Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Basket Filled with Tears and Flowers

Fortitude. It comes to mind when reviewing the life of Amelia (Turner) Leer (1852-1915). Having acceded to stature among landed 'aristocracy,' her elusive relationship to property remains revealing.

Image, Amelia (Turner) Leer (1852-1915), c1875.
c1875
Distinctly buffeted by fate, Amelia's responses to ill wind and opportunity offer an outline of both mettle and foresight. When necessity demanded it, she stepped into roles few in her social rank would have contemplated.

Amelia(right) was well-anchored in Madison County, Kentucky at her birth. Her parents were born there. Her maternal grandparents had been born and married there: grandfather Dudley Tribble, Sr. (1797-1860) had added substantially to land Daniel Boone in 1783 surveyed for his father, Rev. Andrew Tribble (1741-1822).

We’ll keep an eye on Dudley. He figured prominently in his granddaughter’s life. (Ancestry and descendancy charts at conclusion. Bold face indicates author's ancestry. Images open when clicked.)

Dudley's wife, Amelia’s maternal grandmother, Matilda Ann Tevis (1805-1861) was daughter to Maryland-born Mary (Hobbs) Tevis (b c1772). 'Polly' formed a conduit to status and wealth. Hobbses had done well in colonial Maryland. Her father Joseph Hobbs (1740-1810) had thrown in with revolutionaries and was later elected a Nelson County delegate to the 1790-1792 convention which formed government by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.1 He served an inaugural term in Kentucky's initial General Assembly. Hobbs' 1809 will evidenced prior support for his daughter (among seven surviving siblings). To Polly it bequeathed "a negroe woman named Viney and all her, the said Vineys, former present and future increase; the said Viney & her increase being now in the possession of my said daughter Mary Tivis or her husband Robert Tivis ... also two hundred and fifty Dollars that I formerly lent to Robert Tivis for the purpose of purchaseing another negroe; also all the stock and other movable property that may at my death be found in the possession of my said daughter Mary Tivis or her heirs as either lent or given by me."
Image: Tevis House, c1985.
See Note 8 for more on the Tevis House.
Polly's second husband, Amelia's great-grandfather, Robert Tevis (c1764-1823) was a late 18th century Kentucky arrival, also from Maryland. As a Deputy County Surveyor, he'd have been well-positioned for land speculation. A prosperous farmer, Tevis had served as Madison County Magistrate.2
Daughter Matilda had married Dudley and left home when aspiring educator Julia Ann (Hieronymus) Tevis (1799-1880) in 1824 found respite in newly-widowed Polly’s quality of life. From her autobiography Sixty Years in a School-Room comes 1878 recollection of hospitality extended almost fifty years earlier: “Our first night, spent among Kentucky relatives, was in the large, old family mansion of Mrs. Robert Tevis, near Richmond, Madison County.” Later fronted by the Richmond and Winchester Pike, the Tevis House (above) was not particularly “old” in 1824. Built of brick, and then but a single story on a stone foundation, such lodgings would certainly have seemed superior – and memorable – to a Marylander in comparatively crude Kentucky.

The Tevises were erudite people. Said Julia Ann, who went on to found Science Hill Female Academy, “In after years … the bond of friendly relationship was renewed and strengthened by my having many of her grandchildren in my school.” She would receive a quality education elsewhere, but I can assert assuredly that my great-grandmother Amelia forged an inter-generational link, assuring women in her line benefited from educational attainment.
Image: Mary Jane Tribble (1822-1859).Our subject, born less than a week following her mother’s 30th birthday, was likely named for her maternal aunt. Amelia’s mother, born Mary Jane Tribble (1822-1859), was twin to sister Amelia A. Tribble (1822-aft 1880). The pair were (eldest daughters and) the second and third children born to Dudley and Matilda … a couple who would produce fifteen offspring in twenty-eight years.

The twins were likely well-disposed to child rearing.

Mary Jane (left), when eighteen years of age, would be first of the Tribble brood to marry. Her mother would go on to birth another three sons following that daughter’s union.

Amelia’s paternal, Turner line seems – in comparison – more of a ‘rough-and-tumble’ lot. The Turners followed Boones into Kentucky from the Yadkin River Valley of North Carolina. Amelia's grandfather Thomas Turner (1764-1847) had, it is told, as a very young teen, substituted for his father John Turner, Jr. (1738-1812) and shown daring as a rebellious Private in the American Revolution.3

Image: frontspiece, History of North Carolina Baptists, Vol. 2, by George Washington Paschal (1930).
Thomas' mother was born Rebeckah Smith (1743-1776) in the 'Jersey Settlement' of what was then Rowan County, North Carolina (right). According to Paschal, on 20 March 1774 John Gano (1727-1804), born at Hopewell, New Jersey, baptized John and 'Rebacah,' along with Amelia's grandfather Thomas, at Boone's Ford on the Yadkin. Rebeckah's second cousin, Jemimah (Smith) Merrill (1729-1803) joined the Baptist congregation by letter in September. With Jemimah and their children bearing witness, her husband had been hung for treason four years earlier. Some historians portray organized opposition by the Regulator Movement – militant rebuke of colonial corruption – as the 'First Battle of the American Revolution.' Benjamin Merrill (1731-1771) paid an ultimate price for his influencing role in violent undertaking. A 'Jonathan Turner'
petitioned the North Carolina Assembly in 1769 ... for Benjamin Franklin to take grievances on taxes, elections and courts to London boards overseeing American affairs ... but it is a common name.

Rebeckah's great-grandfather, Thomas Smith (1677-1753) had confronted similar injustice in 1735. His co-leadership, of a 'Fifty Men's Compact' (which included Gano's and Merrill's forebears) is easily seen as precursor to the Regulators. A Provincial Crown Court at New Jersey ruled in favor of a land registry swindle historiographers identify as Royalist's 'Cornbury Ring.' Rather than submit, Smith – a one-time Quaker – burned his Hopewell home and barns. Outlawed by the Crown, he led migration which culminated in Jersey settlement at North Carolina. Brother Gano and Jemimah had been contemporaries at Hopewell. Rebeckah's father Andrew Smith (1718-1773) had been their senior there by a decade.

If anything in Smith family history shaped Amelia, she may well have noted that Rebeckah's great-grandmother, a woman named Mary, left pastoral Hopewell under duress ... and was interred with husband Thomas in poor soil of back country uplands we today know as West Virginia. Rebeckah's namesake and paternal grandmother, whose birth name is at times styled Rebeccah Annah Anderson (c1725-c1775), was born at Dutch Kills, near Manhattan in New York. She married John Smith (1698-1763) at Hopewell and bore their first four children there. Rebeccah too was uprooted, bearing another four children in exodus at 'Jersey Mountain' in West Virginia, and – with spouse John – established one of the first households in the North Carolina Jersey Settlement. Amelia's later choices may indicate she had role models for women in substantial transmigration.

Thomas Turner married (second) Amelia’s grandmother, Annah B. Berry (1785-1833) in 1814. ‘Annie’ was the eldest daughter known born to Sarah Grubbs (c1761-1852) and James Berry (1752-1822) … whose life ‘Uncle’ Monk Estill saved following 1782 misadventure among Wyandot warriors. (See Meet Monk Estill.) Peers in 1786 acknowledged Berry and his son-in-law Thomas Turner as “proper persons” when recommending Virginia’s governor appoint them as Kentucky militia officers. Both were styled ‘Gentlemen’ when commissioned to serve in the same company. By the number of land transactions he engaged in, the moniker ‘Trading Tom’ seems apt: Thomas Turner certainly advanced from humbler beginnings.

Image: James Berry Turner (c1819-c1867).
Amelia’s father, James Berry Turner (c1819-c1867, right) was Annie’s first-born son. He was positioned among at least a dozen siblings and half-siblings. At his birth, all three of his father’s slaves were under age fourteen. James' mother Annie died when he was perhaps fourteen years old; Tom Turner married (third) Elizabeth Holden (b c1800) a year later. I place James in his father's 1840 household, with his stepmother, two sisters, and fifteen slaves. The census has the Turner family enterprise "engaged in Agriculture."

James Berry Turner and Mary Jane Tribble married in 1841. On 13 December 1852 our subject Amelia was born into a household already populated by a brother and two sisters. Tom Turner having died in 1847, widow Elizabeth shared the cabin as well. Of James Berry Turner’s eleven slaves inventoried anonymously in 1850, three are listed as mulatto … two had not yet aged eight years.

Amelia never knew her brother Dudley, named no doubt for grandfather Dudley Tribble. At perhaps six months old, he died a year before his sister was born.

It is unlikely James Berry Turner was in Madison County for Dudley’s birth. Not long after his father’s death he’d joined other ‘forty-niners’ in a rush for California gold. He was early into the gambit: family lore has his prospects soar when, mid-journey, he paused to profit from those following westward. From a c1970 essay on Turner, by family researcher George Thomas Turner4 (1917-1986): “On the way he was offered a ferry with a price tag of $1,000. He bought and run [it] for one week ...” earning his purchase money back. “James B. Turner sold his goldmine in the river ferry for the same price he had gaven (sic) for it and headed west where he found no gold.” Worse, according to this great-grandson, “He stayed at a living quarter in San Francisco which was one big room with about a dozen cots. He carried his money in his bill-fold, which was parted from him while he slept …” never to be seen again. “The thief was never apprehended.”

