Stephen Reuben Turner was my 6th great-grandfather, son of Terisha Turner and father of Mary Catherine Turner Rives. There are two copies of his will out there: this transcription is from a copy found in North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 at Ancestry.com. I believe this version to be the more accurate because it includes more information than the other copy at Family Search—and because you couldn’t make up this grammar and spelling if you tried. While Stephen signed his name with an “X” indicating he was illiterate, the will was written by someone who spelled the way they spoke, using “Diner” for Dinah, “Cheer” for chair, and so on.
I have just begun to research this line, and it seems that these Turners were pretty well-off. Stephen Turner owned a lot of land and livestock, farmed tobacco, and seems to have a sideline as blacksmith. I have seen Stephen’s father referred to as “gentry”: though that is a broader term in the American context than in the British, it certainly wasn’t applied to poor people.
And of course, they held slaves. Many are listed in this will. Stephen gave three enslaved people “special consideration.” James and Hanner (or Hannah) were allowed to choose which child they would live with after Stephen’s wife, Susanna’s, demise. Hannah, is probably the same Hannah that was willed to Susanna by her father, William Hamner, in 1788.
In addition Sam, who may have been the child of James and Hannah, was to be “equally divided” among the daughters, but not to be sold out of the family. In effect, this likely meant that Sam went to one daughter who bought or bartered out the “shares” of the others.
In fact, Susanna Hamner Turner’s estate inventory from 1813 does not mention these three individuals, or any other slaves. So, it seems likely that Stephen’s wishes were respected in this regard.
On the other hand, Stephen blithely promised the unborn child of his enslaved woman, Diner (or Dinah) to his (presumably youngest) daughter, Rebeckah Turner, once that child was “brought to perfection” by Diner.
Warren County, North Carolina Wills, Vol 4-5, Moo-Yea (download PDF)
14 Oct 1799
In the name of god amen this 14th Day of Oct in the year of our Lord one thousand seventeen Hundred & Ninety Nine I Stephen Turner of the County of worrin & State of North Carolina being sick & weak in Boddy but of perfect sound in mind & Memory Thanks be to almighty god for the same There fore calling unto mind the Mortallity of my Body and Knowing That it is appointed for all men once to Die Do Make and ordain this my Last will and Testament
That is to say principallity and first of all I Recommend my soul into the hands of almity God who gave it and as for my Boddy I Recommend it to the Earth to be Buried in a Christian Like and Decent manner at the Discretion of my Executors.
And as touching such worldly Estate where with it has pleased god to blefs me in This Life I give devise and dispose of the same in manner and form as following
Item: it is my will and I do order that all my Just Debts and funeral Charges be paid and satisfy’d.
Item: I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife Susannah Turner the Plantation and Land whereon I now live with all the necessaries and covenances abiding Their to only striking off Two Hundred acres of the sd Land joining Wm Coursey and County Line Lying on little Nutbush.
Also give to my wife three Negroes namely James, Hanner and sam to her dureing her naturall life also The Evesing waggon now on my plantation and five Horses namely Buck, Dick, Baly, Fly, Juel also a riding mare sprille a yok of oxen, and Cart also my Stock of Cattle hogs and sheep only such as I do Reserve for my Children as I shall make mention of.
The above mentioned waggon and horses and the stock of Different kind to Remain hers in Durring her Natural Life and after her Dec+ then to be Equally Divided amongst my Daughters
it is also my will that after the Dec+ of wife that the above mentioned James and Hanner should have the choice of liveing with Either of my children which they choos and the above mentioned sam after the Dec+ of my wife to be Equally Divided amongst my Daughters but not to go out of the family.
Item: I give to my son Teresha Turner a negro man named Jobe.
Item: I give to my son William Turner 3 hundred acres of Land 2 Hundred acres he now lives on & one Hundred acres Joining him that I Bought of Conl fill Hawkins and a negro woman named truelove.
