June 2, 1998
Today we continue the story of the Shepherd family, including the sisters whose art work is on display through July 31 at the Oklahoma City Art Museum. Information related here is furnished by Dr. Mildred Shepherd Rodriguez, now of Stillwater.
Miram K. Shepherd, a pioneer settler in the Sumner community, and his wife, Elizabeth, had three children: Miram Jackson (Jack), born January 16, 1901; Juanita Lottie, born in April 1903; and Leslie, born in January 1909. Leslie died in infancy. Juanita graduated from Perry high school in 1921 and from OU four years later. She taught home economics in Maramec, and on July 20, 1930, she married Elmer White, an agriculture teacher. After living in Tulsa for a time, they moved to Golden City, Missouri. Elmer died in 1944 and Juanita passed away in 1974. Their son, William Bruce White, is a U.S. history professor at the University of Toronto, Canada.
The first years on the Shepherd homestead nine miles east and two and a half miles north of Perry were difficult. When M.K. and Elizabeth were first married and their firstborn, Jack, was a baby, they lived in the little house that M.K. had built. Later they built a large two-story home like those of other prosperous settlers – the Larsons, the Cranes and the Burgers. The windmill had beautiful trumpet vines on it, the east front porch had a big rambling rose, and on the west side of the south porch was a wall of honeysuckle. There was always a white linen damask tablecloth on the dining table and in the afternoon Elizabeth would go to Sumner for the mail at Joe Dawson’s store.
M.K., a rancher/farmer, was a good provider. As he acquired more land, he needed more help and that meant Elizabeth had more hired hands to feed. She raised chickens and she canned food in large half-gallon jars. She was a woman of character and maintained her dignity. An excellent seamstress, she dressed exquisitely. She had a remarkable hat collection that her granddaughter adored, and she curled her fine blond hair with a curling iron that she heated in the globe of a kerosene lamp. In later years, she enjoyed driving her black Dodge coupe, which was her pride and joy.
In 1904 the spirited and adventurous M.K. bought shares in the Blalock Mexico Colony. The company had purchased a large hacienda, called “El Chamal,” in Mexico. The 80,000-acre plot of land was located in a fertile valley in the state of Tamaulipas, northwest of the port of Tampico. The colony was incorporated under the laws of Oklahoma and duly registered in Mexico. Early in 1905 the family went to Mexico and stayed most of the year. Many families from the Southwest participated in this venture. In 1910 there were 350 Americans living there. M.K. retained his property and in 1928 he made a return visit.
After the family returned from Mexico in late 1905, M.K. began buying grassland in the Otoe-Missouria territory – now Missouri township – and acreage along the railroad in Sumner for his expanding livestock business. In 1907 he bought 120 acres of ranch from Pearl Woolsey Faw Faw. And in 1908 he purchased 80 acres in Auburn township that adjoined the homestead on the west. During his lifetime M.K. had acquired more than 800 acres of ranch and farm land in the U.S., 640 acres in Mexico and two houses in Stillwater. M.K. had a great zest for life and he lived it to its fullest. He loved to reminisce and he looked forward to the roundups at the 101 Ranch. The family would get in his big Dodge and drive away across the prairie. There were no roads through Indian territory at the time.
M.K. and Elizabeth lived productive lives. Admired and respected by their friends and neighbors, they contributed to the strength, integrity and moral fiber of the Sumner community. Elizabeth taught Sunday school at the Sumner Christian church and was a member of the Ladies Aid, the Eastern Star and the Sumner farm women’s club. M.K. was an active member of the Masons, Cherokee Strip Cow Punchers Association at the 101 Ranch, and the Anti-Horse Thief Association. At 77, still proud and erect, he was still riding his horse. After his death on March 19, 1946, Elizabeth sold the homestead and moved to Stillwater. She enjoyed the cultural activities of a university community, but that was short-lived. She died November 25, 1947.
More of this profile of the Shepherd family will appear shortly.