Biography of Clarence William Turner

From the pioneer epoch in the history of Oklahoma’s development along industrial and commercial lines the name of Turner has been associated with mercantile interests. It has been inseparably interwoven with the annals of trade that stands for a dominant progressiveness, resulting largely in the up building of Muskogee. Clarence William Turner, whose name introduces this review, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, June 18, 1857, and comes of English ancestry, the founder of the family in the new world being John Turner, who crossed the Atlantic from England and became a resident of Canandaigua, Ontario county, New York, where in 1798 was born his son, William Turner, the first white child born at that place.

After reaching maturity William Turner left New York and became a pioneer resident of Cuyahoga county, Ohio, while subsequently he established his home in Allen county, Indiana, there remaining to the time of his demise. His son, John E. Turner, was born in Wickliffe, Ohio, August 15, 1824. He spent his youthful days in Cuyahoga County, that state, and in his later years came to the Indian Territory, where he figured prominently for many years in connection with commercial pursuits. He was married in Ohio to Julia Ayers, who was born in Bristol, that state, in December, 1828, and both reached an advanced age, the death of John E. Turner occurring in a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, December 10, 1898, while his wife continued to reside in Muskogee until April 9, 1915. They were parents of three children: Clarence William; Effie, who became the wife of J. A. Kirkwood, a commission merchant of New Orleans, Louisiana; and Fred E., a retired merchant of Muskogee, Oklahoma.

The story of John E. Turner deserves more attention in detail, as in the course of years he became an influencing factor upon the history of the southwest. In early life he was employed as a clerk in a general store at Willoughby, Ohio, and afterward was a member of the surveying party that surveyed the Cleveland & Erie Railroad, subsequently a part of the Lake Shore System, becoming yardmaster for that line. It was in September, 1867, that John E. Turner established his home in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he became a member of the general mercantile firm of Buckles, Avers & Company investing about sixty-five hundred dollars in the business. At that date goods were shipped by boat down the Ohio river, from Cincinnati, but the boat was sunk, causing a total loss of the purchase. Mr. Turner, however, had taken out insurance upon his goods and this money enabled the firm to purchase a new stock, which was transported in safety to Fort Smith, Arkansas, and there placed on sale. Mr. Turner remained with the firm of Buckles, Avers & Company until 1869, when he was given one-third of the stock and with this opened a store in Okmulgee, Indian Territory, where he continued in business until 1875, when he sold out to his son, C. W. Turner, and William Harvison.

Two years later John E. Turner became a resident of Muskogee and one of its pioneer merchants. He established business under the firm style of Turner & Parkinson and afterward conducted his interests as J. E. Turner & Company, selling out in the spring of 1898, his death occurring December 10, 1898.

He had prospered in his commercial pursuits, becoming one of the wealthy men of the territory, as wealth was reckoned in those days. He belonged to the Masonic and Odd Fellows societies and was always a stalwart advocate of Republican principles.

His son, Clarence William Turner, was a lad of but thirteen years when the family home was established in the Indian Territory. His lessons of life were largely learned in the school of experience and he gained valuable knowledge of commercial pursuits as a clerk in his father’s store. In 1874, however, he had the benefit of instruction in Jones Business College at St. Louis, Missouri, and in the following year he became one of the owners of the general store at Okmulgee, which had been founded by his father. In September, 1881, however, he sold out to his former partner, Mr. Harvison and James Parkinson, and in July, 1882, removed to Muskogee, where he purchased the hardware store of J. S. Atkinson, this being the first enterprise of the kind established in the Indian Territory. Mr. Turner greatly developed the business under the style of the Turner Hardware Company, selling to both the wholesale and retail trade and carrying an extensive line of hardware, implements, furniture and lumber.

For thirty years he continued at the head of the business and then sold out in 1912. The years had marked a steady progress, undeterred by the obstacles and difficulties which occasionally barred his path. When in 1886 his building was destroyed by fire, he at once erected a more commodious one on the old site on North Main Street. Again fire visited the establishment in 1899 but again there arose from the ashes a new building, larger and finer than the previous one.

From time to time Mr. Turner made investment in Muskogee real estate until his holdings were quite extensive and his operations in the building line contributed in large measure to the growth and improvement of the city. He has always been recognized as a man of marked business capacity and power, readily discriminating between the essential and the non-essential in business affairs and directing his interests with a keen sagacity and sound judgment productive of splendid results.

Following in the political, as in the business, footsteps of his father Clarence W. Turner became an earnest Republican, loyal at all times to the principles in which he believed. He has served for several terms as alderman of the city, yet could not be called a politician in the sense of office seeking, his ambition lying in other directions. He has become a Consistory Mason and is a life member of the Mystic Shrine and also of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks.

In September, 1883, Mr. Turner was united in marriage to Miss Tookah Butler and they have become the parents of three children: Tookah, now the wife of Charles Bagg, of Muskogee; Clarence William; and Marian E., who is now the wife of C. M. Daniels of Chicago, managing salesman of the structural iron department for the Bethlehem Steel Company in Chicago and vicinity. Mrs. Daniels was educated in Monticello Seminary at Godfrey, Illinois, which she attended for two years and Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She next entered Vassar College and she received advanced musical training in the Walter Damrosch Institute of Music in Chicago. On the 18th of June, 1918, she became the wife of C. M. Daniels.

Clarence William Turner, Jr., the only son of the family, was born at Muskogee in 1890, and after acquiring a public school education in his native city attended Kempers Military School at Boonville, Missouri. He received his business training in his father’s store. Following America’s entrance into the World war his patriotic spirit was aroused by the events which were so rapidly shaping the world’s history and he enlisted in the United States army as a private, while subsequently he was advanced to the rank of Sergeant, remaining with his command until the close of the war. It is characteristic of the Turner family that duty ever stands first and thus he placed his service before business, although there devolved upon him important responsibilities in the latter connection.



Benedict, John Downing. Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma: including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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