Sunday, December 17, 2017

To Write on Ends As Was at Hand

Virginia Darcey Slaughter in 2004 opened a window into the life of Kentucky jurist Squire Turner (1793-1871). She posted on a message board that Turner, son of Thomas 'Trading Tom' Turner (1764-1847), wrote Talton Turner (1791-1858). From Richmond, Kentucky to Glasgow, Missouri. "One of these letters survives today," she advised. "It was written August 9th, 1845."

Squire's papers, once entrusted to what is now Eastern Kentucky University, have been lost; yet he is voluminously represented in the record, if you know where to look. Henry Clay kept Turner's letters. Clay was but months from vaulting to U.S. Secretary of State from a third stint as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1827. In the third of six annual terms he'd serve in the state's Lower House, Turner fed political intelligence to his fellow Kentuckian.

The two would migrate to the Whig Party, and Turner would speak for Clay's nomination as Presidential candidate at the party's 1844 convention in Baltimore. (Turner is well-represented in debate at the Kentucky Constitutional Convention of 1849. A prolific writer, he can be credited with much of state law, codified under his influence the following year.)

Portrait of Squire Turner (1793-1871), in the county courthouse, Richmond, Kentucky.
If his mien, conveyed by an oil portrait (detail, right) hanging in the Madison County courthouse at Richmond doesn't do it, surviving historical documents, primarily his legal opinions, tend to portray Squire as taciturn. A rather poignant communique to his cousin breathes life into other reaches of the man's character.

I thought to identify the persons referred to.
Being at leisure this morning I determined to drop you a few lines and found I had no letter paper and thereupon determined to write on ends as was at hand. It is now a good while since you and I started this life - four fifths of our school mates have passed off this stage and gone from this world of care. It is meet therefore that we, while spared, should rekindle our early affections long buried in the busy scene of life. In a few years more, should we be spared, we shall be among the oldest of our name and kindred.

I was very much gratified at the visit your two interesting daughters paid us lately & that gratification was much increased by their companion Miss Clarke.

I hope it is not the only visit we shall receive from your family and Gen'l Clarks - The Turners have never [sic] for as much as they were entitled to. They have never paid enough attention to educating their children and giving them accomplishments and high aspirations.

You have organized a fine estate & are fully able to place your children in the first ranks & I am trying to do it with mine.

I was quite gratified to hear all about you and family & your father and all branches of this family - Your sister Polly was a great favorite of mine. We are nearly of the same age
Tell Gen'l Clark that he and his wife & Ann must come. Ann is a smart girl & a pleasant fellow - I contraried her several times & when she became crusty over it, her good humor soon returned.

Father is greatly taken with Mrs. Pulliam. She must write the old man a letter. He will be delighted to get one [sic] cher him up. Mrs. Estill is a good girl & very discreet so far as I could discover. She was at my house less than the others. They were all such good company that we appeared lonesome after they left.

My health is reasonalby good but age is creeping up on me & my cares are greater as my family grows up.

Your children have of course given you an account of my family & of the community generally. Horace Turner, Joseph's son, has gone to Philadelphia to live.

My daughter Mary rec'd a letter some ten days since from Ann Clarke. Mary will go to Louisville to finish her education in a few weeks.

Old Marsh was about as glad to see your children as anybody was. He came a second time three days after they left. Betsy and all the family send their respects to you all - especially to our late visiters. Tell Mrs. Pulliam to carry to your father my highest respects & to tell the old man that I inquire after him every opportunity & find a lively interest in his health & happiness.

Squire Turner
Turner admits he "contraried" a young woman. This may confirm a churlish tendency. The idea that he would convey sentiments on scraps of paper, "on ends as was at hand," is incongruous. Let's call 'frugal' an attorney who twice turned down judicial appointment to the state's Court of Appeals, "because of the small salary." He "felt entitled to" seven slaves, enumerated in 1840 and likely at his Richmond homestead. He was halfway to an 1850 accounting of a whopping twenty-nine souls held in bondage ... and valuing his 'real estate' at an impressive $45,000.  (See this calculator: had that worth all been slave valuation, the labor value of such human chattel would today represent an estimated $10,400,000.) The attorney in private practice was investing in canals and the like, as part of Clay's visionary 'internal improvements' to infrastructure. Squire Turner was by some evaluations in the billionaire class of his day.

