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About Us - The Past: Before Idaho (pre-1886)


Turning of the Bull Monument in Bedrule Scotland


Cyrus Turnbull circa 1880

Turnbull NWR.jpg

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge
Cheney, WA 2022

While the surname 'Turnbull' has origins dating back to the 1300's in Scotland, the story of our farm begins with the birth of Thomas Bull in 1816 near Cumberland, Kentucky. While much of Thomas’ life has yet to be documented, family lore suggests that his story merges with the infamous Daniel Boone’s time in Kentucky. Regardless of whether or not we find evidence to support this, our farm's story will begin much later in Thomas’ life. 


In 1863/64, at age 48, Thomas Turnbull (also known as Thos/Tom T.bull/Bull) sold everything he owned, bought some oxen, three covered wagons and left Polk County, Iowa on an expedition across the Emigrants Trails. Accompanying him on the journey was his wife, Mary Ann (Deaton), and their eight kids; Isabella 27 (with two kids), Lewis 22, Cyrus 15, Icyminda 15, Nathan 11, Thomas (jr) 8, Andrew 6, and Mary Ann 4. (Four other children had perished prior to the move: William & John who were killed in the civil war in 1863 and Lucinda & Amanda who died as young kids).


Family lore says they traveled West, via the Oregon Trail, with the Edes family and at some point joined with the Howard Wagon Train. They followed the trail West to Portland, Oregon and, after a brief stay, turned South along the Siskiyou Trail to California.  It is said that Cyrus, our 4x great grandfather and founder of the ranch, took great pride and accomplishment in making the nearly 1800 mile journey, while driving cattle, entirely on foot! The 1870, census shows Thos, Mary, Cyrus, Nathan, Thomas, Andrew and Mary Ann living in Siskiyou County California, which is where Mary Ann was laid to rest in 1873. While in Oregon, the Turnbull's met and befriended the Nathan Williams family.  The Williams' would journey to the Washington Territory (now the Four Lakes area N. of Cheney, WA) sometime between 1876 & 79. *Important to the plot is that three of the Turnbull 'boys' would subsequently marry three of the Williams 'girls'.*

In 1876, Nathan married Rosie Williams in Linn County, Oregon and would move East with her family to Cheney sometime before 1879. In '79, Cyrus visited his brother and in 1880, the second Turnbull/Williams union was made. Cyrus (30) and Mary Jane (15) were married in Spokane, WA on 11 Mar 1880 and lived with her family for that first year. 

About a half mile from Nathan’s farm, at the North end of Turnbull Lake, Cyrus built a cabin in the fall of 1880. It was in that one-room log cabin that their first child Oliver, a future Bonner County Assessor, was born on March 13, 1881. Three other children were born there:  Fred 1883, Melissa 1885 (died the following Spring), and Tom 1886.  Although Cyrus only lived in the area for about five years, the land he built their cabin on, would be given his name in 1937, by Franklin D. Roosevelt as the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge .

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