Samuel Turner was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, in March 1782 (died 1847). He was married at Gettysburg, Pa., in 1810. He and his family traveled from Pennslyvania to LaPorte County, Ind., in 1833, where he was soon elected Justice of Peace and in 1842 became an associate judge.
At LaPorte County in those early years, there was no cabinet shop nearby, so being handy with carpenter tools, he was called upon to make all the coffins used in the neighborhood, sometimes taking boards from the floor of his cabin for that purpose, and always at no charge.
In 1838 Turner purchased a claim in Eagle Creek Township, Lake County, and became a permanent resident there in 1839. The following is a story about the family, submitted by Mrs. S.J. Monteith in 1884, when the county had been settled for 50 years:
"The toilsome journey from Pennsylvania was over, and for a time our weary feet found rest in Door Village. Fair and beautiful it lay before our eyes, but we were poor and must press onward to fields yet uncultivated and almost unsought.
"Thus Samuel Turner and wife journeyed on, spent the summer of 1838 in the southern part of Lake County, locating their farm on the banks of the winding little stream, afterward called Eagle Creek. In the fall they went back to LaPorte County, sending in their stead the younger people of the family, as better able to endure the hardships of a pioneer winter.
"Our cabin stood on a little hill, surrounded by giant oaks and hickorys, a short distance from the creek. It was dark and cheerless during the day for the only light must come through the chimney, as window glass was not to be obtained. At night, the flowing flames, leaping and crackling in the broad fireplace, transformed the place entirely, and around our humble hearthstone many a happy hour was spent, talking of the past and planning for the future."
(The "younger people" mentioned in her story were the three sons and one daughter of the family: Samuel, Jr., died 1864; James B., died 1866; Susan P.; and David, born 1816. Many of the pioneers traveled to the Kankakee Valley swampland to cut wood during the winter)
"Before the first glimmer of dawn, the boys must be away to the swamp, and who can tell how long the hours and days were to the sister home alone, trying to make things comfortable for them when they should return at night, nor how often she wended her way to an oak standing along to peer out over the snowy wastes and into the gathering darkness to watch for their coming.
"Our neighbors were the Sargeants, Dilleys, George Smith, A. Goodrich, M. Pearce, E. Coplin, the Bryants and a few others. After a while we had a doctor within nine miles, which was a great boon, for in those early years sickness, especially ague and fevers, previaled to such an extent that often whole families were prostrated, and scarcely enough well people would be found in the neighborhood to wait on the sick ones.
"In the spring, the father and mother brought apple seeds with them and if you will visit the farm now (1884) you may still eat the fruit from some of those seedlings. Then revived our Pennsylvania taste for apple butter, but it needed sweetening, and fortunately Aunt Polly Dilley could give us honey in exchange for our apples."
A traveler from Alabama gave them some peach pits, and for several years they had a fine crop of peaches, but severe winters finally killed the trees.
David Turner was born in Trumbull County, Ohio, in 1816 and came with the family from Pennsylvania to LaPorte County. He was married to Caroline Bissell in 1844. He was elected to the office of Justice of the Peace in 1842, Probate Judge in 1849, State Representative in 1854, State Senator in 1858, and was appointed United States Assessor by President Lincoln in 1862, during the Civil War.
David often told the story about going to Chicago with his first harvest of wheat: he and his friends left the Eagle Creek area with three wagons bearing 30 bushels of wheat each, drawn by oxen. The oxen were lost the first day out, but found the following evening.
A wagon tongue was broken, and they became mired in a swamp near Thornton, Ill., where another tongue gave way. They had bad days in the rain and mud, with the stubborn oxen trampling farmer's crops along the way. Finally reaching Chicago, they camped in the area which is now Randolph St.
After more troubles on the return trip the weary travelers arrived home, after nine days on the trail, but they had less money, for the money they received for the grain had to be used to pay damages made by the oxen and for repairs to their equipment!
Samuel Turner, Jr., married a daughter of W.G. McGlashon of Crown Point. He died of a lingering illness in 1864. His brother James B. Turner, moved to Crown Point and died in 1866.
Susan P. Turner was the only daughter of Samuel Turner, Sr., and lived in the Eagle Creek area most of her life. Though the story quoted in this column has a by-line of Mrs. S.J. Monteith, it appears likely that it was first told or written by Susan. Rev. Timothy Ball wrote the following in his Lake County History of 1884:
"The 'sister at home' was Miss Susan Turner, sister of Judge Turner of Crown Point, who has remained through the changes of these, our first fifty years, on the early family homestead, until this November (1884). Sometimes almost alone, she was at other times entertaining the group of happy children that would go down from Crown Point to visit "Aunt Susan." Rev. Ball wrote that he was delighted to see the rural and sylvan beauty of her home, the stream nearby, the majestic oaks, and singing birds, the quiet nature there, all adding to the pleasantness of the homestead.
The closing paragraph of that story of 1884: "Fifty years have seen many changes, here and there stands a tree that looked down on our grandfathers in middle life and their sons in boyhood days; but they are fast giving way to younger ones that were only saplings then. And the weather-beaten stones and grass-grown mounds in yonder cemetery would tell you where rest our fore-fathers. So must we follow them."
Rev. Ball wrote: "The name 'Turner' is securely written in the history of Lake County."
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