Joseph and Hannah Turley

608 North Main Street, Wellington, Ohio.

608 North Main Street, Wellington, Ohio.

For nearly twenty years, Joseph and Hannah Turley were next-door-neighbors to 600 North Main Street. The Huckins family, and later the Bacon family, surely knew the older couple who had come all the way from industrial England to make their home in rural Ohio.

I know very little about the Turleys, but far more about Joseph than Hannah. I have found many examples of families in which the male member is the subject of a published biography, news notices, an extensive obituary, and sometimes even an existing photograph, while nothing at all remains about his spouse. I have two photographs of Noah Huckins, for example, and two images of his brother-in-law, Erwin Adams, but have never located a picture of Erwin’s twin sister and Noah’s wife, Ermina Fowler Adams Huckins. Noah or one of his companies appears in The Wellington Enterprise more than one-hundred-and-sixty-five times; Ermina is mentioned only four times in the same period.

The same holds true for the Turleys. Joseph has a two-column biographical sketch in Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio (1894). The sketch concludes with a comment on his “remarkable…mental and physical vigor,” which is ironic given that he was dead by the time the volume reached publication. In that entire text, his wife merits a single sentence–and to add insult to injury, her name is incorrectly given as Anna.

Turley was born in Manchester, England in 1814. After some schooling, he worked in a cotton factory. He married his first wife, Anna Smith, in 1840 and emigrated to the United States in 1849. The sketch does not mention whether his wife accompanied him, but she apparently died in 1851. Turley arrived in the U. S. via Boston and stayed there for two years before heading west to Springfield, Massachusetts. He worked as a mechanic–a term then used for skilled tradesmen of various kinds–but suffered some sort of injury on the job. “It was then that he turned his attention, through a friend, to Wellington” (pg. 1019).

The timeline of events is unclear as to where Turley’s first wife died and where he might have met his second wife, Hannah. Her birth name is given as Vincent in the narrative, but since her first name is incorrect in that text, the maiden name may also be suspect. According to the biography, they were married in 1852. Her obituary, however, says she came to America from Suffolk, England in 1850 and married Turley in 1851. Whether they knew each other in England or met in America is not recorded.

Turley became a grocer and kept a shop on what is now Depot Street, also sometimes called “Rail Road street.” He is listed on an 1857 hanging map of the county as living and doing business at what is today 149-151 West Herrick Avenue, a location known later in the nineteenth century as The Beehive Grocery. (Today the building is home to a hair salon and a dog grooming operation.) “After securing a suitable building [he] found he had only twelve dollars left wherewith to buy goods; from which small beginnings, by close application to business, shrewdness and economy, he made in the course of a few years a comfortable competence. His first week’s receipts amounted to between twenty and thirty dollars, and the last bill he paid, for sugar and molasses alone, amounted to two thousand dollars” (pg. 1019).

Detail of Wellington Village map from "Atlas of Lorain County, Ohio. 1874." Pg. 61. Turley residence is visible in far left lot of pink shaded area, the Adams Addition. The house north of the Turleys is Gideon Adams' brick homestead; the property south of Lincoln Street is William Howk's extensive lot. Photo by author.

Detail of Wellington Village map from “Atlas of Lorain County, Ohio. 1874.” Pg. 61. Turley residence is visible in far left lot of pink shaded area, the Adams Addition. The house north of the Turleys is Gideon Adams’ brick homestead; the property south of Lincoln Street is William Howk’s extensive lot. Photo by author.

The Turleys went home to England for several months in 1860; upon their return, they lived in Cleveland for nearly two years so Joseph could operate a grain and produce business. They relocated to Wellington ca.1862 and purchased a quarter-acre of land from Gideon Adams in what would later be called the Adams Addition. The value of the property at the time of transfer is not recorded in the corporation tax records for 1862, but the following year the Turleys’ lot was tax assessed at $448, suggesting that a house existed by that time. This leads me to believe that the Turleys were the original builders of the brick house at 608 North Main Street.

[ETA: The Lorain County News included “J. Turley” in a list of those who had erected new dwelling houses in Wellington “this season,” a list published January 14, 1863. Also on the list was “Wm. Howk,” Turley’s neighbor across Lincoln Street.]

