Saturday, August 02, 2014

Family 10: Prophet, Pastor, and Professor (Harry Shepherd)

I never met my mother's father, Harry Shepherd. He died of a bone marrow cancer (multiple myeloma) in 1963 in Frankfort, Indiana, before I was born. He was well known and much respected as an incredibly spiritual man, humble and selfless. His signature exclamation when he would get blessed was notorious: "Halleluyer." Shepherd's Hall on the Frankfort camp grounds was named for him after his death, originally built to be a boy's dorm, just a couple years before the college closed after merger.

I sometimes feel like I have two nations warring in my blood. The one is the Schenck that has a big mouth and has a hard time not speaking up when something seems awry. It feels compelled to say what's on its mind. When I was first being interviewed to teach at Indiana Wesleyan, then President Jim Barnes said questioningly, "Now your father has certain issues with the way we try to raise money, is that right?"

"No," I responded with a smile, "that would be my uncle." One of my Schenck uncles, of course. The Schenck in me has big plans and big ideas and is ready to leap into the unknown, confident that everything will work out. And if it doesn't, no problem. I'll just move on to the next thing.

The other nation is the Shepherd, and it almost seems to contradict the other. It is Quaker in spirit. It wants consensus. It doesn't want to impose itself on others. It's prone to go along with what others want and sometimes almost doesn't even seem to have its own will. At times it's indecisive and hesitant.

It loves to think about ideas--just about any subject. It seems like it can master and teach about any subject. Unfortunately, it isn't always quick to act. It's a theoretical personality more than a doer personality.

1. Much of what I just said is my impression of what my Grandpa Shepherd was like. He was indeed a Quaker minister for about a decade, although he became a Pilgrim Holiness minister in the early 1920s, I believe when he was dating my grandmother. He was a teacher who prayed (and I suspect belabored) over every grade he gave. I picture him reading every word of every paper.

There's a fun story about a grade he gave my other Grandfather, my Grandpa Schenck, when Grandpa Schenck was working on some ministerial correspondence course in the late 1940s. Apparently my Grandpa Schenck wasn't happy with the grade and said something to my mother about it. To me it is a snapshot of the two nations inside me. The one is belaboring overly conscientiously over every decimal point it gives as a grade, obsessed with doing the right thing in submission to the Absolute. The other is overly confident in what it thinks it knows and is quick to sense injustice, often without all the facts.

Grandpa Shepherd taught a wide variety of subjects, mostly in the high school part of Frankfort Pilgrim College: prophecy, Latin, geometry, calculus, English, world history, Health and Safety. He had graduated from Wabash College in 1907, an extremely rare and impressive occurrence in that day. His Quaker temperament did not make him a good classroom disciplinarian, however, a factor that unfortunately seems to have played a role in his retirement in the 1950s. Don't think for one moment that the children of holiness preachers and even Bible college presidents always act entirely sanctified in high school.

One fun story that captures his temperament well was one day when he was praying and my mother and her sister were moving a piece of furniture up the stairs. They overheard him praying for God to help them. My mother's younger sister I guess was heard to mutter in response, "Why doesn't he get up off his knees and help us if he's so concerned!" :-)

He was a late night person. He would sometimes write poetry after midnight. The family wasn't able to go to bed for good until after family devotions and sometimes it would be eleven before he got around to it. My mother remembers falling asleep waiting. :-)

I'd be delighted for any stories about my grandfather. He taught sacrificially at Frankfort. Like so many Bible colleges struggling to stay open, he often received his pay in cafeteria food, which during the Depression was often watery bean soup. (My mother also remembers turtle soup in North Carolina. She remembers being warned as a little girl about the heads left on the counter--they could still snap even though now detached).

My grandmother often did odd jobs to supplement their income, like washing other people's clothes. For years they lived in a little cottage on the camp grounds, owned by someone else. They would have to vacate it during camp meeting when those people were on the grounds.

