Biography of James M. Turner (1820 to 1869)
Daniel H. Weiskotten
7/4/2000
 
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From: Anonymous, 1878, American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-Made Men, Vol. 2, Western Biographical Publishing Co.
 
 

Hon. James M. Turner

late of Lansing, was born at Cazenovia, New York, April 1, 1820, and was a lineal descendant of Humphrey Turner, who emigrated from Devonshire, England, and settled in Plymouth, Connecticut, in 1628. His father, Francis S. Turner, and his mother, Deborah Morton, were married, at Middlebury, Vermont, in 1799. His grandfather, Jonathan Turner, married Bridget Arthur in the year 1772. His great-grandfather, Paine Turner, was married, at New London, Connecticut, November 3, 1745, to Eleanor Haines. Samuel Humphrey Turner, of the seventh generation, now owns and occupies the old farm in Scituate, Massachusetts, where his ancestor, Humphrey Turner, lived and died, the farm never having passed out of the family. Mr. Turner's early educational advantages were quite limited; but, having a great love for books, and an ardent desire to obtain such an education as would fit him for the active duties of business life, he improved every opportunity that came in his way. In 1840 he removed to Leoni, Michigan, where he became clerk in a store. He afterwards traveled through the country with a wagon, selling goods and purchasing produce. In 1841 he removed to Mason, and entered into the mercantile business, in which he continued until 1847. When the capital of the State was located at Lansing, he removed to that place, and erected the first frame house in the city. For some time he carried on the mercantile trade, and then engaged in the construction of the Lansing and Howell Plank-road, of which company he was the Treasurer and manager.  The building of this road was of vast importance to that section of the State. Mr. Turner carried it through against many obstacles, securing a large amount of foreign capital to complete the work. In 1860, upon the election of John Owen as State Treasurer, Mr. Turner became Deputy State Treasurer, the duties of the office being under his exclusive supervision and control for six years. In 1864 he originated the project of a railroad from Jackson to Lansing, which was subsequently known as the Jackson, Lansing and Saginaw Railroad, and devoted the greater portion of his time to the successful prosecution of the work. He was Treasurer and Land Commissioner of the company from its organization until his death. Mr. Turner was also interested in the construction of a railroad from Ionia to Lansing, of which company he became Treasurer, Superintendent, and a member of the first Board of Directors. It was mainly through his influence that Eastern capitalists were induced to invest their money in this road. For a number of years he was the agent of Eastern holders of Michigan lands, possessing the confidence of many prominent capitalists, by whom he was intrusted with large amounts of money for investment. During a period of several years, he was agent for the Society of Shakers in the investment and loaning of money. In 1866 he was elected member of the State Senate from the district embracing Ingham and Clinton counties; he was prominently identified with the railroad legislation of that session; and was a member of the Finance Committee, and Chairman of the Committee on the Asylum for the Insane. Mr. Turner was greatly interested in the educational interests of Lansing,--having been one of the founders of the first Union School of that city, and also of the Michigan Female College. Upon the organization of the Board of Education, in 1851, he was elected a member, and held the position during life. His business ability, and unimpeachable honor and integrity, gave him a financial power in carrying forward great public works which few men in the State possess. He was a warm friend of the temperance cause, and an earnest, consistent Christian. He was an active member and supporter of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and, for nineteen years, was Superintendent of the Sabbath-school. In politics, he was identified with the Republican party from its organization. He was married, October 1, 1843, to Miss Marian Monroe, daughter of Jesse Monroe, of Eagle, Clinton County, Michigan. Ten children were born to them. Mr. Turner died of typhoid fever, at Lansing, Michigan, on the 10th of October, 1869. The Board of Directors of the Jackson, Lansing and Saginaw Railroad passed a series of resolutions expressive of their regret at his death, among which was the following: "As one of the originators and managers of the public improvements placed under the charge of this Board of Directors, this
 company, and the communities benefitted by the construction of the Jackson, Lansing and Saginaw Railroad, owe the deceased a debt of lasting gratitude for his early, earnest, unyielding, and well-directed efforts in behalf of this enterprise; for his persevering industry and sterling integrity; for the wisdom of his counsels and the vigor of his execution. Doctor Turner was a man of commanding personal appearance, being six feet four inches in height, and well proportioned, weighing two hundred and forty-five pounds. He possessed great strength, and remarkable powers of endurance. He was kind-hearted and benevolent; liberal to a fault; a real friend and helper to the poor.