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Turrentine Family

Records and Stories of Slaves found in Turrentine books

Cynthia Keyton Scholarship Application
Records and Stories of Slaves found in Turrentine books
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Information from the Orange Turrentine book related to these families.  Turrentine numbers have been added.


Will book D, page 4, Orange County, North Carolina, May 1800, Deborah Turrentine (widow of Alexander Turrentine #2 (1725-1784)…to my son Alexander #21 (1772-), one Negro wench named Jemima and also one mulatto child named Grace….


Will of Samuel Turrentine #10 (13 Sept 1774-19 Nov 1845) witnessed 2 July 1844 to wife, Negroes known by the following names: Celah, Mary, Nathan, William and Ester. Sampson, Ben and Cynthia.  To my niece, Mary Jane Turrentine #46 (daughter of his brother Absalom) one Negro girl, Mariah.  Mary Jane married Dr. Charles T. McMannen. 


From the memoirs of Edward Archelaus Turrentine #593 (Smithville, Oklahoma, 8 April 1942…Grandfather (James Turrentine #55, 24 Sept 1794, Orange County, North Carolina-16 Dec 1873, Center Point, Arkansas) owned about 25 slaves…also owned a cotton gin which accidently burned when one of the negroes who was carrying fire to the cotton field stopped at the gin to get a basket.  The family never told grandfather the cause because they were certain it was an accident and did not want the boy to be punished….

“My father, William L. T. Turrentine #211 (31 March 1836, Bedford County, Tennessee-27 Nov 1913) told me this story.  He and Uncle Gib, a family Negro, son of old Gib. Were at work in the near bottom of the farm when the hounds bayed at a large buck deer in the millpond. Uncle Gib wanted to go into the pond and drown the deer, but father refused to let him and killed the deer himself by throwing a rock and striking its forehead….

            Two Negroes, Old Gilbert and his son Young Gib, or Uncle Gib, played an integral part in our family’s early history.  I can still remember hearing an old family horn blown by Old Gib.  This good Blackman was trustworthy and never required punishment.  He had no education, yet he could and tell to a day when the moon would change.  He was a Methodist minister to the other Negroes and could take out his Bible and quote chapter and verse.  He had his own house, corncrib, and smoke house about a quarter of a mile from the main buildings. 

            Young Gib grew up with (my) father (William #211), (who) was just enough older to take care of him.  When father (#211) married, Grandfather gave Gib to him and mother.  I remember one time when father, Uncle Gib, and I went to market at Fulton, Arkansas.  On the return trip it became very cold and father and Gib put their bedding together and I slept between them.  The last time I was at Uncle Gib’s house I ate at the table with him.  At our last meeting, I carried Uncle Gib to the hotel and fed him.  When we said goodbye, he stood with his hat under his arm and tears on his face.

            …some of the slaves owned by this Turrentine family refugeed during the Civil War at Daingerfield, Texas.  Others stayed behind on the farm in Arkansas.”


From the notes of Durwood Turrentine Stokes #1635:  When the estate of Absalom Turrentine #14 was divided, a slave named Calvin was given to Salina T. #49.  This Calvin went with the family to Florida.  (In Florida in 1868, Salina married William A. Carter.)  Calvin became a freeman in Florida, but was homesick for North Carolina, which he remembered as his boyhood home.  He saved ten dollars, bought a mule, and alternately rode and led the mule back to North Carolina.  He married Emaline Harris, a former slave of Williamson Harris.  Mr. Harris was a neighbor of Absalom Turrentine and one of the executors of his will.  Calvin and Emaline had a large family of children and were hard working and industrious farmers.  They loved the old home place…and eventually purchased it.  (Other sources say the land was given to Emaline by the Harris family.  Land transfers and wills need to be check to determine the facts.)  This is how some of the old Turrentine farm and cemetery in North Carolina passed back into the hands of Turrentines.



Stories from the Blue Book which were not included in the Orange Book.


