Letter from Rev. William Allen Turner Addressed to his son Fennel Parrish Turner

by admin on September 19th, 2003

Dated May 19,1904, Waverly, Tn.
Rev. William Allen Turner opens his first letter by claiming kinship to all who claim kin with his great grandfather. He states that his great grandfather came to Tennessee in 1804 from Halifax County, VA. in the company of several families. Included in this colony were the families of Adams and Turners which were intermarried.

“Elder George Turner a minister of the Primitive Baptist married Susan Adams and John Adams married Peggie Turner. George Turner, Howard Turner, Samuel Turner and John Turner and two girls o­ne of whom married Mr.. John Adams and the other married Martin Halliburton and my grandfather William Dillard Turner were the descendants of Elder Jno.Turner my great grandfather who was a revolutionary soldier and a Primitive Baptist minister…”

William Allen Turner goes o­n to say that his great grandfather “planted many church in Middle Tennessee”, and that he is buried o­n Yellow Creek not far from a place known as Edgewood near the Pickett or Slayden farm o­nce owned by a Dr. Moody and others including Mr. Bud Norris. He says the graves are in back of the residence that a Mr. Meadows had built and lived in. A large boulder had been placed over the grave. William thinks his great grandmother, “Sukie” Dillard Turner was a Welsh woman, an “old time midwife” and that his great grandparents had married in Halifax Co., VA.

According to the letter, Rev. John Turner came to America from Ireland, and was of Scotch Irish descent. He left Ireland as a boy and knew nothing of his family. He was of light enough weight that when he first arrived in America he was a jockey, and was in great demand to ride o­n the race track. He was a soldier for seven years and then became a Baptist minister and moved to Tennessee. Settling o­n Yellow Creek, in a canebrake, he preached and organized churches. Two of his sons, George and Howard became preachers, but William Allen's grandfather is referred to as “simply a deacon” of the church.

The author of the letter refers to a person he calls “grandfather Turner.” (From other documentation included in the book, it appears this person was William Dillard Turner), married to Precilla Ursula Thomas, a widow of a Mr. Perry. Mrs. Perry had o­ne child, a daughter, who later married a Halliburton and went to Missouri. Precillla Ursula's father was a millwright, a builder of mills. He lived and died in Maryland, near Alexandria and was known as “Honest Billie Thomas”.

Grandfather Turner and Precilla Ursula Thomas Perry had several daughters and two sons, John and William Dillard. John Thomas Turner, William Allen Turner's father, died in Docver, Tenn, (my note: in all likelihood this is a typing error and was supposed to be Dover, Tenn.) and is buried in Hopkinsville. From other references made in the paragraph, it appears that Hopkinsville was in KY.

“I baptized and took them both into the Methodist church while my brother was sick from war wound of fifteen year standing from which he died of blood poison and is buried in Hopkinsville, Ky. I took them all in the church that same day. He died soon after. All my bothers and sisters have died except two… A.C. Turner who is now sheriff of Steward Co, and a sister Mrs. Morgan who lives 4 miles from Dover whose husband is a tobacco planter.”

William J. Nesbitt's note: pages 7 through 14 were not xeroxed and sent to me. The following begins o­n page 15 of the letter. lbc

“I have told you all I know of the Turners and the Hunts and now I must tell you of the Parrishes and that side of the story is finished. You see all that I know of the Turners is that he, my great grandfather, was an Irish man and very probably Scotch Irish without any religious training a boy without any antecedents ran away from Ireland having no kin for whom he cared, an orphan boy whose parents had renounced the Catholic faith perhaps among the dissenters, perhaps a follower of the John Bunyan set. The Turners as a set were Irish peasants mixed with Scotch and Welsh Americanized.”

The Turners were distinguished for being pioneers, patriots and democrats and letting “mater caps.” Apparently William Allen Turner was confused by this term as he followed it with a series of question marks. Elder John Turner served under Washington in the “7 years war.” William Dillard Turner, who he refers to here as his grandfather, went to New Orleans with Jackson in the War of 1812. His father was a Confederate Soldier in the Florida War with Gen. Trousdale.

Of his great grandmother, William Allen Turner says she

“was a Welsh woman living in VA a woman of sterling character and that's where John Turner her husband got his ideas about religion. She married a wild Irish boy and made a good man of him.”

A paragraph referencing William Allen Turner's grandfather lends a little insight into the character of Elder John Turner.

“My grandfather used to say that he had seen his father jump over the pulpit to get to pray for a penitent sinner. Judging from some things I have seen and heard he was an illiterate uneducated man with a disposition of leadership… a positive character who took sides o­n all questions.”

It went o­n to say he hated tories, ( he said the Picketts were Tories), and he used to roast switches to whip them “by order of his imperial office.”

Among the Elder John Turner's sons, three were probably preachers. Samuel went to Missouri, and George and Howard were preachers in “this country.” George and Howard were Calvinists, opposed to all societies, Temperance and education, and were against Masonry. George is buried o­n the farm of Mr. Matlock, o­n Blue Creek, in “this” county. He died of old age. Howard and “my grandfather” were buried in Dickson Co., o­ne o­n Shoulder Strap and the other o­n Leatherwood Creek.

(There is a post script to the letter. The post script itself is rather confusing as it makes mention of several different people as o­nly “he” and it's uncertain who the “he” is referring to. The entire post script follows verbatim as it makes mention of a family named Jones. Being a Smith researcher myself, I have to take pity o­n anyone researching the Jones surname, and give them any help I can. lbc)

“P.S. My father had o­ne brother Wm.D. who reared a family having married a Miss Matthews I believe, he went to Texas and died o­n the way, a widow at Natches Miss, the children went o­n and are in Texas now. He moved to W. Tenn and brought his wife back to Tenn Middle to bury her. He had 5 sisters. The eldest married a Isaac Morrissette… Uncle Ike and Aunt Kitty and they moved to the vicinity of Memphis. She was an old Baptist. The next Rachel married Mr. Wesley Ragan and died o­n Yellow Creek, have forgotten her name, Elisabeth possibly. The next Martha married… no Polly, and married Alex Jones who lived and died at the old homestead o­n Shouldler Strap where grandfather's mill stood.

The next Ann married Uncle Wm. Parrish went to Henry County Tenn, near Paris, Tenn and Obion. He died there and soon after Aunt Ann died. The last Martha married a widow Jones, brother to Alex Jones, and lived in West Tenn.

These Jones were descended from the Trace Creek Jones in Humphries Co., Tenn. J.J. Jones uncle brought up at the Jones Wayside Inn.”


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