Amelia’s father was in Madison County by 1851 … and running for sheriff.

Image: Photomontage of 'Old Turner Place.'
This is not to say Amelia was born to low circumstances. The 1850 census valued her father’s real estate at $8,340. He and slaves farmed land he’d inherited. In mid-1973, Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) Professor Fred Allen Engle, Jr. devoted a Richmond Register article to what remained of the “Old Turner Place” on its hill above Tates Creek. To it (right) I’ve added photographs reproduced in George Turner’s manuscript. A pair of chimneys served four rooms; perhaps, by the time of Amelia's birth, the original log structure had been gentrified in clapboard.

“The Turner family attended … Tates [Creek] Baptist Church. Andrew Tribble was the pastor there at that time and his granddaughter, Mary Jane Tribble, married James Berry Turner,” observed Engle, perhaps unaware that Mary Jane was born three weeks prior to her paternal grandfather's death. Engle noted “The children of James and Mary Jane Turner were Betty Ann ‘Pinky’ born 1842, Matilda born 1844, Thomas born 1848, Dudley born 1850, Amelia born 1852 and Brown born 1853.”

Image: Richard Gardner rendering of 'Old Turner Place.'
Dim memory, of my grand-mother’s doleful admission that her mother Amelia had lost touch with ‘Aunt Pink,’ brought me great satisfaction in the 21st century. A Turner family history researcher in Missouri disclosed her 2nd great-aunt, Elizabeth Ann Turner (1842-c1900), bore the sobriquet 'Pink:' I knew without doubt that Martha Schlosser and I were related. Before we attend to family rupture, let me post an image (above right) whereby Martha’s brother Richard Gardner employed architectural rendering to project a less dilapidated birthplace for Amelia and her siblings.

In the spring of 1854 it appears James Berry Turner promised to pay Garrard County, Kentucky farmer William Teeter eighty dollars to board daughters Elizabeth Ann and Matilda Tribble Turner (1845-1926) for forty weeks. The girls were ages eleven and eight, respectively, when disassociated from two-year-old Amelia and their two brothers. Nurtured by a slave woman,5 younger brother Thomas Turner (1848-1917) remained with his parents and baby John Brown Turner (1853-1937).6

Amelia’s parents had begun “selling up” in the months prior to her birth. James and Mary Jane then disposed of 260 acres they held in common, on Silver Creek at Madison County, in the fall of 1855. Amelia was likely not yet five years old, and brother Brown a year younger, when their family relocated to Ray County, Missouri. As many as three of her father’s uncles had left North Carolina, begun families in Kentucky, and passed away in Howard County, Missouri environs: perhaps James Berry had connected with Turner kinfolk on his trek in ’49. Missouri Recollections by Rhoda [by Rhoda Baldwin (Herndon) Turner (1890-1994)] suggest the Turners “may have come by riverboat ... on the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.”

“On a credit of twelve months,” Aaron Hackett Conrow (1824-1865) and a James B. Turner on 13 August 1855 purchased eighty acres, they being highest bidders at the Ray County Courthouse door. And I will here admit our Turners’ Missouri trail grows murky in the run-up to civil war. It’s complicated by the fact that three James B. Turners were simultaneously active at Ray County in this period. The Governor of Missouri that year appointed Conrow, a Democrat, inaugural judge of the newly formed Ray County Common Pleas Court. I suspect his partner in the above land deal was Tennessee-born James B. Turner (c1813-1864), simultaneously made court clerk.

Image from Illustrated Historical Atlas of Ray County, Missouri (1877) by Edwards Brothers.
Disambiguation becomes important. Ray County erected a new courthouse (left) the following year. Family researcher George Turner was convinced his great-grandfather brought eighty slaves to Missouri to raise it, writing “I would imagine the contract to build [the courthouse] was let while Turner was in Ky. and this was the reason for his moving." Slave schedules for 1860 indicate Amelia’s father held nine slaves in Missouri (two unnamed, young, mulatto males had run away), while an elderly pair were held in trust for him, back at Kentucky. According to census records, Turner’s financial assets that year totaled $19,500; his real estate – which included slave property – made up $2,500 of that. Williamson & Cain estimate an American slave’s median value in 1855 to have been about $600: eighty slaves capable of this type of work reflect valuation upwards of fifty thousand dollars. Further, University of Missouri historians preserved the courthouse architect's name: George A. Kice. I found no record of the Ray County construction contract, but Kice, of Lexington, Missouri, was contracted to build the Caldwell County, Missouri courthouse in 1860.

Map element: Illustrated Historical Atlas of Ray County, Missouri (1877) by Edwards Brothers.
I favor notion that ‘our’ James B. Turner, farmer, bought an eighth of a section west of Richmond, Missouri(yellow box, right)from Elizur Dwight and Eleanor Mildred Parsons on 14 Mar 1857. Rhoda sagely detected that her father-in-law’s family – including Amelia – “moved from Richmond, Kentucky to Richmond, Missouri about 1856.”

What was monumentally consequential for our subject is that her mother died of typhoid fever in the summer of 1859 ... when Amelia was not yet seven years old. What I know of a Lafayette, Missouri obituary in theWaverly & St. Thomas Visitor is admittedly sparse: “Turner, Mary J., wife of Col. J. B. and daughter of Dudley Tribble, Madison County, Kentucky in Richmond, 8 August, in her 35th year.”

I’ve no justification for Turner's honorific ‘Colonel.’ Subsequent accounting for Mary Jane becomes, literally, murky. George Turner reported her buried at Richmond, and then, improbably, that a “tornado blew [her] stone away." A Kentucky-born great-granddaughter of Amelia’s informed Martha, “The cemetery where she was buried in Missouri was hit by a storm and the water of a nearby lake poured over the cemetery in such force that the head stones were torn loose and some never found." I can report a cyclone hit Richmond on 1 June 1878, and suggest Mary Jane was once interred at the 'Public Burial Ground' there ... on “high land” five blocks north of the Ray County courthouse. There are accounts of an earlier graveyard, reportedly abandoned before Mary Janes's death: too close to West Fork Crooked River, graves washed away. Latter-day Saints restored the Public Burial Ground in 1949. Ninety-five neglected headstones, "some that had been embedded as deep as fifteen inches in the soil," were set into concrete bases. Mary Jane is not listed in the current grave inventory; James B. Turner from Tennessee is, however.

Image: Thomas (left), John Brown (right) with father James Berry Turner.
The census places only sons Thomas and Brown (right) in James Berry Turner’s Richmond Township household thirteen months after their mother's death. Neither are enumerated as attending school in 1860. Mary Jane’s younger brother, the yet unmarried Peter Tribble (1830-1915), was enumerated as a ‘gentleman’ that year at Rich-mond, Missouri: he as yet held no real estate but was accorded $8,000 in his personal estate.

“The mother having died ... Matilda Turner, daughter of James Turner and his wife, Mary Tribble … and her sisters and brother resided with their grandfather Tribble,” recorded Katherine Cobb (Phelps) Caperton (1866-1945) of Madison County, in her second volume of a 1940s trilogy titled An Accumulation of Evidence. Caperton has Amelia's older sister Matilda in the Madison Female Institute's 1858-1859 class … one year after the private academy was incorporated at Richmond, Kentucky. In what seems like very fluid family structure, it may be that Matilda was already attending the finishing school when her mother succumbed at Missouri.

Sketch of Tribble Home by James Jones Neale.
Caperton recalled the “handsome landed estate of Dudley Tribble having been located on the Lexing-ton Pike, East side, about four miles from Rich-mond. The house was of logs, weatherboarded …” and was thus depicted (right) by Tribble’s great-grandson James Jones Neale, Jr. (1917-2017) in 1986. Caperton noted the Tribble “grave-yard surrounded by a substantial stone wall.” The enclosure remains, and was recently venerated as Rev. Andrew Tribble’s burial site. Though the Tribble’s pioneer homestead was deconstructed in the 20th century, constituent logs have been recombined as a dwelling on nearby Boonesborough Road.

It seems Matilda had but one sister, Amelia, with her at Tribble's handsome estate by the summer of 1860. Census records place eldest sister Betty ('Pink') in the vicinity of Plattsburg, Clinton County, Missouri … in the domicile of paternal aunt Nancy Berry (Turner) Phelps (1815-1863). Also in the household of Tom and Annie Turner's daughter Nancy was her eldest son, Betty’s first cousin, Thomas Turner Phelps (1835-c1900). Four months later – in Ray County and far from Kentucky – Betty, eighteen, married Tom Phelps, who was just shy of twenty-five.

