Saturday, January 18, 2014

52 Ancestors #2 Newton LeGrande & Edward Scott Turnipseed

This week I am focusing on a family mystery that will probably never be solved. It involves two brothers on my mother's paternal line, Newton LeGrande Turnipseed & his older brother Edward Scott Turnipseed.

Edward Scott "E. S. or Scott" Turnipseed, circa 1900, Waxahachie, Ellis County, Texas
 Both were sons of Dr Felix Benjamin Turnipseed & Sarah M. Whitfield. They fell in the middle & had two older brothers (Daniel & Benjamin), an older sister (Margaret), a younger brother (Bookter) & a younger sister (Nettie). Newton was named for his maternal uncle, Newton LeGrande Whitfield, who was an AL State Representative. Their mother died sometime between 1870 & 1876. Their father was a doctor who served in the Civil War. After their mother's death, he moved the family to MS where he remarried Aurelia Gregory & had one more daughter before dying during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878 in Grenada County, MS. In 1880, we find the two older brothers have married & started families of their own & the children of Felix Benjamin Turnipseed & Sarah M. Whitfield have scattered. Felix & Sarah's two daughters have died by the time of the 1880 Census. Newton & Edward are still unmarried & living in other households in Tallahatchie Co., MS; Edward with a cousin, R. B. Fedric, & Newton with the James & Nancy Quinn family. Bookter, the youngest brother is also missing & was never heard from or seen again in the historical record.

In early 1886, Newton & his brother Edward left MS & joined up with a wagon train that was coming through & headed west from Georgia. Newton met a young woman named Susan Elvira Dennington who was traveling with her family to Texas. The Turnipseeds & the Denningtons stopped in Ellis County, Texas where Newton married Susan on 28 Mar 1886. Edward Scott Turnipseed also found love in Ellis County, Texas. He married Ellen Emily Sims, daughter of Wilson Timlick Sims & Kate Thompson Smithers, on 10 March 1889.
Marriage license of Newton LeGrande Turnipseed & Susan Elvira Dennington
They farmed & started families each in their turn. Edward & Ellen had three sons: Benjamin Whitfield Turnipseed, Edward Wilson Turnipseed & Dixon Gillespie Turnipseed. Then in 1898, Edward's wife Ellen died while in Colorado. It is not known what she was doing in Colorado & she was buried there in Columbia Cemetery in Boulder, Boulder County, Colorado. Almost two years later, Edward remarried Mrs. Sarah A. Byars in Henderson Co., Texas on 13 March 1898. Both then inexplicably disappear from the historical record. The children of Edward & Ellen were then raised by their maternal grandparents.

Meanwhile, Newton & Susan are still farming & living in Ellis County, Texas with their five children; Vera, David, Pat, Sallie & Edna. They would have one more daughter (Ruth) in 1903 before their family was torn in two. By 1903, Newton & Susan have moved from Ellis County, Texas to Rhonesboro, Texas which is in Upshur County. They bought land there & continued farming. The marriage, however, was not a very harmonious one. Family stories tell that Newton had tried to harm Susan on more than one occasion. It was thought that he once poisoned the bucket of well water that sat on their front porch, intending that his wife should drink from it. Instead, his sons did when they came in from the hot fields that day & became very ill from it.

On the 1900 census, Newton is shown as a day laborer, meaning he probably hired out in addition to farming his own land. In 1904, he was tried in Upshur County Court & sentenced to five years in prison for the rape & incest of one of his own daughters. In those days, such behavior was rarely reported, let alone by one's own wife, but Susan possessed a very strong will & she did right by her children, most of whom were close to being grown & out on their own by then. She still had the youngest daughter still at home to raise, while the other two daughters were close to or already ready for marriage. Her two boys were both out working. Two years into Newton's sentence, he escaped from a work camp in Bowie County, Texas. He was never seen or heard from again. What may have happened to him afterwards is one of our greatest family mysteries. No one in the family has ever known the truth of what happened other than one day Susan received a letter from the prison about Newton's escape. It was said by her younger son Pat, who was my maternal grandfather, that he came home to find her crying over this letter. All she would tell him was that it was from the prison & concerned his father. He took it to mean that the old man (as he referred to him) had died, but I think what had Susan so distraught was that she knew he had escaped & she was worried that he would be coming after her for having him prosecuted & put in prison. Her worst fears never to came to pass however.

Huntsville, TX Prison registry showing the work camps Newton LeGrande Turnipseed was
in & noting his escape from custody.
In 1914, Susan was remarried to her widowed brother-in-law Isaac David Stewart in Henderson Co., Texas. Her daughter Ruth continued to live with them before she left to marry Jack Harte. Their marriage was an abusive one. They divorced & she returned home to live with her mother. She later remarried Jesse Clyde Jones & spent the majority of the rest of her life with him in Ellis County. Susan lost her second husband to a heart attack while fishing in mid November 1931. She lived alone after that. Her favorite activies in her old age were gardening & crochet. Her favorite color was yellow. She was a opinionated hard shell Baptist who could be a hard taskmaster according to one niece. I think she was the way she was because of the time she was born in (just after the Civil War) & the hard life she lived.

Our family probably will never know what happened to Newton. I theorize that, with such a unique surname as Turnipseed, he knew it was better & easier to disappear if he changed it to something else & moved to somewhere where few if anyone knew him. He also knew he would not be welcome at home & that if he went back, Susan would be sure to alert the authorities; thus, sending him back to finish serving his prison term. At one point, Susan sent her sons out to look for him, but as far as she knew, neither ever found him. It was rumored that David may have found him living in ID where his older two brothers moved to finish raising their families. He would never tell anyone in the family for certain which was a great source of contention between him & his brother Pat.

You never know what you will find when you start looking into your family tree. Whatever my great grandfather may have been, I wish I knew the rest of his story, even if it is only for the sake of closure.

"Alabama, Marriages, 1816-1957," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 Jan 2014), Felix B. Turnipseed and Sarah M. Whitfield, 04 May 1852.

"United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 Jan 2014), E S. Turnipseed, Beat 3, Tallahatchie, Mississippi, United States; citing sheet 103B, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-0665

"United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 Jan 2014), B. W. & N. L. Turnipseed, Beat 3, Tallahatchie, Mississippi, United States; citing sheet 107A, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-0665

"Texas, Marriages, 1837-1973," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 Jan 2014), Newton L. Turnipseed and Susan E. Dennington, 28 Mar 1886.

"Texas, Marriages, 1837-1973," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 Jan 2014), E. S. Turnipseed and Ella E. Sims, 10 Mar 1889.

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