Saturday, February 25, 2012

Leta Arvilia Turpin - The 17th Child

Lettie Turpin - 1926
When we think of the wild west days in America, 19th century saloons, cowboys, and gunfighters come to mind.  But as I read about Leta’s life, I want to redefine the wild west as a 20th century period with women playing an equal role with men.  Leta lead an incredibly interesting, and perhaps a somewhat wild, life!

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Grandfather Will Turpin was the 16th Child

William Watson Turpin
William Watson Turpin was born 31 March 1886.  He was born and raised on the pioneer homestead of his parents near Mariaville.  His father died when he was eight years old, so as a child a bigger burden fell on him to help with the farm.  He herded the sheep and spent many nights alone out in the hills of northern Rock County.  This lead to life-long health problems. 

On 16 March 1910 at the age of 24, Will married Jennie Elizabeth Beck in Newport, Nebraska with the Reverend Beebe performing the service.  Jennie was the daughter of James and Estella (Martin) Beck and lived near Newport with her family.  She was born 17 February 1887 in Lancaster County, Nebraska, near the town of Hickman.  The Becks had moved to the Rock County area when Jennie was about 11 years old.

Jennie Elizabeth Beck Turpin
Newport is where Will and Jennie made their first home together.  Will owned a dray for hauling freight and worked for the Wintermute family in the hardware store.  During their years in Newport, he suffered from consumption, otherwise known as tuberculosis, and for this reason had to live in a tent for a year.  He never fully recovered from this illness.

Their first child, Clifford, was born in 1912.  Soon after Clifford’s birth they moved to the country, to a farm near Mariaville.

In 1915, their daughter and my mother, Letha was born on the farm.  A few years later in 1917, their orphaned niece and nephew, Beulah and Harold Brown, came to live with them and became a part of the family.

Will and Jennie's home near Mariaville
Will and Jennie eventually moved to Arapahoe and went into business there.  But due to Will’s failing health, the venture was not satisfactory and after two years they returned home to Rock County.  Later they moved to Ogallala, where daughter Letha and her husband Walter Stewart lived.  They stayed there for 2½ years, afterwards moving to Newport to take over Todd Ritts’ farm east of Newport.

Will died before I was born – he died November 26, 1941 at the Bassett home of his son Clifford.  After that, Jennie lived alternately with her children and their families in Ogallala and Bassett.  Grandma Turpin was a favorite of all the grandkids!  She died at the Ogallala Community Hospital on 17 February 1976, her 89th birthday, after several months of failing health.  Will and Jennie are both buried in the Bassett Cemetery.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Literaries at the Schoolhouse

In the No Remorse blog earlier in February, a mention was made of "literaries" at the schoolhouse.  Louis Goochey was was trying to explain how he believed vigilantes were preying on him:

On one occasion a neighbor came to the dugout and asked [Goochey] if he was going to the literary that evening. [Goochey] said that he had heard of no literary being held. The neighbor stated that, indeed, one was being held at the schoolhouse. So [Goochey] saddled up a horse. Then he took his youngest son, “Gus”, up behind him and had [his other son] jump up behind the neighbor. They rode for some distance, when suddenly the neighbor let out an extremely shrill whistle. Shortly thereafter they came to a place where the schoolhouse would have been in view. The neighbor then said he guessed he had been wrong - there were no lights at the schoolhouse, therefore there was no literary. They turned and went home.

In going back through old research I found another reference to literaries.  It was in the first newspaper article published the Turpin shooting.  It was in reference to another incicent -- but it's evidence that there were literaries held and they took place at the school house. This incident probably had Goochey quite spooked and perhaps influenced how he reacted to his horses going astray. Here is a transcript of that article:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Polly Pearl Turpin - Child 15

Polly Pearl Pitman and son Edgar

Polly Turpin was born 3 July 1884 in Newport, Nebraska. Before the age of 23, she was doing the Turpin thing – heading for new horizons!

