Who are your people?

When I was growing up I would hear the old folks talk about other families as “people.”  “Her people come from {somewhere}” they would say.  Sometimes this was said proudly, sometimes matter-of-factly, and sometimes it was a derogatory commment.   Pedigree has become less important in this country as families move and blend.  One of the reasons our ancestors came to this country was to escape the class systems so ingrained in their “home” countries.  If you didn’t have a title you pretty much were no one with nowhere to go but down.  In the New World, you could be somebody, somebody with prospects.

Earlier this year, my sister started an undertaking, to try to trace the lines of our family tree.  It has been an fascinating journey, sending us in directions we never imagined.  We were pretty sure most of our ancestors had been in this country from the first settlers and have found this to be true.  We still seek to uncover the reasons they left England, France and possibly Germany in the 1600’s.   However, she recently uncovered a gem that is amazing.   One of our ancestors, Kerenhappuch Norman Turner (1716-81) was a Revolutionary War patriot mother.  If you love American history, read on. 

Note:  Photos in this post graciously shared by Greta Koehl, one of our cousins in the Norman family line, our family descending from the Turner’s.  Photos taken at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, near Greensboro, NC.  You can read Greta’s stories at Greta’s Genealogy Blog.  

Kerenhappuch Norman Turner - photo by Greta Koehl

From a DAR publication, # unknown:

“The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Kerenhappuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.” — Book of Job, Chapter 42, Verses 12-15

Historians are undecided about the exact birth date of Kerenhappuch Norman, but it seems fair to assume that she was born in the north central part of the Colony of Virginia, probably in what was then Spotsylvania Co., in about 1715. She was the daughter of a well known tobacco planter, Isaac Norman and his wife, the former Frances Courtney. In about 1730 she met James Turner, the son of a prominent Maryland family and also a tobacco planter, and they were married in Spotsylvania County in 1731. Deed records show that following the wedding, Isaac Norman deeded a portion of his home plantation to his daughter and her new husband. It was on this land that the first child, James Turner, was born in 1732, and he was followed by four sisters – Sarah, Mary, Elizabeth and Susan.

Within a few years the growth of the Colony resulted in a division of the County, and the Norman and Turner land became a part of Orange Co., and in 1749 it became a part of Culpeper County. It lay on the banks of the Rappahannock River near the present day town of Remington, and there the two James Turners cultivated tobacco for many years. The new county was surveyed by George Washington, and it was probably during this time that Kerenhappuch and her family met and became devoted to the man who was to become the father of our country. These were happy years for James and Kerenhappuch; they raised their children and taught them the skills of riding and hunting; skills which were not just enjoyable but indeed, necessary for survival in this frontier land.

 At a point prior to the revolutionary war the elder James Turner and his wife moved to Halifax Co., Virginia, and when the revolution began, the younger James became active in the Virginia militia and was soon a captain. Family tradition holds that Kerenhappuch, ever mindful of the dangers of war, told her son and grandsons that if they were ever wounded, they should get word to her and she would come to their assistance.

Records of the revolutionary war indicate that Captain Turner’s company went south and was in the sieges at Halifax County and Fort Ninety Six, and also fought in Pittsylvania County. In March of 1781 the company was posted to guard duties in Guilford Co., North Carolina. Of course, Kerenhappuch personally assisted the American side by riding as a courier – apparently the British didn’t suspect that an older lady such as she could give them any problems. However, on one occasion when the ferries over the James River were tightly guarded by the British, it is recorded that Kerenhappuch swam the river on horseback to elude detection. 

 Guilford Courthouse had been the seat of government for Guilford Co., North Carolina since 1774, and it was toward this site that, on March 15, 1781, the 1,900 man army of British Lord Charles Cornwallis was marching. Unbeknownst to Cornwallis, a 4,400 man army of colonial troops under Major General Nathanael Greene was lying in wait, well hidden in dense forest foliage. The ensuing battle was fierce; when it was over more than 27% of the British had suffered injury or death compared to only 6% for the Americans who claimed victory in the battle. Although neither side gained a decisive advantage in this battle, the British loss of troops was so great that it forced them to abandon the Carolinas, and this eventually led to their defeat at Yorktown. Eight descendands of Kerenhappuch Turner fought in the battle; her son and seven grandsons. Captain James Turner and one of the grandsons were gravely wounded. When word of this reached Kerenhappuch, she rushed on horseback through hostile lines to administer to her kin and others who had suffered injuries in the battle. When she started out for Guilford she was carrying a sick infant with her on the horse. At some point during this journey, the infant died and was buried alongside the trail.

 By risking her life in this manner, Kerenhappuch Turner had become a true heroine of our first war. A monument was erected in her memory at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park and dedicated to her memory on July 4, 1902. Its granite base is crowned with the bronze figure of a woman clad in the costume of her time carrying in her hand the symbol of her ministry on the battle field, a folded towel over her arm and a tea cup and saucer in her hand. It is believed that this was the first monument ever erected to a revolutionary war heroine.  When the war had been concluded Captain Turner, now fully recovered from his wounds, relocated to Halifax Co., Virginia and later to Montgomery Co., North Carolina. When her husband died in about 1785, Kerenhappuch Turner moved south to live with her son. Evidently upon her husband’s death much of his property passed to his son in the 18th century custom. The son, in a show of love, respect and affection for his mother, gave much of it back to her as described in the deed which is recorded in Deed Book 13, Pg. 138, Halifax Co., Virginia.

Kerenhappuch Turner died in 1805 in Richmond Co., North Carolina. Family tradition says that while hunting with her grandsons she fell from her horse and died of a broken neck. It is not known where she is buried.

