A Guide to the Amasa Turner Papers, 1827-1990
Born in Massachusetts, Amasa Turner (1800-1877) moved to Mobile, Alabama, where he joined the lumber business in 1825. The next year, Turner married Julia Morse, another Massachusetts native living in Texas. The couple had four children, including George Quincy, Marcellus Granville, and Julia Amanda. In 1835, the family moved to Texas to help Amasa recover from yellow fever. He enlisted in the Texas Revolutionary Army, fighting at Gonzales, San Antonio, and the Siege of Bexar. As a recruiting officer, he raised an infantry company, which fought at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, and the next May, he became colonel at Galveston. After resigning in August 1837, the Customs Collector Gail Borden, Jr., appointed Amasa as Boarding Officer. During his tenure, Amasa constructed a customs house, the Galveston Hotel, wharves, an icehouse, and several other buildings. In 1839, the family moved to a farm in Harris County to raise cattle and grow cotton, before moving to a plantation in Lavaca County in 1847. From 1851 to 1854, Amasa served in the Texas House of Representatives, and during the Civil War, he was provost marshal of Lavaca County. In 1865, he moved to Gonzales, where he became active in the construction business, served as a Ruling Elder of the Presbyterian Church, and participated in the local Masonic lodge.
Brothers George Quincy Turner (1828-1864) and Marcellus Granville Turner (1829-1864) traveled to California with their cousin Bushrod Wilkins and friend Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Batchelor during the Gold Rush of 1849. Upon their return to Texas, Marcellus invested in ranching in Aransas Bay and married Mary Reeves in 1853, while George wrote for local newspapers and took over his father’s plantation in Lavaca County. Both brothers enlisted in the Confederate Army. George served in Terry’s Texas Rangers before becoming ill and dying in March 1864. Marcellus served in the 3rd Battalion of Cavalry as captain and acting quartermaster until his death in April 1864.
Born May 24, 1838, Julia Amanda Turner (1838-1912) was reputedly the first white female born on Galveston Island. She married her brothers’ friend Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Batchelor (ca. 1831-1864) on July 23, 1859. While serving in the Confederate Army, Batchelor was killed near Rome, Georgia, in October 1864. Two years later, Julia married banker James F. Miller (d. 1902), who had served in Terry’s Texas Rangers during the Civil War. Miller and William Sayers started the Miller & Sayers Bank in Gonzales and served as the first president of the Texas Bankers Association. From 1883 to 1887, Miller served in the U. S. Congress and as the chairman of the Committee on Currency and Banking. Julia served as the first president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Florence Cornelia, daughter of Julia and Frank Batchelor, married Thomas Franklin Harwood in 1884.
The Amasa Turner Papers, 1827-1990, consist of original, transcribed, and photocopied correspondence, deeds, surveys, poetry, essays, narratives, a journal, account books, receipts, circulars, broadsides, research files, and photographs, which document the military and political career of Amasa Turner as well as his family’s relationships. Business correspondence, account books, receipts, circulars and advertisements, land surveys, deeds and ownership titles, and political broadsides illuminate Amasa Turner’s activities as a member of the Texas Legislature, officer in the Texas Revolution, farmer and cattle raiser, and land and town developer. Turner's recollections discuss the beginnings of the city of Galveston and some accounts of his service in the Army of the Republic of Texas and during the Texas Revolution. Business correspondence contains letters between Amasa Turner and numerous Texas leaders and businessmen, such as James M. Robinson, John W. Bowers, Gellhorn and Peacock, William Cook, E. D. Lynch, J. M. Magee, W. J. Mills, David Murphree, V. Borden, Ashbel Smith, Elisha M. Pease, David G. Burnet, and Jacob DeCordova.
Letters among members of the Turner, Wilkins, Batchelor, and Morse families comprise the personal correspondence of Amasa Turner, his wife Julia, and their children George, Marcellus, and Julia. In addition to the correspondence of George and Marcellus Turner, George’s journal, poetry, essays, and narratives describe the brothers’ experiences in California during the Gold Rush and George’s service in the Terry Texas Rangers during the Civil War. Correspondence, legal documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, and research material relate to Julia Turner’s education at Baylor University, her first husband Benjamin Franklin Batchelor’s Masonic activities, and her second husband James Frances Miller’s career. Additionally, photographs depict the Turner family, and newspaper clippings and obituaries pertain to the Turners.
Furthermore, the collection contains “Amasa Turner and the Regular Army of Texas,” a biography by Miller Harwood. Research notes and typescripts document the research of Paul C. Boethel on Amasa Turner’s service in the Texas Revolution and of Helen Rugeley’s genealogical research.
Use of photographic negatives requires an appointment; please contact the photo archivist for more information.
The heirs of Amasa Turner retain copyright of family correspondence and require permission for publication of quotes.
Amasa Turner Papers, 1827-1990, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Walter H. Richter, December 1966. Subsequent revisions were made by Steve Sappenbeck, April 1999.
This collection contains unprocessed materials.
Detailed Description of the Papers