February 12, 2009 /Daily Journal Newspaper – Jefferson Co. MO






“I have seen Eisenhower as president, President Kennedy assassinated, the first man on the moon and Martin Luther King, Jr.  I have seen a lot in my time, said Jane Turner.


Turner is a pastor at The Rock Free Will Baptist Church in Bonne Terre.  She and her cousin Penny Madison-Lewis started the church in 1998 in St. Mary.  The church moved from St. Mary to the Ste. Genevieve Community Center to The Factory at Farmington.  In April of 1999 they held their first service in Bonne Terre. (error) should be St. Mary.


Turner and her cousin Penny actually met at a funeral, Penny had a death in her family and Jane performed the service.  After that, they began talking and realized they were related.  Soon after they co-founded the church, with Jane as the head pastor and Penny as the Assistant Pastor.


However, tragedy struck the church last year.  Penny died July 15, while speaking to a family of a church member who also had died.


Jane wrote the book “If A Rose Could Cry.”  It is about her family history.  She traced family history back to the 1850’s finding our some interesting things about her family.  She used the Web site: Ancestry.com to help with her research.


Turner researched her maiden name of Taylor and traced the family back to St. Francois, Washington and Jefferson Counties.  She grew up in the Festus area and attended grade school in Herculaneum.


During the 1950’s, black students attended school in a one-room school building.  After they completed the eighth grade, the students were bused to Douglas High School in Festus.


Thelma Taylor, her mother, recalled several stories.  One story was when she attended school at Douglas High School, they never had a snow day.  Students were expected to attend no matter what.  Some walked several miles and other blacks were bused up to 40 miles away to neighboring counties for school.


Her mother also told her about the “flour sack dresses.”  People would take the old flour sacks because they were cloth and use them as fabric.  After the sacks were emptied they would wash and bleach them and use patterns to make dresses out of them.  They also used them to make slips, quilts and other items. 


In the mid 1940’s, her mother was also on an all-black softball team.  Turner’s mother surprised her and told her that they played against inter-racial teams.  Turner said it surprised me because it was hard to believe that in the mid 19040’s, things like this happened.  It was before Dr. King, Jackie Robinson, Boycotts and demonstrations, sit-in, and the civil rights movement occurred.


In 1980, Turner became licensed in the ministry to preach.  In 1995, she accepted a position at Mt. Pilgrim Free Will Baptist Church in Festus.  The church had been without a pastor there for several months, when she was asked to pastor there.  She accepted the position and was there for three years.  Soon after she left there, she and penny created the Rock FWB Church in 1998.


When Turner and her husband Walter, first moved to the Bonne Terre area they were not received well.  However, things have changed and she is pleased to be there now.  During their trouble she said, police asked us why we moved here.  My mom won’t visit even now.  Now, we are blessed with neighbors that are good people.  Turner’s mother was the source of most of her stories.  Her mother is blind now and Turner recorded the book onto a tape so she could hear it.  Some of Turner’s research turned up some of her family in the 1850’s were living free among a white family.  My great-grandma was married and free.  She was a mid-wife and earned $2.50 for a delivery. 


Turner wanted to be a journalist and attended classes at Jefferson County Community College.  She also one of the first nursing students to graduate from Mineral Area College.


Taylor has donated the book to genealogy departments at the Farmington, Bonne Terre, and Mineral Area College Libraries.  A copy of the book could be purchased through Ancestry.com. Turner can be reached through her e-mail at jmtht7@sbcglobal.net.