Turner - Watson Twigs and Branches

 By William Turner Watson


Wasn't Minden a really great place to grow up in? There were so many things to
do that required little money right in Minden. When I was a junior in high school,
I swept up the Emmanuel Baptist on Saturday mornings and made $3.50, and that
would be enough for a night at the Joy Drive in for me and my steady girlfriend.

My family went to Shady Grove Baptist Church before they moved into town around
1922 and started going to First Baptist Church. My Mother, as a college project, took
the church minutes for Shady Grove church. Of particular interest to me is a dispute
that "Billy" Turner had with his cousin over the harvest of 40 acres of cotton land they
leased together. Back then disputes were often brought to church councils. Such a
council appointed members to go talk to the cousins to bring about reconciliation.
Though his cousin agreed to work toward reconciliation, my great-grandfather would
not. Thus, he was eventually excommunicated, and he left for some better farmland
near Plano, Texas, in a better river bottom. That's where my grandfather June Howard
Turner was born on June 21 or 22 (records differ, and even he wasn't sure), 1876.
After a drought the first season and a flood the next, W. A. Turner came back home
and began farming land that my great-great grandfather John Sydney Killen, his father-
in-law, leased and sold to him. He did not return to Shady Grove Church, but took his
family to First Baptist in Minden - a long trip each Sunday morning.

John Sydney Killen came to the area from Georgia with one slave, a "bodyguard,"
Louis Cornelius (Mr. Joe Cornelius's great-great grandfather) in 1948. He was a son
in a large plantation family, and he came to the area with the Monzingo family. He settled
the area where Caney Lake is, land he bought from the railroad, and in 1851,
married my great-great grandmother, Sarah Ann Monzingo. Sarah had gone to school with him at his family's plantation. The Monzingos had settled to the north, further up what's now the Dorcheat Road near Shady Grove Church. My mother and her brothers and sisters called them Grandfaddy and Grandmoney. In 1871 he was elected our first legislator from the newly formed Webster parish. In the 1880's they moved closer to town, with my great-grandfather Billy Turner farming most of their land (almost 700 acres) west of the tracks in Minden and built a home 1886) that still stands today on the Shreveport Road just across from Neta's Barbeque. The drive- in was once part of their large cotton-corn farm. The area around Creighton Hill in Minden is called the Killen Quarters. It's where many of the hands lived. (Some think it to be called the "Killing" Quarters). John Agan has done an article on John Sidney Killen and at one time wanted to do a doctoral thesis on him. He died in 1903, and was at one time the senior deacon of only six deacons at First Baptist Church. When he lived on his first farm, he experimented with growing white muscadines (what we called scuppernongs) and making wine, which was sold at various stores and shipped to various stores in Hot Springs. The bottles had a signature half waxed onto the top of the bottle (almost doubling the price!) The wine was at one time used for the Lord's Supper at First Baptist! Later he passed the winery on to his son-in-law, my great-grandfather. Billy Turner operated it until his wife made him shut it down! The house where John Sidney and Sarah first lived was a two-story home that was near the end of the present-day old Boy Scout Road (in the bend). Later, my great-grandfather's family (Billy Turner's) lived there. It burned in 1965. The Shady Grove Church was where the Monzingos continued to go to church. I read Marilyn Miller's book, Sons of Darkness, Sons of Light and agree. It was excellently written.)

Later when I was principal at E. S. Richardson Elementary School, I got back at my daddy and bought a classroom of piano keyboards hooked up to a computer so that our music teacher could teach basic piano to each of our fourth and fifth graders. Our music teacher was my good friend Cindy Richardson Madden. E. S. Richardson was her great-Uncle.

                                  

                                                      This was once the home of Effie and Lola Turner


The house just to the right of *Happy Turner's Boarding House was where Dr. and Mrs. Baker lived. Then just to the right of that is a little gingerbread trimmed house, across from the big  Fogle home. That house was built by my grandfather and his brothers for their old maid school teacher sisters, Effie and Lola Turner, to live and to take care of their daddy, my great-grandfather William A "Billy" Turner when he was a widower and too old to live in the country out on the old Boy Scout Road.

