Written by Delma Freeman Turnbow, 1979. Copyright of the
book , "Our Kin: Past and Present" owned by the heirs of Delma
Turnbow Freeman who have granted permission via Hope Attridge
and David Todd, acting as spokespersons for all the heirs, for
Alice Callaway Moore to use excerpted materials from the book by
Mrs. Delma Turnbow Freeman for Erath County Biographies Project,1999.

Chesley Turnbow

Chesley Turnbow

CHESLEY TURNBOW, born 1805 and wife, SABRA ROSE, born 1809

     Great grandfather, Chesley Turnbow, was born Sept. 29, 1805 in Adair Co., Kentucky the son of Andrew Turnbow and Grace Coffee, who were married in Adair County, in December of 1802.

     About the year 1810, Chesley’s parents, with a large group of Turnbow and Coffee relatives, went from Adair County, Kentucky to Maury and Giles Counties, Tennessee. It was here that great grandfather grew up. He was married in Maury County, October 4, 1827 to Sabra Rose, born August 9, 1809 in Maury, or Giles County, the daughter of Francis M. Rose and Elizabeth (Cutbirth).

     Chesley and Sabra stayed in Giles County, Tennessee until 1843. Six of their children were born there before they went to Pope County, Arkansas.

     In 1843, a family group of Turnbow, Rose and Gilbreath connections, moved from Tennessee to Arkansas. There is a strange, sad story told in the past by family members, of a three-year-old daughter of Chesley and Sabra, who died on the way from Tennessee to Pope County, Arkansas. I have not included this child (whose name was Margaret) because we have no birthdate for her. I have no reason to doubt the story; on the contrary, I believe it to be true. If we look at the birthdate of Andrew, born 1837, and the next child Sarah, born 1842, we see a span of five years. If the said Margaret had been born in 1840, her age would tally exactly with the time they moved to Arkansas and with the story.

     The story was that one day when the wagon train stopped for a rest period, the little girl, Margaret, described to the travelers what they would see beyond the next turn in the road. When the wagons rounded the bend in the road, there lay before them the scene, just as the little girl had described it. This frightened the group, for they viewed it as an omen of some sort. In the course of the next few days the child became ill, and died after a short period. The story told that she was buried by the side of the trail, and the wagons again moved on. It would be difficult to imagine amore heart breaking experience for parents. At a later date the group again suffered illness and the death of some members, which is said to have been the cause of their stopping in Arkansas, instead of coming on to Texas.

     Great grandfather bought land there, improved it, and stayed twelve years before making the final move to Texas. Like others, he was lured by the promise of good land that could be purchased at fifty cents to one dollar per acre, and in the mail, it was this promise that brought the vast majority of early settlers to Texas.

     Although great grandfather believed the move to Texas would be to their advantage; he would not consider coming unless all his children, both married and single, were willing to come with him and stay to make their permanent homes.

     While the final decisions were in the making, serious discussions and family councils were held over a period of time. The outcome of these discussions was that all the family, including three sons-in-law and one daughter-in-law expressed themselves as willing and eager to make the move with him. Also joining great grandfather in this venture was his sister, Nancy, and her husband, William Henry Gilbreath, with their seven young children. Family tradition says there was one unrelated family in the group, making in all, seven families in the wagon train, in additions there were six slaves of the Gilbreath family.

     Many plans and preparations for the move were made, for Chesley Turnbow was a man who planned well, and did not believe in leaving things to chance. Their wagons must be put in good repair, and their horses must be in top condition. A good supply of powder and shot for their flint-lock rifles was important, for wild game would, of necessity, be a major part of their food supply on the trip.

      Even though planning well, difficulties were inevitable. Their travel was delayed by swollen streams and rivers. Wagons mired in the mud, their herds of cattle and horses strayed. Constantly exposed to the broiling heat, and driving rainstorms; children cried and tired mothers prepared food for their families, under impossible conditions.

     Grandpa was a small boy of five years, in the late summer of 1855, as the long wagon train plodded slowly westward. The weary band of travelers, now nearing their journey’s end, had endured all the hardships and discomforts common to those dauntless thousands who pushed on west to the unsettled regions. Crossing the streams and rivers with great difficulty, this group had, at times, blazed their own trails across the grass-covered prairies to the site of their new homes on the Texas frontier.

