Friday, August 30, 2019

Outstanding 18th Century Ministers, August 30, 2019

When at our best, our family is a circle of strength, 
founded on faith, joined in love, kept by God.

In my last post I wrote about 6 ministers from the 20th century in our family tree. All 6 of them, including myself, are ministers of the Campbell-Stone Tradition, also known as The Restoration Movement. To find other ministers in our family history one has to search before the time of The Restoration Movement which began in the early 19th century. If you know of other ministers in our family history besides those I have mentioned I would like to hear from you.

This search to find full time ministers in our history brings to my mind the strong inclination in our family, over many generations, to be people of faith. This is true of many families with deep roots in American soil. Even though our culture is gradually becoming more secular and less religious, there is still great importance placed on faith-based lives among many within our extended family. 

This religious penchant can be traced back many generations. A number of our ancestors were 18th century Quaker ministers. This summer I have written here about a couple of them. Yet there are several others to be mentioned. First however it is important to note a couple of things about the Quakers. They were among the most influential religious groups in early America. In Pennsylvania during the time of the American Revolution some estimate that one in every 3 citizens was a Quaker. Their influence on the political, social and religious life of our country is remarkable. Among the important beliefs of the Quakers was their firm opposition to slavery, their support of Native Americans, their strict pacifism, and their belief in gender equality. Among the Quakers both women and men were equally allowed to be ministers, if they had the appropriate gifts and if they were called, "recorded," and certified by the appropriate church structures.

The following are brief profiles of some Quaker ancestors in our family tree who served as ministers.

James Wright Sr. (1671-1759). The earliest minister I have found in our family tree was my 7X Great Grandfather James Wright. We are related to James and his wife Mary through Malinda Wright Davis (1846-1920), the Grandmother of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard.   

Hopewell Monthly Meeting House and Cemetery
Winchester, Virginia
James and Mary Wright were originally from Chester County, in Southeast Pennsylvania. Incidentally, this is the very area where some Quaker ancestors on the Shepard side of the family originated. James Wright was a "distinguished minister of the Society of Friends who traveled widely in the exercise of his ministry," according to Quaker author Algie Newlin. In 1725 James and Mary  uprooted their family of 8 children and moved westward, to spread the Christian faith, and to provide ministerial leadership among the Quakers on the frontier. They helped found a new congregation on Monocacy Creek in the area around what is today Frederick, Maryland. Some years later they moved further into the American wilderness to help found another new congregation, the Hopewell Monthly Meeting, near what is today Winchester, Virginia.

Later in life Mary and James Wright continued to be held in high esteem by the Friends in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the Quaker leadership in Pennsylvania. The Wrights had suffered so much hardship on the frontier during the French and Indian War, that they were almost destitute. As a result a significant financial gift was sent to them by the Quaker leadership back in Pennsylvania. It was a gift that reflected gratitude for the many years of ministerial service of James Wright and his wife Mary. In one historical record it is written that James, "an elder of the Hopewell Monthly Meeting, was a sober, industrious honest man, grave in manner, and solid and weighty in conversation. He departed this life May 15, 1759 in the 83rd year of his age. And we have reason to believe he is at rest with the Lord." (the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Dec. 1982.)

James Wright then is the first of the 18th century ministers I have found in our Family Tree. Among all the accomplishments of his life and ministry, perhaps the most important was his family legacy of ministers. Five members of James and Mary's family, over three generations, also became ministers. The following is a profile of one of them. 

Martha Wright Mendenhall (1713-1794). James and Mary Wright's third child was Martha Wright who was "recorded" (the Quaker term for "certified") as a minister when she was 20 years old. Clearly even as a teen she showed that she had gifts for ministry. She was born in Pennsylvania but as a child moved with her family and settled in the Valley of the Monocacy (Frederick, Maryland today) where the Wrights were one of the founding families of the Quaker community there. Martha married John Mendenhall III when they were both just 18 years old. For over 60 years she was active in the ministry of the Quakers in Maryland and Virginia. She is buried today with her husband John in the Providence Quaker Cemetery, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The following is part of a memorial found in the minutes of the Hopewell Monthly Meeting of the Quakers, September 25, 1797. 

