In 2003 I purchased a copy of the book “Lowndes Court House – A Chronicle of Hayneville, an Alabama Black Belt Village 1820 – 1900”, a book of reminiscences by Mildred Brewer Russell. In the chapter “Reconstruction And After, 1865 – 1900 I found my great great grandfather, Joe Turner, mentioned as one of the Negro (sic) politicians. After that I tried to find what sort of politician he was, what office he held. I could not find anything.
Last week on Ancestry.com, I found the following information. Joe Turner was elected as constable on November 7, 1871.
Google defined a constable as “…a peace officer with limited policing authority, typically in a small town.”
In 1874 Reconstruction ended in Alabama, resulting in loss of voting rights and the ability to hold elected office for black people.
Here is an interesting timeline that traces how the right to vote and hold public office was taken away from black men in Lowndes and neighboring counties. “The More You Know: A History …” It wasn’t until 1970, 99 years from 1871, that African American John Hulett was elected sheriff in Lowndes County.
You can read more about Joe Turner in these posts:
For the past week I have been immersed in the Turners who came off of Wiley Turner’s plantation in Lowndes County Alabama. My 2X great grandfather, Joe Turner, came off of that plantation. Wiley Turner died in 1851 without a Will and so his estate was probated. The case dragged on for twenty years. There are multiple lists of the enslaved, the first in 1852. I wrote about the one from 1853 here. The others were from 1856, 1857 and 1865. There were also the 1850 and 1860 slave censuses, which give no names but age, sex and color (“mulatto” or “black”)
There are also records of doctors visits, some patients named and some not. There are records of how much and what was sold from the plantation during this time. There were several changes of administrators due to deaths and some disputes among members of the family about what was due them.
After the Civil War was over and Freedom came, there were new records for the formerly enslaved and now free, the 1866 census for the first time named the formerly heads of households. In the 1870 census, the whole household was named. In 1880, relationships to the head of the household were given. There were also marriage and land records.
By investigating the community and households, I want to see what happened to the people and families, both before and after slavery. Right now I am going through the material and figuring out how to present it. At first, when going through the probate record, I just looked for the names of the enslaved. Going over it again, I realized that I could not give a picture without knowing more about what was going on around them, what crops were grown, what was sold, what was bought and the rest of the turmoil swirling around them during that time period. Maybe I need to start by printing out the whole file.
I have never done a project like this outside of a time crushing challenge, so we shall see how it goes.
While looking for a death record on Ancestry for Elizabeth Turner, daughter of Joe and Luella Turner, I found the Will of my 2X great grandfather, Joseph Turner of Lowndes County, Alabama. I had looked for his Will before without finding it. Below are the Will and a transcription.
Will of Joseph Turner
State of Alabama County of Lowndes
Know all men by these presents that, I, Joseph Turner, of said county of Lowndes, being in good health, and of sound mind, realizing the uncertainty of life, and wishing to provide for my younger children during their minority, do make this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time made.
I will that ll my just debts be paid by my executrix here – in after named, as soon after my death as she can conveniently pay.
I give, devise and bequeath to my beloved wife Luella Turner all of my estate, both real, personal and mixed in Trust for the use and benefit of herself and my minor children, during their minority, equally, until my youngest child then living shall have reached the age of twenty-one years.
After my youngest child then living, shall have arrived at the age of twenty one years, my will is, that all of my estate of every description be divided equally, share and share alike, between my said wife, Luella Turner and all my children, and in the event any of my said children die, before such division takes place, leaving a child or children, him or her surviving, then such share as my said child should have received if living, shall go to his or her children.
I do nominate and appoint my said wife, Luella Turner to be the executrix of this my last will and testament without band. Expressly exempting her from all liability to any person or court for any misuse of any personal property belonging to my estate, and for any and all rents which may accrue during the said minority of my youngest then living child. Except, my said wife again marry, in that event, and from the date of such marrying again by my said wife Luella, she shall be held strictly accountable for the proper use and distribution of my estate as herein before set out.
In testimony whereof I set my hand and seal, this 11 day of December 1909.
Joseph (his mark X) Turner (Seal)
Signed, sealed and published as his last will and testament by the said Joseph turner in our presence, and we in his presence, and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses, at his request, on this the 11 day of December 1909.
