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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Asa Turner

ASA TURNER, “missionary patriarch,” was born at Templeton, Worcester County, Massachusetts, July 11, 1799. He prepared for college at Amherst Academy and entered Yale, taking a three years' theological course and earning the means to pay his expenses. After graduating with the degree of B. A. he joined the “Illinois Association” of seven who pledged themselves to missionary preaching and the founding of a college. In 1830 Mr. Turner was sent to Quincy, Illinois, and soon occupied a field composed of a dozen counties, twice going as far north as the Galena lead mines. No statistics can record the manifold labors involved in this circuit; preaching, organizing churches, lecturing on temperance, founding antislavery societies, stimulating schools and the higher education, drawing young men and women of promise to seminary and college from the rude frontier homes. In 1834 he explored the newly acquired “Black Hawk Purchase” for a missionary field as far up as Crow Creek in Scott County. Two years later he removed to Denmark, where he founded the first Congregational church in Iowa and was the first installed pastor of any denomination in the Territory which two years later became Iowa. Here he labored for thirty years. He had been one of the first trustees of the Illinois College, and among the notable things in his active career was the stand he took for temperance and antislavery in both States in which he lived. In Quincy he faced mobs and rioting around the church building; and at Alton, just before the assassination of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy, Father Turner presided at a meeting which established the first antislavery society in Illinois. Denmark was always one of the stations on the Underground Railroad and Rev. Asa Turner was one of the most fearless conductors on the line. When James W. Grimes was nominated by the Whig party for Governor in 1854, for the first time the Whigs believed it possible to elect their candidate if he could receive the votes of the abolitionists. Grimes was known to be an uncompromising foe to slavery and was anxious to receive the support of the antislavery party. When the State Convention of that party assembled to consider the situation, Father Turner was chosen president. He knew Grimes to be in full sympathy with the antislavery cause, and he had prepared resolutions to be presented to the convention, as follows:

Whereas the Nebraska Bill is the great question in National politics, and

Whereas the Maine Liquor Law is the great question in State politics, therefore

Resolved, That we will vote for James W. Grimes of Des Moines County for Governor.

The resolutions were adopted and the antislavery vote was given solid for Grimes at the August election. Grimes and Turner were the first public speakers in the cause of prohibition in southeastern Iowa. “Father Turner stands as the projector and leading founder of two of our oldest educational institutions, Denmark Academy and Iowa College,” says Dr. Magoon. The last seventeen years of Father Turner's life were spent at Oskaloosa where he died in December, 1885.