Nelse was (a) huge Negro slave who belonged to George Smith, brother-in-law of Archelaus Turrentine (#56) (brother of Archelaus’ wife Margaret Smith).  George Smith, James Turrentine (#55) and Archelaus Turrentine sold their land in Bedford County, Tennessee, and started for Texas.  This was in the fall of 1837.  The families with their possessions made quite a caravan.  It required an entire day to ferry the Mississippi River at Memphis.  The lowlands across the river from Memphis were almost impossible.  Nelse was driver of one (of) George Smith’s wagons.  He never got stuck a single time; but his powerful physique was a great help to others of the party who did become mired.  It was November when the party reached Arkadelphia (Arkansas).  One night they camped between Arkadelphia and Antoine.  A severe storm occurred and a big tree was blown across the camp.  Two boys were killed and Uncle Jim’s hip was broken.  They were pinned beneath the tree.  In the excitement of the storm, Old Nelse ran to the tree, lifted it and held it until the dead and injured could be removed.  The next morning, two men could not lift the tree. …All thought of going on was abandoned.  The dead were buried and the injured were nursed.  George Smith and Old Nelse went in search of a vacant cabin.  The found one which could be rented and there George’ wife, Polly (#75), gave birth to a daughter. Neighbors were kind to the distressed emigrants.  Returning emigrants from Texas related the difficulties of securing title to land in Texas.  (Texas belonged to Spain and the emigrants from the United States entering without special authorization were illegal aliens.)   The physical prowess of Old Nelse was soon recognized throughout the settlement.  He did his part at all log rollings and house raisings in the new land. 


Old Gilbert was a Negro slave who belonged to a neighbor of the Turrentines in Tennessee.  He married a slave girl who belonged to James Turrentine (#55).  When the Turrentines decided to immigrate to Arkansas, Gilbert faced a domestic tragedy.  He went to James Turrentine and begged to be bought, so he would not be separated from his family.  James Turrentine offered to buy Gilbert from his neighbor; but the neighbor refused to sell.  James Turrentine then offered to sell the wife and children to his neighbor; but the man claimed he was not able to buy them.  Uncle Jim returned and told Gilbert that he had done his best and failed.  Gilbert then went to his master and told him that he would be worthless if he was separated from his family.  The neighbor was convinced and sold him to Uncle Jim.  He was brought to Arkansas with his family.  He was the plantation blacksmith and was also a preacher to his fellow slaves.  He was a great and good man and was called “Old Gib”, to distinguish him from his son “Young Gib.”


One day, little Phoebe Turrentine (#216) was playing around Gib’s forge with a piece of iron in her mouth.  She stumbled and swallowed the bit of iron.  Gib grabbed her by the ankles and turned her upside down and shook her until the piece of iron was disgorged.  She seemed none the worse for the experience – thanks to the quick reaction of the old smith.  She later grew to womanhood and married Thomas George Tucker Steel and became the mother and grandmother to a great line of jurists and preachers.  The Methodist ministry and the Arkansas bar owe much to this woman and to Old Gib.          


These slaves were well treated and had integrity and self respect.  They were devoted Christians.  A descendant was awarded the Silver Star in Korea, “For outstanding courage, resourcefulness, and staunch devotion to duty.”  Old Gib and Old Nelse live on.  --- The writer of this portion of the Blue Turrentine Family book is not shown, but for the writer to have known this, contact between the families must have been maintained for several generations after freedom was granted to all slaves.   At the second National Turrentine Reunion in Lockesburg, Arkansas, in 1950, 20 descendants of these slaves attended.  Black and white joined in worship, Holy Communion, and a fellowship luncheon. After G. R. Turrentine's death contact was lost with this branch, but has been reestablished. The Turrentine Family historian has been taking the bell rung at James Turrentine's farm to the Lockesburg African-American yearly reunions whenever possible. There are not many of us who can connect to a piece of family history dating from before the civil war.

I have transcribed the articles as written back in the 1950's.  I did not change words that were considered politically correct at the time to the words now in usage.

Turrentine Family Newsletter
c/o Joyce Hodges 17952 168th St, Basehor, Ks 66007