Saturday, June 29, 2019

Strong Amidst Adversity, June 29, 2019

The love of family
and the admiration of friends
is much more important
than wealth and privilege.
~Charles Kuralt

In my previous two posts I wrote about my ancestors John and Rachel Wright, pioneers of early America and Quaker Church leaders, first in Maryland, then in North Carolina. After nearly 15 years in North Carolina, John and Rachel Wright were compelled to move to South Carolina. At the time of their decision to move they were the parents of 13 children between the ages of 6 and 26 years old. Part of the reason the Wright family moved was because of a serious conflict that erupted in their Quaker fellowship with Rachel at the center. The dustup turned out to be Rachel's opportunity to show her strength amidst serious adversity.

Pacifism and The Regulator Movement. The conflict had to do with careful adherence to pacifism, one of the key beliefs of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Their members were not allowed to take up arms for any cause. Two years ago I wrote in this blog about another Quaker ancestor unrelated to the Wrights: 5X Great Grandfather Nathan Gatchell (1756-1813). During the Revolutionary War he refused military service as a faithful Quaker. He did however support the war effort by cleaning the guns of the colonists who did fight. But even that activity was too much for his pacifist Quaker fellowship and he was "disowned" by them as a result.

The Cane Creek Monthly Meeting, North Carolina
18th Century home of ancestors John and Rachel Wright
In the 1760s, during the time Rachel and John Wright lived in Cane Creek, North Carolina, the pacifism of the Quakers came under fire, so to speak. The new communities of the North Carolina wilderness were being taxed outrageously by corrupt local judges and sheriffs. As a result The Regulator Movement arose, an historic grassroots uprising that resisted unfair taxation, and at times included armed resistance. One of the key people of The Regulator Movement was a fellow named Herman Husband, a charismatic figure and natural leader who happened to be a member of the same Quaker fellowship as Rachel Wright. Herman Husband is known for much more than just this conflict with Rachel. He is also an important figure in North Carolina history, especially relating to The Regulator Movement of the 1760s. He and Rachel clashed over the extent to which the pacifist Quakers could be a part of the Regulator Movement.

A Church Quarrel and What Resulted is a 1914 article written by Julia White (published by Friends Historical Association) which gives details of this conflict among the Quakers concerning Rachel. She was accused of some improprieties in her work as a Quaker Minister which resulted in the local Quaker congregation (the Monthly Meeting) refusing to authorize her ministry. She and Herman Husband also exchanged some sharp and biting words with each other that Rachel had to apologize for later. It was an apology that some considered disingenuous, which made matters even worse. Her vocal outburst may have contributed to the local congregation's decision against Rachel. She remained adamant however about defending herself and appealed to a higher Quaker council (the Quarterly Meeting) which overturned her congregation's decision. They said it was a poorly made decision and that Rachel should be an authorized minister. Rachel had been vindicated. But the congregation was left in turmoil. One of the angry factions in her local church appealed to the highest Quaker body (the Yearly Meeting) which overturned the decision of the Quarterly Meeting! Rachel was once again un-authorized as a Quaker minister. But after further review, the Yearly Meeting reconsidered and granted Rachel her authorization for ministry in March of 1767.

It is interesting to note that the authorization was not just given to her but to her "and her children," according to the 1914 article. Not only was Rachel a Quaker minister, two of her and John's daughters were also Quaker ministers, Charity Wright Cook (1745-1822) and Susannah Wright Hollingsworth (1755-1830). They may have been as influential as Rachel herself. In 1981 Charity's life story was documented in a book titled Charity Cook: A Liberated Woman (by Algie Newlin, published by Friends United Press.

Gritty, Tough and Scrappy. This part of Rachel Wright's story tells us even more about this rugged relative of ours. She was not just a pioneer on the American frontier, not just a devoted wife and mother, and not just a good Quaker. She was all of that but much more. She was a gritty character, a fighter for truth and justice who resisted those who questioned her credibility. She refused to be bullied by powerful men. She was tough and scrappy, able to hold her own against those who opposed her.

We are very fortunate to have such extensive information about Rachel, a colorful ancestor whose life was so compelling and who lived nearly 300 years ago. Fortunately the Quakers were very good at keeping detailed records and for that we can be grateful. Aside from those who died for their country, I can think of no finer hero among all our ancestors than scrappy Rachel Wells Wright. 

