James Turner (1858-1949)

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James was the youngest of Thomas and Elizabeth Turner’s children, being born in the district of Upper Wakefield in 1858. Upper Wakefield is near Auburn, and James would retain connections with the town for the majority of his life. In 1881, James and his brothers were living at Crystal Brook when their grandfather, John Rowe, died. John Rowe had left an amount of money to all of his children, but daughter Elizabeth had died earlier in the year, and consequently her share was divided equally amongst her children. James and his brothers inherited 158 pounds 15 shillings between then, officially declared in succession duty papers in January 1884. It appears that this will enabled each of the sons to branch out on their own, and James began farming a property at Wandearah. It is unclear where this land was and it he actually purchased it, as the credit selections for Wandearah only list a John Turner (I have not been able to establish if he is a relation yet or not). James may have rented property instead.


Wandearah was his residence and farming his trade when James married Jessie Meller, a girl from his hometown, on the 29th June, 1883. Jessie came from a large family of 17 children, her parents Joseph and Ellen settling in Auburn after their arrival from England. Their property called ‘Brookvale’ was just north of Auburn and had a vineyard, and it is here that Jessie spent her childhood. The Bluestone quarry where Joseph extracted his stone from was just north east of the homestead The total area of Brookvale was about 80 acres. Joseph was a very meticulous and capable stone mason. he left a legacy of expert masonry in the Auburn township and is recognised as the builder of the majority of buildings in Auburn listed under the National Trust (including the police station, post office etc). James and Jessie were married at the resident of the celebrant, Thomas Edmund Keen, and their witnesses were Ellen Meller (Jessie’s younger sister) and James Edward Creary also a farmer of Wandearah. James and Jessie started married life on the Wandearah farm.

James turner birth cert

James Turner's birth certificate


Wandearah is located on the banks of the Broughton River, and it is during their time here that the Broughton River flooded (the reasons for the flooding are unclear. There are well known reports of a heavy rain in the area that went on for 5 hours, and also a deliberate blocking of the Broughton River. Both events occurred in the late 1880s/1890s). James would often recount the story to his grandchildren of how they lost everything during the flood, and once the waters had subsided the only property they located was a chair stuck high in a tree.

Crystal Brook

After this, James and Jessie moved north into the hundred of Port Pirie, but by 1890, James seems to have given up farming for himself and moved back to Crystal Brook, where his brother Thomas Brown still farmed. It is here that James and Jessie had their three eldest girls baptised in St. Silas Anglican Church, all on the same day in 1892, and the eldest two girls are believed to attended the public school for a brief time. James took to contracting and labouring, specialising in fencing and being known to have constructed many of the fences in the local area. James paid rates in Crystal Brook township from 30/6/1891. He was the occupier of section 218 corner of Mitchell St & Cunningham St, which was owned by the W.E Building Society. The value of the property was 15 pounds and James paid 15 shillings on 2/11/1891. His last payment was made in 1894.
Baptisms st silas church

Baptisms of James' daughters at St Silas Church


After a few years in Crystal Brook, James and Jessie moved the family to their hometown of Auburn. It appears that at Auburn, James became involved in work on the vineyards and gardens that grew in the local area, and his interest in gardening was to stay with him. By 1919, the family was living at Salisbury where James worked in an orange orchard. When James retired from work, he and Jessie moved to a home in Colonel Light Gardens, where their children and grandchildren would regularly visit them, and have family get-togethers over Christmas. Jessie enjoyed company, loved having her family around her, and also enjoyed reading. James would walk down the street everyday and maintained a garden of vegetables, grapes and fruit trees on the block in their backyard.
James turner death cert

James Turner's death certificate

Later Years

A grandchild describes Jessie as being, ‘short, with snow-white hair; an English Rose complexion and blue eyes.’ She died in 1943, while on a visit to her hometown of Auburn, and it was there that she was buried.

James survived his wife by 6 years, and moved from Colonel Light Gardens to live with his daughter Gladys and her family at Smoky Bay. James is said to have always spoken highly of the West Coast, and spent a brief time in his last years in a shack at Streaky Bay. He died at Streaky Bay hospital in April 1949, aged 90 years. He is described by a grandchild as ‘a quiet man, nice looking; tall and straight with a fresh complexion.’

Advertiser 20051949

Death notice for James in The Advertiser, dated 20/05/1949

James and Jessie had 5 children - Nellie, Edward, Eva, Gladys and Amy.

Name Birth Death

Nellie 3/2/1884
Wandearah, South Australia
South Australia

Edward 26/1/1886
Wandearah, South Australia
Wandearah, South Australia

Eva Rose 4/4/1888
Hundred of Pirie
South Australia

Gladys Ruby 27/9/1890
Crystal Brook, South Australia
Ceduna, South Australia

Amy Meller 27/10/1893
Crystal Brook, South Australia
Auburn, South Australia

Sources and notes

‡ General
  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Photograph from Marj Crocker
  • Information from Marj Crocker, Joan Canfield, Kaye Gregor and Kathy Fargher
Ω Birth
  • Birth Certificate
  • Will of John Rowe
₪ Wedding
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Information from Kaye Gregor, Kathy Fargher, Joan Canfield and Marj Crocker
¶ Death
  • Died of Senility
  • Death Certificate
  • Cemetery records



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