Jos. R. Bell
Filed for Probate in office this the March 10, 1919
Judge of Probate Court
Testimony of Joseph R Bell.
The State of Alabama, Lowndes County } Probate Court
In the matter of the Probate of the Last Will and Testament of Joseph Turner Deceased.
Before me, W.H. Lee, Judge of Probate Court in and for the County and State aforesaid, personally appeared in open Court Jos. R. Bell, who having been by me first duly sworn and examined, did and doest depose and say that he and S.M. Salley subscribing witnesses to the forgoing instrument of writing now shown to the said affiant and which purports to be the last Will and Testament of Joseph Turner, deceased, lat an inhabitant of this count; that the said Joseph Turner since deceased signed and executed said instrument on the day the same bears date, and declared the same to be his last will and testament, and that affiant set his signature thereto, on the day the same bears date, as a subscribing witness to the same, in the presence of said testator and at his request, and in the presence of each other, and that said testator was of sound mind and disposing memory and understanding, and, in the opinion of affiant, fully capable of making his said will at the time the same was so made as aforesaid. And deposent further states that said testator was, on the day of the date of said will, of the full age of twenty-one years and upward and a resident of this county.
Jos. R. Bell
Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 28 day of April W. D. 1919.
Judge Probate Court, Lowndes County
Filed in office April 28 – 1919: The State of Alabama, W.H. Lee Judge of Probate
Lowndes County, I, W.H. Lee, Judge of the Probate Court in and for the county and State aforesaid, do hereby certify that the within instrument of writing has this day in said court and before me as the Judge thereof been duly proven by the testamony of Jas. R. Bell subscribing witness, to be the genuine last will and testament of Joseph Turner, deceased and that said will, together with the proof thereof, has been recorded in my office in Book No D of Wills at page 248.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of said Probate Court on this the 28th Day of April A.D. One thousand nine hundred and nineteen.
Joe Turner was my maternal grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s grandfather. This is his timeline as I continue to investigate his life and that of his community in Hayneville, Lowndes County, Alabama.
I found the Index of Deeds, Mortages etc. for Lowndes County online at familysearch.com. Joe Turner is listed both buying and selling and mortgagine propery, as are several others who were formerly enslaved on Wiley Turner’s plantation. When I order the microfilm of the actual records I will be able to see dates and names and other information.
Sources for the information below is in italics at the end of the entries. All took place in Lowndes County, most in Hayneville area.
1841 Born into slavery in Alabama.
1853 Age 12. Appears as “Joe (white)” in list of enslaved with ages and valuation. Wiley Turner estate file page 657.
1855 Age 14. Lists of enslaved and livestock divided for heirs. Wiley Turner estate file page 717.
1857 Dec Age 16 “Valuation of entire slave property of decd- names of…” Joe appears as “Yellow Joe”Wiley Turner estate filepage 796.
There are four lists from different dates for doctors visits to the enslaved on the Turner plantation. Sometimes those treated are named and sometimes they are just referred to as “Negroes”. I have added the ages of those who are named based on other lists from the estate files.
Dr. C.B. Lampley was the doctor listed for this time period. Lampley was born in 1830 in Richmond County, NC. His family relocated to Alabama by 1850. He married Thurza Rudolph of Lowndes County. They had two children. In the 1860 census he enslaved four people, a 35 year old mulatto woman, a 30 year old black man, a fifteen year old mulatto girl and a 14 year old black male. They lived in two dwellings. He joined the Confederate Army where he became a surgeon. He was lamed and later resigned due to diabetes and general debility. During 1854 and 1855 he visited the Turner plantation to treat the enslaved – pulling teeth, lancing abscesses, bleeding and dosing with medication.
My 2X great grandfather, Joe Turner was enumerated in the 1866 Alabama State census with his family of five living in Lowndes County, Alabama. In the 1870 census they were enumerated In Hayneville, Lowndes County. Joe was a farmer with $300 worth of personal goods. Neither he nor his wife Emma could read or write. The children were Lydia 8, Howard 7 (my great grandfather), Fannie 6, Joe 3 and Annie born in August of that year.