Turpin Scoggin First Howell County Surveyor

In my quest to find out what happened to the population of Howell County during the Civil War, we take a look at a family who tried to avoid involvement but were destroyed by the conflict. From my reading of the war here, I’ve found the worst thing to do was to not declare a side and be under the suspicion and persecution of both.
The surnames Turpin, and Scoggin, are numerous in Rutherfordton, North Carolina historically and at present. Consequently, these names are borne on businesses and landmarks all around Rutherford County today. 
Turpin Goode Scoggin carried the genes and names of his nativity into Howell County, arriving at South Fork in 1853. Howell County had not been formed and the county seat of Oregon County was Thomasville. Turpin was thirty-nine years old and well-established in life before he came here.
In 1930 a West Plains Gazette obituary for Turpin’s son Joseph told the family story, “Turpin and Laura Scoggin emigrated from North Carolina in a covered wagon drawn by oxen in the spring of 1853. They brought their children, slaves, and household goods with them and located on a farm near Mt. Zion, three-fourths of a mile south of South Fork, where a number of Tennesseans had preceded them to make homes. After the long trip from North Carolina to Howell County in 1853 Turpin Scoggin was delighted to settle in Howell County. He was a finely educated man and easily formed acquaintances among the early settlers in Howell Valley and the pioneers of Thomasville.” Others from North Carolina arrived in Howell County in the early 1850s and one account says they came with a group as part of a wagon train including Scoggin.
The 1850 Rutherford County census recorded Turpin’s age as twenty-nine, married to wife Laura, age nineteen; son William, age four; and daughter Catherine, age one. The 1850 slave census revealed a single black girl, age four living in their home - a wedding gift from her parents.
Turpin’s father died in 1854 at the age of seventy-nine, a year after they left. Joseph Scoggin lived in Rutherford County, North Carolina his entire life and fathered at least twelve children, including Turpin. As a step-child (his mother died years earlier and his father remarried) prospects for land by inheritance were slim when Joseph passed away. The Graduated Lands Act had been enacted allowing citizens to purchase land at very good prices. 
The Howell County Gazette continues, “Turpin Scoggin was a surveyor (The first Howell County Surveyor, appointed 1859) and served as the first Federal land agent in this county when it was a part of Oregon County. He was also the first School Commissioner and it wasn’t much of a job at that time for there were few schools.”
 
Turpin began buying government land by purchasing bounty certificates from veterans for their service in the Mexican War. A veteran who had no intentions to use it could sell their bounty of 160 acres of government land to someone else. Thousands were sold and redeemed for land in the Ozarks. It could be a cheap way of buying large tracts. Likely his work as county surveyor put him in a position to find the better government properties available and I think he was speculating.
The Scoggin family flourished in their new home. The 1860 census taken in Benton Township shows they now had six children, ranging from thirteen years to eleven months old. The census also shows the couple was one of the wealthier families in Howell County with two thousand dollars in real estate and another two thousand dollars in personal property. Turpin’s occupation was listed as a farmer, though none of his farms appear to be working and are not in the 1860 agricultural census. The 1860 Howell County slave census shows one black female, age 20. If this was the four-year-old included in the 1850 census she should have been fourteen in 1860. Family lore states that the Scoggins brought two slaves with them but emancipated them shortly after they arrived in Missouri. Both were female. One remained with the family for the remainder of her life.
The Gazette wrote,” The slaves brought to Howell County by Turpin Scoggin refused to leave when told they were free. They continued to live at the Scoggin home and the last one, ‘Aunt Mima’ remained with Turpin’s son Joseph Scoggin until her death five years ago (1930).”
From the start of the Civil War in April 1861 Scoggins appears to have attempted neutrality, an impossible task in Howell County. When Circuit Judge James McBride shut down the Howell County government, declared martial law, and was appointed Brigadier General of a division of the Missouri State Guard, one of his first orders was to clear out all Unionists and enforce it. The secession side held Springfield and Southern Missouri for under a year when the Union Army arrived in force in the Spring of 1862 and began prosecuting rebels. Both sides liberally used incarceration, the gun, and hangman’s noose.
While General Curtis was in West Plains with an army of thousands the Union Provost Marshal investigated Howell County citizenry for their involvement in the rebellion past or present. Turpin was not formally investigated, or required to post bond leading me to believe he was not suspected of being a rebel or aiding them. William Monks was aiding the Union Provost Marshal and separating those he thought needed to be arrested or freed. He would certainly have known Scoggin personally and did not arrest him. Turpin was called as a defense witness in an investigation of William Armstrong of Howell County charged with being a rebel and stealing from neighbors. He swore before the Provost in June 1862, this is Turpin’s testimony in the case:   
Statement of Turpin G. Scoggin of Howell County, Mo. 
Taken by request of and in the presence of William Armstrong.
 
