“Anthony Turner House, St. John’s Church Historic District, Richmond Donor: Historic Richmond Foundation and Betty J. Moore, holder of life estate Land included: city lot Easement recorded: January 5, 2007
The Anthony Turner house is prominently situated at the corner of East Franklin Street and North 26th Street in the St. John’s Church Historic District, popularly known as Church Hill. The two-story brick structure, erected circa 1800, is perhaps the oldest extant dwelling in the historic district. The property was acquired in the late 1950s by preservationist Mary Ross Reed and sold by her in 1972 to Betty Joyce Moore. Ms. Moore donated the property to the Historic Richmond Foundation in 1989 but maintained a life estate.” [Notes on Virginia, No. 51, 2007; Virginia Department of Historic Resources; p.67]
“In the 18th century, Dr. Richard Adams obtained much of the property in the [current St. John’s Historic District], after which Richmonders referred to the area interchangeably as Adams, Church, or Richmond Hill. Adams’ descendants expanded the Richmond grid north of Broad Street and east of 25th Street early in the 19th century. Despite the grid expansion, the St. John’s Church neighborhood remained relatively isolated and undeveloped into the early decades of the 19th century. Houses from this period include the Anthony Turner House at 2520 East Franklin Street, a fine side-hall brick house dating from 1809.” [National Park Service, “St. John’s Historic District and St. John’s Episcopal Church”, http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/richmond/St.Johns.html, accessed 2/20/2012]
There are two mentioned dates for this Church Hill home of great antiquity. One denotes that it must have been built around 1800, the other mentioning that it is extant since 1809. The latter is more accurate, falling into the range between when the lot was bought by Anthony Turner of Hanover County, in 1803, and when it showed up for tax purposes in 1810, according to Mary Wingfield Scott’s research. Regardless of which year between 1803 and 1810 it was constructed or completed, it remains one of the oldest structures on Church Hill.
I was originally taken with the house because of its aged simplicity, certainly common for the period, how it is juxtaposed with Greek Revival homes with their stepped gables along the same street, and how its placement on the steep hill lends it authority (the home being on the corner at the top of the grade). The house has a front yard (that thankfully does not follow the downward grade of Franklin Street), something of a rarity in Church Hill, and has a modest but small back yard that is outmatched by the Reed Square Memorial Park to the rear, which consists of four city lots under protective easement, thanks to the efforts of Mary Ross Reed, a previous owner of the Anthony Turner House when the green space was part of the residential parcel. The Department of Historic Resources notes that it is maintained by the Reed Square Foundation, a non-profit entity.
The origins of Anthony Turner are hazy but not out of any origin from abroad. He was born in Hanover County to a Nathaniel Turner and Mary Waddy, one of three sons surviving to adulthood [the other two were Walter Turner and Waddy Turner, the latter’s name being a clue to the genealogy of their mother]. Hanover County was a burned county, records being consumed on April 3, 1865 during the Evacuation Fire. However, parish records are extant and give names to various Turners in St. Paul’s Parish around the time of Anthony Turner’s birth.
Saint Paul’s Parish Vertry—-Precinct 25
At a Vestry held for Saint Paul’s Parish September 30, 1767
|Ordered into one Precinct for Processioning the lands of|
St. Paul’s Vestry—-Precinct 5
At a Vestry held for St. Paul’s Parish November 12, 1771
|Ordered into one Precinct for Processioning the lands of|
George Turner’s orphans,
|James Blackwell Sr.,
James Blackwell Jr.
William Mask deceased,
and John Peace’s orphans
Wherever Anthony Turner’s father may have originated, he was most likely in the presence of relatives in this Parish.What grabbed my attention initially was the fact that Nathaniel Turner is said to have married a Waddy. My Waddy lineage dates back to the 1600s, when James Tate III of New Kent and, later, St. Paul’s Parish in Hanover County, married Anne Waddy, daughter of Anthony Waddy. Robert Tate, son of James III, married Anne Waddy, daughter of Samuel Waddy and Ann (last name unknown, although assumed to be Parke; as an aside, James Tate II is said to have married an Elizabeth Dandridge — and these may indeed be forebears of the first First Lady, Martha Dandridge Custis, widow of Daniel Parke Custis who, in turn, was a grandson of Daniel Parke, a brother of a John Parke who had daughters that married into the Waddy family). In researching Waddy and Turner names in the area, Anthony is evidently a common first name.
Regardless of origins, Anthony Turner was master brick mason and magistrate in Henrico Parish, Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia. He was also a Church Warden for St. John’s Church in 1814:
“At a meeting of the vestry of the parish of Henrico,held at the house of the Rev. John Buchanan,
rector thereof, in the city of Richmond, on the 23rd
July, 1814, — Present, — Col. William Mayo, Dr.
John Adams, Mr. Anthony Turner, Church War-
dens ; Col. Jolin Ambler, Mr. Wm. Marshall, Mr.
John Williamson, Mr. Samuel Greenhow, — A re-
solution of the vestry of the Monumental Church of
the city of Richmond having been submitted, which
is in the words following, to wit : ^^Resolved, That this vestry will pay two hundred
dollars per annum to assist the vestry of Henrico
Parish in compensating a minister to officiate in the
Richmond Hill Church, (St. John’s), provided that
during the absence of the Bishop in the performance
of the duties of his diocese, such minister shall of-
ficiate once every Sabbath alternately, morning and
evening, in the Monumental Church, and provided
also that the vestry of Henrico Parish shall by re-
solution assent to this arrangement.”[History and Reminiscences of the Monumental Church, Richmond, Va., from 1814 to 1878; p.63]
It should come as no surprise that other well received names are included in that roll, particularly Wm. Mayo, John Adams (landholder and entity behind the early and extant Adams Double-House at 2501-2503 East Grace Street), Ambler, Marshall, and Greenhow. These men and, more directly, their associates at Monumental Church were further praised by the Bishop, The Rev. Dr. Henshaw, as follows:
“The congregation of the Monumental Church
comprehended probably a larger amount of intelli-
gence and refinement, and a greater proportion of
men distinguished for talent and influence, than any
congregation in the Union.”
[History and Reminiscences of the Monumental Church, Richmond, Va., from 1814 to 1878; p.62]
The life of Anthony Turner deserves further study. He died young, just shy of 40, in 1819, the house eventually falling into the hands of other families — although rented by someone that Mary Wingfield Scott calls “Mr. Waddle” [Houses of Old Richmond], perhaps, instead, a Mr. Waddy.