Martha Margaret Turner, 1868-1946 [RG0762.AM]


RG0762.AM:  Martha Margaret Turner, 1868-1946

Papers:  1882-1956

Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska:  Historian, journalist, librarian

Size:  4.0 cu.ft.; 8 boxes


Martha M. Turner was born September 6, 1868 in West Liberty, Ohio. She was the daughter of M. K. Turner and Eliza Craig. Her siblings were Craig, Ralph, Frances, Gladys, Rene, Lida Johnson, Anna Rowe, and Hattie Walker. The family came to Nebraska in 1870, settling in Columbus. Her father founded the Columbus Journal newspaper and served as editor until his death. Martha worked at the paper on weekends and during breaks from school. After graduating from high school in 1887, she worked full time at the paper, taking time out to attend classes at the Art Institute and School of Illustration in Chicago and at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Nebraska. Upon the death of her father in 1906, she spent two years as editor of the Columbus Journal before selling the paper and moving to Lincoln. She then spent ten years with the State Journal newspaper, working as art and church editor, society editor, and as a reporter on assignment.

In 1913 Martha filed a homestead claim for half a section of land in Washington County, Colorado, and lived in a sod house on the land for seven months of the year until her claim was proved. Later, she inherited and purchased additional, previously family-owned lands in Platte County and a house lot in Lincoln. She joined the Nebraska State Historical Society in about 1920, providing sketches of historical sites and illustrations for society publications including “Nebraska History of Addison E. Sheldon.” The society hired her to head the newspaper department and she later founded the photograph department as well.

In her job and free time she answered queries about Nebraska history and conducted research used in writing numerous articles on various Nebraska history subjects for publication in area newspapers and for syndication. She wrote the chapter on early artists in the book Nebraska Art and Artists published in 1932 and wrote a history of Columbus, Nebraska, Our Own History, published in 1940. She sponsored an essay contest for area school children to write about Nebraska pioneer settlers in 1933 with the results released in 1934. She never married and late in life she lived with her sister Frances, her widowed sister Lida, and her nephew Ralph Johnson. She retired from the Society in May 1946 and died in June of the same year.


This collection relates to the professional interests and personal life of Martha Turner. The collection is arranged as follows:

Subgroup 1: Professional Papers

Series 1: Pioneer Essay Contest, 1933-1934

Series 2: Nebraska Research, c.1904-c.1942

Series 3: Nebraska History, Specific Localities, 1929-1945

Series 4: General History Research, 1919-1937

Series 5: Nebraska State Historical Society, 1898-1945

Subgroup 2: Personal Papers

Series 1: Financial Records, 1914-1946

Series 2: Land Owned & Real Estate Records, 1913-1946

Series 3: Personal Items, 1876-1956

The Professional Papers of Subgroup 1 form the bulk of the collection. Included are materials such as Nebraska school children’s essays and stories of pioneer days; newspaper clippings on Columbus, Platte County and general Nebraska history; handwritten and typed research notes, source extracts, drafts and manuscripts about Nebraska history compiled and written by Turner; research correspondence to and from Turner; work correspondence, writings, and finding aids from her time at the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Subgroup 2 consists of Turner’s financial records, personal papers, and personal correspondence of Turner; correspondence regarding farming and ranching on Turner’s land holdings in Nebraska and Colorado; and family correspondence and memorabilia.

Note: Photographs have been transferred to the photo component (RG0762.PH).


When initially surveyed, most of the collection consisted of loose papers. Miss Turner had organized some of the material by subject heading with numerous fasteners attaching related correspondence, research notes and correspondence. In many places, however, the items were loose and seemed unorganized. In addition there were a few items mixed in that postdated Turner’s death in June 1946, so presumably these were added by family members who also may have reordered the files to their liking.

The approximately 71 entries for the Pioneer Essay Contest were left in the order in which Turner arranged them. The essays became her property at the end of the contest and it appears she intended to eventually publish them. Many of the essays are annotated and are accompanied by related correspondence. The history research files were organized around Turner’s writings, though it was often unclear whether correspondence and research was conducted for work or for personal interest. The material is primarily from the 1930s and 1940s, with research notes, newspaper clippings and source extracts making up about half of the bulk of the collection. Of particular interest are single letters from Mari Sandoz, Earl G. Maxwell, and Luther North.


