Thomas N. Turner
Bloomsburg, Columbia County


October 12, 1888 - October 25, 1918


     Tom Turner was born in Port Carbon, PA, the youngest of three children of Mr. and Mrs. Frank and Ada Turner.  The family moved to Bloomsburg in 1894 where his father began work as a book-keeper.  But tragedy struck the family early, when Tom's mother died in 1897 at the age of 40, and his father caught pneumonia and passed away at 49 in 1901.  Tom was then supported by his uncle, Charles W. Miller, who was a trustee of the Bloomsburg State Normal School.  Miller paid Tom's way through school, and he graduated from the College Preparatory Program on June 27, 1906, having begun his studies in September of 1903.  He then went on to earn an engineering degree (an AB in Geology) from Leland Stanford University in California, from which he officially graduated in May of 1914.  Before then in 1913 Tom already had a well-paying job working for a mining company in eastern Siberia.  He was there when the First World War broke out, but was forced to leave after the Bolshevik revolution began.  He went first to San Francisco, and then to Alaska where he continued work as a mining engineer.

     Turner joined the army, and hoped to get back to Siberia with the American troops fighting the Communists.  But before going there he boarded the Canadian-Pacific steamship Princess Sophia at Skagway, Alaska on October 23, 1918, bound for Vancouver, British Columbia.  The next day a storm came up and the ship ran aground on a reef.  When the weather turned calm it was decided not to remove the passengers, with hopes the high tide could move it off the reef.  But a second storm hit on Friday the 25th, which lifted the steamship across the reef and to the bottom of the sound.  The loss of life was terrible, with 268 passengers and 75 crew members dead, along with over $1,000,000 in gold.

     Tom Turner's uncle in Bloomsburg, Sherman F. Peacock, was told the tragic news by Tom's brother Warren, who was working as an aide to the commandant of the San Francisco Navy Yard.  Another intelligent, well-educated young man was lost, and he never had a chance to serve his country.  But his story was not quite over, because in July of 1919 his body was found when divers worked to raise the steamship, no doubt to recover the gold.  Tom made one final trip back to Bloomsburg, where he was buried on November 8, 1922 in Old Rosemont Cemetery on the hillside overlooking the town, next to the parents he had lost many years before.

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Updated 7/23/03