Robert TURNBULL, residing on section 28, La Prairie township, is a
well-known citizen of Marshall county, a breeder of Hereford cattle, and a
general farmer who thoroughly understands his business. He was born in
Roxburghsire, Scotland, December 10, 1827, and is the son of John and
Beatrice TURNBULL, both of whom were also natives of bonnie Scotland. He
grew to manhood in his native country, his education being received in the
common schools prior to his fifteenth year, at which time he was apprenticed
to learn the carpenter’s trade. His apprenticeship continued until he
reached his majority, and for his services he received his board, and at the
end of the time five pounds sterling. He had a very liberal taskmaster, and
has no complaints to make of his term of apprenticeship. In addition to
house carpentering, he learned the trade of a cabinetmaker, everything in
that day being made by hand. After serving his time, he engaged with his old
employer as a journeyman and continued in his service in that capacity for
two years, receiving a salary of four dollars per week. These wages seem
very small in comparison with those paid at the present time. He was,
however, contented with what he received and did his duty faithfully and
The new world, with its possibilities, was now opening up before our subject, and in company with his father, mother and sister, he crossed the Atlantic to New York city, and located at Geneva, New York, where he remained three years, working at his trade of carpenter. Three months of this time, however, he spent in Canada, but preferring the treatment he received in the United States, and believing his chances for the future much better here, he returned to the States. In 1854, the family came to Illinois and located in the southeast part of La Prairie township, where Robert purchased a tract of land as a home for his parents, on which they moved, but for three years more he continued to work at his trade.
The time had now come when he was to settle down to that occupation which he had selected for his life work, that of a general farmer. With characteristic energy he set to work improving his farm, and in due time the wild land was transformed into a most productive field, yielding its fruit year by year. On this farm his mother died, after having spent a life of devotion to husband and children and with the consciousness of rest and reunion “beyond the river.”
Mr. TURNBULL commenced life upon his farm with a single horse, but soon purchased a yoke of oxen with which he did his breaking. On reaching this country his assets were but about one hundred dollars, which was increased to six hundred dollars on reaching Illinois. This sum he invested in land, and upon this farm he lived ten years, engaging in its cultivation, and making thereon extensive improvements. During this time he made several small trades, and purchased eighty acres of his present farm.
While residing upon his original farm, Mr. TURNBULL was united in marriage, February 26, 1858, with Miss Mary SMITH, a sister of James, William and Andrew SMITH, well-known brothers, residing in La Prairie township, sketches of whom appear elsewhere in this work. This union was a happy one, and to them were born six children – Minnie, John, William, who died in 1866, at the age of four years, Robert, Beattie and Willie. The first named married Robert HALL, manager of one of the departments for the wholesale house of Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co., in Chicago. The others yet reside at the parental home, except John, who is married and is farming adjoining his father. Mrs. TURNBULL died September 1, 1877, and is laid to rest in the LaPrairie U. P. cemetery. She was a woman of strong character, an affectionate wife and loving mother, and her memory is cherished by those for whom she was ever ready to sacrifice, the husband who was left to mourn, and the children she gently ministered unto.
Robert Turnbull was always an industrious man. Commencing life in humble circumstances in a strange land, he saved his earnings, and with the accumulation of some years, made his present purchase of land, to which he added from time to time until he now owns some four hundred and forty acres of as fine land as can be seen in the entire county. While living upon another place, he yet retains the first land purchased on coming to Illinois. He now resides on what was long known as the Calvin Stowell farm, which he has greatly improved since it came into his possession. For twenty years he has been a feeder and breeder of cattle and hogs, having at all times upon his place from forty to ninety head. In the raising and feeding of cattle, he has been fairly successful. For ten years he has been a breeder of thoroughbred Hereford cattle and now has about twenty head of fine animals, including "Cherry Boy, second," No. 49032, bred by Van Atta, of Fowler, Indiana, This animal took sweepstake prize over all breeds at the state fair at Peoria in 1891 and 1892, also at the Iowa state fair at Des Moines in 1892. Several animals bred by Cherry Boy, have been sold by Mr. Turnbull at good prices. In addition to his cattle industries, he feeds a large number of sheep, having under his care in the winter of 1894-5, about fourteen hundred head.
In politics, Mr. Turnbull is a republican, with which party he has affiliated since becoming a naturalized citizen. He has held about all the township offices and served in convention. While not at present as active as in times past, he yet keeps up his interest in political affairs. Religiously, he was reared a Presbyterian, but is now a member of the Congregational church at Lawn Ridge, and is an active worker in the church. He is an advocate of temperance, but is not a prohibitionist. As a citizen and neighbor he is universally esteemed.
John Turnbull, second child and eldest son of Robert and Mary (Smith) Turnbull, was born in La Prairie township, November 9, i860. He grew to manhood on his father's farm, and was educated in the schools of the neighborhood. Until his twenty-fifth year he remained at home, assisting in the farm work, and doing his share in developing the resources of the place. On the 9th of September, 1886, he was united in marriage with Miss Clara Noel, of Lacon, daughter of Michael and Margaret Noel. She was educated and is a graduate of the Mt. Morris Female Seminary, and for some years was a teacher in the public schools of Marshall county. She is a woman of more than ordinary ability and is a worthy helpmeet of her husband. For some time her mother has made her home with her. To them have been born three children — Robert, Andrew and John Lawrence.
