Mr. Turpin is not one of those who believe that distinguished ancestry confers a claim to special consideration, or that blue blood is superior to personal merit, but in common with all thinking men has nevertheless realized that honorable traditions have their value, and has therefore taken some pains to preserve such fragments of family history as have come down to him. The name of Turpin originated in Germany, but was early carried by emigration to England, where the family became quite numerous, and assumed a position of prominence in connection with many of the leading events of English history. The branch remaining in Germany also attained to prominence, one of its members becoming a celebrated general and ruler; and another, who entered the service of the church, even rising to the occupancy of the papal chair at Rome. During one of the earliest voyages of the "Mayflower," members of the Turpin family were aboard, and they settled in Massachusetts, to take up the difficult life of pioneers in an unknown land, clearing the forests, tilling the unfruitful soil, and bearing their part in the various Colonial, Indian, and British wars of the time.
At the time of the War of the Revolution many of their number were engaged on the side of the patriot cause. Later, a portion of the family drifted southward to Delaware, and still later to Virginia, while a brother of Mr. Turpin's father, in an attempt to explore the western wilderness with a view to founding there a home, crossed the Alleghany mountains, and no trace of him was ever afterward found. On the maternal side Mr. Turpin is descended from the Driscoll and Moore families, prominent in early American history as soldiers and statesmen. Later these families became scattered, so that during the Civil War some donned the blue and others the gray; and on many a hard-fought field a brother sought a brother's life, or there was the unnatural spectacle of a father arrayed against his son, or a son against the author of his being, in fierce and deadly conflict. The Driscoll family is of Scotch extraction, and its history after settling in America is well known.
William Turpin, father of our subject, was born Dec. 27, 1798, in the State of Maryland; and in Delaware he married Miss Sarah Elizabeth Moore, a daughter of Judge Moore, of Washington, D. C, who was a native of Delaware, and prominent in the commercial and political affairs of his time. To them were born four children, of whom William Wailes, the subject of this review, was the eldest. Alice is now the wife of Archibald Burgess, a native of Patterson, N. J., and at present a resident of the city of Washington. He is a veteran of the Civil War, having run away from home when quite young to enlist in the Union army. Levin Denwood, the second son, died in 1858, as the result of an attack of rheumatism, caused by his accidentally breaking through the ice. Laura Virginia, the youngest child, is also deceased, her death having occurred in 1868.
William W. Turpin was born Oct. 7, 1849, at Salsbury, in what was then Somerset county, Maryland, and there he obtained his early knowledge of books in the old Salsbury Academy, which he attended until his enlistment in the United States navy, with the exception of two years spent as a grocery clerk. In 1864 he entered the navy yard as weigher and receiver for the Bureau of Construction and Repair, with which he was identified in the same capacity for four years, at the end of that time coming to the West and locating at Hannibal, Mo., in 1869. Led to take this step by a worthy desire to achieve an independent position in the world, he decided to learn a trade as the means of acquiring a competence, and therefore began work as a brick mason. As compensation for his services while learning the trade he received his board and for the first year $60, for the second year $100, and for the third $150 a rate of payment that was small even in those days, and one which is proof of his strength and steadiness of purpose in pursuing his chosen object regardless of difficulties.
At Shelbyville, Mo., June 25, 1873, Mr. Turpin was united in marriage with Miss Emma Dobbin, daughter of Leonard Dobbin, who for many years held the office of county clerk for Shelby county, Missouri. To Mr. and Mrs. Turpin have been born three children, one of whom died in infancy, another, Virginia, died in early childhood, while one survives, this being Willie May, aged twenty-two years, who is at home with her parents. After his marriage Mr. Turpin removed to St. Louis, where he engaged as a brick mason, and removed a second time in 1876, coming at that time to Burlington. During approximately the first eighteen years of his residence in this city he was employed as a journeyman mason, but at the expiration of that period he became a contractor, erecting the Tama building, acting as superintendent of construction for the Federal building, and doing the brick work on the Charles Blaul residence, the Derby mill, and many of the most substantial residence buildings of Burlington. For a number of years he was superintendent of the Pauly Jail Company, and by virtue of this connection acted as supervisor of construction of the jails at Carmen, N. Y.; Montpelier, Vt.; Sonora, Texas; Eddy county, N. Mex.; Newton, N. J.: and many other jails and penitentiaries, including the United States penitentiary at Great Salt Lake.
In 1889 Mr. Turpin was elected a supervisor of Des Moines county, but resigned the following year in order to accept an advantageous offer from the Pauly Jail Company, of St Louis, with which he continued until 1893, when he resigned to become superintendent of the Federal building in Burlington. Later he re-engaged with the Pauly Company, for whom he went to Montpelier, Vt., to build the jail at that place. Two years later he again resigned, and became traveling representative of the Merchants' Life Association, of Burlington, in which he now holds the office of treasurer.
In his political affiliation he is a lifelong Democrat, and has always taken an active interest in public affairs, serving his party with conspicuous ability in many important capacities, and thereby acquiring a very gratifying popularity and influence. In 1902 he was elected by the voters of the city of Burlington as alderman-at-large, an office which he occupied until 1904 with credit to himself and his constituents; and in the autumn of 1900 he was elected secretary of the Burlington Board of Education, an office which he still holds. Fraternally, he is a charter member of Lodge No. 84. Benevolent Protective Order of Elks; is a thirty-second degree Mason; a member of the oldest Masonic lodge in the State of Iowa, of which he has been elected junior warden, but declined the honor: and is identified with the local organization of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, through all of whose chairs he has passed. Mr. Turpin takes a just pride in his reputation as a high-class mechanic, and his solid qualities have won him the esteem of the community in which he lives, for he is respected as a man, as a citizen, and for his thorough integrity and sound business judgment, which has enabled him to acquire a competence. He has been highly successful in a material way; and while his natural modesty has always prevented him from urging his own claims to recognition, he has many friends whose confidence in his ability has brought him before the public in a very favorable light.