Subgroup 1: Professional Papers

Series 1 – Pioneer essay contest, 1933-1934

Box 1


    1. Turner Titled “checked”: Blizzard of 1873, blizzard of 1888, Indian encounters, farming, bridges, Duncan, Pawnee, hardships, railroad, flood, Creston, prairie fire, grasshopper plague, ranching

    1. Turner Titled “L.H. North, Jim Haney”: Blizzard 1873, North Brothers and Pawnee Scouts, Indian encounters, snake story

    1. Turner Titled “Columbus”: Indian encounters, farming, military life, business, foreign travelers

    1. Turner Titled “Creston not seen”: Pioneer hardships, blizzard of 1888, hunting, Indian encounters, drought of 1894

    1. Turner Titled “Not new story”: Wisemar Massacre

    1. Turner Annotated: Flood of 1916, Indian relations, wolves, immigrants, 1881 tragedy, hardships, correspondence about essays 1934

    1. Articles: Platte County pioneer stories manuscript by Martha Turner, clipping announcing contest, clipping on contest winners

    1. Pioneer Essay Contest correspondence, 1933-1934: Letters, press release, prizewinner list, essay list, prize receipts

Series 2 – Nebraska research, c.1904-1942

Box 1


    1. Agriculture: Martha Turner manuscript, census record extracts, maps, notes on steam plow

    1. Archaeology: Clippings, notes

    1. Christmas: Martha Turner manuscripts, notes

    1. Colonial American Relics: Martha Turner article clipping, Martha Turner manuscript draft, clippings, notes, correspondence 1931

    1. Early Publishing: Martha Turner manuscript, correspondence 1938-1941, notes

    1. Forts, General: Clippings, notes for Forts Hartsuff, Robinson, McPherson, & other Western forts

    1. Fort Atkinson: Clippings, notes

    1. Fort Kearney: Clippings, photographs, notes

    1. General Topics: Martha Turner manuscript on early Nebraska families, clippings, notes

Box 2


    1. Highways: Clippings, maps, notes about U.S. 81 and Lincoln Highway

    1. Indians, General: Clippings, maps

    1. Indians, Omaha Tribe: Martha Turner draft and manuscript, clippings, correspondence,

    1. Indians, Pawnee Tribe: Clippings, photographs, drawings, book references, notes, clipping books

    1. Indians, Sioux Tribe: Clippings, notes, correspondence, clipping book

    1. Indians, Winnebago Tribe: Martha Turner manuscript and article clippings

    1. Landscape Paintings By Alfred Miller: Clipping, correspondence, Fortune Magazine article January 1944

    1. Lewis & Clark: Clippings

    1. Manufacturing: Martha Turner manuscripts, notes, clippings, correspondence on mills, “Nebraska Manufacturer Newsletter” issues 1926-1927

    1. Maps: Hand drawn and printed maps of Nebraska counties, and locations of notable events

    1. Mitchell, James C.: Correspondence 1944, notes, photographs of his house

Box 3


    1. North Brothers & Pawnee Scouts: Clippings, notes, correspondence 1933, clipping book

    1. Pioneers Crossing the Plains: Clippings, pictures and drawings of oxen and prairie schooners, notes, article extracts, Oregon Trail book corrections

    1. Pioneer Settlers: Martha Turner manuscript about Jules Sandoz, clippings, notes, correspondence 1939, Lawson Sheldon clippings book, Turner poem and drawing

    1. Railroads: Notes, photograph of clippings

    1. Religion: Martha Turner manuscript, notes, correspondence 1929, Central Star of Empire booklet 1906

    1. Rivers: Notes

    1. Royalty Visits: Clippings, notes, unknown author’s manuscript

    1. Sioux Lookout: Martha Turner manuscript, Martha Turner article clipping, clippings, correspondence, notes

    1. Sites, Buildings, and Parks: Clippings, Maps, correspondence, notes, clipping books

Box 4


    1. Underground Railroad: Martha Turner manuscript concerning slavery, clippings, brochure, notes about John Brown, abolition, and fugitive slaves.

    1. Williams, Oliver T. B.: Martha Turner manuscript, correspondence 1937, photograph, notes

Series 3 – Nebraska History, Specific Localities, 1929-1945

Box 4


    1. Columbus: Clippings, notes

    1. Columbus Company: Martha Turner draft and manuscript, correspondence 1944, notes, photostats of company minute books, clippings book of Martha Turner articles, Platte County Pioneer Association programs for 1944 (featuring Martha Turner)

    1. Keya Paha County/Polk County: Martha Turner manuscript 1940, research notes

Box 5


    1. Lancaster County: Martha Turner manuscript on land records in Lincoln, excerpts of Martha Turner article on early tales of Lincoln 1933, notes, clipping book

    1. Lincoln, Artesian Well: Martha Turner manuscript, Martha Turner article clipping 1930, notes

    1. Lincoln, Salt Basin: Martha Turner manuscript, notes, clippings,

    1. Lincoln, Scoggin Hotel: Draft of Martha Turner article 1933, clippings, notes

    1. Platte County: Clippings, notes, clipping book by Craig Turner 1932

Series 4 – General History Research, 1919-1937

Box 5


    1. Bibliography: Book references, clippings, whole catalog and catalog pages

    1. Western Fur Trade: Clippings, notes

    1. General Western Topics: Martha Turner manuscripts, clippings, notes, booklet

Series 5 – Nebraska State Historical Society, 1898-1945

Box 5


    1. Nebraska Newspapers ca. 1907: Inventories of newspapers found in historical society basement in 1943, thought to be by A. E. Sheldon from 1907, notes

