Saturday, June 14, 2014

Family History 3: North Carolina Flashback

For the last couple weeks, I've been dabbling in a "Family's History of the US." It's a travel narrative through parts of US history by way of my ancestry.

My next post should continue the "Revivalin' Twenties" with a run through the births of my parents, aunts, and uncles, largely in the late twenties. But in the idle evenings I've been fiddling with another part of my past in the 1800s. I thought I should record some thoughts while they're fresh.
1. After the Revivalin' Twenties came the Depression Thirties. My grandfather, Harry Shepherd, had taught at Frankfort Pilgrim College for six years when it closed because of the Depression in 1933. From 1933 to 1939 he would teach and pastor from Virginia to North Carolina to Kentucky and back to Indiana again.

My mother has vivid memories of the trip from Indiana to Virginia in 1933. One involves her mother jumping out of the car to put a block behind it to keep it from rolling backwards down a hill. Also, since the car didn't have windows, she remembers a kind farmer in Tennessee, I believe, inviting them to sleep in the barn rather than in the car, because of rattlesnakes. She remembers there being snakes around the church in Virginia too, I forget where.

Then her father taught at Kernersville in 1934, I believe it was. This was a first attempt to start a Bible college there and it wouldn't last more than a year. My grandfather was asked to teach there by someone who would later become one of the presidents of Wesleyan Methodist College (now Southern Wesleyan). I'll have to get these names from my mother. It would be over a decade before Southern Pilgrim College would be officially founded in Kernersville and it would take (1946).

2. My grandfather must have realized that he was close to his father's point of origin. He seems to have written a relative back in Indiana, Ann Shepherd Bennett, for any information she could give on their origins. I have yet to figure out her exact relationship to him. More on that in a moment. In the end, she knew a lot more about her family origins than his.

My grandfather was born in 1883 in Sullivan, Indiana. But his father, Elijah Washington Shepherd was born in North Carolina in 1839. The family memory is that he was born in Alamance County. The problem here is that Alamance County wasn't a county until 1849. At the time Elijah was born, it was still part of the ever diminishing Orange County.

Interestingly, a woman by the name of S. W. Stockard actually wrote a History of Alamance in the year 1900 as her thesis to get an MA at the University of North Carolina. The county takes its name from the river that runs through it, Great Alamance Creek. In 1771, as a precursor to the Revolutionary War, a battle was fought here.

The county had an interesting mix of groups. Both Quakers and Scotch-Irish had migrated here in the mid-1700s from Pennsylvania. The Quakers settled mostly on the southern side of what would become Alamance. The Scotch-Irish were then mostly on the west side of the future county. On the east side were Germans, with some Dutch hiding here and there.

This mix corresponds almost exactly to the racial make-up that my grandfather gave to my mother--his family was Scotch-Irish and Dutch. And of course there were strong Quaker elements in his family as well. In fact, for the first part of his adult life he was a Quaker minister.

The problem I can now see is that the Scotch-Irish and the Quakers were two distinct groups. One was not normally both Scotch-Irish and a Quaker. My historical curiosity naturally begins to have heretical thoughts. Might the Shepherds not so much have been Quakers in North Carolina? Might they only have married some Quakers?

One in particular. "Aunt Ann's" mother was a Quaker, Catherine Reynolds (allegedly related to the founders of the Reynold's Tobacco Company). She I was able to find in the meeting house records of Centre Meeting House in Guilford County in the early 1800s. Her parents are there, Jeremiah and Susanna Reynolds. The records also show that she married a Shepherd there in 1850--a Shepherd, however, who does not seem to have been involved in the meeting house.

My grandfather, Harry Shepherd, remembered visiting the home of "Aunt Ann" in the 1880s. There was a woman there he thought of as "Grandma Shepherd," at whom he and his sister Nora used to giggle "because she looked so funny in her Quaker garb." My own grandmother wondered if this woman might have been Harry's great grandmother.

But the 1860 census now makes it fairly clear who this woman was. It was not a Shepherd at all but Susanna Reynolds, the mother of Catherine Reynolds, who was no blood relation to my branch of the Shepherds at all. She would have been in her 90s by the time my grandfather saw her.

The giggling implies that my grandfather was not accustomed to seeing that garb in his own home. The fact that my great-grandfather, Elijah Washington Shepherd, went on to serve in the Civil War from Indiana has to be considered significant on this score (Quakers are pacifists). Similarly, I cannot find hardly any Shepherds on the rolls of the Quaker Meetings of Guilford and Alamance County, North Carolina in this time period.

Thus the heretical thought that only one Shepherd (Wesley D.) married into the Quaker clan in 1850 in Guilford County, North Carolina, and that this had a great influence on my grandfather and his older sisters. This makes sense because they were soon orphaned. Harry's mother died in 1890 when he was still 6 years old. His father died 6 years later when he was still 12. The influence of these close relatives would have been greater than normal.

3. The Shepherds perhaps lived in western Alamance, just east of Guilford County, North Carolina. They may to have been of Scotch-Irish descent, although some German Schaeffer/Shepherds are also attested in the county, provoking other heretical thoughts. The name is variously attested (e.g., also Shaver, also likely German). In the censuses we find Shephard and Sheppard as well.

