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                                   COL. PARMENAS T. TURNLEY
                                         Biography
                                    Cook County, Illinois

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Information contributed for use in Cook County ILGenWeb by
        Sherri Hessick, added May 2001.



COL. PARMENAS T. TURNLEY

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County,
Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended
(Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 73-78

COL. PARMENAS TAYLOR TURNLEY, one of the most faithful and
energetic military servants of the United States, was born
September 6, 1821, in the little village of Dandridge, the
seat of Jefferson County, Tennessee.  His ancestors were
numbered among the men of note in England, and their
coat-of-arms is recorded prior to 1550, in the time of Queen
Bess.  Francis Turnley, an ensign in the cavalry under
Cromwell, participated in the memorable battle of Drogheda,
Ireland.  After his discharge from military service he
married a Welsh maiden, and settled in her native land.  In
later life he went to Monmouth, England, where he died in
1690, leaving a large family of sons and daughters.

John and Francis, sons of Francis Turnley, born in Monmouth,
in 1660 and 1662, respectively, lived at Bristol, England,
whence they set sail in 1692 for Jamestown, or, later,
Norfolk, Virginia.  John settled in Bedford County, where he
died at a ripe old age.  His eldest son, John, born in
Monmouth, England, in 1690, succeeded him, “with a limited
education and less patrimony.”  His eldest son, born in
1737, was named John, and was the great-grandfather of the
subject of this sketch.  His father died when he was but
nine years old, and he was apprenticed to a brickmaker and
mason.  In that day the unfortunate apprentice boy was
little better than a bond slave.  At the age of nineteen
years he ran away from his taskmaster, but continued to work
at his well-learned trade.  At the age of twenty-four he
married Mary Handy, and their only son, George, was born in
1762.

George Turnley was a well-grown lad of fourteen when the War
of the Revolution began.  He joined the Continental troops,
and was employed in conducting trains of pack-horses,
conveying supplies through the wild regions where wheeled
vehicles could not pass.  He continued as a private through
the whole war, and returned to his father’s home in
Botetourt County, Virginia, penniless and ragged.  The
father was a poor man, and the son soon set out for the new
country to the west, on the upper tributaries of the
Tennessee River.  He spent some time among the Indians, and
was so pleased with the country, then a part of the
territory of North Carolina, that he returned to Virginia,
and induced his father to accompany him, and they settled,
in 1785, on the French Broad River, thirty miles east of the
present city of Knoxville.  George Turnley cut logs, and
erected a cabin, fifteen by twenty feet, in the edge of the
cane-brake, hewed out puncheons for the floors, and rived
out boards for roof and doors.  In March, 1791, he married
Lottie Cunningham, of Shenandoah County, Virginia, who, with
her mother and brother, had removed to that country.

February 27, 1792, was born in that little cabin a son, who
was named John C.  The latter grew up on the farm until the
age of seventeen, when he spent three years with his uncle,
George Graham, learning cabinet-making.  At the outbreak of
the War of 1812 he, with a half-dozen others, walked one
hundred and twenty miles to Nashville, and volunteered in
Captain Kenady’s company, which was afterward the First
Regiment Tennessee Infantry.  The company descended the
Cumberland and Ohio Rivers in a flatboat, and down the
Mississippi to Walnut Hills (now Vicksburg), Mississippi,
whence they moved on foot under General Jackson, with whom
they participated in the battle of New Orleans.  After his
discharge Mr. Turnley had a long tramp on foot, through
forest and swamp, back to Tennessee.  He finally reached
Knoxville, where he engaged at cabinet and carpenter work.
In 1818 he married Miss Mahala Taylor, and began
housekeeping in Dandridge, Tennessee.  Mrs. Turnley was a
daughter of Col. Parmenas Taylor, after whom the subject of
this biography is named.  Colonel Taylor was born in April,
1753, near the line between Virginia and North Carolina,
perhaps in Virginia.  He served throughout the Revolutionary
War, and was a Captain in Colonel White’s North Carolina
Regiment.  He was taken prisoner, and held for nearly a
year, during which time he was employed in repairing guns in
the British arsenal.  He was six feet, six inches tall, and
weighed 210 pounds.  Soon after leaving the army he married
Betty, the daughter of his commander, and settled on the
north side of the French Broad River, opposite George
Turnley.  He was a member of the convention which framed the
first State Constitution of Tennessee, was a fine
land-surveyor, and much respected Justice of the Peace.  His
elder brother was the father of Zachary Taylor, elected
President of the United States in 1848.

