Only for the Bishop's Eyes: July 25, 1907

Only For the Bishops’ Eye
Rt. Rev. Brethren: -

I was dumbfounded and avalanched with surprise when we were in Council at Wilberforce University, in June, and Bishop Gaines arose and commenced a tirade against Miss Laura P. Lemon and myself getting married and she a divorced woman. And stated that he was informed by unquestionable authority that I had given her a ring of engagement, on which the following letters had been engraved: “H. M. T. to L. P. L”; when, in fact, I had never presented Miss Lemon with a ring in my life; had never thought about it, and he called upon the House of Bishops to prevent any such contemplated marriage to a divorced woman. After he concluded, I sprang to my feet in consternation, and said it was a lie, an repeated the same three or four times, for I thought it outrageous for two bishops to be living in the same city, and, as I thought, just as friendly as two brother, and he had never hinted anything of the kind to me except on one occasion when leaving his house, he casually remarked: “If you ever should marry again I hope you will not marry a divorced woman.” I replied, “No, I will not do that.” And I never thought of the remark again.

Miss Lemon is such a high-toned Christian lady, and has done so much for my family, and she replies to at least eighty out of every hundred letters that come into my house, that I regarded the misrepresentation on myself, and the attack upon that innocent of a bishop. But when I said, “It is a lie,” not saying that Bishop Gaines told a lie, he rose up and made toward me, as I thought, to strike me down, and knowing my arm had been recently fractured, I stepped back and lifted a chair above my head in self-defense, and but for the fact that some of you bishops caught the chair and ran between Bishop Gaines and myself, I would have used it had he struck me. Nor do I believe he would have made at me as he did, had my arm not been fractured, for I did not call him a liar, but I said it was a lie.

Miss Lemon has been my assistant secretary and secretary-in chief near eight years, lacking only a couple of months, and she is in charge of my house, and has been for some years, and she has trained my granddaughters from little girls to womanhood, and has married one off, and the other is engaged, and will likely soon be at the head of her own house. And everything moved on smoothly till Mrs. Turner died, and ever since a howl has been kept up about Miss Lemon and myself getting married, and neither one of us thought about it until we began to talk about the constant babble, and I confess, I came to the conclusion I did not care if she would consent to marry me, and we finally concluded that when my granddaughter got married and left the house that if neither had any objections we might marry, so she could run the place with authority, as every particle of kin would be gone. And somebody must provide meals and take care of the place for visitors and myself. But this last spring we solemnly agreed that if a marriage did take place it should be when every relative had left the place. But as so much excitement has been created, we have determined to have the matter over at an earlier date.

Something over ten years ago a rumor was put out that Miss Lemon was married to a man by Rev. Thos. Jefferson, and there was a legal adjustment of the matter, as Miss Lemon emphatically denied
it. And Rev. Jefferson visited my house on some question then pending, and at the close of the conversation, I said to Brother Jefferson: “Here, now, tell me the truth and the whole truth; there is some talk afloat about you marrying some young lady by the name of Miss Lemon to a gentleman, and she says it is a misrepresentation. Did you marry them or not?” And he said to me, in person, “No, I did no such thing; it is false, it is false!

I replied by saying, “I am glad you have told me the truth; I have never seen the young lady, but if you married them you owe it to your honor to tell the truth.’” And, again, he replied: “I never did it.” And from that time to the present I dismissed any thought of the question. I afterward made the acquaintance of Miss Lemon, and on the solicitation of my second wife I employed her as an assistant secretary, but later on she became secretary-in-chief, and her learning and great intellectual powers have made her indispensable to my office.

Miss Lemon is not so anxious to get married, for she has refused several good men to my knowledge, feeling that she could better serve the church in her present position, for she, like my mother, is a great church-worker, as is manifested by the unanimous election to the Presidency of the W. H. and F. M. Society by the Atlanta Annual Conference for five consecutive years, generally on motion of President J. S. Flipper, and also Principal of the Missionary Department of Morris Brown College by Trustees of the same.

But we must not be too elaborate, as she needs no encomiums from me. Her spotless life, scholarship and great intellectuality speaks for her. But so far as her being a divorced woman, or having ever been married, will be settled when you read the following letters, and what the judge of the Court of Ordinary has decided in her case. It may be that Bishop Gaines thought he was right in what he said. Possibly he did not know the circumstances and condition of existing affairs. But when he told you bishops that I had failed to pay my grocery bills, and my creditors has been to him about it, as every one of you heard, I am compelled to doubt his veracity, unless he brings the men to my face.

