Sunday, March 15, 2020

A Double Whammy For Lydia Warford, March 15, 2020

A woman is like a tea bag -
you never know how strong she is
until she gets in hot water.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

In my last post I told the story of two star-crossed lovers, William and Mary Shepard (my GG Grandparents), who were married just two years when he tragically died in the Civil War in 1862. Civil War widow Mary was left with 2 young sons to raise. Against great odds, she was able to make a good life for herself and her sons even though the path was filled with adversity and hardship. Civil War soldier William Shepard and his wife Mary were not alone in our family history. Others had to endure a similar fate when a young person died unexpectedly and left a surviving spouse. I can think of several instances in my own lifetime:
  • In 1970 my wife Cindy's 23 year old cousin Gloria Eeds Westin died in an accident leaving her young husband Terry.
  • In 1971 my sister Linda Shepard Clark at just 20 years old, died in a car accident leaving her young husband Jerry Clark.
  • In 1992 Manuel Aquiningoc tragically died leaving a baby daughter and a 24 year old pregnant wife, my niece Kerri Shepard Aquiningoc.
Lydia Warford Williams. Before the 20th century there were several instances of young people among our kinfolk who experienced the death of a spouse and had to deal with the hardships of single parenthood. One of the most remarkable is my 4X Great Grandmother Lydia Warford Williams (1782-1829) who was born shortly after the revolutionary war.

Here is my lineage to Lydia Warford Williams:
  • my father Eugene Shepard (1921-2003)
  • his mother Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986)
  • her mother Callie Spear Davis (1865-1951)
  • her mother Maggie Williams Spear (1845-1904)
  • her father John Pouty Williams (1806-1898)
  • his mother Lydia Warford Williams (1782-1829)
Lydia Warford Williams' granddaughter
Maggie Williams Spear (left) and
her daughter Callie Spear Davis abt. 1880
When Lydia, the youngest of 8 siblings, was just 2 years old, her father Henry Warford (1741-1784) died in Southern Pennsylvania in the town of Warfordsburg, which was named after Lydia's family. With her father Henry's death, her mother Elizabeth Van Hook Warford became a single parent with the primary responsibility for 8 children between the ages of 2 and 18. The struggle was difficult for their family especially for young Lydia, who only knew her father for two short years of her
life. For the rest of her childhood, Lydia, her siblings and her mother struggled to make do without their father.

At the turn of the 19th century when Lydia was about 18, her family migrated some 500 miles westward from Southern Pennsylvania to the frontier of Shelby County, Kentucky, 30 miles east of Louisville. In 1803 in Kentucky, 21 year old Lydia married neighbor John Williams and with him had a family of her own, including 4 children. In 1813 her husband John Williams died, possibly in the War of 1812, and left her with 4 children under 10 years old.

A Double Whammy. Lydia's father had died in 1784 when she was just 2 years old, and then her husband died in 1813 when she was a 31 year old mother of 4. Not just once, but twice in her life she found herself part of a family where the father-breadwinner died and the sole responsibility for raising the children fell to mom. It was a double whammy for poor Lydia. She was left wondering if she could ever count on the important men in her life. From all that we know she survived her difficult childhood fairly well. And she made the most of her life as a single mother for 13 years after husband John died in 1813.

Pleasant Grove Cemetery near Spencer, Indiana
where several Williams Family members reside
including Lydia Williams' son John Pouty Williams
Not long after her husband John died, Lydia packed up her four kids and left Shelby County, Kentucky. They first traveled 75 or so miles northwest, through Louisville, Kentucky, across the state line, and into Washington County, Indiana, where she and the kids resided in 1820, according to U.S. Census records. Some time later they moved on to Spencer, Indiana, where she and the kids made their home. In 1826, at 44 years old Lydia married an older gentleman named William S. Jones from Putnam County, Indiana just 25 miles north of Spencer. He was an old family friend she had previous known in Kentucky. With him she lived the last few years of her life.

Lydia only lived 47 years. She spent the greater part of her life struggling to overcome the loss of her father first, and then her husband second. She is one more fascinating person in our family tree who overcame great odds. On this "Women's History Month," it is appropriate for us to remember and celebrate the life of a remarkable woman in our family history, Lydia Warford Williams.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

When Hope and Heartbreak Collided, March 11, 2020

From day one
I've already won
You're my Kin
~KT Tunstall

Over the 12 years that I have written this blog, I have often celebrated longevity by honoring individuals whose long lives or lengthy marriages were inspirational. But in this post I want to celebrate a marriage that did not last even two years.