The farm of John Turnbull consists of two hundred and thirteen acres in the center of La Prairie township, known as the old Joseph Calder farm. It is well improved in every respect, with good substantial buildings which are a credit to their owner. The buildings at the farm are first-class, and are in keeping with the farm. He, also, like his father, gives special attention to cattle feeding, and in the winter of 1895-6, had upon his place about one hundred head. In politics, he is a republican, and religiously is identified with the United Presbyterian church.
Extracted March 2011 by Norma Hass from The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois, 1896.
The home farm of Robert TURNBULL is pleasantly and conveniently located on section 28, La Prairie township, not far from the village of Speer, and for many years the owner of this valuable property has been accorded recognition as one of the leading farmers and stock-raisers of this part of the state. He was born in Roxburghshire, Scotland, on the 10th of December, 1827. His parents were John and Beatrice (SCOON) TURNBULL, who were likewise natives of the same country. The father, who was born April 30, 1782, came to the United States with his family in 1851, landing at New York city, after which he located at Geneva, New York, where he remained for three years. In 1854 he came to Illinois, settling on the southeast part of La Prairie township. For a long period he was engaged in farming here and passed away on the 3d of February, 1870, at the venerable age of eighty-eight years. In the old cemetery in Scotland where the ancestors of the family lie buried there are gravestones bearing date back to 1622. In the family of John and Beatrice TURNBULL were three children: John, who died in Scotland at the age of sixteen or seventeen years; Robert, of this review; and Jeanette, the wife of Robert PRINGLE, who is the oldest man in the township, and whose sketch appears elsewhere in this work.
Robert TURNBULL was reared to manhood in his native country, his* education being acquired in the common schools prior to his sixteenth year, at which time he entered upon an apprenticeship to the carpenter's trade. His term of indenture extended to the time when he attained his majority during which period he was given his board and at the end of that time was paid five pounds sterling or about twenty-five dollars. In addition to house carpentering he learned the trade of cabinet-making, everything in that day being done by hand. After serving his term he continued with his old employer as a journeyman and acted in that capacity for two years at a salary of four dollars per week. He did his duty faithfully and cheerfully and was thus in the line of promotion, but the new world with its business opportunities and advantages seemed to him to offer a better field of labor and in company with his parents and his sister he crossed the Atlantic to New York city.
For three years he worked at the carpenter's trade in Geneva, New York, save for a brief period of five months spent in Canada. His preference, however, was for the United States and, believing his chances to be much better in the republic, he returned. In 1854 the family came to Illinois, settling in the southeast part of La Prairie township, where Mr. TURNBULL purchased a tract of land as a home for his father and mother. They removed to that farm but for three years thereafter he continued to work at his trade. He determined, however, to make general farming his life occupation and took up the task of improving and clearing his land. When he began his farm work he had but a single horse. Soon, however, he purchased a yoke of oven with which he broke the prairie. He had about one hundred dollars when he came to the new world, which was increased to six hundred dollars by the time he reached Illinois. This sum he invested in land and upon the farm he lived for ten years, engaged in its cultivation and also making some improvements there.
It was while living upon his father's farm that Mr. TURNBULL was married to Miss Mary SMITH, whom he wedded February 26, 1858. They became the parents of six children: Minnie is now the wife of R. W. HALL, of Chicago. John, who is represented on another page of this volume, is living on his farm adjoining his father's. William, who was born September 4, 1862, and died July 12, 1866; Robert, who was born July 18, 1864, and has carried on farming on the old home place, where he lives with his wife, who bore the maiden name of Mary E. SCOTT and to whom he was married in 1896. She is a daughter of William SCOTT, a well known resident of the county. Robert TURNBULL, Jr., is a breeder of full blooded Hereford cattle. Beatrice died February 10, 1905. William is in the live stock commission business in Chicago. Mrs. TURNBULL passed away September 1, 1877, and was laid to rest in the United Presbyterian cemetery in La Prairie township. She was devoted to the welfare and happiness of her family and counted no personal sacrifice on her part too great if it would promote the interests of her husband and children.
Mr. TURNBULL has always been an industrious, energetic man and in his farming and stock-raising operations he has become well known. He has made very judicious purchases, buying land which has increased in value, owing to the rapid settlement of the county as well as to the improvements which have been placed upon it. His home farm is splendidly improved with all modern accessories and conveniences and everything about the farm is indicative of the careful supervision and enterprising spirit of the owner. For many years he has engaged in raising and breeding thoroughbred Hereford cattle and has owned some very fine animals. He has also fed large numbers of cattle. Whatever he has undertaken he has carried forward to successful completion, manifesting a keen business discernment that has enabled him to readily determine the outcome of any business proposition. He is now to a large extent leaving the active work of the farm to others, for he has passed the seventy-eighth milestone on life's journey and well merits rest from further toil.
In polities Mr. TURNBULL is a republican, having supported the party since becoming a naturalized citizen. He has frequently attended its conventions and has held a number of local offices, to which he has been called by the vote of his fellow townsmen, who recognize his worth and ability. He was reared in the faith of the Presbyterian church but is now a member of the Congregational church and has been an active worker in its behalf. He is also an advocate of the cause of temperance and in fact is a champion of all those interests which tend to uplift humanity and benefit the race. His name is honored by all because of his upright life and his good qualities far overbalance the mistakes which all men make, gaining for him the respect and good will of all with whom he has come in contact during the years of his residence in this county.
Extracted June 2011 by Norma Hass from
Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties