A Revolutionary War Story

Jabez Turner's powder horn, 1778. On display at the New Haven Museum, Connecticut.

This powder horn belonged to “Jabez Turner” and was made on October 15, 1778, most likely in New Haven.[1] It is decorated with ships, a church, mermaid, fish, livestock, soldiers and possibly a fortification and was used to carry gun powder for a flint lock gun during the Revolutionary War. It is unclear whether it was used throughout Jabez’s service and was just engraved in 1778 or only used after the October date.

Jabez was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania on January 31, 1756 but moved to New Haven with his parents when he was a few months old. [2]  With the first call for troops[3], Jabez enlisted at New Haven in May 1775[4] and by the 24th had done 12 half days of “Duty” (training) in New Haven under Captain Christopher Alling.[6] It is likely Jabez gathered with others on the New Haven Green, the men “ready for a march, with their arms glittering and their knapsacks on their backs”[5], powder horns hanging from their shoulders.  It appears Jabez was part of General Wooster’s First Regiment in a company commanded by Captain Samuel Wilmott.[7]

Underside of powder horn showing ship (center), fortification (right) and church (left).

Allegedly the company marched from New Haven to Horseneck (part of Greenwich) and then onto New York, pitching tents at the Bowery. Time was spent “getting off cannon” from the “Grand battery” and it was here that a British ship, HMS Asia, apparently fired at them. The company went onto Harlem, staying there for about half a month, and then sailed to the eastern end of Long Island[8], where British ships were rendezvousing and soldiers were going ashore for livestock and other supplies.[9] In order to prevent further raids, Jabez helped remove livestock from Plum Island and although he recalled that they were again fired at, no injury was caused.[10]  In late September, the troops sailed to Ticonderoga via Albany and went to Brown Point and the Islands to the west of Lake Champlain. In October they were involved in the siege and capture of St. John’s and Jabez remembers helping with the building of a fortification. In November, the Regiment marched to Montreal and took possession of the City without battle. [11] Here Jabez was discharged on November 28th, having served for six months. [12] It is probable that Jabez changed companies during this service as the information he supplied in his pension file suggests he was originally a soldier in the 1st Company but discharge lists show he was discharged from the 10th.[13]

Underside of powder horn showing soldiers.

In August 1776, Jabez allegedly went back into service and was drafted at New Haven into a company of militia. He sailed to New York, was sent to Long Island until the American’s retreated and then went back to New York until it too was lost. As a carpenter, he was put to use at Kings Bridge, helping to build barracks and was dismissed in September having served for six weeks. In December, Jabez apparently volunteered and marched from New Haven to Pells Neck, New York, remaining there for 3 weeks. In April 1777, Jabez again volunteered and was in this service for 10 days, marching from New Haven to Reading and involved in a skirmish at “Kompo Heights” (most likely what is now Westport). He purportedly volunteered in October 1777, marching from New Haven to Danbury, onto Fishkill, Peekskill, Gallows Hill and “Krum Pond”, being involved in scouting and dismissed after two weeks.[14]

While further service is not mentioned in Jabez’s pension file, it is possible that he continued to participate in the War after 1777, since he was chosen to be on an alarm list in 1781 and appears as a Lieutenant.[15]

Front of powder horn providing details about the owner and when and where it was made.

Although Jabez grew up in New Haven and can be found living in Hamden in 1790[16], he moved to Great Barrington, Massachusetts around 1795[17] and is found there in the 1800 and 1810 censuses.[18] By 1835 however, he was living with his son in Kinderhook, Columbia County, New York and by 1841 lived in Alton, Madison County, Illinois with his son Timothy.[19] Jabez died on December 12, 1846 in Godfrey, Madison County.[20] In an 1873 newspaper article Jabez’s son, Deacon W.W Turner, celebrated his Golden Wedding Anniversary. At this time, Jabez’s Revolutionary War service was remembered and among the curiosities on display was,…the powder horn.[21]

