Thomas Brown Turner (1851-1936)

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Thomas Brown Turner
Thomas brown turner & family
Sex: Male
Birth: 11/02/1851, Little Para, South Australia, Australia
Baptism: 15/09/1853, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Death: 02/03/1936, Fullarton, South Australia, Australia
Father: Thomas Turner
Mother: Elizabeth Rowe
Spouse/Partner: Ellen Teague
Marriage: 20/10/1872, Penfield, South Australia, Australia

Thomas Brown Turner was born at Little Para, which was an early name for part of Golden Grove in the north east of Adelaide, where his father was employed in farming, near or on his grandfather’s property (John Rowe). It appears that Thomas Brown was named for a friend known to his father, as on his parents wedding certificate a Thomas Brown is listed as one of the witnesses. When Thomas Brown was 2 years old (1853), his family moved to Port Adelaide where his father took up his previous occupation as a sawyer. It was during this time that Thomas Brown was christened at the same church his parents were married in, Holy Trinity in Adelaide. Thomas Brown then spent the early years of his life travelling with his family to wherever work for sawyers was available; Canowie, Redruth, [Auburn,_South_Australia Upper Wakefield] and Oladdie being three notable addresses.

Tb turner aged 4

Thomas at approximately 4 years of age


The years between 1858 - 1864 are sketchy, but appears that on his father’s death / disappearance, Thomas Brown’s mother moved the family back to the north of Adelaide. The family was living at Salisbury at the time of his mother’s remarriage, and then moved in with the step-family, the Teague’s of Penfield. Thomas Brown inherited 9 step-sisters, and soon-to-be 5 half-brothers and sisters. He was educated principally at home (not at the Penfield School, as quoted in Aldine’s History of SA, 1889. The Penfield school was not opened until 1874. There was, though, an early school established in the area of Peachey Belt prior to this, and it has not been verified if Thomas Brown attended there) and was involved in farm work in his youth.

In 1868, Ellen Teague became pregnant with Thomas Brown’s child. Ellen was one of the 9 daughters of his step-father, Thomas Teague, and because both parties were not married and under-age, the pregnancy appears to have caused some scandal. Consequently, when the child was born in 1869, he went under the name of ‘Thomas Teague’ for the first few years of his life. When Thomas Brown and Ellen turned 21 in 1872, they were officially married in the home at Penfield, with Samuel Hall (local farmer) and Julia Teague (sister to Ellen) as witnesses, and James Ashton as officiating minister. It appear that Thomas Brown and Ellen then set up home in the Gawler River / Gawler Plains district for the next few years, as they returned the favour to their witnesses, Samuel and Julia, becoming the witnesses at their marriage in 1874.

Thomas b turner birth cert

Birth certificate of Thomas Brown Turner


According to a booklet on the history of Napperby, a small community to the east of Port Pirie, Thomas Brown Turner took up land in the area in 1874. This is reinforced by the documented memories of J.B.Tiller, an old resident of the area, whose notes are held by the Crystal Brook Historical Society. Also, the Aldine History of SA states that at the age of 24, Thomas Brown took up his own farm at Napperby, first with 504 acres, to which he added 136 acres the following year, and later he added another 185 acres (470 acres being under cultivation). Land Title records say the 504 acres on section 4 Hd of Napperby were taken up by him on 1st January 188(6), for 270 pounds. Section 5S Hd of Napperby was taken up slightly earlier than that. The land was actually closer to the township of Crystal Brook compared to Napperby, as the hundred of Napperby begins just slightly north of Crystal Brook township.

Turner teague marriage cert

Marriage certificate of Thomas Brown Turner

Crystal BrookEdit

Thomas Brown took up 3 township blocks in Crystal Brook East in the late 1870’s early 1880’s, these being lots 17, 19 & 21. Crystal Brook East was known as Hagen Town. Thomas Brown also leased 185 acres in the Hundred of Crystal Brook, beginning on 7th August 1894 for the yearly rent of 4 pounds, 12 shillings and sixpence, until 11th April 1905 when the property was transferred to William Saint. The remaining children of Thomas Brown and Ellen were born at Crystal Brook from 1878 onward, the family establishing themselves there when the township was only 5 years old, and after its recent acquisition of a railway. The family appeared settled and happy in the local area, where Thomas Brown became involved in the Manchester Unity Oddfellows, the North Western Agricultural Society (of which he was president in 1894), and the Crystal Brook Show Society (Thomas Brown appears in a photograph taken at the first show in 1902).

Crystal brook map

Map showing the location of Thomas's property at Crystal Brook.

Thomas Brown was also a city councillor for Crystal Brook during this time, and signed the original petition for the formation of a District Council in Crystal Brook (November 1882). Farming was good as well, the Turners arriving in the district just after the end of a drought, and ten years later it being recorded that rain fell steadily for 5 hours, with 590 points measured. Thomas Brown and Ellen brought their children up learning and assisting in different aspects of farm life.

Selling of Napperby PropertyEdit

The original landholding at Section 4 Napperby on which Thomas and family resided was auctioned in 1892. It is shown in The Advertiser newspaper that it was up for auction on 20th August 1892. Thomas appears to have stayed as occupier of the land, which had pipes from the Beetaloo Reservoir running through it.

