The Turpins

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The Turpins unite with the Mahoneys when Michael Mahoney married Josephine Amanda Porter in 1893.

Dennis Mahoney and Mary O'Connor left Ireland in the mid-1850's to escape the potato famines. They raised a family and lived out their lives in America. Their eight children and numerous grandchildren grew up and married into families that had a much older history in America than the Mahoneys — or sometimes at least a more colourful one — but many of them were also from Ireland.

Their grandson, Michael Mahoney, married Josephine Porter. Josephine was the daughter of William Cassius Porter and Mary Amanda Turpin. Thus, the Mahoneys begin their link with the Turpins and the Porters. As well, through the Porter line, Josephine was related to James Steel, a Revolutionary War soldier.

Two couples are discussed below:

John Turpin (1775-1840) and Elizabeth Carter (1775-1850)

John Turpin was Josephine Porter’s maternal great-grandfather. It is believed that he was born in 1775 in Virginia. He married Elizabeth Carter on 27 Feb 1797 in Halifax County, Virginia. 2 It is believed that Elizabeth Carter was also born in Virginia in about 1775, making both of them the same age, 22, when they were married. John and Elizabeth were born just one year before the American Revolutionary War. It is not known who John’s or Elizabeth’s parents were.

Halifax County was established in 1752 and named for George Mantague-Dunk, the second Earl of Halifax. It was heavily settled by Scotch-Irish and English immigrants. The western half of the county tended to grow cereal, develop orchards, or produce dairy products while the eastern side grew tobacco almost exclusively. By land, farmers sent their crops by wagon to several cities in the east. Roads served as the primary link from the inland plantations to wharf locations as well. Much of the tobacco was shipped eastward to Petersburg, which was established in 1748 as a major tobacco inspection town, and then to Richmond.

Life in early Virginia was very troubled. Most settlers tried to make a living at agriculture, but many died early and just barely kept themselves and their families alive. Although the colonies were originally established to support the investors in England across the Atlantic, little support came from the British government. Thus, Virginians learned quickly to depend only on themselves. In the years leading up to 1776, Virginians played a key role in developing revolutionary ideas that would lead to the American war for independence — and this is the world that John and Elizabeth had been born into. By the time they married, the war was over and they were ready to try to make a life together.

John and Elizabeth had at least four children, but some may have not survived infancy and whose names are unknown. The children who survived were all born in Virginia before they moved to Indiana. They are:

It is not known what John did to support himself and his family, but he was most likely a farmer. After independence, many moved to Virginia’s backcountry in the west — new farmland was needed because much of the soil had been depleted from earlier poor farming practices.

Things were no better in the early 1800’s, though John and Elizabeth stayed and Elizabeth bore five children. Between 1821 and 1829 — just when land values plummeted — they probably migrated west, taking all of their children with them. John Turpin is shown paying taxes in Washington Township of Owen County, Indiana, in 1829. 3 In the 1840 Federal Census for Indiana the records show that John and Elizabeth are 60-70 years old.

Indiana Territory had been created in 1800 and became a state in 1816. The first permanent white settlement started around Vincennes near present-day Owen County, and this is where John and Elizabeth chose to go. Owen County, Indiana was created by the State Legislature on 1 January 1819. It was named in honor of Col. Abraham Owen who lost his life at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. By 1840, the pioneering stage of the county’s development was ending.

The move to Indiana definitely improved the lives of John and his wife, Elizabeth. He managed to eventually own his land and to bequeath it to his children. In the office of the Owen County, Indiana county recorder is a document dated 19 November 1840 in which John Turpin and his wife Elizabeth grant their land to their children: Mary, Robert N., and Henry W. Turpin. The land transfer takes into consideration that these three people will care for John and Elizabeth and their son, John Jr., who is “partially incapable of procuring” a living for himself. The land transferred was the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 5, township 9-N and Range 3-W. It was located in the southeast area of the county, along the northern border of Clay township and just south of the White River. 4

The 1840 Census for Owen County, Indiana, says that John Turpin is the head of the family. Living with the family at the time are: 1 boy, 15-20 years old; 1 man, 20-30 years old; 1 man, 30-40 years old; and one man 60-70 years old (no doubt John himself). There is one girl under 5 and one woman ages 20-30. Elizabeth is mentioned as a woman living there, ages 60-70. The 15-20 year old boy would be Robert; the 20-30 year old man, Henry; the 30-40 year old man, John Jr. The 20-30 year old woman would be Mary. Who was the 5 year old girl? A granddaughter, perhaps?

It is not known when John died, but it may have been as early as 1840 (after the census) or as late as 1849. There is a land patent for Elizabeth Turpin issued 1 August 1839 at the Vincennes Land Office for 36.41 acres with Certificate #20726. The land description is Section 5 of Township 9-N, Range 3-W, 2nd Prime Meridian, Alliquot Part SWNW, The parcel of land in this land patent is the same as the one granted to John and Elizabeth’s three children in 1840. Since John is still mentioned in the 1840 Census, it is unclear why his name is not on this document, but one can only assume it occurred after his death.

