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Turner, John (1802–1844)

Keith Guthrie Biography Entry

John Turner, delegate to the Convention of 1836 and signer of Texas Declaration of Independence, was probably born in North Carolina on December 4, 1802. When he was a child his family moved to Tennessee. He studied law and taught school before moving to Texas around 1829. He later received a league and labor of land in what is now Live Oak County on June 30, 1835, from land commissioner José María Balmaceda. Evidently he never lived there since he had a house in the city of San Patricio. He became subagent and advisor to John McMullen and James McGloin. Turner wrote letters to Capt. Philip Dimmitt, Col. James Fannin and the General Council on behalf of San Patricio colonists despite some of their pro-Mexican leanings. When he was a member of the convention, his resolution providing rations for families whose men were serving in the army was killed in committee. Turner was notified of his appointment as second judge and committee member to help organize a San Patricio militia in December 1835. On March 17, 1836 he was named chairman of the select committee on food for those fleeing the Mexican army. Turner appeared before the General Council with a memorial signed by thirty citizens of San Patricio accusing McMullen of having been elected by fraud over John W. Bower. This caused a break in relations between Turner and McMullen. On February 1, 1836, Turner was chosen as a delegate from San Patricio, along with Bower, to the constitutional convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos, where he signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. From July 6 to October 6, 1836, Turner served in Texas army with Capt. John M. Chenoweth in East Texas to provide supplies and horses for Gen. Thomas J. Green's brigade. He was a member of the House of Representatives of the First Congress of the Republic of Texas beginning on October 3, 1836, and was succeeded by John Geraghty. He was nominated the first chief justice of San Patricio County on October 20, 1836, and was commissioned on December 20, 1836. He jointly held acreage with John J. Linn; several letters tell of Turner returning to his home in North Carolina in 1837 with offers of $3,200 for the 6,400 acres of land. Evidently Turner became disenchanted with economic prospects in San Patricio and moved to Houston probably as early as 1839. He died in Houston on August 21, 1844.

Sam Houston Dixon, Men Who Made Texas Free (Houston: Texas Historical Publishing, 1924). Keith Guthrie, History of San Patricio County (Austin: Nortex, 1986). Rachel Bluntzer Hébert, The Forgotten Colony: San Patricio de Hibernia (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1981). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence (Salado, Texas: Anson Jones, 1944; rpt. 1959). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Keith Guthrie, “Turner, John,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed April 19, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996