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Theodore Turley: A Biography
Richard E. Turley, Jr.

[This is another in a continuing series of newsletter articles that together will make up the first rough draft of a biography of Theodore Turley. The draft will undergo considerable revision before being published in book form. I invite all family members to read it critically, make suggestions, and offer additional information for possible inclusion. Feel free to e-mail me.]

21 Preaching, Sightseeing, and Genealogy, 1-3 February 1840

When Theodore woke at his parents’ house on Saturday morning, 1 February 1840, he had one thing on his mind. “I Pray God,” he confided to his journal, “to give me access to the understanding of my relations that they may understand the things of God as they are.” That morning, he no doubt greeted his mother, and thereafter was happy to realize his first opportunity to preach to a family member. “I read several Chapters to my mother,” he wrote, perhaps referring to the Book of Mormon or other Latter-day Saint scripture. He also “made a few remarks” to her about what he read.

He left no record of his mother’s reaction to his teaching. She was probably tolerant of his new and in some ways startling religious ideas but also was probably occupied with her daily work of keeping house and especially of caring for her long absent guest. Perhaps believing himself to be unable to make further progress in teaching his family at that time, Theodore set about exploring his old neighborhood, and doing some sightseeing.

First, he visited the Market Place and the Town Hall, both of which he described as “the most Splended Buildings I ever Saw.” But the Town Hall must have impressed him the most since he used several lines in his journal to describe it.

He exclaimed it “A Splended Building of Gray marble Stone obtained from Anglesy I[ron] opisite Wales.” He gave its interior dimensions: 152 feet long, 65 feet high, 65 feet wide. The organ also impressed him, being over 50 feet high and weighing some 50 tons, with 5 rows of keys, 63 stops, and 3000 pipes, some 35 feet long. The building was illuminated with gas, and Theodore carefully noted that the “Branches for Gass light,” or lighting fixtures, were 6 feet 6 inches long. Another modern feature was its heating system. “This building,” Theodore wrote, “his warmed with hot water running under the flore forsed up by cold warter and producing cold are under the hot sent up by ventulatures &c.”

Theodore apparently toured the hall with “Mr Cambell Keeper of the Building,” who must have seized the opportunity to tell an interested stranger all about the facility. Theodore recorded that the building was used for triennial music festivals, concerts, Bible society meetings, missionary meetings and tea parties, public dinners, town meetings, flower shows, and public lectures.

Besides his sightseeing that day, Theodore also had a chance to research his genealogy. The way he recorded the information suggests he had access to a family Bible or some other organized record of family births, deaths, and marriages. “The Genegealogy of my ancestors,” Theodore began formally as he took down the information in his journal. Then he gave brief information about his father and paternal grandfather, after which he described his mother’s side of the family.

Theodore noted that his father was born in 1770 and was at that time 70 years old. He gave particular attention to his father’s father, Joseph Turley of Sedgley Parish, Staffordshire. His grandfather, he noted, was “Steward under Lord Dudley,” “Clarck of the Parrish,” and “A man of understanding.” He died around 1819 when Theodore was about 19 years of age.

Theodore’s above-mentioned paternal grandfather, Joseph Turley, was a literate man, as shown by the signature on his wedding record. From photocopy in possession of Richard E. Turley, Jr.

His mother’s parents, he observed, were farmers. He described his mother’s birth in 1775, his grandfather Yates’s death in 1783, and his grandmother’s birth, remarriage, and death. His grandmother had 14 children and died at age 50. His parents married in 1792 and had nine children, whom he also listed, along with their birth years.

That evening, Theodore visited with his wife, Frances Amelia Kimberley’s family. “This Day finished it in company with Mrs T Kimberley & Thomas hersson,” Theodore wrote. “Took supper with them. Thomas has grown a fine young man. He has one boy 2 years old.”

He returned to his parents’ home and slept the night there.

The next day was Sunday, and Theodore went to Church at the Methodist chapel he had frequented before leaving England. “Saw a man of my old acquaintances,” he wrote. Since Theodore would later be persecuted and imprisoned by a Methodist, it is possible that the acquaintance he met that day responded negatively to what he had to say, especially considering his journal entry: “I pray God To give The People eyes to See,” Theodore implored.

Theodore spent the afternoon with his parents and “Some of my furends.” That evening he went to his brother John’s home to spend time with John’s family, as well as with their eldest sister, Elizabeth Walton, and her husband, no doubt keeping uppermost in his mind his primary reason for the visit.

Later that night, he returned to his parents’ home and slept there with his Grandfather Bolton.

Monday morning found him with the same prayer in his heart as before: “This morning my hearts Desire before God [is] this, That he will op[en] my way That I may preach To my Parants The Gospel of Jesus Christ.” He had several chances that day to talk with family members. In the morning, he saw his uncle Thomas Hart, and he had dinner with his sister Mary Ann Mills.

“Spent the afternoon,” he wrote, “in Troying to obtain an oppertunity to communicate to my Br John The Glorious Things of The kingdom God.” He also went to see his brother-in-law Jesse Kimberley. “Found him and Wife well in health and 7 Children,” though “Badly off for business.”

That night, Theodore spent time “communicating to my Grandfather, Mother and father the Things that God has don and will do in This Generation.”

Day after day, Theodore tried to convince his family members of the truth of the Restored Gospel. They seem to have listened listen patiently, as kind family members would, but must not have responded enthusiastically as Theodore had hoped. He would spend several more days preaching to them and then finally, in seeming frustration, strike out for missionary fields more ready for harvest.1

[Next issue: “Trying to Convince the Family”]

© 2003 by Richard E. Turley, Jr. (Reprinted with permission.)
Originally published in the June 2003 Theodore Turley Family Organization Newsletter

  1. Theodore Turley Mission Journal, 1839-1840, 32-34.