Family Histories of Coleman County, Texas

Dr. Stephen Thomas Turner
by Ralph Terry

I recently learned that S. T. Turner was a doctor in the early days of Coleman.  Following is what I have learned about him, so far.


Dr. Stephen Thomas Turner, born June 1857 in Mississippi, was located in Coleman from 1884 to 1888.  He married Annie L. Camp about 1883.  Their first child was born in 1884 and died in 1885, burial place not know at this time.  Their second child was born and died in Coleman and is buried at the Coleman Cemetery, Map Page 9 - Section III:  Charlie Turner - born January 25, 1885 - died April 25, 1888 - "son of S. T. & A. L. Turner."  He and has wife had no other children.  The 1900 census shown below shows 2 children born and 2 children living, but this appears to be in error.
1900 El Paso County census, El Paso City, 601 Mesa Avenue, Dwelling/Family #25/26, taken 2 and 4 June 1900:  Stephen T. Turner, born June 1857, married 17 years, born in Mississippi, both parents born in Mississippi, physician and surgeon; Annie Turner, born March 1863, married 17 years, two children born, two children living, born in Georgia, both parents born in Georgia; Alma Jones, niece, born December 1880 in Georgia, both parents born in Georgia.
He willed his home to the El Paso County Medical Society, which is now the El Paso Medical Museum.

El Paso Medical Museum - 1301 Montana Avenue • El Paso, Texas 79902 • 915/533-0940 ...
Historic medical equipment of the late 19th century and other artifacts of El Paso’s pioneering physicians are featured upstairs at the El Paso County Medical Society, 1301 Montana.  The offices and museum are in the 1910 home of Southern Pacific Railroad physician Dr. S.T. Turner.  The Medical Museum, housed in the historic Turner Home, began in 1966 and is a collection of antique medical equipment, artifacts, books, and records.  Three 1900s period rooms, including a Pharmacy, Operating room, and Physician's office, are portrayed as they were at the turn of the 20th century.  Admission is Free.  Tours by appointment only - November through May.  Below is an article from the El Paso Times in 2006.

Home Boasts Historical Medical Collection

by María Cortés González
El Paso Times
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Images by Rudy Gutierrez, El Paso Times

From the doorstep of the stained-glass front doors to its refreshing sleeping porches, the home at 1301 Montana has plenty of character.  Visitors interested in historic homes will be taken by the art deco Steuben lighting fixture, the ornate cast-iron fireplace in the living area and the oak paneling throughout the residence.  But as the home of the El Paso County Medical Society, the residence has also come to house one of the most interesting collections relating to medicine.  It is quite fitting, considering that the home was willed to the society by Dr. S.T. Turner, who came to El Paso in 1889 as a contract physician for the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Cheri Spier, wife of retired gynecologist Werner Spier, said the society is trying to restore the home, which has many of its original fixtures.  "It was a real showplace in its day.  And we would like to see it that way one day but we still have a long way to go.  But we do still have the original doorknobs and a lot of the furniture," she said of the Stickley pieces, including rocking chairs.  The style is part of the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1870s and '80s.  Among the period features of the home are a dumbwaiter in the upstairs for transporting dirty linens easily to the washroom in the basement and a talking tube in the upstairs master bedroom connecting to the front door.  "If someone rang the doorbell, you would just (she whistles) and say, 'Yes?," said Barbara Dent, a former X-ray technician who gives tours of the home by appointment.  "And so you wouldn't have to go downstairs."

With the help of Dr. Laurence Nickey, El Paso's former city-county health director who helped establish a preservation fund last year, the home is receiving some repairs, including a repainting of the exterior.  The heating and cooling system has also been renovated.  Dr. Kathryn Zerbach, past president of the El Paso County Medical Society, said the society is working hard to bring the house back to its glory days.  "It's such a beautiful facility as well as an important historical piece for the community.  The building was believed to be designed by Henry Trost, who did so many buildings in that area in that time period."

After appreciating the period features, visitors can climb the stairs to find five bedrooms filled with antique medical equipment and supplies dating from the early 1900s up to about the World War II.  The awe-inspiring collection tells how far medicine has come.  "It is very educational ... we can learn about the antibiotics that have been done, what the polio vaccine has done and what modern surgical procedures have been done compared to the old ways of doing things," Werner Spier said.  "It's important to know our history to improve our future."  Spier and his wife began to organize the items in 1965, but the collection began years before.  "The way it began is that when doctors retired or would die, their widows would call the moving and storage (people) and say, 'Take it to the Turner home.' " he said.  "So for years and years, this stuff was in the basement."

Today, the former bedrooms are divided into different settings, featuring artifacts and medical equipment relating to early surgery rooms, pharmacies, hospital rooms and early 1900s doctor's offices.  Also displayed are collections of various doctor's bags -- including one used in the Civil War -- and various nurse uniforms.  There are rare items such as a Leitz microscope (believed to be the first compound microscope in El Paso,) cathode X-ray tubes from Hotel Dieu and a scarifier -- a tool used to induce bleeding as a way to treat various diseases.  "Each item has a story," said Dent, who is very knowledgeable about the items on display.  "This is a typical hospital room setting with a bed that is all crank instead of electric," she said of a bed, bedside table and stand setting donated by Radford School from its days as a girls' boarding school with an infirmary.

Though the cold metals make many of the items seem primitive and almost alarming, Werner Spier said, there is much to appreciate from this early period of medicine.  "Just compare it to 2006 and the procedure of using chemotherapy for cancer," he said.  "Fifty years from now, people are going to say, 'Can you believe those guys in 2006 used those toxins to cure cancer and made those patients sick?  Why didn't they choose such and such?'  "Medicine is always evolving, and nothing is static in life.  So all this is the latest and a tremendous improvement over what they had in George Washington's and Abraham Lincoln's time," he said.

Home history --- A quick glimpse of the Turner Home:

It was built by H. T. Ponsford in 1910 for Dr. S.T. Turner who came to El Paso in 1889.

Turner was married to Annie Laurie Camp and had two sons who died in infancy.

He died in 1945, leaving the home to the El Paso County Medical Society.

The home was declared a Texas Historical Site in 1982.

In 1965, Dr. Werner Spier and his wife, Cheri, started arranging a collection of medical equipment and paraphernalia from the early 1900s in the upstairs part of the house.

The collection spans five rooms and includes personal belongings of the Turners, including a display of her wedding dress and hat and his correspondence and notes.  One note states he did not think $5 was an exorbitant fee for sewing up a patient's head.

In 1983, the El Paso Medical Heritage Foundation was established as a non-profit for the medical collection.  Organizers would like to be able to showcase the collection in a more public way.

The historic S.T. Turner home at 1301 Montana
was built in 1910 and was willed to the
El Paso County Medical Society in 1946.
It has recently received
painting work on the exterior.

Cheri Spier, center, holds a personal journal of
Dr. S.T. Turner dated 1900.
At left is visitor Bloom Maule-Croxton,
a nurse practitioner.

This portrait of Annie Laurie Turner,
first wife of S.T. Turner,
is part of the society's collection of the
Turners' personal effects.

The entrance to the former residence features
original stained glass and Steuben light fixtures.
The home is thought to have been
designed by Henry Trost.

Medicine bottles from the old
Schaefer Pharmacy at 110 San Francisco
are part of the medical heritage collection.
The pharmacy operated from 1889 to 1935.

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This page last updated May 4, 2006
© 1982 - 2006 Ralph Terry.  All rights reserved.