Back to Southampton
There was no reason to expect that my family had roots in Southampton County, Virginia. Until a few years ago, Virginia for me had meant only one place, Norfolk. Well, things have certainly changed and I have learned that just like many others, my mother’s family came to the urban sprawl of Norfolk and the Tidewater area from rural communities.
As an example of how important it is to always be prepared to remember the slightest details in speaking with our elders, my mother spoke about her maternal grandmother’s family being from Emporia, Virginia—only once. Something must have triggered a memory because she told me that information in sort of a blurt. Whatever it was, that was the only instance that I have ever heard of a family connection to Emporia, in Greensville County, Virginia.
In the time since I’ve learned, researched, and confirmed fascinating details about our Emporia family ties, the trail of history has extended further east, to the bordering county of Southampton.
As it turns out, my second great-grandmother, Hattie, was born Hattie Turner to teacher/minister, John H. Turner, B.D. and his young wife, Josephine, around 1884. Rev. Turner was born about 1856 in Drewryville, Southampton County, Virginia. His parents were Henry and Eliza Turner.
The names of his parents were courtesy of the 1880 Virginia marriage license between Rev. Turner and Josephine. They were married in March of that year in Greensville County.
I located the newlyweds in the Southampton household of Rev. Turner’s parents in the 1880 U.S. Census. A new addition to the family, two and a half month old Sallie John Turner, was also there. The census was taken in June, according to the document.
The 1880 census listed the birth year of Rev. Turner’s father, Henry, to be about 1830. 1830. 1830, I thought.
Then it hit me. 1831. Southampton County, Virginia. Turner. Nat Turner.
The thought of my family being in the epicenter of such a historic event made me wonder out loud. I mean how could this be? How could we have had such ties-being Southampton Turners during the time of the uprising—-and living through it, and not have that story passed down?
The answers are still unfolding. The fact is that there is still so much that is unknown about my family’s exact ties to the August 1831 revolt, but what is known is so compelling.
I have traced my third great-grandfather, Henry Turner, to the 1853 last will and testament of Southampton County deputy sheriff, Edward P. Turner. The will states that Henry is “to be freed and given his carpentry tools.” Enter Henry the Carpenter. Also listed in that will was Betsy and her three young children, Lawrence, Walter, and Anna “Little Betsy.” The names of the children would prove to be critical in my search for Turner history.
The next document that I found was monumental. It was a deed from 1877 in which Henry the Carpenter, my ancestor, purchased a parcel of land from J.W. Claud and his wife, in Drewryville, Southampton County.
The cost of the land, 137 1/2 acres, was $343.75. That’s over $8,000 in today’s money, which is a nice chunk of change no matter when. The language of the deed stated that the deed was “granted and conveyed with general warranty to the said Henry Turner and his heirs forever.”
There’s so much more to share about the historical journey back to Southampton., but for now-let’s let forever resonate.
In the meanwhile, what’s the takeaway? Push. Push through history, push through time to learn answers that you never knew were in question.
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