Item: I give my son Stephen Turner a parcel of land part of the sd Tract of land I now live on Bounded as follows: beginning at Wm Turner’s corner running west to a Corner in _____ Williams Line Thence North to three poplers thence Eastwardly Down a small Branch to Dick’s Branch Thence up Dick’s branch to Wm Turner’s Corner and a negro man harry & two Cows and Calves and two steers and 3 sheep.
Item: I give to my son James Turner the Tract of land lying on Deep Creek and a Negro man named peter and a Negro girl named Dice two Cows & Calves and two steers and two sows and pigs and a mare named _____ and three head of sheep such as two Ewe and a Ram or wether.
Item: I give to my son Hamner Turner Two Hundred acres of Land the above mentioned Land joining Wm Carsey & the County Line on Little Nutbush and one Negro woman named Easter two Cows and Calves and two steers two sows and pigs three head of sheep such as two Ewes and and a ram or wether and a mare named switch.
Item: I give to my son Hendley Turner two hundred acres of Land lying on Dick’s Branch and joining Wm Turner and Stephen Turner a negro woman named Dyner a Reserve I now make of the first Child that sd Dyner should bring to perfection which I also make further mention.
Item: I give to my Daughter Mary Reves two negroes namely agga and ansel.
Item: give my Daughter Susannah Johnson two negroes namely Lucy and Jery.
Item: I give my Daughter Elizabeth Thornton two negroes names Charity and Nelson.
Item: I give unto my Daughter sarah Turner two negroes namely Selvey and Ephraim and two Cows and Calves and two steers and two sows and pigs three head of sheep such as two Ewes and Ram or weather.
Item: I give to my Daughter Rhoda two negroes namely Leanna and Jo and two Cows and Calves and two steers & two sows & pigs and three sheep such as two yews and a Ram or weather.
Item: I give my Daughter Rebeckah Turner two Negroes the name of one is Mille the other is the above mentioned Child that the above mentioned Negro woman Diner should bring to perfectionand two Cows and Calves two steers, two sows and pigs three sheep such as two Ewes & a Ram or weather.
It is my will also also that my son Hendley Turner should have a man named Bounce two Cows and Calves two sows and pigs and three sheep such as two Ewes and a ram or wether and two steers and the manner plantation and Land where on I now live after the Dec+ of my wife
It is also my will that as my younger Children should gro Up to take Possession of the above mentioned property which I give them that they should be furnished with a bed and furniture the names of those that I Desire to have a bed and furniture as they gro up Stephen, James, Sarah, Hamner, Hendley, Rhoda, Rebecca
also 150 acres of Land at the Dry Pond in warren County 300 acres of Land Lying over Tar River granvel County to be sold and Devided amongst my Daughters
and my old Waggon and geer and my Rideing Cheer and two beast and my Tobacco notes now in the barn and my present Crop of Tobacco now to be inspected to be sold and all my Just Debts paid and the Remainder of the money to be put to the Use of supporting my wife and small Children
and my Blacksmith working Tools and all the other articles named and un none That should be made appear to my property I give to my wife for the use and support of her and the small Children
further it is my Desire that all my younger Children that is to say them which have not married should Continue and Their properly with Their mother and on the plantation whereon I now Live til they marry or Come of age
And Lastly I appoint Constitute and ordain my fife (wife) and my son Wm Turner and my son Stephen Turner Executors to This my Last will and Testament Disannulling all others and acknowledging this to my by last will and Testament in Witness where of the sd Stephen Turner has here unto set his hand and seal the Day and year first above written
Stephen X Turner (his mark)
Sign’d seal’d publish’d and Deliver’d by the sd Stephen Turner to be his last will and Testament in the presents of us
Anderson X Tucker (his mark)
Warren County November court 1799
This last will and Testament of Stephen Turner dec’d was proved by the oaths of Thomas Hilliard and Daniel Johnson and ordered to be Recorded whereupon ___ Testament was granted to Susanna Turner Exr. & Stephen Turner Exr. qualified accordingly