Grandpa Turner–Veterinarian, Blacksmith, Water Dowser

The Texas Story Project. Inspired by Horseshoe from Fort Griffin.

Grandpa Turner's veterinary tools
Grandpa Turner's veterinary tools

At the end of the War Between the States, many people came to Navarro County, Texas, to settle. My great-great-grandfather James Daniel “Blacky” Turner was among the flood of immigrants who came from Mississippi during Reconstruction. He was born in Mississippi and came to Texas with a young wife and two children. He settled in the Cryer Creek area of Navarro County and served the community as a blacksmith, veterinarian, and water dowser.

My grandmother told me stories of him riding his horse all around the county taking care of sick animals. Once he helped in the birthing of twin calves. And he was in much demand during droughts for his water dowsing talents. He would use a willow branch most of the time to dowse for water. Grandmother said he would talk to that stick and to the earth asking them to show him where there was water. Then, that stick would start shaking and twisting and turning toward the dirt.

My dad was a plumber and used brass rods to find water lines, and now as a genealogist, I use rods to hunt for graves.

I don’t have any of the willow branches Grandpa Turner used, but I do have some of the veterinary tools he used in caring for the county’s sick animals. I hope to someday put them in the historical museum in Blooming Grove, where the family moved to in around 1900. Oh, yes, one more story about the water dowsing, they said he could find water for anyone in the area except for himself. Grandpa Turner could never find water on his own land.

Dana Stubbs is the genealogy librarian for the Liz Gillispie Genealogy Department at the Corsicana Public Library.

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