Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mary Ellen Leonard

Mary Ellen Leonard Turpin
Back to Newt Turpin’s family…  
Newt and Sarah had a family of nine children and we understand from family tradition that Sarah died suddenly in 1872 after being ill for only 42 hours.  At the time of her death, most of the Turpin children were grown.  Several had died and only three daughters remained at home:  Emma Zetta, Nancy, and Hannah.  Sarah is buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery northwest of Rippey, Greene County, Iowa. 
The story then strays into a soggy research area….it says that Newt and Mary Ellen Leonard got married in Pottawattamie County, Iowa by Justice of the Peace Washallkey on September 16, 1873.   No records exist for that marriage or a Justice with that name.  And why would they get married in Pottawattamie County, across the Missouri River from Nebraska, instead of in Greene County?  But I don’t see a marriage record in Greene County either.

Newt and Mary Ellen’s first three children were born in Iowa.  Francis, their first child, was born in 1874 and that would support the 1873 date for their marriage and Iowa as the location.  According to stories, their third child James was born in Iowa in April 1877 and celebrated his first birthday in April 1878 in Nebraska.  So I have to ask why would the marriage happen in Pottawattamie County in 1873 if they were not en route to Nebraska until 1878?
I want to know more about what happened to Newt between 1872 and 1878.
A bit about Mary Ellen:   She was 17 years old when she married Newt. Newt’s daughters, Emma Zetta, Nancy and Hannah were born in 1858, 1861 and 1864 respectively – Mary Ellen was born in 1856. They were all within 10 years of age of each other.
The Leonards originated in County Galway.  Supposedly Michael arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 1849 and Mary followed, arriving in Boston in 1851.  Michael Leonard was naturalized on 15 April 1858 at Haverhill, Grafton County, New Hampshire.  I believe he was a railroad worker.  Haverhill is where Mary Ellen was born 12 April 1856.  In 1863 the Leonard family moved to Iowa.  The 1870 Federal Census shows them living in Cedar County; the 1880 Census has them in Greene County.  Mary Ellen had to have an interesting life:  born to immigrant parents, moved to a new home on the prairie before age ten,  married before age 20, homesteaded in Unorganized Territory before age 30, and lost a husband to murder while still pregnant with her youngest daughter Nelle.


  1. From Dennis Bell:

    I have Mary Ellen LEONARD TURPIN's picture hanging in my living room - she looks stern and no doubt she was capable of handling just about anything. Yet, I imagine she also had a loving heart - enough to raise and care for her 10 children ...while loving her husband. My grandmother Nelle was her youngest. In the family bible Mary Ellen purchased right after her husband died, she wrote: "Robert Newton Turpin Died Thursday May the 18 as the Sun set, 1893 Age 71 years 11 months and eight days was Buried May the 20." Since RN was shot on the 11th, I can only imagine how difficult that last week of his life was for Mary Ellen and the family.

  2. From Susan Ingraham:

    I trace my line through Newt’s first wife Sarah Elizabeth Lowery), but it was interesting to read about Mary Ellen. These pioneer women were tough! So many courageous stories.