John C. Turnley was a man of affairs.  He acted as District
Attorney for his own and adjoining counties, engaged quite
extensively in sawing lumber, and in shipping farm products
down the rivers to market.  In his old age, during our Civil
War, he was driven by the guerrilla warfare, carried on in
the semi-neutral territory where he resided, to leave his
home and go to Madison, Indiana, where he lived with his
daughters until the war closed, when he returned to his home
on the French Broad River, and there lived until June, 1875,
when an accident rendered the amputation of his leg
necessary, which resulted in his death.

The subject of this sketch is the third child and son of
John C. Turnley.  He grew up at Oak Grove, the locality of
his father’s plantation and sawmills, where the latter
served as Postmaster, seven miles east of Dandridge.  John
C. Turnley held the office of Postmaster there for
thirty-seven years.  Soon after entering his seventh year,
Parmenas Turnley entered the little school of John Farrell,
in a log schoolhouse a mile and a-half from his home,
reached only by a footpath through the dense forest.  He was
provided with a Webster’s Spelling-book, and continued in
the school until the Christmas holidays, when the pedagogue
declared that he could never learn anything, and that it was
useless to send him to school.  The fond mother, however,
did not give him up, and she set aside an hour in each
forenoon and afternoon, which she took from her multifarious
household duties and devoted to teaching her son.  Under her
kind tutelage he made good progress, and the next year
entered a new school near his home.  For three months in the
year he continued to attend school until 1831, in the mean
time receiving much assistance from his mother at home.
Having reached the age of ten years, his services were
required about the farm and mills of his father, and the
latter now began to teach him arithmetic, in order that he
might be able to measure lumber, grain and other
commodities.  By the time he was twelve years old he was
fairly proficient, and was often in charge of his father’s
business during the latter’s absence.  He thus continued
working on the farm in summer and in the saw and gristmills
in winter, bearing his share in all the work.  None of the
Turnleys would ever own slaves, and all the labor employed
was white.  Mrs. Turnley inherited two house-servants from
her mother’s estate, and these continued with the family in
most faithful attendance until it was broken up.

In the autumn of 1840 young Turnley became deeply interested
in the Presidential contest, in which he took part as a
stump speaker against Harrison.  In the following spring he
received the unexpected notice of his appointment as a cadet
to West Point Military Academy.  This had been secured
through the influence of Mr. William B. Carter, Member of
Congress, who had taken an interest in the boy while on a
visit to his father’s house two years previously.  At this
time the father was absent with a flotilla of boats, and the
boy and his mother were in some doubt as to the desirability
of accepting the appointment.  His father returned in a
short time, and, rather against the mother’s wish, it was
decided that the youth should accept the appointment and
proceed to West Point.  A great obstacle arose at once; the
distance was many hundred miles, traversed chiefly by
stage-coach, and actual cash was hard to obtain, because the
paper “shin-plaster” substitute for money was the only
article in circulation.  After much effort a trifle over
thirty-six dollars was gathered up, and in the mean time his
mother had placed what clothing she deemed necessary in a
pillow-case, to be taken along on the journey.  But as the
limited cash capital would not permit riding, the youth set
out on foot, leaving most of his baggage behind.  On
reaching Salem, Virginia, where he stayed over-night, he was
induced by his host to remain a few days to saw up some
lumber which he had contracted to deliver.  He took a
contract at two dollars per 1,000 feet, with the stipulation
that he must have sufficient help night or day.  In
forty-eight hours’ continuous labor he turned out 6,500 feet
of lumber from the old-style water sawmill, and on receiving
his pay set out again on foot, making only fifteen miles the
first day.  After twelve days of travel, in which he
averaged a trifle over thirty miles a day, he arrived at
Winchester, Virginia, whence he took cars to Baltimore.
There he went on board a freight steamer, which carried him
to New York, at an expense for passage and meals of four
dollars and fifty cents.  From New York he took a steamer to
West Point, at which place he arrived on the 21st of June.
Here he very shortly discovered that his limited education
would not enable him to pass the necessary examination for
admission to the Military Academy.  Appealing to the
Chaplain of this institution, he secured through that
individual postponement of his appointment by the War
Department for one year.  Proceeding to the school of Mr. Z.
J. D. Kinsley, near West Point, he applied himself so
vigorously and diligently to his studies, that he was
prepared to enter the academy in June, 1842.  By January of
that year he had become so proficient that his tutor gave
him his board and tuition and ten dollars per month for
teaching a class in mathematics.  Among his pupils were two
grandsons of President Harrison.

