsylvania Quakers in 1812, referring to our ancestors Richard and Esther:

First, this entry dated March 6, 1812: "Richard Barnard Reynolds, son of Joseph and Rachel Reynolds, and Esther Sidwell, daughter of Job Sidwell (deceased) and Rebecca Sidwell, expressed in this meeting their intention of taking each other in marriage. A manifest of the surviving parents consent appears. Abraham Sidwell and Eli Thirk are appointed to inquire respecting his clearness from others on that account."

A month later there is this entry dated April 10, 1812: "No obstruction appearing to the proposal of marriage of Richard Reynolds and Esther Sidwell, they are left at liberty to accomplish the same in an orderly manner. Eli Thirk and Abraham Sidwell are appointed to the oversight thereof."

Sewellsville, Ohio grave of
Esther Sidwell Reynolds Sheppard,
my 4X Great Grandmother
These days it is strange to think that one's church would have to give formal approval before a couple could get married. More often than not in this 21st century, churches consider it none of their business whether or not a couple is even married. But in the early 19th century it was common practice among some religious groups like the Quakers to give, or not give, their official approval to a couple's request to be married. As a result of their Church's official deliberations, my 4X Great Grandparents Richard Reynolds and Esther Sidwell were married April 16, 1812.

Another Interesting Historical Fact. Richard and Esther were married for 17 years when Richard died at just 39 years old, leaving Esther a widow with 5 children, ages 5-17 years old. My 3X Great Grandmother Matilda Reynolds was the second of those 5 children, and was just 15 years old when her young father died. In 1829, on what was still the Ohio frontier, the widow Esther Sidwell Reynolds was clearly in a very difficult situation. She had 5 mouths to feed and no husband to support her. So she married for a second time within a matter of months, to James Cross Sheppard Sr., her daughter's father-in-law. What this meant of course, was that Matilda Reynold's mother became her mother-in-law as well. (Try to wrap your head around that!) A little odd perhaps, but a very practical solution to a pressing family dilemma of the sparsely populated community of Kirkwood, Ohio. After all the drama of her early life Esther Sidwell Reynolds Sheppard lived to be 84. Here is the link to her grave in Sewellsville, Kirkwood, Ohio.

I look forward to writing more about this neglected part of our ancestry, the family of Matilda Reynolds Shepard, the mother of Civil War soldier William Shepard.
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Steve Shepard