Image: cover of family Bible kept by Dudley and Matilda Tribble.
With Betty, in George Phelps’ 1860 household, was enumerated four-year-old Barnett T. Turner. Betty and Amelia's brother was unaccounted for in Engle’s above list. My great-aunt, Corday Kenney (Leer) Buckley (1877-1963) perhaps consulted Dudley and Matilda Tribble's family Bible (left) to report “Barney died in infancy.” This, after having survived his mother ... and migration to Missouri in what was likely his first year.

It is not unusual that a Missouri paper would single Mary Jane out as descending from Dudley Tribble, Sr., back in Kentucky: her father was a man of substantial means. In 1860 he held nineteen slaves in four structures. The farmer was enumerated as having $38,000 in real estate and another $36,000 in his personal estate. He’d in 1822 inherited 600 acres on the Lexington Pike – and the double-wide log cabin he’d been born and would die in – from father Andrew. He held another 600-acre parcel near Jacks Creek. Tribble raised quality livestock: his jennet had won a premium in national exhibition by the U.S. Agricultural Society in 1857. (For more on jacks and jennets, see A Race of Extraordinary Goodness.) Dwelling with Matilda Ann and sixty-three-year-old Dudley in 1860 were Amelia, aged ten; her sister Matilda, then fifteen; their mother's twin ... widowed aunt Amelia A. (Tribble) Thompson and her fourteen-year-old son; along with three, teen-aged Tribble uncles.

Having survived two of her fifteen children, Amelia’s maternal grandmother Matilda Ann died at age fifty-six in the summer of 1861. In two years our subject had lost her mother, baby brother and the grandmother who had taken her in. (Her paternal grandparents died before Amelia was born.)

With the Battle of Richmond, civil war came to Madison County in the summer of 1862. Two who had been teen-aged uncles in the Tribble household promptly enlisted to serve in what had been victorious forces under Confederate General Braxton Bragg. James Polk Tribble (1842-1893) and Dudley Tribble, Jr. (1843-1911) signed on as Privates with then-Colonel John Hunt Morgan, in his Kentucky Cavalry Regiment. My maternal grandmother Loura Kittrel (Leer) Early (1891-1984) relayed an account I believe handed down by her mother Amelia. Allegiances were no doubt conflicted at a very local level. Madison County women, perhaps Amelia herself, would draw water or hang linen out-of-doors while lifting voices in either of two songs: one signaled it was safe for young, rebel horsemen to dash in for provisions; the other gave warning of Union troop activity in the neighborhood.

In May, 1863 the Tribble boys’ older brother Alexander H. Tribble (1836-1863) transferred into their unit, as its Captain. Morgan’s summer raid from Kentucky into Ohio was disastrous for Amelia’s uncles. In the 4th of July Battle of Tebbs Bend (which one of Amelia's daughters referred to as the 'Battle of Green River Bridge' in a 'War of Northern Aggression') ‘Alick’ was killed instantly following battlefield promotion; Jim was grievously injured. Dud, Jr. would close out hostilities imprisoned in horrible conditions ... following capture at the Battle of Buffington Island a little more than two weeks later.

The following month, in August, 1863, widower James Berry Turner presented himself to a Provost Marshal and registered for the draft with the Grand Army of the Republic. Interestingly, an entry for Dudley's son Peter Tribble follows ... out of alphabetical sequence ... in the Union record for Ray County, Missouri. Registration may not indicate northern sympathies; complying with the edict may have simply been expedient in an interim. Annotation indicates Turner had military experience with the Enrolled Missouri Militia, however. As a Private in a regiment of home guards, he may have performed some service for the Union following 1862 enlistment in it. He was twice called up. Tribble complied with mandatory enrollment in the E.M.M. during an 1864 panic: his record indicates "no service."

Image: Thomas Turner (1848-1917). Photo courtesy of Martha Schlosser.
I have no context for the photograph (right) of Amelia's brother Tom, supplied by Martha and obviously taken during the above sitting. It may be be sufficient to observe that Turners in Missouri presented as bellicose. It may be interesting to reflect that the boy's namesake, grandfather Thomas Turner, occupied this age range while in Revolu-tionary War service. It may not be a leap to posit that ancestors' choices vitally influenced this generation.

Dudley, Sr. was a man who presented with some distinction. He paid $181.50 on six thousand dollars of income, and fifty ounces of silver plate, in the summer of 1864.

Image of silver pitcher, original photo by Shellie Kendall Nunn,
According to Gorin, in Morgan Is Coming!, Ol’ Dud gifted a double-walled silver pitcher (left) to the Union-sympathizing Kentucky farmer who had collected son Jim from where he’d crawled off the battlefield … and the family that had nursed the twenty-year-old to fragile health.

In Missouri, by comparison, James Berry Turner was assessed on $604 income in 1863. His tax burden was, at $25, higher the following year, when he was known to slaughter four hogs and obtain a fifty-dollar carriage. It may be that Turner no longer held farming at the core of enterprise: his real estate in 1860 had only been enumerated at $2,500. His personal estate, which would have included deposits and cash-on-hand, was valued at $17,000.

“There are letters where Turner corresponded with his children while [they lived] with the Tribbles," wrote George Turner. These relationships were invested with pathos, however. Dudley Tribble, Sr., founding member of Mt. Pleasant Christian Church north of Richmond, “refused to let his son-in-law set foot on his land,” according to Tribble’s great-grandson Neale. “Turner was a Republican and Tribble wouldn't allow him to come to the house,” recounted my Kentucky cousin Anne Carroll (Buckles) Armstrong. “He had slaves, but he was a Republican,” surmised George Turner of Amelia’s father. George left readers with the sense that ostracism was mutually agreed as James Berry Turner conveyed progeny to Tribble. Perhaps refusal to receive Turner occurred as son Brown joined Tribble's household.

Amelia’s sister Matilda married Josiah Phelps (1843-1908) in March, 1864. At Dudley Tribble’s place. It seems the bride’s father was absent. The marriage bond was financed by the groom, ‘Joe’ Phelps; and also Charles Squire Turner (1842-1929), wealthy grandson of James Berry Turner’s half-brother Squire Turner (1793-1871).7 I’m almost assured Dudley Tribble, Sr. was the "guardian" who gave verbal consent in Madison County for the eighteen-year-old bride to marry.

Caperton recalled Matilda had “her sister, Miss Amelia Turner and her brother, Brown Turner … in her home at ‘Rocky Hill.’” Reliable on deeds, she has Joe Phelps taking possession of the property in 1865, six years after the death of the sibling’s mother Mary Jane ... and the year following his marriage to Matilda.8

I know of no grave marker for James Berry Turner. I've found no obituary. Speculation on the date of his death begins with 1864. An 1866 tax record has a James B. Turner of Richmond, in Ray County, Missouri, owing $47.90 excise tax on income of $867. The ‘other’ Turner of that depiction in those environs died in 1864; his son of the same-styled name promptly assumed the position of County Clerk.

“Turner became a mule trader after the civil war,” wrote George Turner. “He was killed by a mule … in Buchanan County, Missouri, and buried on the spot, as it was hot summer time and there was no provision for preserving the body to be shipped to Richmond, Missouri.” Rhoda surmised his death occurred in 1867, on a mule trading trip to St. Joseph, Missouri … at most, ninety miles distant from his home place. [Eminent family historian Corday (Leer) Buckley gave no date of death for her maternal grandfather, not even in her entry for The Abridged Compendium of American Genealogy, Vol. III.] One gruesome detail has descended through both Missouri and Kentucky story tellers: Turner died after being kicked in the head. “He died on the spot,” wrote Rhoda, who’d not yet been born. It seems a rather remote, undignified end that orphaned Amelia in her early teens.

“Miss Amelia Turner … belonged to the Class of 1868 at Madison Female Institute and ranked as one of the most brilliant of the Class,” gushed Caperton. Amelia was Valedictorian asserted Neale, whose grandmother was among that cohort of girls who would marry well, run households of some size and influence, and shoulder civic responsibilities.

Madison Female Institute, undated; Madison County Historical Society.
The campus was denuded of shade and fruit trees when employed as a Union hospital following the Battle of Richmond. Trustees had just invested five thousand dollars to improve the building (left). “An opportunity for social life will be afforded,” declared an 1894 advertisement by female administrators who capped enrollment at thirty boarders. The fourteen-acre spread “attracted students from all over the South and became famous as a finishing school,” testified the Madison County Historical Society. Engel, in a 1981 article, acknowledged first family’s patronage arrived from a broad geographic area. He extolled education “received from association with the elegant social atmosphere of Richmond and Madison County.” Amelia would not have obtained these advantages, had she remained in Missouri. In 1920 retrospect, the Richmond Daily Register allowed her class was “one of the most distinguished groups ever sent out from that institution.” As the Valedictorian bade farewell, she without doubt did so as a teenager possessed of refined accomplishment. She also did so bereft of her parents and a significant proportion of siblings ... two in distant Missouri.

