Lots of interesting developments in the genealogical spelunking yesterday.
I've been fleshing out the descendancy of my great-great-grandparents Thomas Joseph Turner and Cerilda Ann Sandefer. Tom Turner was born to Joseph Turner (who immigrated from England to Tennessee in the early 1800s) and Matilda Clementine Smith (born in Alabama to Jabez Smith).
Joseph and Matilda married in 1841 in Fayette County, Tennessee, which is on the border with Mississippi and one county east of Memphis. It was at that time part of the Delta cotton belt. When I visited it on a research trip in the mid 1980s, I was forcibly struck by how it still retained a strong racist overtone and resistance to modernity.
Joseph died around 1849, leaving Matilda alone with two small sons including Tom who was only six. However, she turned out to be resilient and smart. She married twice more, outliving both husbands, migrating westward into new Arkansas territory, and accumulating both property and influence without owning slaves. In 1879 she was listed as #3 on the roster of leading women in the Ash Flat (Arkansas) area in farming and businesses, heading a household and farm remarked for being one of the oats growers in the township.
Matilda only had four children with her three husbands, and I suspect that is part of why she was able to focus her interests elsewhere. Whether her small family size was the result of some uncommon grasp of birth control on her part or perhaps relative infertility, I will never know. She lived to be 66 and farmed her own place until her death.
It was while tracing the line of one of their older sons yesterday that I encountered some fascinating tidbits. James Franklin Turner, called Frank, was born in Sharp County, Arkansas in 1874 but grew up primarily near Stoneburg, Montague County, Texas. At age 22, he married Kate Wright, another Sharp County child who had migrated to Montague County. They lived in the Stoneburg area in 1900, with two living children (Zola and Otto), where Frank was a farm laborer. By 1910, they had moved to Lawton, Oklahoma, having purchased a home and launched Frank's career as a photographer. Kate had borne seven children but only two were still living, Zola and Otto.
Between 1910 and 1917, something cataclysmic happened to the family. In 1917, Frank has remarried to Ida Belle Reeves, 16 years his junior. He is working as both farmer and photographer, and they are living in Mammoth Springs, Arkansas. Three years later on the 1920 census, I can find no trace of Kate Turner or the two children. The possibilities include divorce (rare in those times) with Kate remarrying by 1920 and changing the children's names to that of their stepfather or the death/adoption out of Kate and the children. I really wish I could find any clue about what happened to them: Was it ordinary loss or did Frank abandon them?
Three years later, Frank and Ida appear on the 1920 census in Independence County, Arkansas, renting a home while Frank continues work as a photographer. Ida has had two sons, Alvie Guille and John Orman Turner.
Alvie Guille Turner, born 1917 in Fulton County, Arkansas, must have been named for the man who married Frank's youngest sister Ora, one Alva Guille Cowgill (known as Bill) who was immensely popular among his cohort. More than one child in the extended family was named after him.
John Orman Turner's unusual middle name, Orman, has no known family source. However, there was a well-known Alabama State Superintendent of Education named John Orman Turner (1850-1910) who in the 1880s advocated land be set aside for the use of Tuskegee Institute. He also expanded the role of women in governing Alabama schools and pushed for better education of girls. He has no known relation to our Turner line. If Frank and Ida named their son after the late John Orman Turner, it sheds a light on their values.
This second family of Frank Turner's also met difficulty with his death on 3 December 1929. At this time, he was 55 and the family was living in Elkhead, Christian County, Missouri, where he still worked as a traveling photographer. Frank's death certificate states he died of cerebral apoplexy contributed to by atherosclerosis. One of his descendants, via Frank's son , reports the son always said Frank "died of complications/infection after having a tooth removed."
Ida and the two boys were left to manage on their own as the Depression took hold. On the 1930 census, Ida is head of household in a home she owns in the Bruner Township of Christian County, Missouri. She is listed as a photographer with her own studio. They are living next door to Ida's elderly parents.
A year later, Ida died "after an extended stay in a hospital in Springfield, Missouri of a hemorrhage that could not be stemmed or stopped." The boys moved in with an uncle (presumably one of Ida's brothers) but apparently his care of them was inadequate. In 1932, a woman by the name of Rose Wilder Lane inquired after the circumstances of a 13-year-old boy who had come to her begging for food. That boy was John Orman Turner. She took him in, either adopting him or becoming his guardian, and when she found out Alvie was in similar straits, she gave him a home as well.
The Turner orphans were extraordinarily lucky. Rose was well-off enough to give them excellent educations and a stable start on adulthood.
At age 19, Alvie Guille Turner was able to visit Paris. After one year of college, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps for World War II, being promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Post-war, he worked for 36 years as a field service engineer at McDonnell Douglas Corporation.
He married Goldean Branson in 1945 and they had three children together: James A., John O., and Barbara J. Turner. His obituary states he "was active in the Civil Air Patrol in Missouri, Arizona, Nevada and Florida. He was a deacon emeritus at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in St. Charles, Missouri. He was also a Bible teacher. He was a volunteer with the Powell Terrace Benevolence Center and Meals on Wheels and a member of the Missouri Campers on Missions." He died at age 79 in St. Charles after a long and useful life.
John Orman Turner also got to live in Paris at age 19. He attended the New Mexico Military Academy, the Sorbonne, LeHigh University, and then obtained his degree from the University of Missouri. In 1951 married Marjorie Laura Thompson, and in 1975 he married Betty Rule. He lived in Seabrook, Harris County, Texas until his death in 2001 at the age of 82.
All of this is edifying enough. What makes it more striking is that the woman who took in these teenaged orphans and rescued them during the Depression, Rose Wilder Lane, "(December 5, 1886 – October 30, 1968) was an American journalist, travel writer, novelist, and political theorist. She is noted – with Ayn Rand and Isabel Paterson – as one of the founding mothers of the American libertarian movement." [from Wikipedia] She was the first child of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder (and their only child to survive into adulthood). It is from her Facebook page that the story of her fostering was found, along with the annotated photo of Ida Reeves Turner at the head of this article.