If you go to the Frankfort camp grounds today, you can see how small these cottages were, less than 20 x 20 feet. I don't think the one they lived in had a second floor. Imagine two adults and four children living in such a small box! The cottage they lived in during those years was a little east along the sidewalk south of where Shepherd's hall is now, one of six that had been left from a tuberculosis sanitarium that was there at the beginning of the twentieth century. Those cottages have been long gone now for maybe sixty years, along with the original tabernacle (which was just east of where the Pitts Building is now).

My sense is that Grandpa Shepherd's non-complaining temperament may sometimes have resulted in him being one of the last ones paid or perhaps the first one not to be paid when the month's budget was tight. Everyone loves a selfless man when he's dead. They're plenty happy to take advantage of him while he's alive. I would be lying, though, if I pretended that he was not often honored during his life as well. There was another Shepherd's Hall before the current one, named in his honor in 1946 while he was still teaching there (basically a house converted into a dorm).

My mother says he almost always also had a "preaching point" somewhere as well. She told me a story a few weeks ago about when my uncle Paul (father of Carl and Jerry Shepherd) as a small boy drank from a can of "Coal oil" in the back yard of a farmer in Michigantown who always had my mother's family over for lunch every Sunday after he preached the Sunday service (the Rhines). My grandmother induced vomiting and rushed Paul off to help. Maybe a farmer would give him something from their crop as pay for preaching.

On another occasion, when he was pastoring on the weekends at Forest, Indiana, my grandmother was carrying my uncle David out of church during a service when her foot went through a board on the small landing out front. She fell backwards and her arm somehow locked to her side. She was never able to bend her left hand behind her back again, if I have the story right, and it took weeks to get her arm to move again.

Grandpa Shepherd was thoroughly dispensationalist and had a long canvas chart of history and how the end times were going to take place. During his ministry, he often was asked to come speak at churches on end times prophecy. He even wrote and paid $1000 at Westfield to publish a little book called Foundational and Fundamental Truth Concerning the Coming of the Lord (I plan to republish it at some point. My mother went with him to the holiness Bible college in Westfield to get it published.). His thinking was definitely in the vein of those who saw the re-establishment of Israel as a nation in 1948 as the "budding of the fig tree" in Mark 13:28-30 that would usher in the last generation. (This was the reasoning behind those who thought the Lord would return by 1988).

2. Harry Shepherd was born on June 6, 1883 to Elijah Washington Shepherd and Seba Elizabeth Wright. Elijah had fought for the north in the Civil War and had been injured when run over by a horse. He was apparently never quite the same again and died in 1896 when Harry was only 13 years old.

That left him an orphan, for his mother had died six years previously, before he had even turned seven. Grandpa Shepherd wrote poetry, and one of the poems he wrote in later life cherished what memories he had of his mother. I've posted the poem previously here.

He apparently felt a little like he was shoved around, unwanted during his teen years. The 1900 census lists him as a sixteen year old "servant" in the home of one William O'Haver. I wonder if he was relation of some kind, since O'Haver's mother's maiden name was Wright, my grandfather's mother's maiden name. The bulletin of his high school graduation from Sullivan High School in 1902 has him listed as the one who gave the class history at graduation.

In any case, he was able to enroll in Wabash College in 1902. It is amazing thing. Both his father and mother are listed as illiterate in the 1870 census, if I have pulled the right one. He apparently worked to pay his way through college, sweeping floors. My mother remembers him being able to make a floor amazingly clean. My hunch is that he was overly conscientious about it. In keeping with James 4, he would never say he was going to do something. He would say, "Lord willing" he would do such and such.

Many in his class would go on to be people of worldly significance--lawyers, politicians, doctors. He played on the college baseball team. Then his junior year, he was converted. If I am not confusing things, it was at a tent revival on the farm of C. G. Taylor, in New London, Indiana, just north of Russiaville. His sister Marquerite by that time had married James Carter and was living in the neighborhood (West Middleton). They would become Quaker ministers, both of them.

