Red River Ancestry
Home | Ancestor Index | History | Forum |


PHILIP TURNOR (1751-1799)
(Last Updated: December 19, 2013)


Philip TURNOR was born around 1751 in Laleham, Middlesex, England. His exploits and travels are fairly well documented by Edwin Ernest RICH in his Biography of Philip TURNOR which can be seen using the following Link:


Weston: Philip TURNOR bade farewell to family and friends at Laleham, Middlesex, England on May 20, 1778 and set sail from the Thames River on board the HBC Sloop King George. His brother John was also on the same voyage as master of the Severn sloop. ** MORE ABOUT JOHN TURNER


Philip Arrives at York Factory


On Aug 24, 1778 Philip arrived at York Factory, having signed on with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) to serve as an inland surveyor for three years at £50 per annum. The Chief Factor at York was Humphrey MARTIN (1766-1818). Philip was then described as 27 year old farmer’s son, not married.


After surveying the grounds of York, Philip was ordered by MARTIN to map the route to Cumberland House (SK).


HBC Forts west of the Bay


Philip spent his first winter (1778-79) at Cumberland House. He returned to York by canoe on July 15, 1779.


Opinions regarding Philip’s Wife Elizabeth


Who was Philip’s wife? There is no documented evidence (that I am aware of) with regard to Philip’s wife, only opinions. One suggests that she was an Eskimo woman, another that she was an Indian (either Cree or Ojibway). Most of the circumstantial evidence suggest that she and Philip began a connubial relationship at Cumberland House around 1778-79. That (in my opinion) debunks the notion that she was an Eskimo woman. It is highly unlikely that there were any Eskimos living in the Cumberland House area around that time. This was the heartland of Cree, Ojibway and Chipewyan Indians who were all historically known to be hostile to Eskimos.


My reference - Gottfred: For years, it was against HBC policy to permit their employees (called servants) to marry Native women. Marriages took place anyway— after all, the company executives who made this policy were in London— and sometimes the employees tried to explain why they broke the rules. When Samuel HEARNE and his men built Cumberland House in 1774, it was the first HBC post to be established at a significant distance from Hudson Bay. As they prepared to spend their first winter there, HEARNE arranged for two or three Native women to stay with them. He explained that he needed them to 'Make, Mend, Knitt Snowshoes &c. for us during the winter.' In 1789, HBC clerk & surveyor Philip TURNOR noted that 'Women are as useful as men upon the Journeys.'  - - It was usual for the Montreal-based fur traders (North West Company employees) to provide clothing for their employees, their wives and families. This irritated HBC clerk & surveyor Philip TURNOR. In 1779, he complained to the London Committee that 'if he [a Canadian clerk] chuses (chooses) to keep a girl which most of them does the Masters finds her in Apparel so that they need not spend one farthing of their Wages...'  ** Link: WOMEN of the FUR TRADE” by A. GOTTFRED


My reference – Pearl: The anthology “Across the River” was first published in 1995 by Pearl WESTON, herself a descendant of Philip through his son Joseph TURNER (1783-1875). (This is apparently out of print now) In her anthology, Pearl refers to Philip’s wife as” an Eskimo woman”, and this seems to have perpetuated that contention. (I repeat, there is no evidence to support this) Nevertheless, Pearl, as a direct descendant appears to have been privy to a great deal of information about Philip’s activities and about his descendants and is definitely a source to be reckoned with. In her anthology she frequently refers to Philip’s journals and diaries and it is obvious that she had read them and may have even had them in her possession.


Albany River Forts


Pearl: In 1782 he (Philip TURNOR) went to take charge at Brunswick House. While there he became very ill and even when instructed to return to Moose Fort after the Prince of Wales and York Forts being taken and destroyed by fire. After recovering he then went on to build the first HBC trading post in the Abitibi region, it was called Frederick House (see map above). During this time he married an Eskimo woman and had three children, two boys and one girl. It was common practice for fur traders to take native women as marital partners. After exchanging brief vows before a few witnesses at a fort, the marriage contracted after the custom of the country was regarded as a union for life. Pearl’s reference ’during this time’ is a rather vague one. If he had three children by 1782 they were obviously born well before he took charge of Brunswick House.


From the foregoing it is evident that by 1779 Philip was in a connubial relationship with a woman who was named Margaret. My opinion is that this was Elizabeth WAPUSK (BEAR). WAPUSK or WAPISK is a Cree word for “White Bear”, more commonly associated with the polar bear. The reference to a polar bear (usually associated with Eskimos) may have been what started the notion that Margaret was an Eskimo.


It is my guess that Philip’s first child was John or WHITE BEAR aka TURNER, born around 1780 in the Cumberland House area. I humbly submit the opinion that the ‘white’ part of his name may have had to do with the fact that he was an Indian of the BEAR Clan who had white father. ** MORE ABOUT WHITE BEAR aka TURNER**

============================= // =============================


Back to the Chronology
Union of Philip & Elizabeth WHITE BEAR at Cumberland House


In 1778-79 Philip TURNOR spent his first winter at Cumberland House. I contend that it was there that Philip began a connubial relationship with Elizabeth WAPUSK/ WAPISK (WHITE BEAR) and it was there that their first child (John) was conceived. Where do we find Elizabeth and her children after Philip left her in 1792? – Cumberland House, where she had the support of her BEAR relatives and family.


On July 15, 1779, Philip returned to York Factory by canoe. It was there that Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, (John) WHITE BEAR aka TURNER (conceived at Cumberland says I).