Strange that I should be in such bad repute about paying my debts when every bank is ready to loan me money, and every store is ready to credit me in Atlanta. My reputation for payment of debts is noted as first-class, on the financial books, which are published monthly in Atlanta.

However, I did not intend to write a review of the circumstances leading up to what might ultimately culminate in a marriage. Suffice it to say, that, notwithstanding my two sons, Dr. John P. Turner and David M. Turner, have commended it, and some ministers have suggested the same. We had agreed, as I have already said, this last spring that there should be no marriage while I had a relative under my roof. While stopping at the residence of Bishop Grant last January, to allow the doctors to work on my arm, he causally said to me that he had been informed that Miss Lemon had been married. On my return home I told her that exhibited more than ordinary concern at the false information Bishop Grant had received, as she was a great admirer of the bishop and chafed somewhat under the idea that he might have cherished the wrong conclusion. So when I got ready to leave for Wilberforce to meet the House of Bishops, she handed me a large envelope and begged me to read its contents to Bishop Grant, or to have him read it, and to show it to no one else. But she wanted Bishop Grant to understand the facts. And when I looked at the contents of the envelope I discovered she had secured a few affidavits of a recent date, the contents of which had been given over ten years ago, before the court, but had not been put in the form of an affidavit to be read.

These affidavits and other papers were placed in my hands, and I solemnly promised that no eye should see them but Bishop Grant’s, as she entertained a very exalted opinion of him, and as he was the only bishop who had spoken to me about the matter, as I told her. She simply desired to be set straight in his mind.

But making what might be a long story short, I borrowed from her the official verdict of the court, the oath of Rev. Thos. Jefferson, who was said to have performed the marriage, the affidavit of the mother of Miss Lemon, Elder Render and the recent communication of Rev. Jefferson, and I print the same, word for word, that the bishops may see that she was never married, and is as free from being divorced as an unborn child. I will not print the clinching letter which Judge Hulsey has given, as I regard it unnecessary, as the judge has officially set forth, as you will see that she never was married and is not divorced. Nor is there any record of it, in the office of the ordinary of Fulton county, which the law would require of all legal marriages. Any man can get a divorce in Georgia from any woman living or dead, if he hires a lawyer, and nobody appears to contradict or forbid as in the case of Miss Lemon. But there can be no divorce in fact, where no marriage has taken place and a blind man can see that Miss Lemon has never been married, and, therefore, the so-called divorce does not amount to a farce, as the letter of Mr. Rountree, one of the ablest lawyers of Georgia will show. And the paid for publications in one of two papers, under the head of “NOTICE,” was downright slander and persecution. All because Miss Lemon has learning and brain and has bounded into popularity by using them to promote the cause of Christianity and to honor her sex; for she can draw as many, or more, to hear her lectures than any one in Georgia.

I have written this short introductory to the papers submitted because of the unpleasant episode which took place in our Council, and could say five times as much, but as I wish to be the gentleman and a Christian (which I know I am), I deem it in keeping with the Episcopal Fraternity to say no more. All you will need to do is to read her papers, an you will see the folly of charging her with being divorced. Fraternally

H. M. Turner

Atlanta, Ga., July 25th 1907.


P. S.—Since reaching home and writing the above, several of my ministers have approached me excitedly and informed me of remarks by Bishop Gaines and what he said had occurred in the Bishops' Council, and that he had been appointed to investigate things. I have been very, very private, but it appears that the Bishop has been very glib. He must be demented enough to regard himself the sole custodian of the A. M. E. Church. I was taking in members and building up the Church before he knew the Church existed, and have done as much for it as it would take him a hundred years to do. But as he has used his tongue so freely as to make it appear that I am under him, I will put an end to the matter in short, and next time you see me I will be a married man. I love peace, harmony, and unity. Indeed, I love to love, but if our Church has to be wrecked by an Episcopal war, about absolutely nothing, which he is trying to inaugurate, I will be found in the saddle.

Fraternally,

Atlanta, Ga., July 29th, 1907.