It was during their difficult time of church turmoil that John and Rachel Wright and their family relocated to a Quaker colony in Newberry, South Carolina, 200 miles south of where they lived in North Carolina. In my next post I will write about the next chapter in the life of Rachel and John.
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Steve Shepard

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Driving Spiritual Force, June 22, 2019

Do not fear truth. 
I try from the bottom of my heart 
to do what truth dictates, 
if it leads me to be a Quaker or not.
~ Elizabeth Fry

In my last post I wrote about my 6X Great Grandparents John Wright and Rachel Wells Wright, who are related to me through my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. Bura's grandmother was Malinda Wright Davis (1846-1920).  Malinda's GG Grandparents, John and Rachel Wright, were early colonial Quaker pioneers on the East Coast. They met and married about 1737 while their families were living in a Quaker Community near the town of Frederick, Maryland.

The Pioneering Impulse. In 1749 Rachel and John with their first 7 children relocated from their home in Maryland to the wilderness of North Carolina. Like many Colonialists they were motivated by the pioneering impulse to settle this new land of promise. But the Wrights were equally motivated by the drive to spread the Quaker faith into the wilderness. John and Rachel had been key leaders in their church community (the Fairfax Monthly Meeting) in Maryland, and continued to be among the staunch Quaker faithful as they journeyed onward.

To travel from Maryland into North Carolina in 18th Century Colonial America was a huge undertaking for the Wrights, especially with 7 children between the ages of 5 and 15 years old. The dangers of land travel were many, including poor roads, few bridges, threats of Indian raids and harsh weather. The most common mode of travel in that day was by boat, which may have been how they made their way southward. Traveling by boat would also explain why their first living location in North Carolina was on the Atlantic coast, at a Quaker community at Carver's Creek, north of Wilmington. The historical records of the Carver's Creek Monthly Meeting show that the Wrights were welcomed there in May, 1749. They did not remain at Carver's Creek very long. In 1751 Rachel and John, following the call of the wilderness and the impulse to further the Christian cause, took their family and moved away from the coast and into the untamed Carolina wilderness.

200 Miles On Horseback. They settled in the sparsely populated Cane Creek area. They wrote to the North Carolina Quaker oversight body (a Quarterly Meeting held at Little River) asking for permission to establish a Monthly Meeting in their new location. The Quakers were well organized and required authorization before a new faith community could be established. As was often the case in matters like this, Church bureaucracy moved slowly. (Some things never change!) According to "The Carolina Quaker Experience" (by Seth Hinshaw, 1984) Rachel and new neighbor Abigail Pike became impatient waiting for a response so they traveled the 200 miles to meet in person with the Quarterly Meeting at Little River. Leaving husband John at home with the 7 children, Rachel and friend Abigail and some other friends traveled on horseback all the way to Little River. It is hard to imagine the many dangers they encountered and the physical stamina required to make this long journey. Thankfully it was a successful mission. At their session with the Quarterly Meeting authorization was given and Rachel and Abigail returned to their families. In October 1751 they became charter members of the newly formed Cane Creek Monthly Meeting.

18th Century Quaker Record, listing the 13 children 
of John and Rachel Wright
A Driving Spiritual Force. This was one more instance of 6X Great Grandmother Rachel Wells Wright showing her strength of character, her healthy body and spirit, her leadership abilities, her adventurous demeanor, and her persistent Christian faith. The American frontier was the perfect place for strong women like Rachel Wright who worked tirelessly for the betterment of their families and their communities. 18th Century Rachel Wells is yet another woman in our family history who admirably carried the banner of spiritual leadership in her family. Rachel reminds me of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard who in the 20th Century was the driving spiritual force in her family. As far as I know my grandmother Bura never knew about her 4X Great Grandmother Rachel Wells Wright. But if she had she would have proudly claimed her as kin.

Rachel and husband John Wright remained for almost 15 years at Cane Creek in what became Orange County, North Carolina. It was during their time there that they added 6 more children to their family, making a total of 13. The first of the Wright children to be born in North Carolina was Sarah Wright (1749-1789), the one from whom we are directly descended. Life was good for the Wrights in the years they were at Cane Creek, at least as good as they could expect being pioneers on the rugged frontier. But as fate would have it they encountered some difficult situations along the way. A serious conflict arose within the Cane Creek Monthly Meeting with Rachel at the center. It was a conflict that altered the course of their lives. That part of the family story I will tell in my next post.
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Steve Shepard

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Rachel Wells Wright, Colonial Quaker Preacher, June 11, 2019

People go east only when invited. 
People go west when all bets are off. 
When they need to save their sorry souls, 
folks head for the frontier.
~Karen Hines

John and Rachel Wells Wright are my 6X Great Grandparents who made their mark on 18th Century Colonial America. Their impressive life story -- almost 300 years ago now -- has recently become available to me. John and Rachel are related to me through my Great Grandfather James Brooks Davis, whose birthday was remembered in this blog earlier this month on June 2.