RICH: TURNOR was next involved in surveying the route from Albany to its two outposts, Henley House (at the junction of the Albany and Kenogami rivers, Ont.) and Gloucester House (Washi Lake, Ont.). After spending the early winter of 1779 at Albany with Thomas HUTCHINS (1742-1790), TURNOR set out in February 1780 to walk to Henley with five others. - -


In September of 1781 TURNOR renewed his contract to trade at Abitibi.


LAPEROUSE Attacks York Factory


In 1782 Humphrey MARTIN (1766-1818) was the Chief Factor at York Factory when it was attacked and destroyed by the French navigator Jean-Francois LAPEROUSE. The fort was destroyed and MARTIN and his men were taken prisoner to France where they were later released. ** MORE ABOUT LAPEROUSE

On Aug 24, 1782, the fort was destroyed and MARTIN and his men were taken prisoner to France where they were later released. Philip’s brother, John TURNER, was among the prisoners taken that day. There are no indications that John TURNER ever returned to the Bay thereafter.


RICH: On Oct 14, 1782, although employed as a surveyor, TURNOR took charge of Brunswick House. During the winter he suffered so badly from rheumatism that he was unable to go down to Moose in March 1783 to consider company policy after the capture of York and Prince of Wales’s Fort by the Comte de LAPEROUSE.


Philp's Diary: Dec 25, 1782: "I finally get to come home for Christmas and see my wife and child.  It will feel good to have a nice warm bed and a full breakfast.  I think I should quit my job." I am guessing that Philip’s second child, Joseph, was born around 1783-84.


David THOMPSON Arrives


In 1785 David THOMPSON (1770-1857) arrived at York as an assistant to Humphrey MARTIN. ** MORE ABOUT DAVID THOMPSON in DCBO

In the summer of 1788, 19 year old Peter FIDLER (1769-1822) arrived at York as a labourer. ** MORE ABOUT PETER FIDLER


Philip sails to England

Marriage to Elizabeth HALLETT


Pearl: On Sept. 9, 1787, Philip sailed for England in command of The Beaver sloop, beside the Company's King George sloop. While there he drafted the maps of his travels.


In 1788 Philip married in Battersea, Surrey, England (near the heart of London) to Elizabeth HALLETT, daughter of Elizabeth and Thomas HALLETT (1710-1778) who were also the grandparents of Henry HALLETT (1773-1844) who also had a long career with the HBC and the North West Company. ** MORE ABOUT HENRY HALLETT


Cumberland House


Pearl: On May 16, 1789, Philip renewed his contract as Inland Surveyor to the HBC for three years at 80 pounds per year. He was given the task of beginning at Cumberland House and surveying toward Athabasca Lake and from there to find a way to the coast. He set sail once again on the King George. It is recorded on this travel that he mentioned leaving his home and wife behind. He arrived at York Fort on Aug 27, 1789. He then sent a letter to the London Committee stating, “I should esteem it a singular favor if Your Honors would assist my wife in case she should apply as her happiness is of more consequence to my quiet of mind than my views of going in this Country. She was apparently paid 20 pounds that October, and another 40 pounds in 1790, which was 30 pound less than what she had requested. The Committee asked Philip to mention the specific sum that he wished her to have annually.


During the winter of 1789–90 at Cumberland Philip taught surveying to Peter FIDLER and David THOMPSON, who was recovering from a broken leg. In June 1790, while awaiting the arrival of supplies, TURNOR met Alexander MACKENZIE (1764-1820), who told him of his trip down the Mackenzie River (N.W.T.) to the sea.


I am guessing that daughter Hannah was born around 1790; conceived and born while Philip was back at Cumberland House.


Philip Returns to England


RICH/ Pearl: In October of 1792 TURNOR returned to England. In his retirement he lived at Rotherhithe (London), and taught navigation.


RICH: Apart from his formal relations with the HBC little is known of him. Obviously a courageous and conscientious man and a competent traveler and surveyor, he left no intimate or personal records.


He must have died shortly after 4 Dec. 1799, when he last wrote to the company, for on March 26, 1800 the London committee read “a Petition from Elizabeth TURNOR Wife of Philip TURNOR Geographer to this Company, lately deceased, praying for some pecuniary assistance.


From 1800 onward, very little is known for certain what became of Philip’s Indian wife and family, last known to have been at Cumberland House. We can only speculate. I have already indicated my belief that she was Elizabeth BEAR or WHITE BEAR and that her eldest child was WHITE BEAR (perhaps John) aka TURNER, about 20 years old by that time, perhaps already married to a Cree woman named A-KEE-NA-SOM. In 1800 son Joseph was about 17 years old and there were two daughters, Mary Aggathas (about 15) and Hannah (about 10 years old).


Around 1804 Alexander KENNEDY (1781-1832), an HBC employee, was at Cumberland House when Mary Aggathas BEAR became his wife. On Jan 29, 1805 their first child (John Frederick) was born there. KENNEDY was in charge at Cumberland until in 1808 he was sent to Fort Hibernia in the Swan River District.


Please post comments or queries at this Link:  FORUM DISCUSSIONS about PHILIP TURNOR


=========================== Family Details ===========================



1. c1780 (JOHN?) WHITE BEAR aka TURNER (m. A-KEE-NA-A-SON, a Cree Woman)


2. 1783 JOSEPH TURNER (m. Emma)


3. c1785 MARY AGGATHAS BEAR (m. Alexander KENNEDY)