    1. Newspapers: Philippines 1898, Havana paper 1899, The Pontanezen Duckbrand, 1919, Stars and Stripes France 1919, Corning State Journal, April 28, 1923, The Columbus Daily Telegram 80th Anniversary Edition, August 31, 1936, reprints of early New England newspapers

Box 6


    1. News and Photo Department: Martha Turner manuscripts, correspondence 1932-1945, notes, collection lists, clippings, clippings about Rocky Mountain News

    1. Turner Presentations: Photocopy of speech on NSHS newspaper collections given October 1923, slide shows – “Pictures of Nebraska;” “Outline of History of Nebraska;” “Omaha Indians;” “Sheldon History Stories;” correspondence 1945

    1. Research Correspondence: Letters 1927-1946

    1. Martha Turner Writings: Manuscripts on moving the national capital to Nebraska, the history of the turn-key (with Turner drawing), and John A. Singleton; submissions to Omaha World Herald “Did You Know” column, book reviews

Subgroup 2: Personal Papers

Series 1 – Financial Records, 1914-1946

Box 6


    1. Commerce Trust Company: Receipts, letters, 1929-1939

    1. Delinquent Tax Sale: Correspondence about land owned by Sophie Schreiber 1943-1945, land plat map of Platte County showing involved land

    1. The First Trust Company of Lincoln: Notices, letters, receipts, legal documents, 1916-1931

    1. Lincoln Safe Deposit Company: Deposit slips/receipts, 1930-1942

    1. Medical: Receipts, envelope, 1942

    1. Miller & Paine: Receipts, 1944

    1. Miscellany: Notes on bonds, 1937 and 1943, apartment registration 1942, notes/list of transactions at mineral bath, 1942, contribution letter, 1942

    1. National Bank of Commerce: Deposit slips, 1940-1946

    1. Savings Bonds: Correspondence, deposit slips for bonds, 1942-1946

    1. Tum-A-Lum Lumber Company: Correspondence, 1938-1945

    1. The University Publishing Company: Statements, correspondence, annual reports, 1923-1945

    1. Tax, Income: Tax forms, receipts, notes, correspondence, 1940-1945

    1. Tax, Lancaster County Land: Tax receipts, 1937-1945

    1. Tax, Platte County Land: Correspondence, receipts, 1925-46

    1. Tax, Washington County, Colorado Land: Receipts, correspondence, 1914-1946

Series 2 – Land Owned & Real Estate Records, 1913-1946

Box 7


    1. Lancaster County: Warranty deed, 1913

    1. Platte County: Renter correspondence, government programs, property abstracts, correspondence on corrections of abstracts, ca.1923-1946

    1. Washington County, Colorado: Renter correspondence, 1927-1946

    1. Homesteading Washington County, Colorado: Government correspondence, legal documents, land plat map, 1913-1927

Series 3 – Personal Items, 1876-1956

Box 7


    1. Martha Turner Biography: Obituaries; manuscript of autobiography; homesteading manuscript; student paper biography of Martha Turner 1956

    1. Personal Correspondence, General: Letters and cards, letters to Earl G. Maxwell, woodcut Christmas card 1915-1946

Box 8


    1. Personal Correspondence – Research, Burgess Brothers: Harry and W.W. Burgess and C.E. Chapin notes and research 1933

    1. Personal Correspondence – Research, C.E. Chapin: Letters and research, 1932-1934

    1. Personal Correspondence – Research, George Humrich: Letters, typed extracts and summary of letters 1933

    1. Personal Correspondence – Turner Articles and Books: Letters, 1944-1946

    1. Personal Correspondence – Turner Family: Letters, 1941-1946

    1. Personal Mementos: Membership cards for Art Guild; 1944 commemorative envelopes; opera house program; Teller House menu; antique card; materials from Nebraska Press Association Convention, 1939

    1. Turner Family Genealogy: History of Craig family, notebook with research notes 1930, correspondence, 1941-1944

    1. Turner Family Memorabilia: M.K. Turner election campaign literature 1882, Kate Turner Sampson memorial book 1887, Gladys Turner’s autograph book 1891-1893, Gladys Turner’s scrapbook, Martha Turner manuscripts about her grandfather and life in America, correspondence from George Heman Walker in France during WWI, family clippings

    1. Miscellany: Ledger book Aumotor Co., Omaha Nebraska (1889-1917), Warrant for arrest of Adam Bebler and Henry Baily for kidnapping (1876), clippings


Subject headings:

Homesteading — Nebraska

Indians of North America — Nebraska

Lincoln (Nebraska) — History

Nebraska — History

Nebraska State Historical Society

Pioneer life — Nebraska

Platte County (Nebraska) — History

Turner, Martha Margaret, 1868-1946


Revised TMM       04-18-2007

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