     When the wagon train reached the Trinity River, they found the stream to be at flood stage. While they camped there near the small village of Dallas, a child was born to Chesley’s daughter, Elizabeth, the wife of John R. Maloney. This was their first child, whom they called "Alex". In the future he was to become a successful businessman and rancher of Erath County.

     Great grandfather brought his good Tennessee horses to Texas, and traded two mares for five hundred acres of land valued at five hundred dollars. This was before Erath County was created out of Bosque and Coryell Counties in 1856, and the land was originally a part of McLennan County. The tract was purchased from James Stephen, and was out of the original grant to Sion Blythe. This property was approximately seven miles south of the present town of Dublin.

      The site chosen for their new home was on the west side of Resley Creek, and near a good spring of water. Here they built a double log cabin with open dogtrot through the center. Immense fireplaces were built at the east and west ends of the house. The walls, built dovetail fashion, were of oak logs, and underpinnings were found to be six-inch long wood pegs.

     Uncle Jim Turnbow, once said that great grandfather went to the Leon River and cut bur oak timber for the hand hewn roof boards. For some reason, bur oak was believed to make a superior roof.

      This house was in continuous use as a residence for one hundred years. We know the original roof was not replaced for seventy-six years, and then only because of a severe hailstorm. (See "Purves, Erath County, Texas" by Raymond Hancock, page 120.) The broad ax used by great grandfather when building this log house is now owned by a great grandson, Edwin Wallis Johnston, of Buffalo Gap, Texas.

      Great grandfather also brought domesticated cattle to Texas. These ran on the open range and soon mixed with the Texas longhorn. It was the offspring of that mixture which made up grandpa’s herd when I was a small child.

      At the time Chesley and Sabra Turnbow were living here on Resley Creek; there was not a church in the county. Being both religious and of the hospitable turn, they opened their home as a meeting place for worship services. These meetings took place two or three times each month, and the settlers came from far and near. Some would stay overnight. Great grandmother prepared meals for their guests under very primitive conditions, and did not consider it a hardship, for the fellowship was a joy. It also provided a welcome relief from the loneliness she often felt in her new surroundings.

      This area was then roamed by the Comanche tribe of Indians. Soon after the family settled into their new home, their good horses were all driven off one night by Indians. Seven young colts in the herd were found by a searching party the next day, all dead, their bodies full of arrows. Pushing the horses hard to get out of the country, the renegades did not wish to be hampered by the colts.

      On Sept. 25, 1858, Chesley and wife, sold the Resley Creek place of 500 acres and the log house, to Mr. Jones Barbee for $1,250.00 (Erath County Deeds, Book C-pg. 35) The family then moved over east on Green’s Creek, where they built another log house. This second house was, perhaps, two miles below where the town of Alexander would later be established. Soon after they moved there, in 1859, a few settlers, under the direction of the Rev. Henry Hurley and C.D. Skidmore, organized the first church in Erath County, called "Bosque Church." It was constituted in a log cabin only recently abandoned because of Indian raids.

     Dating from about the time Bosque church was organized, Indian raids, and atrocities on the settlers became more numerous. During these troubled times, great grandfather, much concerned for the safety of his family, moved over into the bordering Bosque County, where he felt there would be better protection. Here they remained through the war, and some of the worst years of the Reconstruction period.

     Evidently great grandfather sold this land, for when the family returned to the Resley Creek area in Erath County in 1871, he bought two tracts of three hundred and twenty acres each.

     Although now past sixty-five years of age, great grandfather again set about the task of building another house, clearing land, and building rail fences. This house, like the others, was built of logs, as all the homes of the area were at the time. There was still no accessible market for purchasing building supplies nearer than Waco, or Fort Worth, each a distance of 90 miles. With only rough trails for roads and no bridges on which to cross streams and rivers: the 180 mile trip by slow wagon travel, did not seem practical when good oak timer was abundant and available.

     It was at this time that Bethany Primitive Baptist Church was organized, April 11, 1875, near the present Purves community, with great grandfather one of the two deacons.

     Chesley Turnbow died April 29, 1880 and was buried in a plot set aside for a family burial ground, now called Turnbow Cemetery. He was the second person to be buried there. Great grandmother lived until January 7, 1889, and was laid to rest by the side of her husband, with whom she had shared more than we, today, can even imagine.