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Bear Creek cemetery history unfolds via notes left behind by pioneer family

The Turner-Brown stone, at Bear Creek Cemetery, pictured, represents the family of Cathi McDade’s great grandmother, Eva Catherine Brown Turner, born Jan. 10, 1862, Marion County, Mo., and died June 20, 1954, Hannibal. Mrs. Turner was the daughter of Francis and Susan (Baxter) Brown, and wife of Samuel H. Turner (1855-1923) PHOTO/MIKE MCDADE

Tucked away in a lock box, far away in Southern Arizona, Cathi Conner McDade discovered a type-written history of Marion County, Missouri’s Bear Creek Church, School and Cemetery.

Curious as to why her mother, the late Frances Robinson Conner Figueroa, would have such a document with other important family papers, Cathi reached out for answers.

During May 2015, Cathi McDade and her husband, Mike, made a trip from Portland, Ore., to Hannibal, to visit the town where her mother grew up and where her grandparents, Thomas C. and Essie Turner Robinson, spent their lifetimes.

What Cathi found was the reasoning behind the safe-keeping of this historic document: Her ancestors – the Turners – were instrumental in the establishment of the Bear Creek church and associated properties. Cathi’s grandmother, who she visited in Hannibal as a child, was a board member, and therefore a guardian of the family’s interests.

The following family lineage was compiled using documents and family trees found on

The Turner family of Miller Township was descended from a family who lived in Albermarle County, Va.

George Turner, the earliest family member to come to Northeast Missouri, was a son of Charles and Mary Ann Turner. In 1791 George Turner married Anna Maupin, the daughter of Gabriel Maupin. About 1814 George and his brothers, Reuben and William were living in Pendleton County, Ky. George and Anna had several children. Their son, Charles L. (1792-1864) married Phoebe Griffin (1797-1823) in 1815.

In 1818, George and Anna (Maupin) moved to northeast Missouri. Their sons Charles L., (1822 to 1865) and Gabriel and William were with them.

Various family trees:

Charles L. (1792-1864) married Phoebe Griffin (1797-1823) in 1815.

* Charles L. Turner Jr. (1822 to 1865) married Harriett Eliza McReynolds (1832-1912)

*** John McReynolds (1802-1868) married Sarah Henry (1811-1867) and were parents of:

**** Harriet Eliza McReynolds Turner Shimer, born Jan. 26, 1832; died August 1912; 1st husband was Charles Leche Turner (1822-1865) She was the mother of:

***** Samuel Henry Turner, born 1855; died 1923. Samuel was the father of

****** Essie Turner Robinson, Cathi McDade’s grandmother, who died 1970s. Essie was the mother of:

******* Frances Turner Robinson (1919-2014), Cathi McDade’s mother.

Hurley and Roberta Hagood confirm, in “Withers Mill, Miller Township,” that George Turner and his wife Anna (Cathi’s six-times great grandparents) and her five times great grandparents, Charles L. (1792-1864) and Phoebe Griffin (1797-1823) were among the 11 charter members of the Bear Creek Church, which was organized on Aug. 5, 1821, about the time Missouri was becoming a state.

George and Anna Turner opened their home for worship services during the first year, and later congregants met in an old cooper shop. For 22 years, members of the Bear Creek Church met in a story-and-a-half log building that took four years to complete.

Finally, in 1829, a site was selected for a new church building, but it would be another four years before the building was complete. This building was of log, a story and a half in height. Galleries were provided for colored people wishing to attend.

In 1856, a stone building was erected. The stone frame is all that is left of the former church, which was destroyed by fire in 1982. The structure is located just off of Centerville Road to the west of Hannibal.

On Dec. 17, 1913, the Bear Creek Cemetery Association met and drew up their Articles of Association. Prior to that, the “Bear Creek Burying Ground Association” had used the cemetery. Lots were platted and sold, and people were buried. Upon incorporation, the new association agreed to provide proper deeds to all those previously buried there.

The 1913 board members were Van B. Lefever, president; George W. Minor, vice president; Orion Turner, secretary and treasurer; C.F. Turner and Stephen Glascock. Other members of the association at that time were G.O. Lear, K.M. Lear, B.V. Hendren, S.H. Turner, Henry H. Glascock, Malcolm M. Gentry, C.G. Tarleton, V.H. Whaley, F.E. Eggleston, Isabelle Minor, Elizabeth Dotson, Malissa Shimmer, Josephine Turner, T.M. Turner and Ella Leann Tillitt.

A reorganization of the Bear Creek Cemetery Association was made in 1951. The new board consisted of Carl O. Turner, president; William Turner, vice president; Mrs. T.C. (Essie) Robinson, secretary and treasurer; Orville Hendren and Mrs. E.L. Seibel.

Early leaders


with church

The recovered history provided by Cathi McDade lists the following as early pastors of Bear Creek Church:

Leroy Jackson, 1823; James Latherum, 1827; Robert Hendren 1832; Charles L. Turner, 1825; Benjamin Davis, 1845; William Priest, 1853; and Walter Cash, 1890.

Also, some of the early deacons were Samuel Conway, Isaac Ely, Pleasant Glenn, William Kercheval (whose daughter Helen later married John M. Garth); Thomas King, John T. Minor, Steward Self, Gariel Turner and Jasper Turner.

Early clerks included C.L. Turner, Stephen Dodd, Solomon Lucas, John P. Turner, F.M. Turner, H. Glascock, T.M. Turner and Ella Lear.

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