The Turners of Paterson

In looking at the arrival of football, of soccer, in the United States five names seem to stand out. They are Lennox, Craig, Hood, Grant and Turner, all Scots names, with the last of these of immediate interest. The American Cup, the USA's first major, soccer trophy was first played for in 1884-5. Six teams took part, from New York, New York F.B.C., and from New Jersey, Caledonian Thistle Club and Paterson F.B.C., both from the silk-weaving town of Paterson, and from cotton-thread environs of Newark, Clark O.N.T., Domestic and Kearny Rangers. The two Paterson clubs would lose in the first round. O.N.T. would be the first champion. 

In the second playing in 1886 O.N.T. would take the trophy once more, as they would in the third. The Paterson clubs now reduced to one, the Caledonian Thistles, on second iteration made the second round but more significantly its team now included a Forsythe and two Turners, A. and the captain, W. And both were there, now for Paterson, the following season, 1887, with A. refereeing and W., still playing and now identified as William. Moreover, said William, whilst he soon seems to cease to playa season later he appears to have gone on to make a considerable mark both on and off the field. In 1889, 1890, 1891 and 1892 he too was refereeing. In the middle two years he had the whistle in the Cup Final itself, first a neutral in a match-up between Fall River Olympics and Kearny Rovers and then as President of the sport's then governing-body, the American Football Association (AFA). In the last still only at the age of twenty-eight he might even have taken to the field as a player once more in a Paterson Thistle team that in defeat to Longfellows from New York included three Turners, W., T. and J.  

So who was William Turner or rather, who were William and A.Turner. The answer is that just now no-one knows for sure. However, there are possible pointers. In 1847 in "Loudoun" Paisley-born Alexander Turner married Newmilns girl Margaret Morton.  In 1851 they are still in Newmilns with their first two children, Mary and Catherine, he a "tenter". And they would stay in Newmilns until about 1859 as three more children were born. But by 1860 they had moved to Glasgow to Hutchesontown, where he worked as a bookseller cum stationer for perhaps three years. There two more children including Archibald in 1860 were born before a possible return to Newmilns, albeit temporary. Their third son William would be born there in 1864 before their final child, Alexander, back in Glasgow four years later.  

However, mother, Margaret, would die in Glasgow in 1880 and that seems to have led to the rest of the family perhaps bar eldest son, James, who was Australia-bound, immediately emigrating to the United States. That same year and the next they are to found in New Jersey, in Paterson. Father Alexander is a silk-weaver, 20 year-old Archie a twister, sixteen year-old William set to be a silk weaver/warper. And they would soon settle into the large, local Scottish community. In 1884 Archie Turner would marry a certain Maggie Forsythe, born in Kirkintilloch. In 1887 William's wedding would be to Elizabeth Muter, born in Lanarkshire. And those two dates would match closely those of the two at least hanging up their boots, albeit it seems in the latter's case briefly temporarily.  

But clearly William's association with the game loved and learned in Ayrshire and Glasgow seems not to have ceased with the Presidency of the AFA in 1891. He was re-elected to the same post in 1894, was refereeing in 1896 and was both refereeing and Vice-President in 1897, with the previous year the same position being held by James Turner also of  Paterson. That was before the American Cup was suspended until 1906 and a Herbert Turner of Paterson was elected Correspondence Secretary. Alas neither of these last two seemed to be related, either to each other or the brother, who preceded them. 

Archie Turner would raise a family in Paterson and both he and his wife seem to have died in the 1920s in the town. Of his brother, the far greater carrier of the football contagion from native Scotland and implanter, as pioneer player, referee and administrator, in his adopted America the information is more concrete. He too would raise a family, including an eldest son, Alexander, and a youngest, Archie. And William is known, aged seventy-one, to have died in 1935 in Haledon, north of Paterson and where he had lived for several years, to be buried at Paterson's Laurel Grove Cemetery.     

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