On the 30th of June, 1846, he was duly graduated in the
class of fifty-eight members, including George B. MaClellan,
and several others who became distinguished in the War of
1861–65.  The class was entitled to a furlough of two months
on graduation, and young Turnley now returned to his home
near Dandridge, after an absence of five years.  He had
employed previous vacations in drills and application to his
studies.  He found many changes at home, among the saddest
being the absence of his mother, who died August 10, 1844.
He had not been at home two weeks before he received orders
to proceed to New Orleans and join his regiment, the Second
Infantry, on the way to Mexico.  After four days of staging
across mountains and rivers, he arrived at Nashville, where
he took steamer for New Orleans.  Armed with a commission as
Second-Lieutenant of Company D, Second United States
Infantry, he joined that regiment on its arrival from Sacket
’s Harbor, New York, and with it sailed on the steamer
“Massachusetts” to Brazos Island.  From Camargo, an old
Mexican town on the south bank of the little San Juan River,
to Monterey, Company D and two others escorted a large
supply train.  On this trip of 130 miles Lieutenant Turnley’
s knowledge of carpentering proved of great value to the
train.  One of the wagons, loaded with seventy-five boxes of
silver specie, which was in front, broke down, and the train
was delayed until Lieutenant Turnley volunteered to make a
new axle.  Neither saw nor auger was to be found in the
train, but with the help of a Georgia volunteer, who was a
rough carpenter, and a hatchet and axe, an axle was put in
which carried the wagon through to Monterey.  In November
the same party returned to Camargo, escorting another large
train; thence Company D proceeded to Monte Marelos, on the
direct road from Monterey to Tampico.  In a few days the
army was moved back to Monterey to resist a reported
contemplated attack by Santa Anna.  This report proving
false, the army faced about, and resumed its march of 375
miles to Tampico, Mexico, where it arrived January 23, 1847.
From Tampico the army moved on transports to Vera Cruz.
During the siege of that place Lieutenant Turnley served on
the picket-guard line of investment for twenty days and
nights without relief.  During this time a severe “norther”
prevailed, and on account of his exposure he became
seriously ill.  To aid his recovery, he was detailed to
proceed to Cincinnati to bring back a body of recruits.
Toward the end of September, 1847, he left that city with
800 new men.  Late in October he arrived in Vera Cruz, where
the yellow fever had raged all summer, with dreadful
mortality among the American troops.  After going into camp
Lieutenant Turnley suffered an attack of the dread scourge,
his being the only case in the entire body of 800 men.
Early in January, 1848, he started out in command of a
portion of the recruits, as escort to a supply train of 500
wagons and a number of pack-mules, to the Mexican capital,
with orders to distribute the recruits to their several
regiments along the way.  After ten days of rest at the city
of Mexico, he proceeded to a point ninety miles south to
protect the owners of plantations who were threatened with
an uprising of their peons.