***This powder horn is on display in the main gallery at the New Haven Museum.


[1] Jabez Turner, Powder Horn, 1778; New Haven Museum, New Haven, Connecticut. Also, New Haven, Ct., Land Records and Deeds, 37: 391, Mercy Turner to Jabez Turner, 19 February 1777; New Haven Town Clerk, New Haven. The powder horn was likely made in New Haven since Jabez resided in the city at this time (as shown by the 1777 land record) and on it are engraved the words “made in [damaged section] Haven”.
[2] Jabez Turner pension file, S no. 31440, 1832; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 23 February 2012); citing NARA microfilm M804. Also, New Haven, Ct., Births, Marriages and Deaths, 2: 22, Jabez Turner birth, 1756; CSL microfilm 2487, Connecticut State Archives, Hartford. Although Jabez’s birth was recorded in New Haven, it is likely this was done at least a few months after the fact as his pension file suggests he was born in Pennsylvania.
[3] Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the I- War of the Revolution, II War of 1812, III Mexican War, (Hartford: [Adjutants-General], 1889), p.39; digital images, Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org : accessed 24 February 2012).
[4] Jabez Turner pension file, S no. 31440, 1832; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.
[5] Revolutionary Characters of New Haven (New Haven: The Price Lee and Adkins Co., 1911), p.42, Quote from Deacon Nathan Beers; digital images, Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org : accessed 24 February 2012).
[6] Connecticut Archives: Revolutionary War, Series 1, 2:11a,  Jabez Turner on a list of soldiers who had performed duty in New Haven under Capt. Christopher Alling, 1775; CSL microfilm 91, Connecticut State Archives, Hartford.
[7] Jabez Turner pension file, S no. 31440, 1832; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Frederic G. Mather, The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut (Albany, NY: J.B Lyon Company, Printers, 1913), p. 27; digital images, Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org : accessed 24 February 2012).
[10] Jabez Turner pension file, S no. 31440, 1832; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.
[11] Ibid. Also, Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the I- War of the Revolution, II War of 1812, III Mexican War, p. 37 & 44.
[12]Connecticut Archives: Revolutionary War, Series I, 3: 112e, Discharges 1775, General Wooster’s Regiment; CSL microfilm 123, Connecticut State Archives, Hartford. Also, Jabez Turner pension file, S no. 31440, 1832; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. Discharge lists suggest Jabez was discharged on the 28th November. In his pension file however, he gives his discharge date as the 18th.
[13] Jabez Turner pension file, S no. 31440, 1832; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. Also, Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the I- War of the Revolution, II War of 1812, III Mexican War, 39 and 44. Also, Connecticut Archives: Revolutionary War, Series I, 3: 112e, Discharges 1775, General Wooster’s Regiment. In his pension file, Jabez provides the names of the captain and ensign of the company he entered and these match up with the information given in the published source about the 1st Company. However, Jabez was discharged from Captain Peck’s company, which the published source suggests was the 10th Company. Thus it is possible Jabez changed companies at some point during his service.
[14] Jabez Turner pension file, S no. 31440, 1832; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.
[15] Connecticut Archives: Revolutionary War, Series 2, 14: 2769a, Jabez Turner chosen to be on Alarm list, 1781; CSL microfilm 91, Connecticut State Archives, Hartford.
[16] 1790 U.S. census, New Haven County, Town of Hamden, Ct., p. 64 (penned), line 8, Jabez Turner; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 24 February 2011); citing NARA microfilm M637, Roll 1.
[17] Jabez Turner pension file, S no. 31440, 1832; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.
[18] 1800 U.S. census, Berkshire County, Town of Great Barrington, Ma., p. 107 (stamped), line 12, Jabez Turner; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 24 February 2011); citing NARA microfilm M32, Roll 13. Also, 1810 U.S. census, Berkshire County, Town of Great Barrington, Ma., p. 136 (stamped), T Section, Jabez Turner; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 24 February 2011); citing NARA microfilm M252, Roll 17.
[19] Jabez Turner pension file, S no. 31440, 1832, information about move,1835 and 1841; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files. It is likely Timothy was the son Jabez lived with in Kinderhook as he said he moved to Illinois as his son moved.
[20] “Died”, Morning News (New London, Ct.), 19 January 1847, p. 3, col. 1; digital image, News Bank: America’s Historical Newspapers (www.infoweb.newsbank.com : accessed 23 February 2012).
[21] “Editorial Notes”, Columbian Register (Ct.), 11 January 1873, p. 4, col. 3; digital image, News Bank: America’s Historical Newspapers (www.infoweb.newsbank.com : accessed 23 February 2012).

*The photos of the powder horn were taken by Claire Ammon with the cooperation of the New Haven Museum.

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