Squire styled his father Thomas as 'Old Marsh.' It is folksy euphemism for aging slave-master. Undoubtedly comfortable in perceived racial supremacy – a view shared by many Euro-Americans in his sphere of influence, even peers advancing emancipation – it may indicate inter-generational value the two men placed on domination. (In 1852 depiction of his jury-trial conduct, Livingston would compare Turner to a commanding general. The antebellum biography may have been based on self-report.)

I find it affirming that Turner valued "our name and kindred." My maternal grand-mother showed similar inclination as she lauded the "fine man" she had never met. Her (half) great-uncle attended to her mother's legal need not long after Amelia Turner (1852-1915) survived her own mother at six years of age. My family history research grows out of handed-down reverence for kinship.

Recipient Talton Turner was not thirteen months older than Squire. It may be remarkable to note these cousins were a generation removed from one another. Both descended from John Turner, Sr. (1705-c1768) and Sarah Elizabeth Williams (c1720-aft 1778). Talton by John and Sarah's last surviving child, Philip Turner (1762-1852), to whom Squire above sends "highest respects." Squire descended from John and Sarah's third surviving (son and) child John Turner, Jr. (c1738-1813) and wife Rebeckah Smith (d 1774). John Jr. was purportedly a full twenty-four years older than Philip. John Jr.'s son Thomas - 'Old Marsh,' above - actually occupied Talton's generation. He, 'Tradin' Tom,' had fathered a dozen children by two of his three wives. (And likely others, by his slaves. More here.)

Talton was age fifty-three; Squire, fifty-two. In "the busy scene of life," the cousins' political paths had aligned after Talton left his Madison County birthplace. An 1883 History declared the early Missouri settler was "remembered to this day" as being one of "only two Whigs who voted that ticket for years."

Image of Talton Turner. No biographer I found indicates Talton (left) or Squire received anything more than crude, frontier education as children. The men gave short-term enlistments to different Kentucky Militia regiments in the second war of American independence in 1812. Talton did acquire training, and by 1817 had secured the role of County Surveyor for Chariton County, Missouri. Three years later he married Sarah 'Sallie' Small Earickson (1802-1878). By 1825 Talton began speculating in land: his agglomeration did not fall short of phenomenal. At times partnering with his father-in-law, who became Missouri State Treasurer in 1829, the men secured thousands of acres in the years preceding Squire's note.

The Santa Fe Trail and Missouri River both brought Talton great wealth. In 1839 he and James Earickson took on proprietors to organize a town at Glasgow, on a bend in that watercourse. On a fine-timbered rise the pair owned, midway between Saint Louis and the newly rising Kansas City. A deepwater landing propelled Talton's hemp and tobacco to European markets.

1946 image of Talton Turner House.
By the 1840 census, Talton held twenty-five slaves on the "fine estate" (right) he is to have built for his bride fifteen years earlier. A dozen labored in agriculture, four enabled him to engage in manufacture and trade. By 1850 he would value his real estate at $100,000. Talton was twice the equivalent billionaire that Squire was.

Some in this cast of characters are easy to identify.

'Polly' was first-born Talton's closest sibling in birth order: Mary Turner (1793-1856) was not much more than eight months older than Squire. She had by 1845, the date of Squire's remembrance, outlived two husbands and was in her third marriage.

"Should we be spared" takes on poignancy. Squire does not ask after Polly and Talton's younger brother Cyrus Turner (d 1844). Almost exactly a year earlier, while driving cattle to Minnesota, the enterprise had wandered into territory the Sioux held by sovereign right. He'd been "captured and maltreated by the Sissetoan Dahkotahs," according to Neill. Cyrus escaped. Destitute and wounded, however, he drowned in attempt to find civilization. U.S. dragoons apprehended alleged perpetrators that fall. Who promptly escaped. The loss may have remained raw. In July 1845, perhaps while Cyrus' nieces were with Squire, four Sisseton men were captured "and sent down to Dubuque, Iowa for trial by the civil authorities."

'Betsy' had been Elizabeth Stone (1800-1887) before marrying Squire Turner in 1819, one year before Talton and Sallie made their union. In her 1840 household were Squire, three sons and two daughters. Among their slaves, eldest was a woman then between thirty-six and fifty-four years old. Of the seven enumerated, three slaves were younger than ten.

