For years, I've known about the grave of the Rev. Turner Chambers. He is buried at the Peter Harding Cemetery in Avery County, not far from the Tennessee state line. This past Sunday, I actually found the cemetery and crawled through the woods, visiting the grave of Chambers.
We don't know much about Turner Chambers. Local history has it he was born a slave, but to whom he belonged remains a mystery. According to his tombstone, he was born March 29, 1848. Chambers, according to his compiled service record from the National Archives, was just 18 years old when he enlisted in Company I, 40th United States Colored Troops. He stated that he was born in Iredell County, North Carolina. Chambers enlisted on April 26, 1865, in Greeneville, Tennessee, and gave his occupation as that of a farmer. For most of his enlistment, he was reported present for duty, although at times, he was sick and in the hospital in Huntsville, Alabama. On April 26, 1866, Private Chambers was honorably discharged from the Union army. The only other piece that his records provides is that Chambers was illiterate when he enlisted.
I was able to follow Chambers on the census following the war. He is listed as living in the Toe River Township in Mitchell County in 1860. He is living with the A. D. Childs families, and working as a farm laborer. The next listing on the census is for Isaac Avery, also a member of the United State Colored Troops. Chambers seemingly does not appear on the 1880 census, nor the 1890 veterans census for Mitchell County. In 1900 and 1910, he is listed as living in the Cranberry Township of Mitchell County. His occupation is that of a preacher. Chambers died on May 24, 1913.
I took this photo in November 2012. The cemetery is badly overgrown. His gravestone is the one on the left.