Amelia was “a very successful teacher” in the period following, according to her obituary. Unable to discover anything further on her vocation, I was struck by continuum, from student to instructor. We might assume, in that survivors drew attention to it, earned income was not beneath our subject's dignity ... and that she evidenced fond recall of the endeavor.

Amelia’s youngest surviving brother set out. "There is a story in our family about John Brown Turner, riding the horse, Oran, all the way from Kentucky to his sister Bettie Ann's house near Perrin, Missouri … at age 16," Cousin Martha relayed. It’s a remarkable achievement. Born in 1853, her great-grandfather would thus have performed the feat in 1869-1870. Oran was one of Dudley Tribble, Sr.’s purebred saddlehorses … taken apparently without permission in clandestine flight.

“I have a very distinct recollection of the old gentleman and his courtly manner,” wrote Caperton, of aggrieved grandfather Tribble. Describing him as “a Chesterfield in manner,” brings surmise she referenced Lord Chesterfield's Advice to His Son - On Men and Manners: in which the Principles of Politeness ... are Laid Down, first printed in America in 1789 and reprinted until 1842. Tribble apparently never required return of his equine property but – considering purported treatment of the boy's father, Tribble’s son-in-law, James Berry Turner – I produce this Chesterfield maxim, indicative of British disdain: “Some learned men … give judgment without appeal.” Lord Chesterfield otherwise encouraged the genteel to “represent, but do not pronounce.”

Image: brothers Thomas (left) and Brown Turner, private collection.Missouri-based accounts have Brown intent on reunion with his brother Thomas ... who married Letitia Ellen Duncan (1853-1915) in 1869. I find it delicious that the pair (left) teamed up as stock breeders, putting Oran to stud. Tribble's pedigreed colt had "as much style, form and action as we ever saw," read the Tribble Brothers' public offering.

A rift was now complete, however: Amelia and Matilda affixed themselves to a Bluegrass social order … under Dudley Tribble’s auspices. Siblings began separate and distinct lives in Missouri. None in either camp named a surviving son ‘Dudley.’

“Both sisters had brown eyes and auburn hair and Mrs. Leer was an unnaturally beautiful woman,” Caperton observed, of Matilda and Amelia. “The wedding of Miss Amelia Turner and Mr. Monroe Leer of Bourbon County at the home of her sister, ‘Rocky Hill,’ is one of my earliest recollections.”

Image of James Monore Leer, Sr. (1841-1894), undated.On that 28 Oct 1874 occasion, bride Amelia was not yet twenty-two; the groom near thirty-three and a half. A Race of Extraordinary Goodness ... a post depicting the life of James Monroe Leer, Sr. (1841-1894) ... prompted this essay on wife Amelia. I did not record in my initial work that, in 1867, Leer (right) took pride of place among young, eligible Bourbon County Kentuckians. “Elegantly costumed,” they processed through town accompanied by the Paris Brass Band. “The knights … with their fine and showy costumes and flashing lances, and mounted on fleet and fiery steeds, presented a most splendid appearance,” reported the Louisville Daily Courier. Leer, in a tilting tournament – as ‘Running Brook’ – secured the greatest number of rings. A success then equaled by ‘Ace of Spades.’ My great-grandfather eventually lost to his rival, in an elimination round, by a single ring. As such, the second-place horseman was yet allowed to choose the ‘First Maid of Honor.’ Recipient Miss Ida Talbott would in 1869 marry another. Three years older than her champion.

“Maj. Squire Turner was a half-brother of [Amelia’s] father, and [also] among the guests for the wedding were … all of the Tribble Clan,” status-conscious Caperton related. A former state legislator who twice turned down judicial appointment, Squire Turner deserves his own book: no doubt Caperton singles him out for having come through the war (while losing all capital in at least twenty-nine slaves) as an extremely wealthy attorney. The half-brothers, births separated by more than a quarter-century, may have shared special relationship. James Berry Turner was born just as Squire left home. Amelia's father was nearly the same age as Squire Turner's first-born son. With James Berry Turner in Missouri, lawyer Squire had, c1860, attended to Teeter's 1854 boarding bill, above ... after claim for nonpayment was filed in Madison County.

As for the ‘Tribble Clan,’ Caperton elsewhere observed “Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Tribble, Sr. reared fifteen children, who lived, in their turn, to rear large families. It would be interesting to know just how many were entitled to call them “Grand father” and "Grand mother.”” I’ve identified sixty-one grandchildren, including those still-born. More than three dozen great-grandchildren can be attributed to the five children who survived Mary Jane alone. James Neale’s mother was a grandchild to Dudley and Matilda: she is to have remarked she never knew the entirety of her first cousins, but thought they numbered more than a hundred. “I have been told,” penned Caperton, “that in his extreme old age, Mr. Tribble … would address his grand children who had grown up at a distance, when they came to see him, as “Cousin.””

It was a large clan indeed. Amelia was not in isolation. I have not ascertained how many Madison-County-born Tribbles were living at the time of the 1874, Leer-Turner wedding.

An unnamed daughter did not survive her August, 1875 birth to the newlyweds. Amelia had by then removed to Bourbon County, where ‘Mr. Leer,’ as she often styled her spouse, began a breeding program that improved his trade in livestock. Amelia set up housekeeping in environs of in-laws David Leer, Jr. (1803-1885) and Charlotte Corday (Kenney) Leer (1809-1897). Aforementioned daughter Corday Kenney Leer was delivered in 1877.

Attended by Amelia’s sister Matilda (Turner) Phelps, her husband Joe and their two daughters … who had taken up residence with him … Dudley Tribble, Sr. died at his home in the summer of 1878. Ol’ Dud’s executors were meticulous with his 1872 will: $2,522.92 were apportioned each child in early 1879. Having survived Mary Jane, Tribble made equal provision for his daughter’s issue; Missouri and Kentucky grandchildren each inherited $504.58. Amelia’s brothers Thomas and Brown, both married fathers by then, emulated Turner proclivity as go-getters: they mined Ruby City, Colorado environs together the following summer.

Image of Amelia (Turner) Leer (1852-1915), undated.
An unnamed son lived less than a week following birth on 29 July 1879. Fifteen months later Amelia (left) was delivered of Hugh Vernon Leer (1880-1973). Following a fourteen-month interlude, Amelia birthed son Davereau Leer (1882-1964) and for the first time in her childbearing, after seven years of marriage, consecutive children survived. Twenty months later, the Leers received daughter Matilda Turner Leer (1883-1968), no doubt named for Amelia's older sister.

Upon the 1885 death of his father, Leer and his brood by Amelia took up residency at or nearby the the Jackstown Pike homestead, northeast of Paris, that David had been given by his father, David Lier, Sr. (1769-1852). The name Glenwater Stock Farm went into play. Following arrival of daughter Roe Cora Leer on 4 November 1885, Leer began accruing dramatic financial success from domestic commerce. His breeding jacks were increasingly sought after.

Amelia displayed an interest in spiritualism for her sister … presumably Matilda ... in a letter written in late 1885 or 1886. Psychic ‘Hanta’ had introduced Amelia to her spiritual guide, and a cast of supporting characters. The exchange seems to have played out in a family setting. “Above every one’s head she saw a symbol of their life,” wrote Amelia. Told that she too was a medium, Amelia summonsed her proclivity to impart “Cora’s [symbol] was a lamb & she would always be just and innocent, so I suppose she will die young.”


There is risk in magnifying Amelia's character by amplifying a rare, surviving missive. It might be illuminating, however, to assume clairvoyance included ability to assess conditions vexing those compensating them. Hanta observed Amelia "had been much troubled ... and had endured sorrow so well as suffering ..." Her symbol was "a basket filled with tears and flowers, joys and sorrows." Poignantly, Amelia re-penned 'basket:' it's the only word blotted in the communique.

Perhaps ensconced in the 'Celestial City,' an unidentified Grand Paw (all of Amelia's direct ancestors had died) "... was troubled by land and money." An Indian Chief named "Oka" had been dispatched to assist our subject "in times of trouble."

Following a farm wife’s report of the number of hogs killed (sixteen), and notice that her domestic, ‘Georgian,’ was helping at her mother-in-law’s, Amelia confessed that – by being sick – she had “escaped all the trouble” of slaughtering livestock.

“I reckon my womb is paralyzed,” she confided. “I have a peculiar feeling, but hope it will [be] years off. The children seem thankful to have me well.” Perhaps I impose foreshadowing, but daughter Corday was declared to have been uneasy in a letter primarily devoted to a fortune teller’s exploits: “She kisses me, and says she thought I would die and did not know what would become of her. She is so much distressed about her Pa and understands all about it, though she pretends she don’t.” One of Amelia's granddaughter's later referred to "Mr. Leer’s" mysterious affliction as ‘Papa’s Condition.’

Roe Cora died 30 November 1886, twenty-six days following her first birthday.

