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.
- - -
Steve Shepard

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