Turley apparently did very well financially. He appears from time to time in the newspaper, building properties for sale or rent. With the coming of the railroad and the explosion of supporting industries around the “Cheese Boom,” Wellington had a very active real estate market in the second half of the nineteenth century. Many of the wealthier men in town were engaged in building or renovating new properties; today we might say they were “flipping” houses. The Wellington Enterprise published regular editorial comments exhorting those able to engage in more residential construction, for the good of the town. It reported in 1880 that lots were selling for $100 to $250 each and the going rate for rentals was $4 to $10 per month (2-26-1880, pg. 3).

I have found only two mentions of Hannah Turley in the newspaper. The first item, a curious notice from 1879, reads, “Mrs. J. Turley has a parrot of very light, bright green plumage, one of the best looking of his kind,” without any further explanation of how she came to have such an extraordinary pet. The second item is her brief obituary. She died November 16, 1892, at the age of 74.

Hannah and Joseph Turley headstone. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Hannah and Joseph Turley headstone. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

After Hannah’s death, Joseph again briefly travelled to England. According to Robert Walden, Joseph and Hannah had a daughter that died in an undated diphtheria epidemic. As they had no other children, Joseph was left without an heir to his grocery store. “When he retired from business it was understood that he was rich. He had money, but no direct heir to inherit it, so he returned to his native England, adopted a nephew, his namesake, and brought him to Wellington.” Walden claims that this nephew, “Joe” Jr., developed a problem with alcohol because he “couldn’t stand prosperity.” He was later involved in a terrible accident while intoxicated, in which he fell from a moving freight train and lost an arm. After that, his estate was put into guardianship and he died in 1916 at just 59 years old. Walden sadly notes, “He utterly frustrated his uncle’s plans for his welfare and happiness” (Robert Walden Notebook, #A119).

Joseph Turley did not live to see the shambles his adopted nephew made of his life and fortune. He died two years after his wife, Hannah, and was buried with her in Wellington’s Greenwood Cemetery. He was 79 years of age when he died. The brick home the Turleys left to their nephew was later purchased and became the first parsonage used by the Catholic church just across Lincoln Street. It is now a private residence.

UPDATE: It is hard to believe that more than seven months have passed since I wrote about the Turleys. I happened to be in the Old Pioneer Cemetery on West Herrick Avenue today (it’s now April) and stumbled across something I never thought to find. I located headstones for both Joseph Turley’s first wife, Anna, and his daughter, Flora.

Detail of damaged headstone of Anna Turley. "Pioneer" Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Detail of damaged headstone of Anna Turley. “Pioneer” Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Wife Anna’s stone is broken in half, with the top section lying on the ground behind its base. It is difficult to read, but the inscription appears to say, “ANNA / wife of / J. Turley / Oct. 26, 1851 / Aged 35 yrs / from Manchester, England.” This would mean Anna was born in 1816, just two years after Joseph and in the same city. She apparently did make the Atlantic crossing with him, and sadly died not long after reaching America. That strongly suggests that Turley married his second British wife, Hannah, here in the United States.

Headstone of Flora Turley. "Pioneer" Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of Flora Turley. “Pioneer” Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Directly left of Anna’s stone is an intact and highly legible marker for Flora Turley. Surely this is the daughter who died of diphtheria, according to Robert Walden. Her stone reads, “FLORA TURLEY / DIED / Nov 26, 1871 / Aged 16 yrs.” That would mean Flora was born around 1855, making her Hannah’s child. It seems slightly curious that Joseph would bury his daughter with his first wife, then inter himself and the child’s mother in another cemetery. Perhaps he and Hannah intended to be buried in the older, smaller cemetery but by the 1890s it was no longer possible. Most likely I will never know.

UPDATE #2: Another unexpected discovery, this time a report in the Lorain County News: “Our village was suddenly brought into a state of great grief on Sunday morning, at the time of going to church, by the announcement that Flora, adopted daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. Surley [sic], was found dead in her chamber, after leaving the family below but ten or fifteen minutes. She was sitting on the floor with her head resting on the bed without any appearance of a struggle. Flora was highly esteemed among all of her acquaintances. Her parents are overwhelmed with grief” (11-30-1871, pg. 3). So Flora was apparently adopted, and there is no mention of diphtheria playing any role in her death. Curiouser and curiouser.

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