Amelia was again with child when writing her sister Matilda the following month. Dated 21 December 1886, the communication declares “we have all been sick” since the recipient’s recent visit. Namesake Matilda “was quite sick, I did not think she would live until Sunday.” Son Davereau “had the croup very badly.” Vernon “had had a bad spell of indigestion and looks worse than I ever saw him.” Lower in the list of maladies, Amelia shared “We thought today that Corday had the diphtheria,” then concluded she’d “taken cold, helping me wait on the others.” Amelia divulged Corday, not yet nine years old,“has been such a comfort to me.”

Amelia began her missive with observation that Mr. Leer suffered in confinement following a severe ankle sprain, one of the worst his doctor ever saw. Only on the reverse page did she declare herself “almost broke down.” She’d suffered diarrhea and tonsillitis “real bad.” Disclosing she had “not slept an hour a night … waiting on the others,” Amelia then reflected on specific illness in her neighborhood, solicitous for – among others – an Ed who was perhaps her husband’s Kenney kinsman.

At conclusion of the one-page fragment that I’ve seen, Amelia contended poet May Riley Smith’s 1885 text Sometime offered comfort during her travails. The title poem from that work addresses “The things o’er which we grieved.” Smith’s third stanza harkens back to my fortitude theme:

And if sometimes, commingled with life’s wine,
We find the wormwood, and rebel and shrink,
Be sure a wiser hand than yours or mine
Pours out this potion for our lips to drink.
And if some friend we love is lying low,
Where human kisses cannot reach his face,
Oh, do not blame the loving Father so,
But wear your sorrow with obedient grace!

Styled 'Junior,' a third son entered a household of four Leer siblings on 28 April 1887. He died precisely ten months later.

One of Amelia’s living descendants, Ann Duncan (Nave) Bass, recently shared she’d heard our great-grandmother associated with the Ouija board. Homemade ‘talking boards’ had grown popular in Ohio in the 1880s: the Ouija board itself was patented in 1891. Given classical education, Amelia reserved space for spiritualism. In that Sometime was likely supplied by a visiting pastor, we might also assume she maintained traditional, religious belief.

Image of ‘New Forest,’ Bourbon County, Kentucky. Family collection.
Amelia and Monroe had as many children living as had died … when a daughter was born to them in 1889. Amelia Tevis Leer (1889-1985) was ten months old when the family left Glenwater for nearby ‘New Forest’ (right). While the former Ida Talbott was ensconced on less than 300 acres, Leer held more than a thousand. And a livestock barn ministering to a hundred income-generating animals.

Image from “Illustrated History of Paris and Bourbon County,’ published by the Bourbon News; c1905 photo attributed to T. W. Allen.
I illustrate the home’s splendor at the post dedicated to James Monroe Leer. A detailed, 1882 depiction fully conveys its “picturesque and romantic appearance.” I contend habitancy there, among gardens and orchards – with a rail stop at its gate – seated the Leers in the lap of landed, Bluegrass aristocracy.

My grandmother Loura was the first child born to the Leers of New Forest … a little over a year after they took occupancy. Son James Monroe Leer, Jr. (1894-1983) followed three years later.

‘Roe, Jr.’ was ten months old when his father died … at a little over fifty-three and a half years of age, and three days short of Christmas, 1894. Amelia, nine days past her forty-second birthday, survived with three children under the age of five; of the Leer’s seven, surviving offspring, two had reached their teen years. I find it conspicuous that Leer, whose commercial success was then being regularly reported state-wide, received no commensurate obituary that I could uncover.

It seems that Leer had no will. It is obvious from the record that Amelia, styling herself as Executrix, took a pivotal role in settling her husband’s estate. It might be inferred that Leer succumbed while in financial straits (as were international and domestic markets, following the Panic of ’93).

Advertisement, The Courier Journal, 1 Feb 1895, pg. 3, col. 5.
By the first of February, 1895, forty days after being widowed, Amelia began advertising(right) a stock sale three weeks hence. It was extension of an initiative, to dispose of two carloads of “extra large, fine jacks,” that Leer had been engaged in at his death. The banner screamed ‘100 Jacks At Auction.’ Where her husband had not, text at conclusion of Amelia’s offer read “also 1,000 acres, etc.” When the ad ran in Des Moines, Iowa a week later, editors noted elsewhere in the Homestead, “This will be an excellent opportunity for any one who wishes a fine jack to get his pick from a lot of well-bred individuals, and at his own price.” Someone in my family has Amelia’s plea, perhaps published at Bourbon County in response: she asks neighbors to promptly settle debts to her husband, and – astutely – for bidders not to conspire against her.

“It took two auctioneers two days to dispose of the land and stock,” reported the Evening Bulletin from Maysville, Kentucky. Amelia’s advertising campaign paid off: about two thousand attended. “The “Glen Water” farm of 275 acres was sold to William W. Massie, of Paris, for $22,960,” or $83.50 an acre. (Massie will reappear in this account.) "Sixty-two head of jacks averaged $250 each. One of six jennets fetched as much as $250, her mule colts went for $28.75.” The Courier-Journal at Louisville, Kentucky trumpeted “The jacks were purchased by bidders from almost every State in the Union.” Soberly, the Kentucky Advocate at Danville, Kentucky named a Georgia man who laid out $9,000. It noted big spenders from Ohio, Illinois and Virginia; and reported West Virginia and Missouri purchasers. Lemuel Theodore Smith (1852-1918), who’d married Amelia’s niece [Matilda’s daughter, Mary Tribble Phelps (1865-1946)] joined in the bidding: he bought three jacks. We’ll return to these Smiths.

Having disposed of nearby Glenwater, Amelia and her family remained at New Forest. Bid to $89 an acre, she withdrew the lovely home and more than six hundred acres from auction. The economy continued to drag: the best offer she’d received was seven thousand dollars less than Leer had paid for the property a little more than five years earlier.

Credibly, in the following six weeks, Amelia received five hundred dollars each for two jacks she’d held back from auction. One went to Georgia, the ‘King of Glenwater’ went to West Virginia.

Further calamity struck that fall, on the night of 6 October 1895. “The big stock barn at New Forest, property of Mrs. J. Monroe Leer, burned Sunday night with its contents,” reported The Public Ledger at Maysville. “Eighteen fine jacks and two coach horses, fourteen tons of hay, two ricks of oats, twelve sets of gears, a lot of tools and the farming implements were lost.” Resonant in family lore remains reminiscence that one horse had been coaxed to safety … only to return and die in the burning structure. Carried by the Associated Press, often beneath the headline “Blooded Stock Burned,” the story raced around the country, appearing promi-nently in Kansas, and as far away as Mississippi and Florida. Accounts vary; the jacks and horses had likely been insured at $300 per head, the barn at $500. In general concurrence, local papers assessed “The jacks were valued at $10,000. The total loss at $15,000.”

Amelia’s significant helpmate, her eldest surviving child Corday, married “prominent tobacco dealer” Benjamin Franklin Buckley, Sr. (1863-1933) at New Forest on 22 Jan 1896.9 The bride was eighteen years old; 'B.F.' Buckley, thirty-two. The occasion was celebrated precisely thirteen months following the death of the bride’s father, James Monroe Leer.

Image of Elizabeth Ann (Turner) Phelps (1842-c1900). Photo supplied by Martha Schlosser.
There may be no relevance in observation that Amelia had at this time three children aged seven or younger in her house-hold … and that, when her mother Mary Jane died, Amelia's teen-aged sister Elizabeth Ann(right) had promptly married ... while Amelia and brother Brown were in that same age cohort. Though the Buckleys resided with Amelia at New Forest, neither Mary Jane, Betty nor 'Cordie' were prepared to play the role of spinster aunt, caretakers wholly devoted to siblings’ upbringing.

Amelia’s mother-in-law, Charlotte Corday (Kenney) Leer, succumbed to pneumonia on 14 January 1897. That same day Amelia once again withdrew New Forest from a public sale. The Bourbon News reported “there were no bidders.” She did dispose of her flock of Cotswold sheep. Three remaining jacks fetched forty and fifty dollars. “Two jennets and two horses brought low prices.”

Almost two weeks later Amelia demonstrated the sagacity of grandfather ‘Trading Tom’ Turner. She and Massie, who was then at Glenwater, worked out an exchange. He took New Forest and its six hundred acres in trade for the farmstead where Amelia and Monroe Leer had lived until 1889 … and payment of about $25,000.

The Bourbon News listed Mrs. J. M. Leer as "among the Parisians who attended the Chautauqua" on 8 July. In it's tenth year, it's challenging to discern what drew her to the Lexington Chautauqua Assembly. Interest grew, locally, in their Literary and Scientific Circle; "skilled educators" presented at Round Table meetings ... on pedagogy, kindergarten and 'physical culture.' A College Day oratorical contest was a big draw; Amelia might have found affinity with a woman's club, missionary gathering, or by studying Women's Christian Temperance Union methods. It was also the first year motion pictures were offered. Edward Maro, the "Prince of Magic" was popular on the circuit that year, as vaudeville contended with the introduction of film.

