Charles Turner was born in 1849 to Henry S. Turner and Julia Hunt. Henry Turner was a West Point graduate and classmate and friend of William T. Sherman who served with Stephan Kearney in the Mexican-American War. Julia Hunt was the daughter of Theodore Hunt, a naval officer and favorite in St. Louis social circles, and Anne Lucas, the only daughter of J.B.C. Lucas, one of the earliest settlers of St. Louis and one of its wealthiest and most influential citizens. H.S. Turner, with the support of his wife’s powerful family, would serve as a member of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, the Missouri State Legislature, and as Assistant United States Treasurer. In the 1880 census, he listed his occupation as “retired capitalist.” In the 1870’s, H.S. Turner, as a member of the Board of Aldermen, would introduce legislation that established the street car system in St. Louis. Within a few years, his son Charles would own the company that his father helped to establish.
Charles Turner, according to Jeremiah Fruin, was an original member of the Union Base Ball Club of St. Louis. Other members of Turner’s social set who were members of the club included his cousin Robert Lucas, Shepard Barkley, Joseph Charles Cabanne, Orrick Bishop, and Harry Carr. Turner, a catcher, was described as a part of the original battery of the Union nine. He also pitched and played second base for the club. His membership in the original Union Club raises some questions. If the club was founded in the early 1860’s at about the same time as the Empire Club (and they were certainly playing baseball by 1861) then Turner could not have been an original member, being too young. It’s most likely that Turner did not join the club until after the Civil War.
In 1875, Turner was involved in the founding of the Brown Stockings. With the urging of newspaper men W.C. Steigers and R.P. Thompson, “several young St. Louisans of prominence” set up an organization to create a professional baseball team in St. Louis that could compete with the professional Chicago White Stockings. The board of directors that was elected to run the new organization included J.B.C Lucas, president; W.C. Steigers, vice-president; Charles A. Fowle, secretary; and Charles Turner, treasurer. Other members of the board included Orrick Bishop, William Medart, and Joseph Carr. Interestingly, the Union Club was heavily represented on the board with Turner, Steigers, and Bishop all being members and with the possibility that Lucas and Carr were as well. The Lucas family was also well represented with Turner joining his cousin J.B.C. Lucas on the board.
While it’s unknown exactly what role Turner played with the Brown Stockings, he was involved, according to Jon David Cash, in the signing of the Louisville players in 1877. These signings which were an attempt to duplicate Chicago’s raid on the Boston Red Stockings, coupled with the gambling scandal that involved both the signed Louisville players as well as members of the Brown Stocking nine, helped to bring about the collapse of the Brown Stockings organization and the experiment with professional baseball in St. Louis.
It’s difficult to overstate the prominence of Charles Turner in 19th century St. Louis. Not only was he a member of the wealthiest St. Louis family, he also married into another prominent family. His wife Margaret was the daughter of Stephen Barlow, the cousin of Stephen Douglas and a wealthy politician and railroad magnate in St. Louis. