George Washington Turner – Will evidence lost on Titanic

Heirs make fight for Turner Fortune




George Washington Turner was born on 15 March 1814 at Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi, USA, he was the son of Henry Turner and Sarah Baker. He is said to be a descendant of George Washington`s sister.

On 30 July 1835 he married Ann Wilcox Poyntell in Natchez and they had six known children.

He bought Elms Court, in 1824 from sisters Eliza and Katherine Evans who had the property built for them. It is a large mansion and   George W doubled its acreage over the next 10 years when it was sold for $25.000 in 1852 to Francis Surget, the richest planter in Natchez.

By 1860 they are in New York Ward 18, New York, where George is a farmer. The value of his real estate was entered as $300.000 and his personal estate as $25.000, so he was already a wealthy man.

Only his wife Ann and 4 of their children are there, including Annie Georgiana Washington Turner aged 5 and George aged 2.   They also had 2 Irish servants.

In 1865 George W applied for a passport.

State of New York, City and County of New York. (Transcript)

I George W. Turner do swear that to the best of my knowledge, information and belief, I was born in Natchez, Adam County, Mississippi on or about the 15 day of March 1814 that I am a loyal Citizen of the United States, and am about to travel abroad.    Geo. W. Turner.

Sworn to before me this 3 day of March 1865.    Description of Geo W. Turner, accompanied by his wife & 2 infant children of 9 & 6 years old.  Age: 50 Stature 5 feet 10 inches.  Forehead : High.  Eyes: Brown.  Nose: Roman.   Mouth: Large.   Chin: Round.  Hair:  Gray.  Complexion: Sallow.    Face: Long & Oval.

These children were Annie G W Turner, and George W Turner.

Turner’s 1865 Passport application.

Where they travelled to isn’t sure but their youngest daughter Annie Georgiana Washington Turner married John Henry Crane (Esq.) on 12 June 1877 at Shanklin (Isle of Wight), Hampshire.   The newspaper announcement states her father was `of New York and Cannes`

Between 1881 and 1901 they were living in Worcestershire, and John Henry Crane was the High Sheriff of Worcestershire in 1888.

On 5 September 1908 Annie Georgina sailed from Liverpool to the USA without her husband and in 1911 he is on his own in Worcestershire.  John Henry had served in the South African War with the Imperial Yeomanry, and had been a Major in the Queen’s Own Worcs.  Hussars.   The marriage was dissolved because his wife had converted to Catholicism while he was away.   (Source Family Tree)

On  3 November 1883  the  son George W Turner  married Susan Rosina Ellis, daughter of the late Mr Richard Ellis of Iver Moor, Iver,  Buckinghamshire, the marriage took place  at St George`s, Hanover Square, London. Richard Ellis was a stockbroker as were some of his sons, and was quite well off.

George and Susan didn’t stay in England for long, they moved to Canada first, then Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York.

George W Turner`s wife Annie Wilcox Turner died early in 1888 aged 72 in the Martley district, Worcestershire, and before the end of June 1888 he married Isabella Francis also in Worcestershire.  Isabella was born in Ipswich, Suffolk and was 37 years younger than him, between April and June 1889 their daughter Ethel Dreda Beatrice Washington Turner was born.

In 1891 the family was living at Eldo House, Ombersley Road, South Claines, Worcestershire.  G Washington Turner was living on his own means.  Isabella died aged 34 in Worcestershire in early 1892 leaving George W with their young daughter Ethel.

The next year he married Agnes Annie Bierne on 19 October 1893 at St George’s Catholic Church, Worcester.  They were then spending two months in Paris and the rest of the winter in Rome.

The announcement in the Worcestershire papers states that George was father to Mrs Crane of Oakhampton and of the late Countess de Barrême.  It was also published in the Wrexham Advertiser.

Hélion Antoine Scipion de Barrême De Montravail had married Marianne Poyntell Turner on 16 October 1872, Nice, but she died 5 January 1873  in Grasse,  France  aged just 26 years.

Agnes was the daughter of the late John Bierne Esq. Plas Derwen, Sontley Road. Wrexham she was then aged 44 and about 35 years younger than George.  John Bierne was  a well known brewer in Wrexham , also a Mayor of the town, and had died in 1891.