James Brooks Davis' mother was Malinda Wright Davis. She is the one who connects us to our Wright ancestry which we can trace all the way back to the mid 1600s. Here is a lineage that shows our heritage going back 14 generations, covering almost four centuries.
  1. Francis Swanston Sr., (1645-1675) who married Isabel Saddler (1650-1744)
  2. whose son Francis Swanson Jr. (1672-1698) married Sarah Plummer (1675-1720)
  3. whose daughter Margaret Swanson (1697-1755) married Joe Wells (1697-1758)
  4. whose daughter Rachel Wells (1720-1771) married John Wright (1716-1789)
  5. whose daughter Sarah Wright (1749-1789) married James Brooks (1747-1790)
  6. whose daughter Vashti Brooks (1776-1867) married John Wright (1759-1806)
  7. whose daughter Nancy Wright (1811-1882) married John Lynn Wright (1808-1909)
  8. whose daughter Malinda Wright (1846-1920) married Charles E. Davis (1849-1926)
  9. whose son James Brooks Davis (1870-1928) married Caroline Spear (1865-1951)
  10. whose daughter Bura Davis (1896-1986) married William Shepard (1888-1976)
  11. whose son Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) married Maida Gower (b. 1924)
  12. whose son Steve Shepard (b. 1948) married Cindy Harris (b. 1948)
  13. whose son Nathan Shepard (b. 1977) married Chenda Sou (b. 1980)
  14. James Brooks Davis (1870-1928)
    son of Malinda Wright Davis (1846-1920)
  15. whose daughter is Preslea Maida Shepard (b. 2010)
This is quite an impressive lineage that covers nearly 400 years. At first glance it can be a confusing array of names and dates. But there are a few things worth pointing out about this lineage. The first generation listed here, includes Francis Swanston, a young doctor who migrated across the Atlantic in 1665 from England and settled in Maryland. The colony of Maryland had only been in existence about 30 years when Francis arrived by ship from England. Maryland was the state where several of our ancestors had their New World beginning, including: John and Mary Shepard, Nathan and Hannah Gatchell, James and Mary Alexander, Richard Reynolds, and John McKnitt.

John Wright and his wife Rachel Wells are the two in the above lineage that I am most focused on at this particular time. Rachel, the first of Joseph and Margaret Well's 11 children, was born in 1720 in Maryland, just 25 miles east of what is today Washington, D.C. Her parents had her baptized on July 12, 1721 at All Hallow's Episcopal Church in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. All Hallow's Church still exists today and is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. For anyone interested in our family history, All Hallow's Church in Maryland is a "must-see" place to visit.

All Hallow's Church, Davidsonville, Md
where Rachel Wells was baptized
July 12, 1721 
Rachel Wells was just 16 years old when, in 1737, she married John Wright, who was only 20 himself. He was from Pennsylvania Quaker stock, born in Chester County, Pa. When just a child his family relocated to Northern Maryland and settled in a Quaker Community near Frederick, Maryland. Rachel's family, presumably still Episcopal, moved from Eastern Maryland to Frederick which is where Rachel and John met and eventually married. Rachel's marriage to John meant that she would become a Quaker herself, which she did wholeheartedly.

The Minister Rachel Wells Wright. At this time in American History, The Society of Friends (the Quakers) was the faith of choice for one third of all American Colonialists. John and Rachel became very involved in their Quaker "Monthly Meeting" (the name for their local gathering). In the spring of 1745 John was made overseer of the Men in their Monthly Meeting. At the same time Rachel was made overseer of the Women at the same Monthly Meeting. Even though there was this division of labor for the men and the women, the Quakers believed in the equality of the sexes and their ability to serve in leadership positions. For many years John and Rachel Wright were dedicated leaders of the local Quaker gatherings wherever they lived. Because of her leadership and dedication Rachel became a Quaker "friend of the ministry," which made her a Quaker preacher, which she took to with great energy, spirit and determination.

