THE JIM TURNER
by: Eddie Trapp
Historian Larry Harmon from Sulphur Springs sent me some material from an interesting book, Gateway to Texas by Clarksville native, Martha Stroud. Told about steamboats on the Red River. In April, 1815, The Enterprise, captained by Henry Miller Shreve, was the first steamboat to enter the Red River. The great log jam prevented passage by the steamboats much past Nachitoches. The “Great River Raft” was actually a series of log jams and Indians would drag canoes over one then paddle on to the next. The jam proved a nuisance until blown apart by our government in 1878. Luckily, in times of high water especially, some steamboats were able to work upstream past the log jams before then. In an 1899 interview, Captain J.L. Bryarly tells of two steamboats, The Relief and The Matiner, coming as far upriver as Fort Towson about 1840, bringing goods and passengers.
In a 1996 interview with Robert L. Williams he told the story of the sinking of the steamboat, Jim Turner, which was sunk by a tornado in the 1890’s as it made its way up to Colbert’s Landing. (Note by E T. There is a small town named Colbert near Red River on the Oklahoma side by the Lake Texhoma Dam. Same one?) Mrs. Elizabeth Pool obtained a bill of lading from the Jim Turner which showed it containing three hundred barrels of whiskey, china dishes, other glassware, knives, forks, axes, cross cut saws, hoes, and plow points. Doug Hoffman was sheriff in Clarksville at the time and went to New Orleans where he bought, from the insurance company, for about two hundred dollars, salvage rights to the Jim Turner.
The salvage work was begun by four men who built a large flat bottom boat with a large winch on it. One of the men was Calvin Dennis, a diver who had worked on the government boats that destroyed the big log jam. Calvin would dive down and place dynamite and nitro glycerin under the log jam. Calvin and another man dived down to the Jim Turner and placed ropes on a barrel of whiskey. Brought it up with the winch and carried it to shore. A Captain Johnston had a store nearby and they put the barrel on the store porch. Knocked the bung out and put in a wooden spigot. They wanted to test the whiskey to see if the barrel had filled with water or mud. No sense retrieving all the barrels if full of mud. Over two hundred men, black and white, kept tasting the whiskey until it was all gone and declared it the best they ever tasted in spite of being underwater over fifty years. That was on a Saturday and apparently the workers had to “rest” until Monday. Trouble was, it started raining Saturday night and a big overflow came. When they went back later to continue salvage, they couldn’t find the boat.
About 1956, Bennie Badgett was fishing on the river and ran across the wreck of the Jim Turner. The boat was made of four inch thick cypress boards and many of them were in perfect condition. June Brewer of Clarksville offered $1000 for the first barrel of whiskey anybody could get out of it. Arguments began over who owned the salvage rights and while that was stirring, rains came and the Jim Turner moved again. Maybe someday the Jim Turner will come out of hiding again.
For the record: For weeks at our feeders we have noticed goldfinches with more of their spring time gold color than normal. Mosquitoes have appeared from time to time. On January 31, in the river bottom I heard little frogs making their jingling call for the fifth day in a row and jonquils were blooming. February 3, we traveled south of Sulphur Springs and right across from the sale barn we saw tiny leaves on elm trees. This is over two weeks ahead of schedule for the leaves. A few years ago I foolishly said we were having a year with no winter only to see a record breaking cold spell. Time will tell if spring will continue early without an interruption.
More of the most, least, cleanest, etc. Most rainy days a year – Hilo, Hawaii with 277. Least rainy days per year – Yuma, Arizona with 17. Most annual temperature variation from summer to winter – Fairbanks, Alaska with 91 degrees. Most uncomfortable due to heat and humidity – Phoenix, Arizona. (Dallas is number 4 and Houston, 8.) Cleanest air – Cheyenne, Wyoming. Dirtiest air – Los Angeles. Best for allergy prevention – Grand Rapids, Michigan. Worst for allergy prevention – Kansas City. (Austin is number 6.)
Longest rain free – 767 days from 1912 to 1914 in Bagdad, California. World record for shortest and most rain – Holt, Missouri with twelve inches in 42 minutes in 1947. World’s most tornadoes – United States with 1000 a year. Canada is second with only 100.
Additional information: Fastest warm up in twelve hours – Granville, North Dakota changed 83 degrees from minus 33 to 50 in 1918. Fastest fifteen minute warm up – 42 degrees in 1893 at Fort Assiniboine, Montana with minus 5 to 37. Fastest cooling in twelve hours – Fairfield, Montana with 84 degrees change in 1924 going from 63 to minus 21. Fastest two hour drop in temperature – Rapid City, South Dakota with a 62 degree change from 49 to minus 13 in 1911. Fastest fifteen minute change – Rapid City, South Dakota with a 47 degree change in 1911 going from 55 down to 8.
Many Texas bird hunters go north to hunt. One group went to Nebraska and prepared for the first day’s hunt by unloading their dogs. A boy told them to leave the dogs at the truck because Old Grandpa could sniff out birds better than any dog. Sure nuff, Old Grandpa found them more birds than they ever killed. Next year they came back without any dogs and the boy asked where the dogs were. The Texans said they left them at home since they wanted to use Old Grandpa again. The boy told them, “Oh, he got to chasing rabbits and we had to shoot him.”