Providence Quaker Cemetery
Martinsburg, West Virginia
"Concerning our esteemed friend Martha Mendenhall. She was called to the work of the Quaker ministry at age 19. Being diligent in the attendance of meetings, both for worship and discipline and humbly attentive to the pointings of truth in the exercise of her gift, she became an able minister of the gospel and sometimes visited the meetings of Friends in other parts of this continent. She was often enabled, in the decline of life, and even about a week before her departure, to communicate to the consolation of those present, her testimony being sound and edifying. She was a tender parent and a nursing mother in Israel. Being humble and meek in deportment, she was beloved by most who knew her. Her final illness was short, in which she several times expressed her desire to be unclothed of mortality and that she was satisfied she had not her day work to do. A few moments before her departure, she was heard to say, 'This is the happiest day I ever experienced; now Father, thou art come; I have been looking for thee all this day.' She then quietly departed this life, a minister for about 62 years, and was the next day interred in Friends' burying ground at Tuscarora."

A Nursing Mother in Israel. Did you notice in the above memorial that Martha was referred to as "a nursing mother in Israel"? That was a description I had never heard before. It was so interesting that I had to do some research into what it meant. "A nursing mother in Israel" is a reference to caring Quaker leaders, especially, but not exclusively, women ministers, and their unique gifts. It described their strong nurturing ability to do such things as help backsliders return to the fold, and to nourish, exhort, and build up the young in the faith.

James Wright and his daughter Martha Wright Mendenhall, then are two of the ministers I have found in our family tree from the 18th century. In my next post I will profile other ministers from this same Wright family, individuals whose lives and ministries we can celebrate.
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Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Friday, August 16, 2019

Ministers in Our Family Tree, August 16, 2019

As for me and my house
we will serve the Lord.
~Joshua 24.14

In recent months I have been researching and writing about the family of my 2X Great Grandmother Malinda Wright Davis (1846-1920) of Spencer, Indiana. Her 17th century Wright ancestors were Quakers, several of them Quaker ministers. What other ministers have we had in our family history? I was a minister for all of my working life, beginning with a student pastorate that began 50 years ago this month, while a student at Abilene Christian. The following are some other ministers of note in our family tree. In this post I will list those who gave themselves to full time Christian service in the 20th Century. In a future post I will look back to ministers from previous generations.

Edwin Kilpatrick, 1960s
Edwin Dale Kilpatrick (1932-1979). Edwin, a second cousin of my father Eugene Shepard, was born in Booker, Texas but came with his family as a child to California where he lived the rest of his life. He attended Abilene Christian University before serving Church of Christ congregations in Northern and Southern California. In the 1960s he was the minister of the Linda Vista Church of Christ in San Diego, where my family attended for many years. He was not only our minister, he and his wife Ruby and their children were close friends and neighbors in our Kearny Mesa neighborhood. Edwin also served churches in Marysville and in Sacramento, California where for several years he was also a family counselor. At just 46 years old he died in 1979 of cancer and is buried in Sacramento. I have written in this blog a number of times, including here and here, about Edwin and his impact on me and our family.

Clyde Williams (1903-1993). Another minister in our family tree was my Great Aunt Marjorie Davis Milligan's late-in-life husband Clyde Williams. Originally from Kansas, he served in WWI. According to the History of Beaver County (1970), his first sermon was preached at the South Flat Church of Christ in Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1917. He then engaged in full time ministry for over 40 years in 18 states.

William Morton Davis (3rd from left) about 1925 
with his brothers Zaly, Ben, James and Thomas. 
Second from right is his father C.E. Davis.
William Morton Davis (1877-1969). Among the best known ministers in our family tree was my 2nd Great Uncle William Morton Davis from Spencer, Indiana, who was married to Clara Gates. After attending Christian College in Kimberlin Heights, Tennessee, he served as a Church of Christ minister in Helena, Oklahoma, Belle Plaine, Kansas, and numerous locations in Texas, including the Owenwood Church of Christ in Dallas. I remember my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard, a niece and contemporary of Morton Davis, speaking proudly and with great respect about her "Uncle Mort." He was a staff writer for the church periodical The Firm Foundation, and had an article on the front page of that paper for almost 50 years. He was one of the best known preachers and writers in the Church of Christ during the first half of the 20th Century. Here is a link to The Restoration Movement website and an article with more details about the life and ministry of William Morton Davis.