My grandfather, June Howard Turner, was a cousin of  Harol Lynn's grandfather, B. F. Turner, Sr. Harol Lynn can tell you much about Happy Turner's Boarding House. That was truly a great place to eat. Harol Lynn's uncle, B. F. Turner, Jr. and his wife Grace lived just down the street from us on Chandler Street when I was growing up. Grace Turner was the First Baptist pianist for many years and was a wonderful piano teacher. Before she died at Meadowview, I played sax each Sunday afternoon at Meadowview Nursing Home. Most of the patients there with happy with whatever I played, but Miss Grace was my biggest critic! She was a sweet woman. My mother, Grace Turner Watson, was often confused with Grace Turner just down the road. ALL Turner women played the piano, including my mother. My mother had just boys. She made me play sax, and she also really wanted me to take piano lessons, but my daddy wouldn't pay for them. Later when I was principal at E. S. Richardson Elementary School, I got back at my daddy and bought a classroom of piano keyboards hooked up to computers so that our music teacher could teach basic piano to each of our fourth and fifth graders. Our music teacher was my good friend Cindy Richardson Madden.  E. S. Richardson was her great-uncle.

I wrote an article for the Minute magazine about my great-aunt Effie Turner. She taught for 54 years - The majority of those years teaching a great many young folks in Minden to read, write and count. She also kept up with history of the Turner family. My mother mother picked up where Aunt Effie left off. I very much enjoyed interviewing the people in Minden who were her first graders when getting information to write my article. They were all in their 70's or  80's - most in their 80's. Some, like Maxine and Eugene Allen, and Mrs. Henry Lester, later married! Effie had earned a masters degree in education at Southwestern in a day and time when most teachers just had a certificate (E. S. Richardson only got a bachelors after becoming superintendent.) She also got a nursing degree, though she never practiced nursing. She did it so that she could look after her daddy in his old age.) She and Lola both taught piano to supplement their income, and Lola played for silent pictures.


Aunt Effie and Mrs. Fogle usually started out their day having coffee together. In 1936, Aunt Effie bought a live oak back from Southwestern that was grown for her by the president of Southwestern, and they planted it in Mrs. Fogle's front yard. It is large and still bears a plaque Mrs. Fogle placed there indicating where it came from. My mother and her three sisters all learned to play piano there. I have in my den the piano that Effie and Lola used. I had it restored in the 70's. They were packrats. When I took possession of the piano, I found the bill of sale and the five-year warranty. Their parents gave it to them as a Christmas present in 1899.

It was delivered from New Orleans on Dec. 21, 1899, and cost $200 - a small fortune back then.  Aunt Effie was the latter sister to die, in 1976.  My wife and I almost bought her house with the wood shingled roof and all to restore (for $10,000) but we decided to build instead.  What I know about my family's history from the Turners, Botongs, and Killens comes from my mother and Aunt Effie.  When my mother and her sisters and brothers and many of my cousins married or reached adulthood, Aunt Effie would give them a "brown notebook" in which she would have written down the family history and traditions and notable quotes by our ancestors.  I NEVER GOT ONE!  That is until my mom died and I inherited her things.  Somehow, she had her sister Elsie Boyd's daughter's - Marsha Boyd Salmon's.  Marsha may want hers back!
 
(I noticed the picture of Minden High that Bob Grambling took.  Greg most likely told you that Bob's vast collection of negatives is now at the parish library.)
 
I suppose that Bobby Morehead also told you that he taught James Burton (he calls James "Brother") how to play.  James played with the Harmon Drew Group at two jobs when I was with the band.  He is not only very talented, but also a real gentleman.  Bobby Morehead is one of Minden's unsung legends.  He grew up with the development of electric guitars by Les Paul and by John Fender.  I believe he has a Fender guitar that John Fender custom made for him.  He has given lessons most of his life.  If I had a child who wanted to play guitar, I would see to it that he had the opportunity to have Bobby Morehead as a teacher.
 

 


(*Photographs of these house are in the Residential section.)