Being saved at that time meant not playing baseball on Sundays. Grandpa quit the baseball team. In fact, he seems to have taken two years to finish his junior year. I'm wondering if his conversion had something to do with that. He finally graduated in 1907. My mother has memories of him playing baseball at a Bible college picnic on those same grounds, when C. G. Taylor was president of the Bible college.

3. Harry would become a Quaker minister like his sister Marquerite. He would attend Cleveland Bible College in Ohio (now Malone), possibly at some point during the years from 1907-1910. Then in 1910 he married marry Orilla Kibbe in Michigan. They would serve as Quaker ministers together in Michigan until 1916, when she died of some kind of sepsis.

The relation between his ancestry and Quakerism has been a fascinating tale to investigate. I had always assumed that his family was deeply Quaker, but at the very least it was a little more complex than that. The most immediate Quaker connection seems to have been his (aunt?) Catherine, who married his (uncle?) Wesley in 1850 in Guilford County, North Carolina.

Catherine's family, the Reynolds, are distinctly mentioned in the Quaker meeting journals of the Center Meeting in Guilford County in the early 1800s. But when she married Wesley Sheppard (as his name seems to have been more regularly spelled), she married out of unity with the Quakers and was expelled. That means that Wesley was not a Quaker, or at least not one in good standing. Given his name and the name Charles Wesley that he gave one of his sons, I wonder if he was more likely a Methodist.

Grandpa's childhood memories of giggling at "Grandma Shepherd" in her Quaker garb were almost certainly him laughing at Catherine's mother Susanna, who wasn't blood relation to him at all. After his parents died, perhaps his immediate family came under more intense Quaker influence than they otherwise might have. All that is to say, the Quaker connection may not have been through his parents but through the influence of his (aunt's?) family.

I've already mentioned parts of the next phase of his life here and there. In 1920, he was apparently living with his sister Marquerite in Hemlock, Indiana, where she and her husband were then pastoring. He would then apparently return to Sullivan and would become associated with the newly named Pilgrim Holiness Church. He would marry my grandmother in 1923 and would pastor churches for four years until Frankfort Pilgrim College opened in 1927.

In those four years he pastored first Merom, Indiana. Then Orleans. There they had a stillborn child named Dorothy in 1924. Then they moved to Greenfield, where my mother was born. When she was only three months old they moved to Greenwood. It was from there that he was called to Frankfort to be one of its original teachers. He would have a "preaching point" at Forest and Michigantown in the first five years of the Bible college.

I've told of the closing of Frankfort in 1932 because of the Depression. My mother's family would travel to Kernersville, where A. E. Wachsel, a former president of what we know today as Southern Wesleyan University, was trying to start a Bible college. But he would had nothing to pay either and it wouldn't take that time (a Bible college would successfully be founded there later in the 40s).

So my grandfather moved on to Bacova, Virginia, where R. G. Flexon asked him to pastor. My mother was impressed with how big the rattlesnakes got there! Next they moved to Kingswood Bible College in Kentucky, then the HQ for the Pilgrim church. Finally, they ended back in southern Indiana until going back to Frankfort when it reopened in 1939.

He pastored churches in Burns City, Indiana in 1935. Then Elnora and Epson in a circuit in 1936. Then Greenwood again in 1937 until Frankfort Bible College reopened.

He would teach at Frankfort for more than 23 years total.

Earlier posts:

1. The Revivalin' Twenties
In the Year 1920 (Dorsey Schenck)
From Quaker to Pilgrim (Harry Shepherd)
The Great Generation (my parents)

2. The Depression Thirties
Dutch Reformed Past (Samuel Schenck)
North Carolina Flashback (Eli Shepherd)
Wanting to be Rich (Oscar Rich)

3. Passing Generations
Old German Baptist Heritage 1 (Amsy Miller)
Old German Baptist Heritage 2 (Salome Wise)

6. The Divisive Sixties
Prophet, Pastor, and Professor (Harry Shepherd)
Flashback to Jamestown (Champion Shelburn)

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