By 1901 George Turner, Agnes Turner and Ethel Turner aged 10 are at 1 Elm Grove, Rhosddu Road. Wrexham.

In autumn 1908 Agnes and Ethel travelled from Liverpool to New York. They were going to her stepson George Turner in Syracuse.

Ethel Dreda Beatrice Washington Turner died on 26 March 1910. Newport, Rhode Island.

The death index details have her address as 325 Spring Street, Newport, she has no occupation.

Cause of death – acute catarrh, pneumonia, bronchitis and peritonitis.

Aged 20.  Father’s Name George W Turner,   mothers name Isabella Francis .

Her burial place is entered as Wrexham, Denbighshire, so she was brought back and   was   buried on 12 April 1910.

George  W and Agnes moved into Plas Derwen and were living with her brother John Bierne and his family.  George Washington Turner died on 3 July 1910 at Plas Derwen and was buried in the same plot as Ethel.  He had made a will and probate was granted 16 March 1911 to Agnes .Effects £160 12s 6d.

That was not a lot compared to what he must have had in his past, but the matter didn`t end there.  In the 1911 census Ann Turner aged 62 and MARRIED, is living with John Bierne and his family at Plas Derwen, she is his sister and has been married 17 years.  This is a match for Agnes Ann, but why is she saying she is still married.

 Well – all was revealed later as from August 1911, there were articles in many of the US newspapers and it was “big news”

Buffalo Morning Express New York and Illustrated Buffalo Express  – 3 November 1911

Contest Will – Son and daughter say mother concealed death of father. Charging their mother Agnes Washington  Turner of Newport with having concealed the death of their father the late George Washington Turner until after the time had expired within which they could appeal from the decree of the court in Newport admitting his will to probate, George Turner and Annie G  Crane of Syracuse have petitioned the supreme court for leave to enter the appeal now.

In reports from the trial in 1912 George Washington jnr and his sister Annie Crane who were reported to be direct descendants of George Washington`s sister, declared that Agnes had duped their aged father. They claimed that they had no knowledge of their father’s death until months after he died.

It was said that after his third marriage he made a will dividing his estate in three equal parts to his children and Agnes, this will was never heard of again and that they lost all trace of their father.  The son said he had heard his father was unhappy, so went to Wrexham and brought him back to Syracuse where he stayed for about a year.  Then his wife turned up and took him to Newport where another will was made leaving everything to her.

In October 1908 Agnes and Ethel are on a Liverpool to New York Passenger List.

Ethel Turner born Worcester 1889 – aged 18 years – travelling on the Campania arriving 24 October 1908. Travelling with Agnes Turner aged 47 years – husband Geo Turner , Elm Grove,  Wrexham.  Going to step-son Geo Turner, 106 White Street, Syracuse, NY.

George and Agnes had returned to Wales after Ethel`s death but the children said they never heard again from their father. It was several months before they heard of his death “in a roundabout way”. As they knew their father was wealthy the son tried to find the will, but after months of searching he gave up. It was only when his father’s gold watch turned up, and a letter from the Surrogate`s Office was sent to say it was going to be sold that the son suspected something fishy was going on. The watch was in the offices of J P Morgan`s lawyers, but also there were $50.000 NY bonds that had been transferred to Agnes after his father`s death. She had filed the will and sworn it was not over $2.500. It was found that Agnes had paid a huge amount of inheritance tax on the bonds and steps were made to make sure they didn’t leave the country. They then had to contest the will, but it was too late legally, so the other option was to charge Agnes with fraud. It was said that she claimed to be a resident of Rhode Island, when in fact she was a resident of Wrexham and had only stopped at Newport long enough to get the will probated. The children also said that their father was completely under the domination of his young and active wife.  (She was about 62) They also claimed that their father made discoveries and thought about having the marriage annulled, that she kept him a prisoner for years and even intercepted letters from his son, in the end he sent them as registered mail and each time the receipt was signed by Agnes.

In court George W junior described Agnes as very attractive, a strong woman physically and appearing to have more masculine features than feminine. He said the marriage was not happy, and that his father had sent letters saying Agnes was ill-treating him. George junior came to Wales in 1909 and his father returned to Syracuse with him until the end of the year. He had the idea that his father was becoming “childish” and getting confused, and thought it was summer time when they stayed in Newport as many “gentlemen” did, where they lived in a small upstairs flat.

