John Phillips Turner

John Phillips Turner was born around 1838 in Kanawha County in present-day West Virginia to John P. Turner and Helena M. Thompson. His father was a Massachusetts-born farmer who owned at least nine slaves, and John spent larger portions of his youth living in the North.

John enrolled at the University of Virginia in 1857 and spent the next two years studying Latin, mathematics, modern languages, and moral philosophy. He withdrew from the University on June 18, 1859, and returned to Kanawha County. He was probably in Kentucky when the Civil War began, and he blamed the conflict on "the disappointed office seekers of the Democratic Party aided by a few Ultraists at the north." He fiercely opposed secession, writing that he "would have voted for the Union [in Virginia's May 1861 secession referendum] if I had been here at the election." He supported West Virginia's bid for statehood, signing one wartime letter from "Kanawha State," and he defiantly insisted that "U.S. soldiers were men not brutes." He enlisted in the Union army on April 19, 1862, in Coalsmouth, West Virginia, and served as a private in Company B of the 80th West Virginia Militia Regiment.

Turner moved to Jefferson County, Kentucky, around 1863, and he married Martha Eldridge “Ellie” Taylor there on March 1, 1864. They had ten children: Francis Philip, born around 1865; Helena Romaine, born on October 26, 1866; Frances Taylor, born on January 2, 1869; Sarah Garnet, born on September 13, 1870; Elizabeth Bessie, born around 1874; James Philip, born on July 22, 1877; Nellie Francis, born around 1879; Anna Ruth, born on September 22, 1881; Kathryn Stevens, born on February 8, 1884; and Eldridge, born on August 27, 1886. 

The family returned to West Virginia around 1865, settling in St. Albans. Turner worked as a commission merchant, and by 1880 he had entered the lumber industry. The family moved to Milford, Ohio, in the early 1880s, and by 1900 they had settled in nearby Hamilton, Ohio. By 1910, they had moved to Seattle, Washington, where Turner continued to work as a lumber merchant. Ellie died there on February 25, 1917, and Turner followed on March 13, 1928.

Image: John P. Turner (Courtesy of Jim Smith)


John Phillips Turner Describes Wartime West Virginia

Name:Turner, Jr., John Phillips
Alternative names:
  • Phillips, John P. (alternative name)
  • Soldier
  • UVA (Union)
80th Regiment West Virginia MilitiaB
Branch of service:
Enlistment1862-04-19Coalsmouth, WV
Residence at UVA:Kanawha County, VA
UVA Begin Year:1857
UVA End Year:1859
Residence at enlistment:Kanawha County, VA
Rank In:Private
Rank Out:
Highest rank achieved:
Birth date:1838
Birth date certainty:About
Birth place:Kanawha County, VA
Death date:1928-03-13
Death place:Seattle, WA
Causes of death:
Occupations:Politician, Mayor
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Turner, Jr., John Phillipsparent ofTurner, Francis Philip
Turner, Jr., John Phillipsparent ofTurner, Helena Romaine
Turner, Jr., John Phillipsparent ofTurner, Frances Taylor
Turner, Jr., John Phillipsparent ofTurner, Sarah Garnet
Turner, Jr., John Phillipsparent ofTurner, Elizabeth Bessie
Turner, Jr., John Phillipsparent ofTurner, James Philip
Turner, Jr., John Phillipsparent ofTurner, Nellie Francis
Turner, Jr., John Phillipsparent ofTurner, Anna Ruth
Turner, Jr., John Phillipsparent ofTurner, Kathryn Stevens
Turner, Jr., John Phillipsparent ofTurner, Eldridge
Turner, Martha Eldridgewife ofTurner, Jr., John Phillips

United States Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900; Cincinnati, Ohio City Directory, 1885, 1887, 1991; Kentucky, County Marriage Records, 1783-1965; Hamilton, Ohio City Directory, 1901; “John Phillips Turner,” Washington Deaths, 1891-1907; “John Phillip Turner,” Personal Profile, Lindner-Sprigg Family Tree, accessed through; "John P. Turner, Jr." UVA Student Catalog, Jefferson's University: Early Life; “John P. Turner, Jr.,” West Virginia Militia Database, West Virginia Memory Project, West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History (; The Dayton Herald (Ohio), October 3, 1905.