webster city observer


September 24, 1942, page 10, Hamilton County Iowa - Only three known widows of Civil War survive

All are Now Living in Webster City; No G.A.R. Veterans Left

Believed to be the only three surviving widows of the Civil War veterans in Webster City, and possibly in Hamilton county, are Mrs. Mary Robbins, Mrs. Ada Kearns, and Mrs. Lavina Turpin. No veterans of that war remain in the county.

Of the three surviving widows, Mrs. Turpin is the oldest. Affectionately called “Grandma” Turpin by all who know her, she was a girl in her early teens at the time of the conflict between states. David Turpin, the man who was later to become her husband, enlisted in the Union army at Bloomington, Ill. In March, 1864. After serving one year with Company C of the 94th Illinois infantry, Dave Turpin was discharged in 1865.

On November 13, 1872, the young veteran was married in Illinois and he and his bride later moved to Iowa to make their home. Following his death in 1929, Mrs. Turpin continued to make her home in Webster City with her husband’s brother and his family. In spite of her advanced years, Mrs. Turpin maintains an active interest in the community and her friends and neighbors. She recently rode in a place of honor with the other two widows in Hamilton county’s war day parade.

Mrs. Robbins is the widow of Ephraim Robbins, a former Methodist minister in Webster City, and well-known for his active work with the local GAR post before his death. Ephraim Robbins enlisted in the Union army at Galesburg, Ill., in December, 1864. He also served one year with the Illinois infantry, being a member of Company H.

Following his discharge, Robbins continued in the ministry. On November 4, 1914, several years following the death of his first wife, he was married to the woman who survives him, and they served the Methodist church in Webster City until he retired, a few years before his death in 1930. Mrs. Robbins has her own home on Boone street now, and remains active in affairs of the church and community.

Mrs. Kearns, who now lives in the pleasant white house on Bank street which was once the Hamilton county courthouse, is the widow of J.V. Kearns, Civil War veteran, whose exploits in that war are taught to all children as a regular part of the American history course in Webster City schools, and which received much attention during his lifetime.

Kearns enlisted at the age of 19 with Co. H, of the 13th United States infantry, and was assigned to duty with the Fifth division under General Sherman at Fort Pickering, Ohio.

Because of his ability to talk and act like a southerner, the youth was chosen by Sherman to take a message through the Confederate lines to Admiral Farragut on the other side. Disguised as a mule trader, Kearns made his way through a section of the southern ranks, but was finally picked up and confined in jail. He managed to tunnel out, however, swimming a river and finally making his way back to his own company.

Kearns fell, seriously wounded at the battle of Vicksburg. Doctors found it necessary to amputate one arm, and was in the act of amputating both legs when Kearns sent a note of protest to Sherman who came to the tent with written orders that the boy’s legs were not to be amputated without his consent. Kearns recovered and enjoyed the full use of both legs all his life. The scrawled note in Sherman’s handwriting, was always one of his most cherished keepsakes.

Mr. and Mrs. Kearns were married in 1888, and spent most of their married life in Webster City, where Kearns was prominent in all civic activities. Following his death in 1931, Mrs. Kearns remained here, and is active in the Women’s Relief corps in this city. She has kept scrapbooks recording her husband’s activities, and enjoys showing them to her many friends and acquaintances.

~Transcribed by: Janelle Martin
Added: July 23, 2014