In August, 1897 the undaunted Amelia began privately offering her 275-acre farm, its five-room cottage, twelve-stalled stockbarn, good tobacco barn and “splendid circular barn for young stock” at Glenwater. In this she was unsuccessful. Amelia stocked up at Court Day in Paris about two weeks later. She bought eighteen heifers for about $200, presumably to make a go of her predicament. Perhaps tending the herd was a task given seventeen-year-old son Vernon. In December Amelia rented a home at Paris. From there the former valedictorian promptly initiated suit for $475 against Henry Ernest McNeale of Piqua, Ohio; likely one of the out-of-state livestock buyers. Her string of losses continued: by the end of the year her case had been dismissed "at plaintiff's costs."

It’s at this point when newspapers far less frequently referred to “Mrs. James Monroe Leer” and its variants: she would more routinely be depicted as “Amelia T. Leer” and the like. She sold eighty acres in March, 1898. Though land may have been poorer on this parcel, the value per acre she could realize continued to drop. Two weeks later the Bourbon News reported son ‘David Roe’ (Davereaux) to be “quite ill.” In the period following, the widowed mother, with six children at home, began acting with marked resolve. In November, after the harvest, she accepted $75 an acre and sold Glenwater to local farmer Amos Turney. On 20 December the Bourbon News reported “Mrs. Amelia Leer leaves today for Oklahoma and Indian Territory for a prospecting tour with a view of locating in the West.”

That's some pretty remarkable news.

Contemplated westward migration was not completely beyond her extended family’s character. Amelia hailed from stock which had, for generations, settled in Madison County. Collateral Turner lines, primarily in her father’s younger days, had done exceedingly well in nascent Missouri. (See To Write on End as was at Hand.) This turn-of-the-century decision, by a forty-six-year-old widow with no known kin having previously settled in Indian Territory, does seem bold … if not outlandish. It was certainly far from a norm maintained by peers having graduated from her finishing school.

"An Act for the Protection of the People of Indian Territory, and for other purposes" had passed U.S. Congress in June, 1898. The Curtis Act abolished tribal governments that Congress had a dozen years earlier deemed sovereign and protected by treaty. The Five Civilized Tribes immediately lost control of about 90,000,000 acres of communally-held land. The Act provided legal framework for survey and townsite platting in an Oklahoma Territory. Amelia likely responded to a railroad-sponsored land speculation scheme. Promotional materials which may have animated the decision were handed down: they look very august, wrapped in a red velvet ribbon.

Also in 1898, on 22 April, Amelia’s oldest surviving son Vernon enlisted in the Kentucky States Guards. The United States declared war on Spain the following day. "Vernon is going to war," declared his nine-year-old sister Amelia. "The teachers have been drilling us to march. The [whole] City-school are going to march down to the depot," she informed cousin Nannie J. Phelps (1867-1959), the second and last surviving child born to our subject's sister Matilda and spouse Joe Phelps.10 The Bourbon News depicted Vernon as a 3rd Corporal in a 10 May issue that also described a “farewell parade in Paris in honor of Company D,” the unit in which he served. The volunteers likely took trains to bivouac at Red Mile trotting horse track located at Lexington in Fayette County, Kentucky.

Amelia’s plans for Oklahoma ranching would have been far more difficult to achieve, without the efforts of her eighteen-year-old son. On 25 May, his unit shipped off to Georgia and training for service in Cuba. On 21 June, Sufalla Club member Vernon Leer danced to Henry Saxton’s orchestra with girls “charming in simple, airy Summer costumes.” Perhaps he failed examination by regimental surgeons, or declined service as troops were federalized: Vernon was not in Cuba as Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘Rough Riders’ – with volunteer, Negro troopers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry – captured San Juan Heights on the first of July. At the end of that month he was reported among society “gentlemen” dancing to Saxton’s music at a coming-out party at Paris.

Interestingly, that same 29 July issue of the Bourbon News also declares “Mrs. Amelia Leer has as her guests Mr. and Mrs. Smith, of Shelbyville.” Amelia’s niece (Nannie's sister), Mary Tribble (Phelps) Smith – with husband L. Theodore Smith – likely made the sixty-mile journey in conjunction with Amelia’s relocation plans.

Image of sale bill, The Bourbon News, 13 Jan 1899; pg. 3, col. 4.
Plans, once initiated, advanced quite rapidly. On 10 January 1899, a mere three weeks after departing on her prospecting tour, the Bourbon News announced “Mrs. Amelia Leer and family will move to Oklahoma, the latter part of next week. Mr. and Mrs. Buckley will take board with Mrs. De Hart …” Elsewhere on the same page were reports of a prominent family’s “bowling party” and “the most important social event of the season” for this element of Bluegrass aristocracy. While “Members of the various literary and musical clubs of Paris” considered erecting a public library, Amelia was destined to part with her upright piano, portiere curtains and nearly new Monitor range. Household items went to auction on 21 January. I appreciate resolve, evidenced in the notice (right): Amelia declared she had "determined to move West."

Vernon, likely with livestock on railroad cars, quit Paris two days later. “Mrs. Amelia T. Leer, and family, will leave today for Perry, Oklahoma, where they will locate,” reported the Bourbon News on 24 January. They could expect sufficient time to secure land and plant a spring crop, but surprising haste seems to have inspirited departure.

Image of depot, Perry, Oklahoma, c1894 from History of Noble County, Oklahoma (1987), pg. 88.
The first county agriculture agent arrived at Perry nine months behind the Leers, in the fall of 1899. Laird’s recollection, inHistory of Noble County, Oklahoma, affirmed what we might suspect of the O.T.: “Lining the street were 17 saloons,” as he made his way from the depot (left). “The streets were deep with dust which was blowing into the business houses and covering merchandise.” Raised, wooden sidewalks clung to buildings above crude passageways.

It had been six years since an Oklahoma land run led to a Perry land office being unfurled ... in a tent city known as ‘Hell’s Half Acre.’
Three years of litigation followed. Much had changed since City Council initially convened on the upper floor of Hill Brothers’ Saloon and Gambling House in 1893. At Amelia’s disembarkation the Ladies Aid Society ministered from beneath canvas, but a Baptist church had walls, bell, organ and hitching rails. A Kentucky firm introduced waterworks and electrical systems in 1895: a telephone line reached Pawnee, Oklahoma Territory. With Federal intervention, the Bill Doolin gang of train robbers was broken up in 1896.

Amelia and her brood arrived in boom times. Five additions expanded the original townsite. Three thousand were in residence, among them several populations of non-English speaking Europeans. A $20,000 bond in 1895 funded a high school's construction. At least two newspapers boosted a mercantile district ... whose product offering might not have compared favorably to styles available at Paris.


Image of Opera House, History of Noble County, Oklahoma (1987), pg. 89.
However, with opening of the Grand Opera House in 1901, and until the Perry Opera House (right) burned in 1902, the town supported both. South of Cow Creek lay a horse-racing track: the baseball team ‘Famous’ contested a diamond there ... for which Otoe and Missouria tribesmen were recruited from across the Indian Meridian, nearby to the south.

“It was unknown what crops would do best here,” admitted Laird. Eight thousand elm sprouts had survived two years; winter wheat and alfalfa were producing. A grand experiment in castor beans unfolded ... and subsequently failed. Perhaps Amelia’s initial reconnaissance paid off: “Effort was made before 1900 to improve livestock,” county historians observed. "Blooded cattle, horses and hogs" were in demand.

"My grandfather was the oldest boy,” Ann Duncan disclosed. Vernon “was in the 8th grade when his father died: he took on many responsibilities at that time and to my knowledge did not go back to school,” she relayed. “I do remember hearing he was a real cowboy in Oklahoma.” A first cousin recalled our great-uncle Vernon, by then a county judge, bragging on having broken horses while in Oklahoma Territory: "I tried to ride every bucking horse in the west," he mused.

“Aunt Amelia has gone to Oklahoma,” sister Betty reported hearing in a 21 March 1899 letter from rural Sherman Township in Missouri. As ‘Aunt Pink,’ she asked niece 'Lena' [Lenora Turner (1880-1965)] whether the young woman’s Papa – Betty and Amelia’s brother Brown Turner – knew more, regarding news imparted by a Kentucky visitor. She’d been told Amelia “had about fifteen thousand dollars left when all was settled up.” Betty likely died the following year, at some separation from her youngest sister. I believe my grandmother, who would then have been nine years old, asserted "One year, her Christmas letter did not reach us." As if stable Missourians were responsible for maintaining kinship ties.

Amelia was enumerated ‘Farmer’ in the 1900 census of Watkins Township, Noble County: she owned a farm free of any mortgage. Sons Vernon and Davereau were described as farm laborers. Amelia therein disclosed seven children survived of eleven born. Roe, Jr. being too young, three were in school: Matilda, Amelia and Loura. Family ties were not completely torn asunder. Daughter Cordie and husband B.F. visited from Paris in April. Vernon returned east in October, "for a visit to his old home and friends," according to the Bourbon News. "Mr. Leer is prospering in Oklahoma and thinks it a great place for young men." In a wrangler's role, he was reported as having "bought 150 cattle in St. Louis as he came through that city."