By the time she was 24, Rachel was the mother of 7 children under the age of 10 (they would eventually have 13). They were seemingly on a mission to help populate the world for the Quakers. The Wrights and their brood were of course typical of frontier families. In 1750 John and Rachel with their first 7 children, uprooted their family and migrated 300 miles southward. They were part of what became known as "The Great Quaker Migration" that moved down the Shenandoah Valley into Virginia, the Carolinas and even Georgia. It was an awesome undertaking for this young family of 10 (plus possibly a few grandparents) to make this move into the frontier of North Carolina. If nothing else it showed the grittiness of John and Rachel, their faith in God, their strength of character, and their hope for the future.

In my next post I will write about John and Rachel Wright's experience in North Carolina and their help in founding the Cane Creek Monthly Meeting in Orange County.
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Steve Shepard

Sunday, June 02, 2019

A Day for Remembering, June 2, 2019

True love stories never have endings. 
~Richard Bach

Greetings to all of you from San Diego where the weather is mild and the living is easy! This weekend is a time to remember a number of significant events in our family history.

Paula Harris (right) with son Joe Paul and daughter Cindy
Paula Hicks Harris (1923-2018). Today, June 2, is the first anniversary of the death of Cindy's mom Paula Harris. In the last year, life has obviously been very different around our home here on Burgundy Street in the Allied Gardens Community of San Diego. This was Paula's home for 61 years until she passed away last year a few weeks short of her 95th birthday. She and husband Joe Harris bought this home in 1957 when they were a young couple with two children in Elementary School. No matter how many changes we make to this long time Harris family house, the loving, caring spirit of this wonderful couple will always be present. And for that we will ever be grateful. This first family picture shows Paula with her children Joe Paul and Cindy. It was taken back in the 1960s.

Happy 40th Anniversary to my brother Gary Shepard and his wife Cindy of Oak Harbor, Washington. They were married in a garden wedding on June 2, 1979 at our home in Los Alamitos, California. My wife Cindy and I and our 2 year old son Nathan were living in Los Alamitos at the time. Gary and his fiancé Cindy and some friends of theirs came from San Diego to our home in Orange County to be married. It was a pleasant day for the beautiful ceremony that got their married life started. It has been a great 40 years for them, most of which has been spent living in the San Diego area. For the last 16 years however they have lived in Oak Harbor, Washington, just a short drive from where our mother Maida Shepard lives in Anacortes, Washington. Best wishes to Gary and Cindy for many more happy years together!

3 Happy Couples: from top, 
William and Bura Shepard
Cindy and Gary Shepard
Desiree and Jeremy Ortiz
Remembering My Shepard Grandparents. This weekend is also a time to celebrate the anniversary of my late Grandparents William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard who were married 104 years ago on June 2, 1915 in Beaver County, Oklahoma. My grandparents will always be remembered as the first family among us Shepards to live in Southern California when they moved from a tiny town in dusty Southeast Colorado to the bustling Navy town of San Diego in the fall of 1940. For 79 years now descendants of theirs have lived here in San Diego.

Remembering James Brooks Davis (1870-1928). My Grandparents William Shepard and Bura Davis were married on the birthday of Bura's father James Brooks Davis who was born June 2, 1870. What a special way for James to celebrate his 45th birthday, by witnessing the wedding of his oldest child, Bura, who was just an 18 year old teenager at the time. She was marrying the son of their Shepard neighbors who were fellow members of the South Flat Church of Christ in the dusty farming community of Beaver County, Oklahoma. It was the first wedding of the 7 children of James and Callie Davis and must have been a wonderful time of celebration for this close knit Davis family.

Speaking of James Brooks Davis, I have recently learned of some newly available information about the pre-Revolutionary War ancestors of James Brooks Davis' mother Malinda Wright Davis. In coming weeks I will share in this blog about James' 3X Great Grandmother Rachel Wells Wright. She was a rebel-rousing, East Coast Quaker preacher who made history in the Society of Friends in the 18th century. It is a compelling story that I look forward to sharing with you.

Happy 17th Anniversary Jeremy and Desiree. This weekend Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz are celebrating their 17th wedding anniversary. They were married June 1, 2002 here in San Diego. Jeremy is the son of my cousin Kim Boyd Clark, and the grandson of my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd. Best wishes to Jeremy and Desiree and their family for a great anniversary!

This is a special weekend to remember these and other important events in the life of our larger family. It is a time to celebrate, to remember and to honor these folks who have meant so much to us for many years.
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Steve Shepard