Squire and Betsy's daughter 'Mary' Ann (1828-1879) was seventeen and preparing to leave home. He also mentions Horace Turner (1822-1871) as "gone to Philadelphia." Horace is likely notable for having survived the recent death of his father Joseph (1793-1854), with whom Talton and Squire grew up. Perhaps Horace the brewer is remarkable among Turners ... for moving north, to cast his lot among Yankees.

Reference to Joseph indicates these Turners could be clannish, no matter where westward migration took their kinfolk. By his father Edward, Joseph is grandson to Thomas Turner, Sr. (1734-1822) ... eldest sibling of Talton's father Philip and Squire's grandfather John Turner, Jr.. Thomas was likely delivered while parents John Sr. and Sarah (above) were yet in Virginia. Brothers John Jr. and Philip were born in Rowan County, North Carolina. All three siblings would follow Daniel Boone out of the Yadkin River valley and into Madison County, Kentucky. Only Philip would resettle in Missouri, however.

Women occupied Squire's recall, of the troupe that had visited.

"Mrs. Pulliam" was Talton and Sallie's eldest daughter, Eliza Jane (1822-1902). The twenty-three year-old was eligible: first husband Elijah Robertson Pulliam (1816-1842) had died less than three and a half years into their marriage. It was in the 1839 period of their union that George Caleb Bingham painted a (now missing) portrait of the Chariton postmaster. Elijah had in 1840, no doubt with his father-in-law's guidance, purchased a forty-acre parcel of Missouri land in nearby Saline County.

The discreet "Mrs. Estill" was Talton and Sallie's second (child and) daughter, Mary Ann (1826-1900). She was but two years older than Squire's daughter of the same name. Talton had given her away four months earlier. To James Robert Estill (1819-1900). Mention of 'Estill' enchants my research: by his father Wallace, James Robert is grandson of James Estill (1750-1782) ... owner of 'Uncle' Monk Estill (d 1835), the one-time slave who saved the life of my 4x great-grandfather James Berry (1752-1822) following 'Estill's Defeat,' or 'Battle of Small Mountain.' (See Meet Monk Estill.)

Howard County, from unidentified 1851 Missouri map.By 1850, after their first child is born, James Robert Estill will be farming in Missouri with fourteen slaves, and valuing his real estate at $12,000. He named his plantation 'Estill' (now Greenwood). An 1851 Howard County map (left) is revealing: Glasgow contends with the county seat in importance. Estill's enterprise is indicated. Talton's 'Home Place' was a mile and a half south of bustling Glasgow.

Companion "Miss Clarke" was certainly the most challenging to identify. One can assume she is Ann, daughter to a General.

On 10 January 1840, Talton had purchased almost 1200 acres: 312 of them in Linn County, Missouri were secured by a syndicate. From the record (detail, below) I discern his partners were William C. Boon, Thomas Reynolds & John B. Clarke.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records. Automated Records Project; Federal Land Patents, Volume for Missouri.
William Crawford Boone, Sr. (1812-1885) already occupies my database.* Father William Linville Boone (1768-1847) was in August 1845 aboard a steamer. A pall bearer returning to Kentucky from Missouri. At the very time Squire took leisure to correspond, William Linville Boone accompanied what he took to be disinterred remains of his aunt and uncle, pioneers Daniel and Rebecca Boone. For memorializing and reburial at Frankfort.

William Crawford Boone was, like Talton, running a Missouri mercantile business. Talton, when Boone's age, had government contracts to supply beef to the military and an Indian Agency. If he had not already, Boone would soon provision the state legislature from his warehouse at Fayette, Missouri.

Partner Thomas Reynolds (1796-1844), former Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, had for three years been riding Missouri's 2nd circuit. Judge Reynolds was a climber: in the interim, he had swiftly risen from Missouri's House of Representa-tives to serve as Speaker of that body.

The Turner-Boone-Reynolds-Clark land syndicate is interesting for its timing and membership. On 11 August 1840, seven months after its filing, Missourians would go to the polls to elect Reynolds, a member of the 'Central Clique' political machine of pro-slavery Democrats. As Missouri's seventh Governor. His opponent? Whig John Bullock Clark, Sr. (1802-1885), also indicated on the above land grant.