Photo by Greta Koehl

Photo by Greta Koehl

I hope you enjoyed this story.  Drop me a line if you think you might be related to me too!  I will publish some more family history as we  continue to dig up our roots.


About SallyK

A little blog about the ordinary and not so ordinary things our family does, places we travel, things we see. Like travel, cooking, family stories, book reviews, music? You will find it all here - comments welcome!
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12 Responses to Who are your people?

  1. Great story, wow! I tried tracing my father’s family hoping to find we were related to either someone important or someone infamous. So far I’m disappointed on both accounts. Just a boring bunch of door to door salesmen (chapmen).

  2. carol curren says:

    OMG! When I saw that statue i thought of you!! what a small world. Steve and I stopped at Guilford on our way back from Conor’s green ramp. I’d never heard of it before but he’s kind of a rev war historian.

    I bet I know why they left England, Germany and France, same reason my ancestors the Parretts did: they were Huegonauts. I like to say my family’s been run out of the best countries in Europe! Seriously, they started in Switzerland, were forced into Germany, run out of Germany, driven out of France across the channel to England where Cromwell bloody wouldn’t tolerate them to Scotland and finally here. along they way they converted from Huegonaut to Presbyterian, not much of a stretch really. it’s funny how half my family’s been here since we stole it from the Indians and the other half have only been here a couple generations…

  3. Shari says:

    Hi! I too am a descendent of Kerenhappuch Norman Turner, through her daughter Elizabeth Turner Morehead. I love her story. What a woman! Both of my daughters have done their Revolutionary War projects on their ancestor Kerrenhappuch. They dressed up in period costumes and told the story and showed pictures of the monument. Genealogy is so much fun especially when you have stories to go along with it!

  4. Rob Turner says:

    I am also a descendant of Kerenhappuch Turner, but my research is just beginning. My dad’s dad was from Texas, but he came to Nevada sometime in the 1920’s or so. Our branch of the Turners has been in the Nevada/California area ever since. Thanks so much for the information. What a wonderful story.

  5. David S. says:

    I guess we are Related! I am also in this Family Tree!

    • SallyK says:

      Hi cousin, there are a lot of us! Where did your branch end up? Mine stuck right here in Ohio from just before 1800.

      • David S. says:

        We are all over. I’m here in St. Louis My parents in Arkansas. Came from the Chicago area. Looks like my branch moved quire a bit.

        Here is my Branch:


        Children of GLORIA MCCOLLUM and DAVID SNIDER are:
        i. DAVID MICHAEL SNIDER10/me, b. August 13, 1968.
        ii. DENNIS WILBURN SNIDER, b. August 19, 1971.
        iii. LAURA MARIE SNIDER, b. November 27, 1973.

  6. Pingback: The Queen, my sister and me | North Coast Muse

  7. Ruth Leighton Kirk says:

    Hi. I, too, am working on family history and can trace back to 1620 when Isaac Norman settled near the James River. We are related through my mother’s line. My grandmother (Ella Myrtle Hubble Reed Bagley) was born a Hubble in a covered wagon outside Merced, California in 1878. Her mother died in childbirth with her and she was adopted by the Reed family. Someone in her sister’s family did research some time ago and I have a single page by mother typed up based on Aunt Polly’s handwriting copied from some unknown document. It reads:

    “You know, I suppose that Greene lost the battle of Guilford Court House, N. Carolina, to Lord Corwallis to all appearances. But the next day, he, Cornwallis, learned of the defeat of the British Army and the death of Fergusson. He knew he could not stay in the South an longer so he started north to join the Northern Army. But Greene harassed him so he could not make headway (your Great Great Grandfather, Justus Hubble went south and was with Greene at the Battle of Guilford Court House) and Greene, whom Washington relied on more than any of his generals, wrote Washington to come south with the northern army and he would follow and harass him (Cornwallis) and they would prevent the junction of the two armies. So Washington started and he wanted to send a message to LaFayette at Yorktown to send out and help Greene harass Lord Cornwallis to give him time to get there. He knew the French fleet was coming to Yorktown to prevent the army of Cornwallis from getting aboard ship and going to N.Y. The British and the Tories had possession of every crossing of the Potomac River so he could not get a messenger to try it. So Kerenhappuck offered her services and she mounted her famous iron gray horse with her *pill bags (*word uncertain, could be frill) and a little darkey behind her and swam the Potomac River. She delivered her letter to Lafayette and took back his answer to Gen. Wahington. (The above from a document written in the handwriting of Clara Pauline Hubble Witthouse – apparently copies from some other document.)”

    Thanks for sharing your information. It confirms some of mine and I wanted to reciprocate.

    • SallyK says:

      Ruth: Thank you for stopping by and and for the info! Kerenhappuck would be amazed at the number of her descendants and how they spread out across this country.

  8. Hello, Kerenhappuch is my sixth great-grandmother (through her son James Jr). It makes sense to me that she would have been born around 1715. I see here, and elsewhere, where people have said things like what you said, that “most historians” agree on this dating, but I have yet to run across anything written by any of these historians to back this up. I was wondering whether you might have any tips or references? As a DAR, I would really like to correct the record kept by the DAR if possible, which lists her birth year as the utterly ridiculous 1692. Thanks in advance!

  9. abbieh5 says:

    Hey cousin! I’m a descendant of Kerenhappuch’s brother, Joseph Norman (assuming I’ve done my research correctly) he was my 7th great grandpa, making Kerenhappuch my 8th great aunt. I just found out about my connection to her and can’t wait to do more research on her.

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