Returning to the United States at the close of the Mexican
War, Lieutenant Turnley was in command of his company at a
camp on Lake Pontchartrain, where he was employed in
discharging soldiers who had enlisted for the period of the
Mexican War, and in assigning new recruits to the regular
regiments.  Company D and one other was ordered to proceed
to Austin, Texas.  In March they were ordered back to San
Antonio.  Thence Company D proceeded to the old Mexican town
of Presidio, on the Rio Grande, to establish a post.  Not
finding this a suitable point, they advised General Worth,
who authorized them to proceed further up the river, and
they established a post at Eagle Pass, now called Fort
Duncan.  At this time Lieutenant Turnley was acting as
Quartermaster, Commissary and Adjutant, besides commanding
the company in the absence of the Captain.  He built a stone
warehouse and hospital, and was frequently detailed to
escort wagon-trains, and open roads over that section of the
country.  In June, 1852, he was promoted to be First
Lieutenant and made Regimental Quartermaster.  This occurred
while he was building Fort Territt, on the Llano River.
After his promotion he was detailed for two years of
recruiting service, after almost five years of life in
tents.  Being given his choice of two stations, he decided
to locate at Chicago, and on the 1st of September, 1852,
took up quarters at the Tremont Hotel in that city.  While
there he completed a design for a portable cottage, for use
of the army on the timberless frontiers.  This was adopted
by the Government, and he was sent to Cincinnati to build a
number and ship them to the frontier posts.  The next few
years he was employed on the Northwestern frontier, under
General Harney, in subduing unfriendly Indian tribes on the
border.  Meantime he had been promoted to the General Staff
as Assistant Quartermaster, and assigned to duty at Forts
Pierre and Randall.

In January, 1857, he received his first leave of absence, in
order to transact private business in Tennessee.  His next
post of duty was at Fort Brown, Texas, where he was engaged
in over-hauling and disposing of old stores, and receiving
and forwarding supplies to other posts.  In October he was
joined by his family, but was hardly settled before he
received orders in March, 1858, to go to Leavenworth,
Kansas, to take charge of supplies destined for Utah.  With
the troops he moved to Fort Bridger, where he arrived in
September, 1858, thence over to the Valley of Utah.  He
remained in Utah until October, 1860, selling out, in the
mean time, per order of the War Department, the most of the
teams and other paraphernalia of the post at Camp Floyd,
which he had built during his two years in Utah, south of
Salt Lake City.  After resting a few days with his family in
Chicago, he set out for his old home in Tennessee, going by
way of Springfield, where he called upon President-Elect
Lincoln, to whom he imparted some valuable information about
army and military matters.  His analysis of the character of
Mr. Lincoln and other noted men is very interesting, but
cannot be repeated in the space available for this article.
At the urgent request of his old neighbors and friends, he
delivered addresses upon the political situation at
Dandridge and Greenville, Tennessee, and, after visiting
Washington City on official business, returned to his family
in Chicago.

While en route to Washington, in April, 1861, to hasten the
settlement of his public accounts, he received word at
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that his leave of absence must
terminate at once, and that he was required to report to
Governor Curtin, of Pennsylvania, to whom he was of great
service in caring for recruits.  Thence he was sent to
Annapolis to prepare the naval school for an army depot.  He
was next ordered to report to Gen. John C. Fremont at New
York City, and proceeded thence, by that officer’s order, to
St. Louis, Missouri, where he was Chief-Quartermaster until
February, 1862.  From there he went to Cairo, Illinois,
where he was engaged in further arduous duties in providing
supplies for Grant in his Kentucky campaign, and Pope below
Cairo, on the Mississippi, and for the subsistence and
transportation of prisoners taken in those victorious
expeditions.

Through long years of exposure on Mexican fields and western
plains Captain Turnley’s health had become very much
impaired, and he now found it imperative that he take some
rest.  In April, 1863, he applied for leave of absence,
which was granted, and he set out with his wife for a tour
of Europe.  This relaxation he had well earned by long years
of the most toilsome and faithful service for his country,
but he did not receive much benefit, though somewhat
improved.  On his return, by order from the War Department,
he reported to General McDowell, retiring officer, at
Wilmington, Delaware, and was retired from active service,
“for long and faithful services, and disease contracted in
the line of duty.”

