Friday, July 24, 2015

Pioneer Sketch: Ephram Turner

Written by Prior W. Sutherland for the Sumner Press 1886

Pioneer Sketches

Ephraim D.M. Turner, one of the earliest settlers of Lawrence County, was born in Murray County, Tennessee, near the town of Cornersville, January 28, 1814 and consequently has just completed his 72nd year. Moving from Tennessee to Allison Prairie, in company with his father's family, before he had yet completed his fourth year, and residing almost continuously here during the long a period of over 68 years, he is justly entitled to consideration as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, resident of the County.

Run your mind back, gentle reader, over 68 years of time and it brings you to a period in the history of this County very few living persons can say that they ever saw. At that time Lawrence was a part of Edwards County. Lawrenceville, Sumner, Bridgeport, St. Francisville, Russellville and other towns were not yet laid out. There were a few houses at the two last named places. The County contained some four or 500 inhabitants, and the great state of Illinois with it Chicago of half a million inhabitants, its vast network of railroads, it's other cities and towns, it's 3 million people, had not yet entered into the conception of man, but we digress.

Removing from Allison Prairie in a few years after coming to the state on what by the older settlers is yet called the D. Turner farm in the Franklin school District, Mr. Turner commenced life as a farmer and Hunter in the then wilderness section to which he had removed. How like that touch of Aladdin's lamp has been the change from forest and prairie to improved farms and comfortable homes! Here he made a good use of the educational advantages that the thinly settled state of the country admitted of in learning how to read and write in the old-fashioned schoolhouse then in vogue, of which the fireplace occupied one end of the room.

From here he volunteered and went in company with others under Capt. Adams – – and afterwards Capt. Barnes at Adams promotion – – to the famous Black Hawk War in 1832, participating in the marches and privations of the others and seeing also some of the actual fighting in the battle of Bad Axe. Returning from the campaign he in a few years married his first wife Ms. Martha Lanterman, in April 1835. From here he went to Wisconsin, where, if we mistake not, he resided five or six years, serving two years of the time as Sheriff of Iowa County. Returning to this County he has resided here ever since. Losing his first wife about 19 years ago he again married Mrs. Mary B Lukin, one of the family after which Lukin Township and prairie are named on Thanksgiving Day in the year 1870, with whom he is yet living.

With one of the early and active pioneers, such as Mr. Turner, this sketch writer can never be at a loss for material for adventure and incident, and amid the abundance of material he can only choose what appears to him to be the best in relating some of this during occurrences of those early times. Mr. Turner says that his father, Alexander, with four others, were captured and held during one night by the celebrated counterfeiter Neil or Cornelius Taylor. These five were Alexander Turner, George Kinkade, Jonathan Leach, Col. William Spencer, and William Campbell, the Captain, were the leading spirits of the regulators who had banded together for mutual protection against Taylor and his gang and consequently the alarm was quickly raised  by the regulators; they turned out in force and succeeded in rescuing their friends early in the morning after their capture, being joined by their captain, William Campbell and Jonathan Leach, who had made their escape the latter part of the night and lead them on to bloodless victory. The counterfeiters escaped but were eventually driven out of the country.

Mr. Turner relates how the women of those early times spun, wove and colored domestic, gingham, linsey woolsey, linen, jeans, etc. it being an ambition to excel  each other in their manufacture, those who were best being honored as the queens and belles of the day.
In June about the year 1825, occurred one of the most remarkable hunting expeditions that it was ever his fortune to witness. The inhabitants of the County turned out almost en masse and forming on the line of the state road made a circling drive to capture all the wolves possible by driving into what was called the “Half Moon Rough” on Bonpas. They succeeded in capturing 14 wolves and two bears; east of his old farm was also captured one of the largest panthers it was ever his privilege to see, as well as being one of the last. It measured 11 feet from tip of nose to tip of tail. Mr. Turner though not excelling as a hunter, thinks he has killed as many as 40 deer at different times at the (salt) lick on his old farm, and tells that there was none of the present growth of young timber here at the early day in which he became acquainted with the country, except the large trees. A person could see in any direction south, east or west of Sumner as far as the eye could reach as timber was concerned.

Apropos of the money of that early day he says he made one trip to Wisconsin with horses which he bought with money on the Bank of Illinois at Shawneetown, in which on account of the system of bank failures in those days, he more than trebled his investment.


Mr. Turner's religious views are those of the Disciples or Christian Church.   He being prominent in the church, occupying the elder’s office, was well acquainted with the pioneer ministers such as Lorenzo Dow, William Kinkade, and others, and speaks in glowing terms of the celebrated Morris Trimble, one of the first of the Disciples. He became a member of the church at the early age of 15 years; is at this writing, living with his daughter who is the wife of one of Christy Township's well-known citizens, Mr. W.W. Day, but we believe intends to return to his own residence in Bridgeport early in this spring. P.W.S. 

(E. Turner is buried at Springhill Cemetery; his death occurred Jan 28, 1899.)