She married John H. Pitman in Helena, Lewis and Clark County, Montana on 18 April 1907 according to the Montana Marriages at  And we discover that their marriage record shows that she was a divorcee at the time. So there is more research to do there!  No record of a first marriage is found in Rock County, Nebraska.  In her mother Mary Ellen’s obituary in 1926, it states Polly's name as Polly Pearl Watson, of Port Angeles, Washington.  That might indicate a third marriage but it seems unlikely. Very confusing though!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

No Remorse

Moses P. Kinkaid, Judge of the 12th Judicial District

The latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC featured actress Maris Tomei who was searching to discover more about a great grandfather who died in Italy.  As usual there were family legends and Marisa’s mother thought he may have been a philanderer or something and was murdered.  The local cemetery documented that he died of an illness.  Upon further investigation, Marisa learned her ancestor was shot in the back of the head by a wealthy business partner who was convicted of the murder.  But then the murderer hired a “dream team” of lawyers to get him acquitted and he walked away with a slap on the wrist. 

Well, it appears that this is what happened in the Turpin family when Louis Goochey murdered Newt Turpin.  I’ve learned from fellow researcher Rich Swearingen that Goochey was convicted of the murder, but then appealed the conviction.  Moses P. Kinkaid was the judge and Goochey was acquitted.  We don’t know the reason yet, although that’s my next project.   My best guess is that perhaps the jury or judge determined that Goochey did not plan or intentionally murder Newt Turpin.  Goochey did trespass onto the Turpin homestead, was walking away with a horse or horses, and when Newt yelled at him, Goochey admitted he had a loaded musket and shot Newt on the spot.  

Goochey spent the remainder of his life moving from place to place and making excuses about his past.  He invented a “Turpin Gang” that was the source of his bad behavior. 

Goochey’s tale of woe reminds me of a story a friend of mine told of his years working in the emergency room of Dallas’s Parkland Hospital.  It seemed that every weekend a terrible gang, referred to by the docs as the “Two Dudes Gang” would go on a rampage in Dallas.  The result was that every Friday and Saturday night, victims would hobble into the emergency room with broken noses, stab wounds, gunshot wounds, and other injuries.  When my friend would ask what happened, the responses would be “I was in a bar minding my own business when these two dudes came up and…”  You fill in the rest – they harassed my girlfriend, picked a fight with me, bullied my best friend, whatever.   The point was that it was NEVER any fault of their own.  They were poor victims of the nastiest gang in town.  

I’ll print Goochey’s story here as told to his grandchildren as they sat on his knee.  Goochey displayed no remorse!  It will remind you of the Two Dudes Gang and of Marisa Tomei’s ancestor. 

Next blog, I’ll point out where Goochey’s story falls apart (in case it’s not obvious). 

Related by Ivan D. Goochey
Grandson of Louis Hiram Goochey

This is a story related to me many times by my father, Louis A. Goochey, as I sat on his knee around the pot-bellied stove on winter evenings. He told it over and over and I never tired of his telling.

Sometime between 1884 (the year my father was born in Ponca, Nebraska) and 1890, my grandparents, Louis Hiram Goochey and Clemenza Ann Botts-Goochey, moved to a claim on the Niobrara River north of the village of Newport, Nebraska. Their house consisted of a dugout carved into the side of a bluff. At the time of the Turpin Affair, they had four children: Alma, Garfield, Louis A. and August. Two other children would later follow: William and Lilly.

Shortly after the family moved to their claim on the Niobrara my grandfather was approached by a committee from the neighborhood. They stated that the area was rife with horse thieves, and, since law authority was tenuous at best, they had formed a vigilante committee to protect their property from these thieves. It is true that Kid Wade, a notorious horse thief (later hanged to the train whistle post at Bassett) marauded the area. The committee invited my grandfather to join their organization. He took their offer under consideration but later refused the offer, stating that he considered the actions of the vigilantes to be worse than that of the so-called horse thieves.

