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

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