What we know is that Elijah Washington Shepherd was born in what would become Alamance on March 25, 1839. I suspect Wesley D. Shepherd was his cousin, born July 17, 1823.

Elijah's parents were Eli Washington Shepherd and his wife, Lucy (Lucinda) Stark. At some point between 1839 and 1850, the family would move to Indiana. The censuses are inconsistent on Eli's age, but I think it likely he was born around 1808. She may have been slightly older.

So they migrated to Indiana in the 1840s. The same Stockard that wrote the history of Alamance wrote a history of neighboring Guilford County. She makes this remark: "The Census of 1850 brought out the fact that nearly one-third of the population of Indiana was from North Carolina" (59). For many, it was opportunity--available land to farm.

The Quakers, on the other hand, had other motivations. The Quakers had freed their slaves in 1774 and took on the manumission of the slaves as one of their principle reasons for existence. Stockard was clearly sympathetic to the institution and speaks of the Quakers "agitating" on the subject (6). Yet she also notes that the slaveholders of Guilford County returned "heavy threats."

She saw a connection here to the large Quaker migration that ensued in the decades before the Civil War. "Whole counties in Indiana and Ohio were peopled by people of Guilford County stock and their homes were left vacant" (59). "About 1830, four hundred families went west from Guilford County. The efficient cause was slavery, the old, old story of the time" (60).

Sullivan County, Indiana may very well have been one such place. My great-great grandfather Eli and his son Elijah were in Vigo County (Terra Haute) in 1850. Wesley and his family would follow in the 50s to Linton, Indiana just to the south. Soon enough, however, Eli and his family would slide down to Sullivan. The History of Sullivan County of 1909 mentions them as "pioneers of Hamilton township" (161).

4. Rudolph says that, "The wagon trip from the Carolinas took about a month, traveling through the Cumberland Gap on the Wilderness Road, blazed nearly 50 years earlier for the earliest western settlers" (198).


Ken Schenck said...

These clarifications from my mother:

My dad went from Frankfort after the school closed to North Carolina rather than Virginia. Virginia was the summer after being at Kernersville, NC for a year. That Fall we went to KY. That was where the General Church Hdqs was located and there was a Bible School there. My dad taught there that year and was pastor of a church over a grocery store. Camp meeting was held at this small town Kingswood, Ky had a big tabernacle. My brother Paul and I and a missionary daughter (Velma Walton) played in the tabernacle. I was the pretend piano player, Paul was the preacher and Velma was the shouter. Guess this was what we thought church was about. The Gen. Pilgrim Holiness officers lived there. Rev. Stikleather was General Treasurer. You can look in the church history book to see if I spelled it correct. I have memories of going to their house for Christmas Day dinner. Some very important leaders are buried in the graveyard at the edge of the town.

[I might insert that my mother's mother told her not to take a doll to dinner there because this official apparently thought they were idolatrous or my grandmother worried he would think that.]

From Kingswood we moved to Greenwood, IN, where dad pastored until FPC reopened.

On our trip from IN to NC, it began to get dusk and my dad felt it was not safe to travel on the dirt type road after dark. He spotted a shack type house at the side of the road. It was about 50 miles from Knoxsville, KY. Dad asked if we could park the car and sleep in it. It was a car with curtains at the side instead of glass windows. They said, "O no." The rattlesnakes would crawl in. You must sleep in our house. The family fed us dandelion greens for breakfast. They had very little food resources.

The snakes in Bacova, Virginia were out in the wilderness away from the town. Women would pick blackberries and come back with big snake skins to show how big the snakes were. They wore hip boots to protect themselves from them. There was a community church that my dad was pastor every other Sunday. The Pilgrim Holiness Church in the mountains nearby did have many snakes near the church. He would take turns going to the church on Sunday whether morning or night. There was very little traffic in those days. I remember there were kerosene lamps to light the church

When my mother put a chock of wood behind the moving car was on a mountain. She quickly handed my baby sister to me to hold while she reached out the door to place the wood in front of the wheel. It was a very steep mt.

The man who wanted to start the Bible School in Kernersville, NC had been President of Central Wesleyan College in 1924. He wanted to start another Bible College so asked my dad to come. He thought he could give him some salary but he could not. His name is A. E. Wachel (Look in history of SWU for spelling). As I recall he was President only a very short time at Central.

Ken Schenck said...

I have continued to search records that might indicate the parentage of Eli Washington Shepherd in North Carolina. For a moment, I thought I might have caught a break with some Irish Quakers by the name of Shepherd who came from Northern Ireland to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. Some of them headed south to Guilford County in the late 1700s to the New Garden Meeting House.

Interestingly, however, I was not able to find their names there. And, to thicken the plot I suggested above, it looks like Catherine Reynolds married "dis mou," meaning that she was "disowned" for "marrying out of unity." What that means is that Wesley Shepherd, my relative, either was not a Quaker or was himself disowned at some point.

Very interesting!

Richard Shepherd said...

I know quite a bit of information on the Guilford , Alamance Shepherds, if you are interested.
Richard Shepherd
Burlington , NC

Ken Schenck said...

I am deeply interested. I just can't make the connection and, despite family tradition, am wondering if it is really Guilford County. The closest I've come is a possible "Leas Shepperd" mentioned in the 1840 Guilford census. It would have been Orange County at the time my ancestors were there.

My email is