Though six pages and three hundred entries separate them in the U.S. census for 1900, I have no doubt Amelia’s niece Mary, and husband Theodore Smith – also in Watkins Township – were in close social relationship with her aunt in those outlands. Smith also owned his farm, free and clear … having inherited handsomely ... according to Caperton. Amenities distinguished living conditions: the childless couple, then married thirteen years, relied on a farm laborer and Black servant Mollie Martin (aged twenty) in their household. Perhaps Smith shipped west the jacks he’d bought from Monroe Leer five years earlier. Perhaps Mary brought with her a pair of solitaire diamonds; wedding presents that had bedazzled Caperton.

Image of Farm hands, c1895 from History of Noble County, Oklahoma (1987), pg. 41.
Image of farm hands playing croquet (left) certainly seems incongruous, but we may not fully appreciate socialization among Whites at the turn of the century in Noble County. Family lore has young men of high social standing, perhaps in reclining seats (see ad below), visiting mates Vernon and Davereau in rustic conditions. My grand-mother spoke of Spanish-leather gloves … gifted her brothers by those one-time peers ... and inappropriate for hard work at which the Leer boys were expected to toil. Reminders of a good life left behind may have made it difficult for Amelia to “keep the boys down on the farm.”

Advertisement, Richmond Climax, 28 August 1901, pg. 1, col. 6.
Amelia returned from Perry and, from January through June, 1901, likely relied on Cordie and B.F. Buckley for accommodation. They were reported as living at Centerville, in Bourbon County. Geographical divide by then, between Kentucky and Indian Territory, was not as severe as one might imagine: “Only one night on the road,” advertised the Illinois Central Railroad (right), on “two fast trains daily” from Louisville.

Likely it was daughter Amelia, then aged fourteen and a half, who returned to Bourbon with her mother on a visit from Perry in August, 1903. My great-aunt promptly enrolled in church and four years later graduated from Bourbon Female College ... evidence that Amelia, Sr. was vested in idea that, despite credible challenge, her daughters should receive academic opportunity.

Amelia pulled up stakes in the Oklahoma Territory. It seems she failed, ultimately, at townsite speculation: Davereau would nearly twenty years later buy eight, empty lots … in Perry’s “Original Townsite” … that he and his siblings inherited from their mother. He compensated each with a dollar.

As a family history researcher, I can hardly pass up revealing that Corday (Leer) Buckley sought extraordinary assistance in 1925. The Perry Weekly Journal described an old Bible, “at one time the property of Thomas Turner, who brought it with him from North Carolina to Kentucky.” Reporting that Mrs. Amelia Turner “brought the bible with her to Oklahoma” pleases me: I appreciate that – even when downsizing, even when venturing so far from Kentucky roots – my great-grandmother sought to retain connection with her paternal grandfather.

Perhaps Amelia’s departure from Oklahoma was somehow not orderly. It seems not to have synchronized with her niece: “On a visit to Kentucky Mrs. Turner, according to her daughter, left the bible with a number of other books with Mrs. L. Theodore Smith. When Mrs. Smith left Noble county she left the books with some school in the county.” Reporting that “a search will be conducted” is unclear, as it indicates Corday would carry it out ... from Lexington. Having poured over correspondence left in University of Kentucky (UK) archives, I assume my great-aunt engaged in a diligent letter-writing campaign: ancestor’s revolutionary-era exploits augmented her leadership roles in heritage societies. I’ve never found the Bible cited in Corday's published work. To Amelia, at some point, must have come realization of yet another fracture in kinship ties.

"Mrs. Leer, a widow of the late Monroe Leer, has decided not to make the race for County School Superintendent,” reported the Bourbon News enigmatically in January 1904. Female heads of Kentucky households had been voting on taxes and local boards in county elections since 1838. Michigan State University’s Department of History reveals “an organized bloc of Lexington's African-American women” had two years earlier registered to vote for school board members in the Republican Party. Kentucky’s legislature promptly revoked partial suffrage women had enjoyed statewide. Francis Lewis McChesney (1829-1909) had won the Bourbon County Democratic Party primary race for Superintendent in 1903, “with the largest majority ever given,” according to the generally reliable Bourbon News. He then succeeded in general election. At his death, the Bourbon County Colored Teachers Association resolved to extend condolences, noting McChesney had “always walked uprightly before us.”
Perhaps Amelia considered challenging McChesney for other reasons. In 1868, when editing the True Kentuckian at Paris, he may have raised Amelia’s ire … by spawning “animated controversy on the subject of "Woman's Rights."” Amelia was then at Richmond, graduating from the Madison Female Institute. “The discussion excited much interest at the time,” observed Perrin. McChesney is depicted as a potent, political force: it calls to consideration whether decision to challenge him required admirable pluck. I like to think her contemplation reaffirms contention that Amelia held education as fundamentally important.

“There should be some reference to her work with suffragette Laura Clay,” Kentucky cousin James Neale suspected, of Amelia’s legacy in the record. The never-married Clay (1849-1941) was in 1904 one of four still-living children born to emancipationist Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903) at Madison County. (See note 7.) Then based at Lexington, Miss Clay had since 1888 led the Kentucky Equal Rights Association she’d co-founded. Perhaps Laura Clay Papers at UK would give evidence, but I have been unable to associate either Amelia Sr. or Jr. with this co-founder of the Democratic Women’s Club of Kentucky. Clay would become an officer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association … and in 1920 be first of her gender to receive a vote for Presidential nomination at a political party’s national convention.

As with her own family of origin, Amelia’s clan would splinter. At dawning of the 20th century.

Davereau attended Kentucky University at Lexington (now Transylvania University) and relocated to Chicago for a position in the Auditor’s Office of the Illinois Central. Amelia no doubt rode the line in 1907, when attending arrival of grandson James Vernon Leer (1907-1969). Daverau had married Irish-born Catherine Fox (1885-1960) there nine months earlier. Amelia’s youngest son, Roe, Jr., was schooled at Chicago. My grandmother Loura, then sixteen, is to have attended high school there. Amelia probably that year resided in the Bourbon County household of daughter Corday, her husband and two sons ... at ‘Idylwild Stock Farm’ on the Centerville and Jacksonville Pike.

Amelia’s daughter Matilda was in 1907 perhaps still attending Georgetown College, a year from marrying John William Denton (1884-1943) … in a private ceremony that would forego all ostentation which made Amelia’s 1874 marriage to Monroe Leer so memorable to Caperton.

Son Vernon, who had by 1905 gone to Chicago to work for the Illinois Central, emulated Turner forebears. Transient in his pursuits, he continued dabbling in livestock, relocating briefly to Tennessee. Basing operations in Mooreland, Kentucky, Vernon set up as a tobacco buyer … before erecting a “large, rehandling tobacco house” there in 1910.

A Bourbon News society page revealed Leer children in close association. Vernon returned to his dance steps of a decade earlier. In the summer of 1909, “under the auspices of the Bourbon Dancing Club,” the nearly thirty-year-old bachelor was in the company of sisters Loura and Amelia (ages eighteen and twenty). Despite their dislocation in Bluegrass social order, quite common was reporting when any of Amelia’s children returned to the county to visit relatives. In June, 1914 Vernon married Elizabeth Weathers Tribble (1885-1973), granddaughter of Matilda and Dudley Tribble, Sr. by son Dudley, Jr. The union was celebrated “at the residence of their cousins, Mr. and Mrs. L. Theodore Smith, Lexington,” declared a Bourbon News matrimonial announcement.

A letter in Amelia’s hand, postmarked 14 July 1914, remains. “In imagination I had followed your journey,” she penned daughter Amelia who was then a former schoolteacher at Harrison, Bell County, Kentucky. Amelia's namesake 'Enae' had been married just over ten months to Alfred Caruthers (1886-1961). This offspring's career path best satisfies my contention of inter-generational link, projecting forward our subject's passion for education. Amelia, Jr. was by then a past contributor to the Bourbon County Teachers Institute. She would, in decades to come, take an advanced degree and devote herself to women's instruction.

Referring to her Denton son-in-law, Amelia, Sr. disclosed “John Will came for me and I have been here.” Amelia maintained no household of her own after leaving Oklahoma. This is not to say she lacked a sense of home place. Referring to my grandmother, Amelia wrote “Loura will be home Friday.”

Loura's path also reinforces contention that Amelia valued educational attainment for women. Her youngest daughter returned from Chicago to study at Bourbon Female College, then received a teaching degree from Eastern Kentucky Normal School (now EKU) at Richmond.11 Loura taught at a Fayette County school where, just shy of twenty-one, she had in 1912 married eighteen-year-old Roger Randolph Early, Jr. (1893-1951), son of a “well-known farmer and capitalist" there. One wedding announcement, amid notices of a swirl of parties, indicated the “event of early spring” would be “at the home of the bride-elect.” Another disclosed nuptials would be held at “the home of the bride’s mother.” Neither to my knowledge owned a dwelling: harp and violin followed ceremony and came in the course of lavish entertaining at “'Idlewild,' the beautiful country home” of Amelia’s eldest daughter Corday. Society page editors were unsure, precisely, who held pride of place at Buckleys’ Idylwild.

