Joseph Addison Turner – Encyclopedia of New Georgia
joseph Addison Turner was a writer, editor, publisher, attorney, and planter. He is best known for publishing The compatriota weekly newspaper produced from its Putnam County planting during Civil war (1861-65). Despite his previous publication failures, Turner Compatriot generated a large southern readership in its four years of existence.
Born September 23, 1826 in Putnam County, Turner was the son of William (“Honest Billy”) Turner and Lucy Wingfield Butler. At age seven, he suffered a bone infection that crippled him for life and confined him to the house for several years. As a result, Turnwold, the Turner family home nine miles from Eatonton, served as the primary location for his early education. His father educated him using the family’s extensive library. His later education included six years at Phoenix Academy, Eatonton and a term at Emory College, Oxford in 1845.
After a year at Emory, Turner moved to Eatonton, where he taught for a year at Phoenix Academy, then prepared for and passed the Georgia bar. In 1850 Turner married Louisa Jane Dennis. They had eight children. In 1855, he entered politics by running as Solicitor General of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit. He lost the race but was elected to the Georgia Senate two years later.
All along In the 1840s and 1850s, Turner pursued his literary passions. He published a wide range of poems, book reviews, articles and essays under various pseudonyms. In 1848 he began his first publication, Turner’s Monthly, which only lasted three months. In 1854 Turner founded a weekly newspaper called the Independent press. It was a commercial failure, and he closed it within a year. During the rest of the decade he edited several other publications which failed. He returned to his plantation, Turnwold, in 1856, and there, only after the outbreak of the Civil War, did Turner achieve editorial success.
On March 4, 1862, Turner published his first issue of the Compatriot, a unique venture that is probably the only newspaper ever published on a plantation. Stating that Turnwold’s goal was the cultivation of “corn, cotton, and literature”, Turner tapped into the plantation’s extensive library and built a comprehensive printing press on the site. Despite the difficulties created by shortages of ink, paper and other materials during the war, the Compatriot circulated throughout the Confederacy from its inception until its final issue in May 1866.
Turner was a strong proponent of slavery and the Confederacy. The original currency of The compatriot read, “Brevity is the soul of wit”, but by 1863 Turner had changed it to “Independent in everything, neutral in nothing”. He used The compatriot to express his pro-Confederate opinions through articles and editorials. The firm also gained distinction for launching the journalistic career of another notable Georgian, Joel Chandler Harris. Turner hired sixteen-year-old Harris from Eatonton as an apprentice and typesetter for the Compatriot in March 1862. Under Turner’s stern editorship and editorship, Harris remained with the paper for its entire duration. He became an excellent literary composer and himself contributed a number of essays, poems and book reviews.
In June 1865, Union officials placed Turner under military arrest for “publishing disloyal articles” and publishing the Compatriot was suspended for several months. After the suspension ended, Turner managed to relaunch the Compatriot for four months previously, exhausted, he closed the operation permanently in May 1866. Turner died nearly two years later, on February 29, 1868, in Eatonton, at the age of forty-one.