Reynolds was dead by the time Squire reconnected with Cousin Talton. Apparently 'melancholic' and disturbed by treatment in the opposition press, Reynolds had the year before shot himself in the head. With a state-supplied rifle, while at his desk in the Governor's Executive Office.

But for peradventure, the 1840 gubernatorial election could have cost Clark his life as well. A month following the governor's race, a purloined letter – in which the candidate that July had proposed voter fraud – appeared in the Boonslick Democrat. In back-and-forth, public correspondence via that newspaper, Clark finally demanded a "personal interview." After unmasking his accuser as banker and serving State Representative Claiborne Fox Jackson (1806-1862).

Image of news reporting depicting terms of Clark-Jackson duel.
Dueling was then illegal in Missouri. Yet Jackson's second, Chauncey R. Scott,  proclaimed response (right): rifle fire at seventy yards. The medical doctor subsequently refused Clark's demand to choose a venue where none held jurisdiction over code duello.

Clark's final, written shot in this matter gives context for Reynolds' melancholy. He styled Jackson "a cold-blooded slanderer, a reclaimless scoundrel and a blustering coward." As a result of Reynold's election, syndicate member Boone replaced Jackson as Cashier at the Fayette branch of the Bank of the State of Missouri.

It is through Clark that I believe I've identified Ann, daughter of a General whom Squire thought "a pleasant girl." In 1826 Clark had married Eleanor Turner (1805-1873) ... a younger sister to Polly and Talton. None offer source documents, but several online family trees assign a daughter Ann to the Clarks. Not all that attribute an 1848 death date are running her mother's lines, but they may have cut and paste this data from Turner researchers who've placed a child of this name in their trees, based on Squire's 1845 letter above.
(At Finding Everett I explore how the childless tend to fare in preserved, historical record.)

Image of John Bullock Clark, Sr., c1865.
As did Squire and Talton, Clark (right) took his first steps in Madison County, Kentucky. He removed to Missouri with his parents c1818, and was Clerk of the Howard County court when passing the bar in 1824. In 1832, a militant Sac war chief led his people back onto land fraudulently ceded in 1804. Clark was commissioned Colonel of Missouri Mounted Volunteers, but saw no action in the Black Hawk War.

In 1838, Governor Lilburn Williams Boggs issued (the likely unlawful) Missouri Executive Order Number 44 to "Genl. John B. Clark." Squire would have been well aware of Boggs' commission of Clark as Major General, 1st Division, Missouri Militia. And the Governor's directive: "The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace ..."

Clark "ferreted out the guilty" among state's enemies and forced dozens, including the beleaguered sect's founder Joseph Smith, into jail without charges. He reported to Boggs, "They have societies formed under the most revolting covenants in form, & the most horrid oaths to circumvent the law & put them at defiance, & to plunder & burn & murder & divide the spoils for the use of the Church." Once the majority were released, Smith's 'Danite Club' (unlike the Sac band, also weakened by hunger) were, by Clark's order, allowed to winter over before being sent from their land.

"As my family grows up."

Squire seems prompted to write to his cousin, to plead that the Turner clan "never paid enough attention to educating their children and giving them accomplish-ments and high aspirations." Placing children "in the first ranks" was important to him. He disclosed his daughter will finish her education in Louisville, then thirty percent more populous than Saint Louis, Missouri. (Squire would obtain financial reckoning on behalf of my great-grandmother Amelia - mentioned above - while she and her sister Matilda Tribble Turner (1845-1926) boarded at William Teeter's Kentucky school, c1854.)

Squire, the prominent jurist, repeated solicitation for Clark's attention. He may have known full well that his son, John Bullock Clark, Jr. (1831-1903), was entering the University of Missouri. And bent on a career in law.

Squire and Betsy's sons were among dozens of men who read law with their father. His first-born, Cyrus Squire Turner (1819-1849), attended but did not matriculate from Centre College. Still two years from serving his first term in Kentucky's legislature, Cyrus seemed content to start a family on a fine farm his father no doubt financed. His second (child and) son, Thomas Turner (1821-1900) had graduated from Centre, taken a law degree from Transylvania College, served nearly four years as Attorney for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and, with seven slaves and an estate of about $40,000, taken his law practice to nearby Montgomery County. Youngest son William Stone Turner (1825-1876) had entered but not matriculated from Centre either. In the 1850 census he declared no real estate, as he practiced law while lodging at a Louisville inn. Squire, with the state's Chief Justice, had received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from the college in 1843.