Frank Wheeler with wife Lucy Davis
and daughter Amy Ruth, 1923
Francis Lafayette Wheeler (1900-1924). Frank Wheeler was another minister in our family tree with one of the most fascinating life stories. Like his uncle William Morton Davis, Frank was from Owen County, Indiana. He was orphaned in 1903 at just 3 years old. He was sent to Spencer, Indiana to live with the Brown family who were members of the New Union Church of Christ. He was baptized there at age 14 and began preaching at 16. When he was 22 Frank joined our family when he married a teenage girl in the congregation named Lucy Davis (whose father Thomas Davis is the one on the far right in the picture above). As an impressive, up-and-coming young Church of Christ preacher in his early 20s, Frank made quite a name for himself in Owen County, Indiana and beyond.

But then tragedy struck. In 1924 he was the regular preacher of the Church of Christ in Linton, Indiana when he developed Typhoid Fever and tragically died within just a couple of weeks. Young Lucy Davis Wheeler suddenly became a 20 year old widow with two young children: 2 year old daughter Amy Ruth and 2 month old son Lloyd. Lucy was so heartbroken that she never remarried. She died in 1990 just a few miles from where she was born in Owen County, Indiana. She is buried in the New Union Cemetery outside the town of Spencer, next to her young husband Frank who preceded her in death by 66 years. God only knows what an accomplished and influential minister Frank might have been had he not died at such a young age.

The picture above, taken in 1923, shows the handsome, dapper young preacher Frank Wheeler looking confident and full of promise. Well dressed and well coiffed, he even has a pen in his pocket to jot down notes for his next sermon. One can easily imagine this striking young man standing in a pulpit proclaiming the good news and impressing church folk young and old with the power of the gospel. Behind Frank is his 20 year old wife Lucy Davis Wheeler. In his lap is their first born Amy Ruth Wheeler. 

Lloyd Wheeler
Lloyd E. Wheeler (1924-1992). What about Frank and Lucy's second child, their baby boy, who was just two months old when Frank died? Young Lloyd Wheeler and his older sister Ruth were raised by their widowed mother Lucy in the rural home of their Grandparents Tom and Alice Davis near Spencer, Indiana. After graduating High School in Owen County, Indiana, Lloyd went on to attend Harding University, Searcy, Arkansas in the mid 1940s. He made his friends and family back home in Indiana at the New Union Church of Christ very proud. He became what his promising but ill fated father never could become because of his untimely death in 1924. Lloyd E. Wheeler served as a Church of Christ preacher for 50 years in Nebraska, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Utah, Arkansas, Missouri and Minnesota. The last 21 years of his ministry were spent at the Roseville Church of Christ in St Paul Minnesota. He died of a heart attack Oct. 5, 1992 while attending a High School reunion in his hometown of Spencer, Indiana. Here is a link to The Restoration Movement website with more about Lloyd Wheeler.

These are just a few of the full time ministers that we have had in the history of our family. Do you know of others? In my next post I will look back even further in our history to ministers whose lives we remember and celebrate.
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Steve Shepard

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Descendants From East To West, August 6, 2019

This land is your land,
This land in my land...
This land was made
for you and me.
~Woodie Guthrie

Juanita Eeds with son Keith Eeds
and niece Cindy Shepard in Nov 2018
Happy 98th Birthday! Today is the birthday of Juanita Eeds of Bandon, Oregon! My wife Cindy and Granddaughter Preslea are in Bandon today celebrating with Cindy's Aunt Juanita. Born in Durant, Oklahoma in 1921, she lived with family in San Diego for many years until last summer. She then moved to Oregon to be with her son Keith and his wife Sally. Best wishes for a very happy 98th birthday to Juanita!

In recent posts I have written about my 6X Great Grandparents John Wright (1716-1789) and his wife Rachel Wells Wright (1720-1751) who were originally from Pennsylvania and Maryland. From their earliest days in Colonial America they were devoted Quakers who helped establish new Quaker communities wherever they went. Their life together began in Frederick, Maryland where they were married and where their first 7 children were born. In Maryland they were founding members and leaders of the Fairfax Monthly Meeting (the name for the local Quaker congregation). John and Rachel both became what the Quakers called "recorded ministers" while affiliated with the Fairfax Monthly Meeting. Who are the people through whom we trace our ancestry to 18th Century ancestors John and Rachel Wright? The following paragraphs briefly summarize them.