I know Wm. Armstrong. He had the reputation of being a union man up to the time Snavels Company left for the Southern Army. I know nothing of the fact of the charge of his taking Mr. Cordill’s wagon. I don’t know of his taking anybody’s bed clothes. I heard that he did take them. 
The bedclothes in question belonged to Mrs. Ben Alsup of Hutton Valley who acquitted Armstrong of stealing from her, as did Elihugh Cordell, the future Sheriff of Howell County. Armstrong was released on bond. It would have been better for Turpin Scoggin to have been arrested and taken out of the county. Not heeding either side, he continued tending to his business.
The Gazette article continued, “In 1862 Turpin Scoggins had business with the land office at Jacksonport, Arkansas, which was then the nearest government land agency. He saddled his horse, told the members of his family goodbye, and rode away. That was the last they saw of him. How he met his death, or what became of him, no one ever knew.” Jacksonport is at the confluence of the White and Black Rivers and was an important transportation center and steamboat harbor for the Confederate Army.
That had to have been after the summer of 1862, we know he was alive in June 1862. General Curtis and his Army of the Southwest had left and the vacuum of neither side in control made Howell County a no man’s land. Scoggins could have been killed by either side or the criminals with no allegiance hiding in the woods anywhere between Howell County and Jacksonport, Arkansas. Several men in Howell and Oregon counties were killed in this manner during this period. It was a big mistake traveling alone with money and a good horse, and he had both. 
The hardship on his family was immediate. With assets in land, they could not sell (Howell County government hadn’t been in business since the start of the war) it became a burden. After the war was over only Howell County Union soldiers were excluded from back taxes gathered during the war, and much of it was seized by the county and resold.
Of his son Joseph, the Gazette article stated, “Left fatherless at the age of seven years, with a relentless warfare going on in the surrounding country, Joseph Scoggin had a hard time as a boy. Often the family went hungry, for Joseph had several sisters and brothers at that time. After four years of sorrow and famine the skies cleared away, for peace was declared by the states.”
“Alongside the family of their former masters, “The slaves brought to Howell County by Turpin Scoggin refused to leave when told they were free. They continued to live at the Scoggin home and the last one, ‘Aunt Mima’ remained with Joseph Scoggin until her death five years ago,” reported the Gazette. A grandson of Turpin, Joe Scoggin Jr. remembered Mime caring for him until he was five before she died. Jemima “Aunt Mime” died in August 1921 and is buried in the southwest corner of the cemetery, likely because of Jim Crow. A modern red granite stone marks her grave, which is attended to and decorated by the Ralph Riggs family. Another account states Mime died in the home of A.P. Fox, a relative of the Scoggin family. The accounts of her endearment in the community are numerous.
As late as 1905 ownership of some of the property Turpin purchased was contested in Howell County court, and I suspect the family benefited very little from the sale. The tragedy is that had he lived Turpin Scoggin might have become one of the richest men in Howell County and influenced its development for the better.
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