Diary of Turner: 1859-1862

Henry McNeal Turner
Diary of Henry McNeal Turner. 

Source: The Henry McNeal Turner Collection Box 1 Folder 2; Manuscript Division, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University




March 1, 1859

This morning at seven o’clock my wife gave birth to a fine son. He is extremely long and surprises all that sees him considering his mother to be such a small woman only ninety-eight is her general weight. O Lord raise him up for the ministry and may his talent exceed his father. Name: John Payne Turner after Rev. John Brown and Bishop Payne.

March 15, 1859

After thinking over many names which presented themselves to my mind as well as to my wife’s mind, I have formally concluded to name him after these fellows. John after John M Brown my first Elder in the itinerant system also pastor of Bethel church Sasatago street. Also… P for his grandfather whose name is Peacher. Also for our bishop whose name is Payne. So that the P will allude to both so as the day Payne or Peacher which ever he may chose when he arrives to maturity.

July 16, 1859 


It is a shame that I have so long neglected to write…I feel a shame of it to think I will let myself grow careless…. to one object so important

December 15, 1860

I am sorry that I have neglected to write for so long, more than a year has passed since I wrote any of my daily events. Many circumstances has occurred since….Among the many I will now write a few. On the 23rd of April 1860 myself and William Hunter and brother Gibbs were ordained deacons in Georgetown, Washington city. I have made such progress in Latin, Greek and Hebrew that I can with facility read them. I am now station at Union Bethel church, Hells Point Baltimore since 23 of April. I also have a very fine school which I teach assisted by Levin Gaines and on 31 of October 1860. I had another son born name David Milchon Turner……I think David is a 7 month child.

May 13, 1861
I have suffered negligence again to overcome me in keeping a….daily record of my daily events and of those transferring around me. Since I last wrote wars and rumors of wars have began to resound through the land and we daily expect to hear that the country is engulfed in a dreadful war and….bloodshed. Hundred and thousand of men are now in arms both North and South and millions are apparently insaine (sic) with the idea of conquering these so called foes. They rush on without even considering what they are going to do and where they will end this painful conflict. Surely they have forgot there is a hell and that all the wicked will these be turned with the nations that forget God. And surely they have now forgot that there is a God in whose hands that affairs of this world is and will as the destiny of every man. God help the people to think before they are beyond the reach of thought.

July 3, 1861

David Milchorn Turner was born October 31, 1860. He is my third child and second son. But John P Turner was born on March 1, 1859. They are both up to this time July 3, 1861 fine looking boys and should God prolong theirs and my life I shall labour to have them leave their mark in this world as well as secure a place in heaven the land of the final faithful.

December 11, 1862

Here I am again ready to mourn over my negligence in not keeping a daily record of events. Gracious knows when I have set down to write before and the only thing that grieves me so much is that I fear the most important part of my life is dung. I had kept an account of my regular studies and how I set up night after night prowling through pages of various kinds of books it might have been of use to some of my children as they neither may have the advantage of an education.

December 12, 1862

I am now station at Israel church Washington D.C. I have been some 7 months. I found this church very much dilapidated both in a spiritual and temporal point of ruin. I went to work and made a great improvement in their church government. Had the old basement cleaned out and a fine one repared (sic), which gave the congregation the utmost regard for my industry.

December 13, 1862 

To day is a beautiful nice and interesting day. I feel somewhat depressed in spirit. This day I wish to devote to my studies.