This refusal set into action a series of attempts to “remove” my grandfather from the area. On one occasion a neighbor came to the dugout and asked my grandfather if he was going to the literary that evening. My grandfather said that he had heard of no literary being held. The neighbor stated that, indeed, one was being held at the schoolhouse. So my grandfather saddled up a horse. Then he took his youngest son, “Gus”, up behind him and had my father jump up behind the neighbor. They rode for some distance, when suddenly the neighbor let out an extremely shrill whistle. Shortly thereafter they came to a place where the schoolhouse would have been in view. The neighbor then said he guessed he had been wrong - there were no lights at the schoolhouse, therefore there was no literary. They turned and went home. My grandfather realized that the shrill whistle was a message to those others lying in wait that, since the children were along, there could be no act of “removal”. One person in the neighborhood had amicable relations with the vigilantes but was also friendly toward my grandfather. He once showed him a limb overhanging a stream where the vigilantes planned to hang my grandfather.

There were no fences in the area – or at least my grandfather had not fenced his land. What horses and cattle he may have had were herded daily by his children. One day my father and his sister, Alma, were to mind a team of horses as they grazed. Instead, they began to play, and before they were aware of what had happened, the horses disappeared. Several days later, R. N. Turpin (a member of the vigilantes) posted notice in the Mariaville post office that my grandfather’s horses were on his property – that he could come get them and that no damages would be asked. However, the dugout was located between the Turpin homestead and the post office, meaning that Mr. Turpin had to go past my grandfather’s home in order to get to the post office. Clearly it would have been more convenient for him to have stopped at the dugout.

My grandfather shouldered his breech-loader rifle and set out to retrieve the horses. On this day, my father and, again, his sister, Alma, were hoeing and weeding a garden patch near the river. They would have been around 9 and 11 years old. My grandfather went to the Turpin property, located the gentle team of horses, and taking one by its mane, the other began to follow. But he thought he heard his name called. He looked back and Mr. Turpin (who had been a sharp-shooter in the Rebel army) was taking aim at him. My grandfather wheeled a horse about and jumped in behind it. The poor horse caught a charge of 3-cornered slugs in its thigh. Screaming in pain, the horse bolted, leaving my grandfather totally exposed. He said he was so rattled that his first shot must have gone ten feet over Turpin’s head. Mr. Turpin then took second aim…but his gun misfired! My grandfather then took careful aim. He fired, and the charge caught Mr. Turpin in his mid-section. He then turned and ran, for his gun could accommodate only two firings. Mr. Turpin was to say that he could have played a game of checkers on my grandfather’s coattails as he ran!

Nine days later, R.N. Turpin died of his wound. He, however, made a statement that he wanted no prosecution for my grandfather-that he had merely taken this means to get him out of the way.

Upon hearing the gunshots, my father thought his father had shot some ducks and he ran down to the stream to help retrieve them. My grandfather motioned him to hide with him in some underbrush that grew by the riverside. Later, in the dead of night, my grandfather hitched up a team and wagon and drove himself to Newport to give himself over to authorities. A trial was held in Bassett (there may have been two trials) but in any case, my grandfather was defended by a lawyer that a group of citizens hired from Omaha. He was acquitted. The family moved from the area and resettled in the Monroe area.

In other notes Rich relays part of the story contributed by Vicki Daughton:

[Goochey] had two trials in Bassett; he was found guilty the first and acquitted the second.  [The family] moved to Newport immediately, lived there 1 or 2 years, I think 1890 or '91 or maybe '92 or '93 they moved to Ainsworth, that was '94, lived there till Spring.  Then went in a covered wagon to Ericson 25 miles north of here (Scotia). [Goochey] worked on a dam and a ditch a year or so, then to Schuyler. He worked around there till Fall, and then back to Ericson, took a 160 acre homestead South of Erickson -proved up on it then sold it and the crop for $11,000, couldn't stand prosperity any longer so went south of Bassett took another homestead.  By the way - Judge Kinkaid was the District Judge who presided at his last trial. Goochey asked [the author of this piece] to vote for Kinkaid as he knew the witnesses had a "frame up".