George R. Turpin was the son of George William Turpin (1808-15 Apr. 1854), a Charlottesville, Virginia, hotelkeeper, and his wife, Malinda Bennett Dickerson (1810-5 Feb. 1855). The boarding house was located in Cabell House on Main Street, but doesn’t seem to have been one of the University hotels (boarding houses that were contracted by the University to house its students) at that time, since the residents listed in the 1850 U.S. Census included a Baptist minister, a physician, a retired merchant, a lawyer, and a saddler, but only one student, a young man named Kerr. (1850 U.S. Census)
George R. attended the University of Virginia in session 29 (1852-1853), where he was enrolled in Chemistry, Medicine, Physiology and Surgery, and Anatomy. His greatest claim to fame was that he was shot by John S. Mosby, later a famous Confederate colonel. Mosby was, in 1853, a third-year student, about 19 years old, and of a slight build. George Turpin was a first-year student, a large youth of about a year older, and was described as a “bully.” After some perceived slight, Turpin threatened Mosby, and swore to eat him “blood raw.” Rather than try to avoid Turpin, on 29 Mar. 1853, Mosby loaded a pepper-box pistol and went to his mathematics tutoring session. When he return to his lodgings, Mosby wrote, Turpin came to his (Mosby’s) boarding house where, not waiting for Turpin to make his move, Mosby shot him in the face. (U.Va. Faculty Minutes, 5 Apr. 1853)
A fellow student, Sylvester Albert--a medical student–wrote in a letter to his brother, “Two students had a falling out a few days ago and one [Mosby] shot the other with a pistol. The ball entered the side of his [Turpin’s] face, glanced around the lower jawbone and entered the side of his neck and finally lodged in the muscles on the back of his neck. The wound is not dangerous and he is recovering very fast. There will be a scar left and his face is full of powder so close was the pistol when fired. They have got the fellow that shot him in jail and think he may go to the penatentiary [sic]. Both are of this county.” (Letter to his brother “Bob”, April 14, 1853, in Albert, p. 118-119; square brackets by JLC)
Mosby was expelled from the University, and later convicted in court of unlawful wounding. He served a year in jail, during which time he studied the law. (Mosby)
Sometime after 1853—probably after 1855, when their mother died—George R. Turpin and several of his brothers and sisters moved to Newbern, in Greene County, Alabama. (Jeffersonian Republican) He died there at the age of 25. In the 1860 U.S. Census, three of his siblings were living in Newtown, Alabama, and two were living in Scotts, in Perry County.
[I should note that in addition to the Charlottesville Turpins–who originally came from Chesterfield, Virginia–there was also a Bedford County, Virginia, Turpin family, headed by a different George Turpin. In that family there is a son, also George R. Turpin, born in 1832, who died in Janes Creek, Arkansas in 1910. This George R. and the George R. who is the subject of this essay are often confused in the records. In addition, in the Newbern (Alabama) Cemetery, there is the grave of a Malinda Bennett Turpin, who died 30 Nov. 1872 at 5 days old. This Malinda is often confused with Malinda Bennett (Dickerson) Turpin, the mother of George R. Turpin of Charlottesville.
The birth date of George R. Turpin of Charlottesville in this essay is from the UVa Matriculation Books. His death date is from his obituary in the Jeffersonian Republican.—JLC]
- Albert, Ethel Evans. Links with the past; a genealogical and historical account of the Albert and related families. 1971.
- Ancestry.com. 1850-1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.
- “Died [George R. Turpin].” Jeffersonian Republican (Charlottesville, VA), 16 Sep. 1858.
- Mosby, John S. The memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby. Boston, MA, 1917.
- Rech, Susan. “Barnett Rech Families May 2012.” [database online] http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/41871632/person/19689623900?ssrc=
- University of Virginia Faculty Minutes, 5 Apr 1853. http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/114?doc=/db/JUEL/faculty/vol7/Vol_7_part4.xml&key=P37544#m1
- University of Virginia Matriculation Books, 1825-1904, Accession #RG-14/4/2.041, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
- “Virginia, Deaths and Burials, 1853-1912,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X5RL-VQ2 : accessed 08 Jan 2014), Malinda Turpin, 1810.
- “Virginia, Deaths and Burials, 1853-1912,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X5RL-N4R : accessed 08 Jan 2014), George W. Turpin, 1809.