JAMES TURNBULL, (deceased), formerly one of Steubenville's most distinguished and honored citizens, was born in the city of Philadelphia, July 20, 1795. He was the son of Robert and Elizabeth (Lewis) Turnbull, the former of whom was a native of Scotland and the latter of London, England. They were married at London in 1791 and in about 1794 they immigrated to America and located in Philadelphia, where Robert Turnbull lived his death, which was caused by yellow fever in 1807. Shortly afterward his widow removed to Pittsburgh, Penn., where she was married to a Mr. Lewis, after whose death, caused by drowning, she removed to Steubenville, where the son James had already located, and spent the remainder of her life at his home. The subject of this sketch accompanied his mother from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, when he was about twelve years of age. In Pittsburgh he learned the trade of a book binder, serving his apprenticeship with Kramer, Speer & Eichbaum. He afterward served about six months in the war of 1812, and then spent one year at his trade in Baltimore. In 1816 he settled permanently at Steubenville. There he established a book bindery and book store to which his attention was given until 1852. He also, at one time, had a branch book at St. Louis, Mo. When Mr. Turnbull located in Steubenville the town contained only about 900 inhabitants, and was included wholly by South street and North street. He possessed a limited capital, but with that indomitable energy which characterized his subsequent life, he succeeded in establishing one of the best known book houses west of Pittsburgh. Having onlu a bindery at first he soon increased it by beginning to publish books, his establishment probably being the first publishing house in Ohio. In connection with this he also conducted a book and stationery store. Mr. Turnbull was also one of the proprietors of a paper mill in Steubenville, conducted by the firm of Holdship, Hanna & Turnbull. In his book store Hon. Edwin M. Stanton began his career, as a clerk, and the celebrated artist, J. Wilson McDonald, held for a time the same position. During his business career Mr. Turnbull was eminently successful. No sooner had he located in Steubenville than he became prominently identified with every public movement, taking an active part in all political maters, and was, for years, one of the leaders of the democratic party. He was chosen county treasurer in 1831, and served one term, declining a re-election on account of his private business. Among other positions of honor and trust were two terms in the city council and five members as a member of the school board. He was also, for years, a director of the old State bank and its successor, the Jefferson National bank. He was very active in the organization of the old Steubenville & Indiana railway and was one if its first directors. he was also a director of the old Farmers and Mechanics bank and during the whole of the earlier history of the city there was scarcely any enterprise in which he was not either directly or indirectly connected. He was an active member of the Presbyterian church, serving for many years as trustee, and at one time being elected elder. Mr. Turnbull was thrice married, his first wife being Caroline Galbraith, daughter of one of the earliest merchants of the city. His second wife was Sarah A. Todd, to whom he was married in January, 1834. She was the daughter of Col. Edward and Elizabeth (Scott) Todd, who located in Steubenville in 1809. The former died in 1844 and the latter in 1853. By his second wife, Mr. Turnbull became the father of four children: Howard, who died, aged four years; Elizabeth, wife of James F. Sarrat; Caroline, wife of John F. Oliver and Martha Jane, who died in infancy. The mother of these children died in May, 1842. On September 28, 1843, Mr. Turnbull was married to Margaret Jane McDevitt, a native of Pittsburgh, Penn., born February 1, 1809, the daughter of James and Jane (Liggett) McDevitt, with whom she came to Steubenville when she was two years old. Her parents were both natives of Ireland, but were married in this country, her mother having come to America in 1776 at sixteen years of age. Her father, a manufacturer of and traveling dealer in cotton and woolen goods, died in Buffalo, N. Y., while she was a small child. Her mother died in Steubenville, January 16, 1861. Mr. Turnbull died June 13, 1887, after having reached nearly ninety-two years. Notwithstanding his great age he was vigorous up to within a few days of his death, and attended to the management of all his affairs. He had been a resident of Steubenville seventy-one years, and was one of the oldest voters in eastern Ohio. He voted for James Monroe in 1816, and for seventeen of his successors. In 1840 he joined the whig party, and was a warm admirer of Henry Clay throughout his public career. Upon the organization of the republican party he identified himself with it, and he continued to be one of its devoted members until his death. He cast his ballot at thirty-seven gubernatorial elections in Ohio, and he saw his state grow from almost a territory to the third in the Union. During his lifetime nearly every industrial invention now in use was devised. He saw the tallow dip give way to the electric lamp. He could recall the wonder which Fulton's steamboat excited, and he saw the first steamboat which plied on the waters of the Ohio. During his long business career he amassed a large property and was one of the extensive real estate owners of the city. His surviving wife, now eighty years of age, is one of the oldest residents of Steubenville, having lived there seventy-eight years. She still occupies the old Turnbull homestead on North Third street, where she is spending her declining years. She is a devoted member of the Presbyterian church.
Copyright © 2006 Danice Ryan. All rights reserved.