Early in 1865 Captain Turnley went to Washington to close up
his twenty years of accounts with the Government, and was at
once besought by Assist.-Quartermaster Gen. Charles Thomas
to take special service at Denver, Colorado, where the
accounts for supplies were in a hopeless tangle.  After some
consideration he consented, believing that the duties were
not severe and would soon be dispatched.  Proceeding by
steamer from St. Louis to Leavenworth, he traveled thence,
accompanied by his family, to Denver.  At Lexington,
Missouri, he learned with deep sorrow of the assassination
of President Lincoln.  Finding his health, which had
somewhat recovered, impaired by the high altitude of Denver,
he forwarded his resignation, but was not relieved until
December, 1865, after which he traveled across the plains,
in the dead of winter and in deep snow, to Atchison, whence
he took cars to Chicago, and at last secured relief from a
life of almost constant military service.  In the following
spring he took up his residence at St. Louis, where he
remained with his family nearly two years.  He then again
returned to Chicago, where, in August, 1870, he finally
secured a settlement of his public accounts, with a return
of $1,575 which he had been obliged to pay out of his own
funds on account of an error of his clerk in Utah.  The
error had remained a mystery until the office of the
Auditor-General overhauled the accounts of ten years, and
discovered an error in carrying forward footings.
Before closing Captain Turnley’s army record, it is proper
to relate that his recommendation from St. Louis secured the
appointment of Phil Sheridan, who had been Turnley’s
sub-assistant at St. Louis, to the colonelcy of a Michigan
cavalry regiment, thus starting “Little Phil” on his famous
military career.  Many other prominent officers of the Civil
War were deeply indebted to him for favors at various times.
Some of these escaped dismissal from West Point through
Cadet Turnley’s kindness in concealing flagrant breaches of
discipline while cadets.

On the 21st of September, 1853, at Chicago, Lieutenant
Turnley was married to Miss Mary Ryerson Rutter, daughter of
Dr. David Rutter, a native of Pennsylvania, who settled in
Chicago in 1848.  At the time of her marriage Miss Rutter
was not quite eighteen years of age.  She became the mother
of three daughters and two sons.  One of the sons died at
four years of age, and the other, a most promising youth,
named Ernest Seymour, died in August, 1891, in his
seventeenth year, being at the time a student at home on
vacation from college.  Of his three daughters, the eldest
and the youngest, both single, are now living.  The third
daughter (and third child) married Mr. Milton C. Lightner,
and died in November, 1880, leaving an infant son, who has
ever been a jewel in Captain Turnley’s household, and at
this writing is a fine specimen of a fifteen-year-old boy,
giving promise of a large man.

In 1881 Captain Turnley took up his residence at Highland
Park, Illinois, where he is enjoying the rest and peace
which he so dearly earned, at the sacrifice of much health,
on the sandy plains of Mexico, Texas and the West, and in
the malarial military depots of St. Louis and Cairo.  In
spite of hardships endured and mental strain for many years,
he is still hale and keen of intellect, as is evidenced by
his memoirs, which are full of sage philosophy, as well as
the most interesting narrative.  These are embodied in a
volume of 450 pages, published for private distribution in
1893.  It ought to have general circulation, for it gives a
knowledge of men and motives seldom found in any
publication.  In fact, nothing heretofore issued is so
fearless of public idolatry in portraying the weaknesses of
great men.  He has been successively Alderman, and for two
terms Mayor, of Highland Park.

True to the traditions of his fathers, Captain Turnley has
always adhered to the Democratic party in National political
matters, and he was sometimes the subject of much unjust
suspicion during the Civil War, because of his southern
birth and political preferences.  However, he always bore
himself with such faithful loyalty to his Government as to
speedily disarm all suspicion, and shed only honor on his
long and faithful military career.
		



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