Advertiser 20081892

The Advertiser, dated 20/08/1892, listing the auction of Thomas's Napperby property

Death of WifeEdit

In 1898, Ellen died at age 46 years of cardiac failure, after 26 years of marriage and a family of 9 children - Thomas, Edgar, Ernest, Christina, Osborne, Benjamin, Herbert, Arthur and Ellen Selina. She was a large woman from a family of large women who spent much of their adult lives struggling with diabetes. She was buried in the Crystal Brook Cemetery, which overlooks the township from a hill. It is believed there originally was a headstone in place, but it has since been destroyed. Upon her death, it appears daughter Christina took upon most of the household duties that were once the role of her mother.

House at crystal brook

Beleived to be the house of Thomas B Turner at Crystal Brook. At the time of the photo, it was being used by the owners as a shearing shed.


Life in Crystal Brook appears not to have been the same after the death of Ellen, and Thomas Brown appears to have turned to religion, trying out various denominations in the local area and making a note of adding 5 pound notes to the collection. It appears he left each denomination after arguments with their local leaders. On July 10th 1895, Thomas Brown had set up land on section 41 Hd of Mortlock for the yearly rent of 9 pounds, 11 shillings, as a future investment for 4 of his sons. This was near Edillilie on Eyre Peninsula. So, after 30 years in Crystal Brook, Thomas Brown decided to leave and move to Edillilie, the property coming into the name of Thomas himself and sons Benjamin, Herbert and Osborne in January 1908, although they are believed to have farmed there since about 1905/06. In the SA Directories, the property was listed under ‘T.B. Turner and sons’, and remained in their names until at least 1919 when the title deeds were cancelled and another one issued. On October 21st 1907, Thomas Brown with 3 others (Thomas Knight, George Bertram Plew and Joseph Olsen)also had lot 17 (Railway Terrace) in the township of Edillilie, which was transferred on 22 January 1929. Thomas Brown was also a trustee of the local hall with Joseph Olsen, Thomas Knight, A. Starke and Bertram Plew, and the hall was used for everything: - church services, school and dances. A son of Joseph Olsen remembers how all the different denominational church services would follow one after the other, yet the congregation would remain the same, and the ministers would always stay and listen to the others’ respective services.

Life in Edillilie started well for the Turner family. Thomas Brown tried his hand at District Council nominations again, being nominted for Warrow Ward in 1907. In 1909, there was 42 inches of rain, and in 1910 just half and inch more. It became so wet in 1910 that some roads were impossible to travel on. Then, from about 1914 onward, tragedy began to strike. First, there was a year long drought. Then, a fire started out west of Edillilie in 1915, and the town had no firefighting equipment other than what the people could muster. It burnt right up to the corner of the town, and was followed by a mini-cyclone that picked up and scattered sheets of iron. In 1915/16, foxes began to appear. Then there was the death of one of Thomas Brown’s sons in 1916.

Thomas b turner death cert

Death certificate of Thomas Brown Turner

Farming at Edillilie was abandoned in 1916-1917 when Thomas Brown (aged 65) suffered a stroke to the right side of his body, leaving him paralysed and lying on his back for the remaining 20 years of his life. Daughter Christina returned from Western Australia to nurse her father, who was now living in the home of son Arthur, a farmer of Kyancutta, also on Eyre Peninsula. Over the next ten years, Thomas Brown’s health did not improve, so Arthur admitted him to the Home for Incurables at Fullarton in August of 1926. Some of his grandchildren remember visiting him there and seeing a plaque from the Manchester Unity Oddfellows placed at the head of his bed. Thomas Brown remained in this state until his death in 1936 at age 85 of Senile Cardio Vascular Degeneration. He is buried at Crystal Brook, along side wife Ellen.

1st cystal brook show

This photograph was taken at the 1st North Western Show Society held in Crystal Brook in 1902. Thomas Brown Turner is standing at the back and to the left, next to his very tall brother-in-law Robert Brine.


Name Birth Death
Children of Thomas and Ellen Turner

Thomas (Teague) 31/01/1869
Peachy Belt, South Australia
Port Pirie, South Australia

John Edgar 30/10/1873
Gawler River, South Australia
Boulder, Western Australia

Albert Ernest 13/04/1876
Gawler Plains, South Australia
Port Pirie, South Australia

Priscilla Christina 11/05/1878
Crystal Brook, South Australia
Warramboo, South Australia

William Osborne 15/03/1880
Crystal Brook, South Australia
Edillilie, South Australia

James Benjamin 24/08/1882
Crystal Brook, South Australia
Parkside, South Australia

Herbert Francis 11/01/1885
Crystal Brook, South Australia
Loxton, South Australia

Arthur Harrold 13/12/1886
Crystal Brook, South Australia
Warramboo, South Australia

Ellen Selina 12/06/1892
near Crystal Brook, South Australia
near Crystal Brook, South Australia


  • Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates
  • International Genealogical Index
  • Baptism Certificates
  • Aldine History of South Australia
  • The History of Napperby (Booklet)
  • Land Titles Records
  • SA Directories
  • Will of John Rowe
  • SA Cemetery Records
  • Growing with Crystal Brook 1873-1973, published 1973
  • Reflections of Edillilie; a place to call home, compiled by A.L. Domagalski, 1990

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