160 Years Ago Today. My Great, Great Grandparents William Shepard and Mary Sprague Shepard were married 160 years ago. On March 11, 1860, William and Mary tied the knot in the small town of Crawfordsville, the county seat of Montgomery County, Indiana. She had just turned 20 years old, while he was an ambitious 24 year old. She was from a farming community 20 miles southeast of Crawfordsville, while he was from Wayne, Indiana, 25 miles north of Crawfordsville near what is today Purdue University.

Winter was drawing to a close and spring time was just around the corner when they went to the county courthouse and became husband and wife. Sometime in the early weeks of their marriage Mary got pregnant, which put pressure on William to provide adequate income for his new family. In June he found a good job, but on a farm 100 miles away near Wabash, Indiana. Later that summer he arranged for Mary to join him and they began their new life together on the farm south of Wabash. In December their first child was born, who they named Frank Shepard.

The Specter of War. All through their first year of marriage, the specter of Civil War loomed large. In the early months of 1861, the Southern States seceded from the Union. As William and Mary's first anniversary rolled around in March, Abraham Lincoln became President, and the Confederacy began to take shape. On April 12, 1861 Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter, South Carolina and the Civil War was underway.

William Shepard's Grave in Evansville, Indiana (left), and 
Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale's Grave in Indianapolis
On April 15, President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for an army of 75,000 men. Like all young men of a certain age, William was concerned about his future and that of his young wife and son. They knew it was probably impossible to avoid military service. But with hope and optimism they looked to the future, hoping the impending conflict would not disrupt their lives too severely and not for very long.

In May, Mary became pregnant again. They did their best to enjoy that summer of 1861, caring for Mary in her pregnancy and relishing the life they shared as a young family of 3, with another on the way. At the end of the summer, Col. John Bridgeland came to Wabash as he organized the Second Indiana Cavalry Regiment, the first complete Regiment from Indiana to fight in the Civil War. In September, William volunteered and began his training for service in the Union Army.

Monday, December 9, 1861, William said his tearful goodbyes to his 21 year old wife Mary and their 1 year old son Frank. He left Wabash for Indianapolis to become part of the Union Army of the Ohio. Little did William and Mary know that they would never see each other again. Their life together ended that sad Monday in early December when he went away to war. They had only been married a year and 9 months. That beautiful wedding day in March of 1860 was becoming a distant memory.

To Finish William's Story. Just a week after arriving in Indianapolis, William and his regiment departed the capital city on a 250 mile, 6 week military march southward to Louisville, and then further on into Kentucky.

On February 1, 1862 William and his Regiment had their first military action at Bowling Green. Historians do not call it a battle. It was a skirmish with some confederate forces, during which a canon mishap occurred. As an old family story tells it, "William had his arm blown off." He was transported 100 miles to a Military Hospital in Evansville, Indiana. As with most injured Civil War soldiers, it was not the initial injury that took his life. It was a secondary cause during hospitalization -- in William's case dysentery -- that finally brought about his death July 22, 1862.

That first weekend in February of 1862 hope and heartbreak collided. Saturday, February 1, horrible pain and anguish resulted from William's arm injury at Bowling Green, which led to his death 5 months later. The next day, Sunday, February 2, was a day of great hope for a bright future as William's wife Mary gave birth to their second son, William Elmer Shepard. On the same weekend, one of the great tragedies of our family history was paired with one of the greatest joys.

Two of William and Mary Shepard's grandchildren:
William Shepard (left) with wife Bura,
Sadie Shepard Pruett (right) with husband Levi
in San Diego in 1946
To Finish Mary's Story. Neither Mary nor William knew what was happening to the other that weekend in early February. Communication was painfully slow during the war. As far as we know, the soldier William never got to see his wife or family again. Eventually the heart breaking news made its way back to Mary in Wabash that her husband had died and had been buried in Evansville, Indiana. With a heavy heart she took her two young boys and made her way back to Montgomery County, where her life with the soldier William had begun. In 1865 she married an older widowed farmer named William Ragsdale and became step-mother to his 9 children, adding her own two youngsters to the mix. With Mr. Ragsdale she had three more children. Having lived a precious few years as Mrs. William Shepard, Mary spent the last 54 years of her life as Mrs. William Ragsdale. But she never forgot her first love, that special day they married, and the all too shortened life they shared together.

A Proud Legacy Remains. We celebrate the marriage of William and Mary Shepard that occurred 160 years ago today in Indiana. It was 80 years ago that their only grandson -- also named William Shepard -- migrated to San Diego, California from Southeast Colorado, with his wife Bura and their four children Pauline, Elmer, Eugene and Thelma. Some of Will and Bura's descendants still live here in San Diego today. Others live in Washington, Oklahoma, Texas and other places. But wherever we are, we remain indebted to William and Mary, those two who struggled through those difficult times. Their memory stays with us, and their legacy we proudly claim on this 160th anniversary of their wedding.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)