It’s possible that he then moved to this place, and that this was where Ethel died.  They would have left soon after to bring her back to Wrexham. The death index has her address as 325 Spring Street, Newport

In the US 1910 Census taken on April 15 – George W Turner junior  was still in Syracuse Ward 12, Onondaga, this is about 300 miles from where Ethel died just a few weeks before.

George and Agnes returned to Wrexham in 1910 to bury Ethel and stayed at Plas Derwen with the Bierne`s until his death in July that year. 

The children swore they didn`t know of their father’s death until October 1910 and that he was not of sound mind when he was last in Newport which enabled Agnes to carry out her plan of concealing the will.

Investigations and testaments were made in Wrexham and the stenographers minutes which amounted to hundreds of typed pages were sent to New York from Liverpool. This didn’t turn out as well as expected because they were sent on the TITANIC, and ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic on  15 April 1912, after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. This meant that all the testaments had be taken again and delayed the trial by 3 months.

Turner evidence lost on the Titanic

The trial lasted one week and the residents of Newport packed the courtroom, they even stayed in their seats when the jury went out   to make sure they didn`t lose their place. After 30 minutes it was reported that a verdict had been reached and a “deathlike stillness overhung the courtroom until the verdict was announced “

It was in favour of George and his sister Annie who with their lawyer were surrounded by well-wishers offering congratulations. Meanwhile Agnes sat silent and motionless and heard the verdict which deprived her of her estate without any outward signs of feeling.

At the start of the trial, questions were asked about George Washington Turner, his life and whether he was irrational when he made the will. Dr J Franklin Kauffman said that in his opinion he would judge that he had senile dementia.

The defence was entirely taken up with evidence from Wales, except for Agnes, Dr Darrah her physician and several servants and caretakers who all said that George showed no signs of a failing mind and appeared to be devoted to his wife.

Dr Darrah of Newport said he knew the family and they were very pleasant, at first he thought Agnes was the daughter and Ethel the granddaughter.   He stated he thought he was of a sound mind.

Evidence from Wrexham was given by Rev Evan Holt, a Catholic. Dr Richard Williams who had only known him a short time after Ethel`s death said he died from senile decay, his memory was good although at times he had hallucinations,   and he was fond of Agnes. Ann Jane Shaw, the wife of a collier was a cook for the family in Wrexham, said Mr Turner had a very strong mind and ruled the household, Mrs Turner was very affectionate, Ethel was her father’s idol and was very fond of Agnes even calling her Mother.

John Bierne, Agnes`s brother said he had known George for years, he was a gentleman and very particular about neatness. He would have whatever he liked to eat, and was eating all the time. Agnes told him there was no will.

The Sun.  October 17, 1912.

Geo W Turners will broken.

Jury in $50.000 case decides for his son and daughter.

The will of George Washington Turner, once a very wealthy man who once had a home on 5th Avenue, New York and who died at Wrexham in July 1910 has been broken.

George W Turner and Mrs Annie Crane of Syracuse, two children of Mr Turner who were cut off in the will with bequests of $5 each brought suits in the Superior Court here to break the will and this evening the jury brought in a verdict in their favour. The estate now stands as though Mr Turner had died intestate. It was said in court that $50.000 is now involved. The plaintiffs had endeavored to show that undue influence had been exerted by Mrs Agnes Washington Turner the third wife of the testator.

It`s not known for sure where Agnes went after this, but she attended the burial of her brother John Bierne  in 1916, he was still at Plas Derwen, and  Agnes Ann Turner died at Plas Derwen on 27 May 1927, she made a will and left effects of £12461 8s 6d. This was a considerable amount more than her husband was supposed to have left in 1910. She was buried with George and Ethel.

George Turner junior died in 1925, he was still living in Syracuse, New York.

Annie G Crane is believed to have died in 1946 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Elms Court

Wrexham Cemetery 27/03/2018
Wrexham Cemetery 27/03/2018
Wrexham Cemetery 27/03/2018
Wrexham Cemetery 27/03/2018
Wrexham Cemetery 27/03/2018
Wrexham Cemetery 27/03/2018
Wrexham Cemetery 27/03/2018

Researched by Annette Edwards. October 2018. Gravestone photographs by Graham Lloyd.

Grave ref: Wrexham Cemetery C-00995

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