North Carolina. In 1749 John and Rachel took their family of 7 children from Maryland and moved to Orange County, North Carolina where they became founding members of the Cane Creek Monthly Meeting, west of Chapel Hill. At Cane Creek they had 6 more children, including Sarah Wright (1749-1789), the one from whom our particular family is descended.

Historical Marker in South Carolina
re: the Bush River Quaker Meeting
South Carolina. Rachel and John Wright then migrated from North Carolina to Newberry, South Carolina in 1764. There they once again became Charter Members of a new Quaker fellowship, this time the Bush River Monthly Meeting. After just 7 years in Bush River, 52 year old Rachel died in 1771, two days before Christmas. 52 seems like an early death by today's standards, but at that time the life expectancy was less than 40 years. After her death husband John continued on as the head of their large family and as a minister in their Quaker fellowship. He outlived Rachel by 18 years. In his later years John became a member of the first and second Provincial Congress of South Carolina. In his 50s he served in the Revolutionary War and helped bring about the United States of America.

The 8th child of John and Rachel was Sarah Wright (1749-1789). In 1767, at just 18, she married James Brooks (1749-1840) in Newberry, South Carolina and with him had 10 children, all Biblically named: Elizabeth, Joanna, Susannah, Vashti, Sarah, John, Nimrod, James, Joseph and Mary. Sarah and James Brooks raised their family and lived out their days in the Quaker Colony of Newberry County, South Carolina.

Sarah and James' fourth child was a daughter, Vashti Brooks (1776-1867), named after the beautiful Persian Queen in the Old Testament book of Esther. She married an older fellow named James Wright (1759-1806), who appears to have been her first cousin. It is likely that Vashti Brooks and her husband James Wright were both grandchildren of John Wright and Rachel Wells Wright. The marriage of first cousins is unusual today, but not so in Colonial times. A few years ago I wrote about some other 18th Century ancestors on the Gower side of our family who married first cousins.

On to Western Ohio. Sometime around the turn of the 19th Century Vashti and James Wright migrated to Western Ohio. In 1806, they appear in the records of the Miami Monthly Meeting of the Quakers in Warren County, Ohio, north east of Cincinnati. (Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. 5, Ohio Monthly Meetings, p. 144.) Vashti and John were part of that common 19th century migration of Americans from the Carolinas to Ohio and then on to Indiana. The following graphic shows the 300+ year, cross country migration of this part of our family from Frederick, Maryland to San Diego, California.

The 300+ year Migration Route of our ancestors
from Maryland to San Diego

Wright Wright. The 1850 US Census shows Vashti Brooks Wright, a 75 year old widow, living in Owen County, Indiana with her daughter Nancy Wright (1811-1882). Nancy married a man named John Lynn Wright (1808-1909), who had the same last name. It is unknown how closely they might have been related. Nancy's married name therefore became -- are you ready for this? -- Nancy Wright Wright, which was one more anomaly among these ancestral Wrights of ours.

Nancy's daughter was Malinda Elizabeth Wright (1846-1920), who married Charles Edward Davis (1849-1926), the father of James Brooks Davis (1870-1928). Named after his Great Great Grandfather James Brooks (a son-in-law of Rachel and John Wright) James Brooks Davis was the father of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). Bura, with her husband William Shepard and their children, were the first in this ancestral line to settle in San Diego in 1940. Though many of their descendants have moved elsewhere in the last 80 years (Washington, Oklahoma, Kansas, etc.) some of their descendants have lived in San Diego ever since.

This then is a very brief summary of the long journey of our Wright-Davis-Shepard ancestors from East Coast to West. It encompassed seven generations and took over 300 years to migrate from Maryland to California. It was a long journey to be sure, with innumerable memories, heartbreaking losses and great successes. It is a journey we celebrate, because it is our story, part of the ongoing story our family, a story to claim and to realize the American dream.
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Steve Shepard