At 75 years of age, Elizabeth can be found in the 1850 Census, living with her son, John, who is deaf. Also living in Clay, Owen, Indiana, in 1850 is her son, Robert Newton, and his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children. The 1850 Census indicates that Robert and his wife cannot read or write.

Elizabeth cannot be found in any other Census, so it is assumed that she died between 1850 and 1859. One wonders who took care of John after her death. In 1860, Robert and his family are found in Iowa, again seeming to suggest that his mother, Elizabeth, has died by then. There is a family story that Elizabeth went with Robert (often called Newt, from his middle name Newton) when he moved his family to Illinois, and that she died somewhere enroute.

Robert Newton Turpin (1821-1893) and Sarah Elizabeth Lowery (1823?-1872)

Robert Newton Turpin as a young man.

Josephine Porter‘s grandfather, Robert Newton Turpin — the son of John Turpin and Elizabeth Carter (see above) — was born in Virginia on 10 June 1821. He married Sarah Elizabeth Lowery (who was also born in Virginia around 1823) on 1 May 1842 (probably in Owen County, Indiana). He was 21; she was about 19 when they married. Robert was often called by his middle name, shortened to Newt.

Between 1851 and 1859, Newton and Sarah left Owen County, Indiana, and moved to Rippey, Greene County, Iowa. Sarah died there on 26 January 1872, at the approximate age of 49. Her youngest child was only eight years old. She is buried in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Greene County, Iowa. (Map locating Green County is courtesy of Wikipedia.)

The 1850 Census indicates that neither Newt nor Sarah could read or write. In both the 1850 and 1860 Censuses they are in Owen County, Indiana. They had up to ten children, some of whom can be found on various censuses; however, some died young and only family rumour gives us a hint of what happened to them:

Robert Newton Turpin married again a year later, this time to Mary Ellen Leonard. He and Mary Ellen moved to Mariaville, Rock County, Nebraska after their marriage, perhaps following Newt’s daughter, Mary Amanda, and her husband, William Cassius Porter, or even going with them.

Mary Ellen was 38 years younger than her husband and had several children, a complete second family for Newt, all born in Nebraska: Francis Charles (b. 6 Jul 1874, d. 5 Dec 1923), Julia (b. 11 Oct 1875, d. 19 Apr 1960), James Robert (b. 9 Apr 1877, d. 31 May 1943), Susan (b. 24 Feb 1879; d. 5 Mar 1917), John Michael (b. 6 Mar 1882; d. 3 Mar 1945), William Watson (b. 3 Jul 1884; 26 Nov 1941), Lettie Arvillia (b. 31 Mar 1886; d. 2 Feb 1963), Newton (b. 13 Apr 1890), and Nellie (b. 20 Jul 1893; 3 Jul 1966).

Robert Newton Turpin as an older man.

In 1893, when he was 72 years old, Newt was involved in a dispute with another rancher. He was shot on May 11, died on May 18, and was buried on May 20, 1893, at Willowdale Cemetery near Bassett, Nebraska. He left behind his widow, Mary Ellen, with nine children, the youngest only a baby. Mary Ellen did remarry after Newt’s death.

Newt’s children from his first marriage, to Sarah Elizabeth Lowery, were grown by the time of his death, ranging in age from 29 to 50. Just a few months previously, his granddaughter, Josephine Amanda Porter, had married Michael James Mahoney in Heartwell, Nebraska.

What follows are transcriptions of two newspaper articles from the morning editions of local newspapers:

From The Omaha World Herald, May 12, 1892, page 1: ...Two Farmers Fatallay [sic] Quarrel Over Horses NEWPORT, Neb. May 11 — ...A shooting affray occurred today twelve miles north of town near the Niobrara River. A farmer named Lewish Goochoy had some horses stray during the night and on going to hunt them he found them in a pasture belonging to another man named Newton Turpin, an old resident of the river flats. Upon finding his horses grazing in the pasture he quietly drove them out of the open gate, but before he got started home, Turpin called out to him something he (Goochoy) could not understand as the wind was blowing furiously at the time, but when the man with the horses did not do as he was bid Turpin raised his gun and fired. [It is assumed that Turpin mistakenly thought that Goochoy was stealing Turpin's horses.] Turpin's gun was hardly raised before Goochoy pulled his own and fired, the shot taking effect in Turpin's stomach. Goochoy came to town this afternoon and gave himself up to the justice of the peace. Both men have large families. Turpin is not dead yet.

From The Omaha World Herald, May 20, 1893, page 1: NEWPORT, Neb. May 20 — Newton Turpin, the man who was shot by Louis Goochoy May 11 on the Niobrara River north of Newport, died this morning from the effects of his wounds. Goochoy is under the...planage of the county officials today or until the coronor's inquest can reach a verdict.

[This page researched and written by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a descendant of both the Turpins through Josephine Porter who married Michael Mahoney. This page updated on June 1, 2019.]

Return to Table of Contents for Exploring Ancestral Roots: Overturfs, Hansens, McDonalds and Mahoneys

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. From Virginia Marriages to 1800

  3. from 1829 Tax List for Washington Township, Owen County, Indiana 

  4. Information provided by Marcia Stewart, also a descendant of the Turpins. 

  5. For more about Mary Amanda and her husband, William Porter, see The Porters