William Turner (1853-1889)

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William Turner, the second son and middle child of Thomas and Elizabeth Turner, has proved very difficult to trace at this stage. William was born at Port Adelaide almost 11 months after the death of his sister, Elizabeth Ann, which demonstrates that his father was getting consistent work at the Port as a sawyer. They were still there 4 months later when William was baptised in Holy Trinity Church in Adelaide. But, by 1856, the family was at Canowie, and William spent the early years of his life travelling with them to various country locations where work was available (Redruth and Upper Wakefield being two other locations).
William turner birth cert

William Turner's birth certificate


When his mother remarried in 1864, William was 10 years old, and inherited 9 step-sisters when he moved into the Teague home at Penfield. We have no details of his early life other than to assume he was bought up in a similar manner to his brothers, being educated at home and assisting in farm labouring tasks.

Crystal Brook

The next reference to William that we have is not until 1881, when upon the death of his grandfather John Rowe, William and his brothers inherited 158 pounds 15 shillings between them ( it should be noted, however, that the SA Directories list a William Turner, bargeowner of Port Pirie for the late 1870s). Succession duty statements say that at the time Thomas Brown, William and James were all of Crystal Brook. All we can assume at this stage is that William moved up to the Crystal Brook area at the same time as his brother.
Inheritence from john rowe

Inheritence from grandfather John Rowe

William lived on what is known as Bowman family land according to the Crystal Brook Assessment books (begun in 1887). The Bowman land was resumed by Government during 1871 and resettled by farmers from 1872-3 onwards. William owned sections 628, 636 & 637 which was 29 acres, including buildings and land. He also owned small blocks from section 32 through to 41 along the Crystal Brook Creek, 11 acres in all and all were adjoining.

Possible Marriage

Whether William married or not is unclear. His death certificate does not give any indication. There is a marriage certificate in existence naming a William Turner, farmer at Laura, whose age and name of father matches our William. Laura was a town to the east and slightly north of Crystal Brook. The bride’s name was Catherine Cook of Laura, aged 36, and the couple were married in the home of her father, James Cook of Clare. Details of the Cook family of Clare are limited at present, so research into Catherine’s family may yield more concrete information. The wedding occurred on 3rd April 1884.
Northern argus 08041884

Possible marriage of William recorded in the Northern Argus newspaper 8/4/1884

If this is our William, there appears to be no children from the marriage, or at least none that were recorded in the SA Births: 1842-1906, Index to Registrations. It makes more sense when you consider that our William contracted Tuberculosis only 2 years into the marriage. If it is our William, it also appears that he returned to Crystal Brook as his brother James did when flooded out in approximately the late 1880s. William’s trade at Crystal Brook was as a teamster, and wheat carting in those days was done by bullock teams. The teams bought the grain from a very wide area to be shipped at Samuel’s Creek (later to be known as Solomontown).

Assault on wife

Further research is required as there is an article in The Area's Express newspaper dated 13th February 1885 indicating that the William Turner who had married Catherine Cook was living in Booyoolee in 1885. Booyoolee is near Laura and Gladstone in the mid north of South Australia, within close proximity to Crystal Brook. The article describes William as a farmer.

The article states that William assaulted Catherine when both were worse for drink, but when Catherine went to seek medical assistance, the doctor refused to treat her because she greatly drunk herself. William was fined for his actions at the Laura Police Court, and both he and Catherine went home together after the hearing.

Sale of goods and chattels

The areas express 19051885

Article from The Areas Express about sale of their goods and chattels

Soon after this incident, The Area Express newspaper records that William and Catherine put all of their good and chattels up for sale. It states that they had been residing on the property of the late Mr John Johns on the Main Road between Laura and Stone Hut. William put a horse, dray, 3 calves and poultry up for sale, while the majority of the property clearly belonged to Catherine including 9 horses, several drays, calves, and farm machinery. They also put their household furniture up for sale and the article records that Catherine had the right to continue to use the farm for 3 months after the sale.

The article appears to indicate that William and Catherine had fallen on hard times and were now selling up to start afresh, potentially as separated or divorced by the mention of Catherine being able to stay on the farm. William appears to have moved to Crystal Brook and is recorded on property in the town.


Crystal brook properties

Map showing location of William's property in Crystal Brook

A further newspaper article from the Northern Argus (dated 27th August 1886) indicates that William and a man called George Fydork were made rangers of the Narridy region near Gladstone and Crystal Brook due to complaints made about the previous ranger. The rangers' duty involved impounding livestock that wandered onto neighboring farms. A later article in The Northern Argus (dated 15th October 1886) indicates that William's appointment only lasted a few months, when he to, was asked to be dismissed from the role. It appears that William had impounded some animals found on district roads, which had not pleased some ratepayers.


William suffered from Tuberculosis for 3 years, the disease starting some time in 1886.

Wife Imprisoned

Whether William and Catherine were still living together at this time is unknown, but his wife was imprisoned for three months on March 25th, 1889 for stealing a bag of wheat. This is reported in The Area's Express newspaper dated 29th March 1889.


William died on May 12th, 1889, aged only 35 years (incorrectly written on his death certificate as 25). This was only two months after his wife's imprisonment. The cause of his death was tuberculosis. His death certificate stated that he was a teamster of Crystal Brook, and that his brother Thomas Brown Turner was the informant. His death certificate was one of the earlier types that did not ask for the deceased’s birthplace, marital status, or number of issue. Place of death was Crystal Brook and the assumption is that he is buried there. The Bowman family had responsibility of the cemetery up to 1872 and the Crystal Brook Council did not take over responsibility of it until 1892, so the years in-between are unclear.

Sources and notes

‡ General
  • Birth Certificate+Death Certificate+Baptism information+Land Titles records+Research by Liz Smart, Crystal Brook Historical Society
Ω Birth
  • Birth Certificate+Baptism Information+Will of John Rowe
¶ Death
  • Death certificate+Land Titles records



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