Amelia was in 1914 enjoying Denton grandchildren in the household of daughter 'Tillie,' on Jacks Creek Pike in Fayette County, from which Matilda bustled with preparation to move. “I do get so hungry here,” she confided … before extolling a thirteen-year-old domestic: “A good girl … a fine cook. She is the best they have ever had, I think,” and using several paragraphs to describe berry and peach harvests.

Image of Monitor Range,  Samoa Cookhouse. Photo by Joe at Joefood.Amelia, Sr. also attended to emerging technology. The one-time owner of a very modern Monitor range (depicted, right) reported friends’ hopes to “get a machine.” She observed “They get a good many rides … as some one is always trying to sell him one.” She found the horseless carriage worthy of note. Perhaps Amelia had intuited industrial revolution would dislocate mules, her husband’s profit center. She had been right, economically, to exit jack-breeding endeavors as steam-powered traction engines rose to prominence in agriculture.

Her letter’s valediction crowded conclusion of newsy communication filling both sides of a page. It read, “With much love, Your devoted mother, A. T. Leer.”

Amelia entered the care of Lexington physician William J. Lavin seven months after penning the above letter. She was attending to daughter Loura, far advanced in her first pregnancy, at the ‘Walnut Hill’ farming household she and Early shared on the Richmond Pike at Fayette County. According to the Lexington Herald, Amelia “stood the trip well,” when conveyed to Idlywild, “but suffered a relapse and gradually declined until the end came” a week later … on 1 March 1915. Lavin’s death certificate gave cancer as the cause; I’m left curious about Amelia’s concern for her womb, described thirty years earlier.

Image of Section B, Lot 3, Paris Cemetery, Bourbon County, Kentucky. Photos by Frank Rinesmith.
A funeral was conducted the following day, a Tuesday, at Idylwild. Graveside services were carried out by Rev. W. E. Ellis of the Paris Christian Church, as Amelia’s sixty-two year-old body was interred beside her husband and four infant children in a family lot (left) at Paris Cemetery.12

Amelia’s Lexington obituary was comparatively more extensive than had been her husband’s brief death notices twenty-two years earlier. After observing she taught school and had been left to manage her husband’s large business, Mrs. Leer was described as a “women of unusual attainments, a fine conversationalist and a beautiful Christian character.”


NOTES:
Sincere appreciation goes to Martha Schlosser, for providing so many of the above images. Identify who's in your family photos, folks.

Article IX. Section 1 of Kentucky's 1792 Constitution.
1 Joseph Hobbs, on 18 April 1792, voted as part of a 26-16 majority to defeat anti-slavery delegates’ motion to expunge Section 1 (right) from the Ninth Article of the proposed Kentucky Constitution. It read as a guidepost, framing what authority a legislature might exert over the issue. Brown, in The Political Beginnings of Kentucky (1890) recorded Hobbs’ vote, asserting the majority were at odds with a “solid foundation” of popular opinion. He opined “It required a civil war to correct the error made in 1792.” Brown also compared this effort to Kentucky’s 1849 Constitutional Convention … with which Amelia’s half-uncle Squire Turner is so closely associated. Brown described “a constitutional power to take measures for ascertaining the sense of the people as to the extinction of slavery” – or not – as a “burning issue” for delegates in both endeavors.

Barnhart knew little of Hobbs beyond his vote to stymie slave emancipation by any subsequent legislature. Styling him a "frontiersman," the academic in 1941 vaguely associated Hobbs with radical revolutionaries campaigning against election of "men of wealth and of social and political standing" – out-of-state speculators – as convention delegates. I've no evidence indicating Hobbs was, as portrayed, sympathetic to liberals' contention that taxes on all property, including slaves, should finance government. Barnhart seemed unaware that Joseph and his brother Joshua Hobbs (1742-aft1813) each secured election to Kentucky's first legislature. The professor deemed those at the convention, who did not subsequently serve in this way, as less vested in outcome.

Undated survey map from Eastern Kentucky University - Special Collections and Archives.2Tevis assisted John Crooke (1766-1849) with Madison County surveys after 1795. A thousand-acre Turner plot (yellow box, right) appears on undated manuscripts in Crooke Family Papers at EKU Archives. Shingled plats occupy a maze of overlapping land claims. The documents were likely prepared to resolve litigation in which Amelia's 2nd great-uncle Higgason Grubbs (1739-1830) was complainant; a suit filed in 1805 that remained unresolved through nine years of appeals and counter-suits. The 'Old Turner Place' is crudely depicted along Log Lick Trace (elsewhere, Four Mile Road), connecting Boonesborough with a downstream bend in the Kentucky River.

3 Lore has it that Thomas, as a very young teen, replaced his father, Sgt. John Turner, in military service to revolutionaries. “A small company of Tories captured the youthful Thomas the night after his enlistment. Some hours later, while his captors slept, Thomas took the Tories’ weapons and at dawn marched his enemies off as prisoners of war,” reads a 1949 paper delivered by EKU Professor Jonathan Truman Dorris.

Image of James Jones Neale Jr. (1917-2017) and George Thomas Turner (1917-1986), c1970.
4 Californian George Turner (far right, with James Neale) admirably interviewed kin on either side of the family’s Kentucky-Missouri divide. I recall he visited my grandmother and her sisters in the 1960s: I may be feigning reinforcement … attributing to Turner lore that was passed along from my own informants.

5 George Turner reported his grandfather Thomas (Amelia’s brother) “was raised by a negro woman, probably one of Grand Paw Turner's slaves,” referring to James Berry Turner. Thomas spoke affectionately of her, saying “he remembered her more than his own mother." Mary Jane (Tribble) Turner died when Thomas was ten years old. The venerated slavewoman is likely to have been one of the pair James Berry Turner left in 1860, as real property in trust, at Kentucky. I’ve not found their names, but the presumed couple are identifiable as born 1786-1804 in an 1840 census of the household James' father Thomas kept with third wife Elizabeth Holden.

6 John Brown Turner was not named for the abolitionist, but quite likely for the Presbyterian Pastor John Howe Brown (1806-1872) who conducted his parents' marriage, that of Mary Jane Tribble and James Berry Turner. When their son was age four, in 1857, Reverend Brown went to First Presbyterian Church of Springfield, Illinois, where he served as pastor to Abraham Lincoln and family. (Although he never officially joined, Lincoln attended services until February, 1861, when the President-elect left Illinois for his inauguration.)

7 Charles Squire Turner inherited after his widower father, Cyrus Squire Turner (1818-1849), was disemboweled by Cassius Marcellus Clay in the ‘Rencontre at Foxtown.’ Eighteen-year-old Charlie’s net worth approached $100,000 in 1860. His grandfather, jurist Squire Turner, high in Caperton’s esteem, was enumerated that year as having $140,000 in real and personal estates. I later contend the elder Squire Turner (1793-1871) may have had "special relationship" with half-brother James Berry Turner: James, born c1819, would have been a close contemporary of the accomplished and short-lived Cyrus Turner.

8 It seems Amelia, Matilda and Brown took up residence in an ancestral home. A 1985 Kentucky Heritage Council inventory form for the Tevis House (pictured above) qualified it for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Archaeologists reported Napoleon Tevis (c1801-1862), the sibling’s great-uncle, youngest son born to original inhabitants Robert and Mary (Hobbs) Tevis, “lived here from 1836 to 1846.” The assertion was followed immediately by “Since 1846 the home has belonged to Joiah (sic) Phelps …” and listed other known owners. It appears ‘Rocky Hill,’ and ‘Sleepy Hollow’ were names assigned over time to the Tevis House.

9 Family lore has B.F. Buckley risking his livelihood or investors' ire, by offering above-market rates for Amelia's tobacco crop when courting daughter Corday.

10 Young Amelia Turner confided in her note "The [class] room that marches the best gets a freezer full of ice-creme and cake. Our room is trying to get it." She also declares "I am very glad Sister Corday has a rubber-tire buggy. But I have never rode in it."

11 Corday (Leer) Buckley disclosed youngest sister Loura "attended Bourbon College, Chicago Schools and Eastern State College" in a two-part series, 'Leer Family of Bourbon County,' published by the Kentuckian—Citizen at Paris, Kentucky in 1943. She gave no dates for matriculation. Nissen reveals Marjorie Tomlinson, then a rookie drama instructor – who would go on to play 'Ma Kettle' in films – was fired from Bourbon College in 1910 ... when Loura was eighteen years old.

12 Fred F. DeVore's Duroc Bulletin and Live Stock Farmer, Vol. 15 (1919), associated Rev. W. E. Ellis with the Ellis Bros. firm of Kentucky ... they were champion swine breeders.

CHARTS (2), click to expand:

Amelia Turner Leer ancestors:












Amelia Tuner Leer descendants:
Click here for more; image prepared by R. D. Hardesty @ hardspace.info.

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