Katherine 'Kate' Turner (1831-1913), Squire and Betsy's youngest surviving child, turned fourteen that summer. Perhaps during the cousins' visit. With Mary's pending departure, Squire may have reckoned with a declining sphere of parental influence. Hence, "my cares are greater as my family grows up."

"I was quite gratified to hear all about ... all branches of this family."

Image of stairway, Talton Turner House
By "a few years more, should we be spared," Squire alluded to the cousin's futures. I found it challenging to create a snapshot in time, culminating as best I could at August, 1845. (Discovery that "Mrs. Estill" would die eight days after her husband, in 1900, touched me.) The U.S. Congress would allocate $1,500 from annuities due the Sioux, in August 1846. To compensate 'legal represen-tatives' of Talton's childless and unmarried brother Cyrus "for depredations." Talton would partner in forming the Exchange Bank at Glasgow. He was not entirely spared: he would die, bedridden by rheumatism, in an upstairs room at his 'Home Place' (above). A Glasgow obituary gushed, "at the time of his death, he was perhaps the most extensive land owner in the state." Squire's firstborn, another Cyrus, would be killed at a political event in the following year. History did not finish with others identified: a War of Northern Aggression would leave - in particular - Squire and the Clark father and son on consequent pages of history.

*I share ancestry with William Linnville Boone's wife, Nancy Grubbs (1771-1835). Their son (William Crawford's older brother) Rev. Hampton Lynch Boone (1802-1851) is notable. I have vague plans for book-length depiction of the Reverend's son-in-law, Napoleon Bonaparte Giddings (1815-1897). The pair's political and social exploits are 'intriguing.'

Bold face indicates the author's ancestors.

Beyond the above time-frame, I thought it might be gratifying to report that Squire concretely anchored notions of "fine estate" and placing children in society's "first ranks." A home (below) he had built near his own - for widowed daughter Mary - would be completed after his death. It still stands, in Richmond, Kentucky.

Image of Mary Hood home, 416 N Second St., Richmond, KY.


  1. Inter-generational value these men placed on domination is depicted in the will of Philip Turner (1762-1852, above), drafted 23 October 1844. White privilege is not a new concept. It was Turner’s desire that his wife, the former Abigail Hickman (1768-1844), "have the privilege of keeping with her, subject to her control and command, one of my negro men to be selected by her.”

    In Turner’s instructions, my "negro woman Silvey" is introduced in a line describing "live stock of every kind as she may wish to keep." Abigail is to receive Silvey, and all her children “if she desires them." After choosing among Silvey’s “increase,” executors (including son-in-law John B. Clark, above) are to “sell at public sale all the rest and residue of my Personal Estate including Slaves.”

    Said privilege was extended: Talton's father gave special instructions pertaining to “my negro woman Jenny.” The slave herself was to have “the privilege of choosing which of my children she prefers to live with, and when she makes the choice she is then to belong to the one of her choice and they are to give a Bond to my executors to support the said Jenny during her life and to treat her humanely.” Jenny’s children, if there were any, would presumably be auctioned off.

    Abigail died one month after Philip drew up his will.

    Copy of the will “sent by Louise Turner;” posted by Slaughter, 7 September 2004.

  2. Squire Turner correspondence with son William Stone Turner (1825-1876) was posted as 1862: Squire Turner to William Stone Turner to the blog ‘Spared & Shared 19: Saving History One Letter at a Time’ on 12 Sep 2019.

    2 Nov 1862 was a trying time for Squire. He complained of financial “injury” by both Federals and Confederates, as Civil War mauled Kentucky. Disclosure of livestock prices supports my estimation of Turner as a political economist. His partner, James Bennett McCreary (1838-1918, future Kentucky Governor), having enlisted in Confederate forces, Turner admits “I am very much in need of a young man to write for me &c.” likely confirming an affliction.

    In comment at the post I contend phrasing “no security for property” – a theme he returns to – represents language Turner employed in legislation to secure rights to slaves.


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