|My mother Letha Turpin Stewart about 1943|
When I first started seriously working on the Turpin history, I had my mom, Letha Turpin Stewart, as a source. My mom was proud of her family and knew all the currently-living relatives, all her aunts and uncles, and she knew who her grandfather and grandmother were. What she did not know about her family didn’t seem to bother her – but she did say something to the effect that I may not want to dig up those skeletons. I think she was kidding (although I’d already done that on my dad’s side) and just basically wasn’t too interested.
One of my first questions to her was about where my great grandfather Robert Newton Turpin was born and where did he live before Nebraska. She vaguely remembered something about Jefferson City but wasn’t sure at all.
Well when tracing the ancestry of Nebraskans, you just as well start by looking east – only a few came from a northern, western, or southern direction. And the most obvious Jefferson to the east was in Missouri. I looked everywhere for the family in Jefferson City and then all of Missouri but found no trace. That was before genealogy on the Internet. So it was slow going. And I found nothing. Zero. So I decided just to wing it and check out Iowa directly to the east. There was a town of Jefferson, Greene County, IA and the Nebraska State Historical Society research room had the indexes and the microfilmed censuses for Iowa.
That’s where I found the family. But it was really odd! None of the names matched except Robert Newton Turpin. The wife was different and the children were different. My first thought was that there must be two of them! And they were the same age and both born in Virginia! Wow! Was this an incredible coincidence?
My mom went from uninterested to intrigued in about 30 seconds. The next summer when she and my dad came back from their winter stay in Texas, they took off to visit some snowbird friends in Indiana and Iowa. On the trip, Letha the Extrovert went to Greene County, Iowa and simply started knocking on doors and talking to people in restaurants and stores. Bless her heart because I could never have done that. Marcia the Introvert was going cheerfully through printed indexes and microfilmed censuses.
Within days Mom was on kissing cousin terms with all the Turpin descendants still there in Greene County.
Within a year, we had a reunion planned. And what a reunion!
Mom found that the two Robert Newton Turpins were one and the same. He had a first family and when his wife died, he remarried and started another family. We knew nothing about the first family. The first family knew nothing about us in the second family. Newt Turpin and his first wife Sarah Elizabeth Lowery had nine children. He and his second wife Mary Ellen Leonard had ten children. Some folks in the family joked (decades later of course) that they shot Newt Turpin so he’d stop having kids. He actually did die from a gunshot wound but that’s another blog entry on another day.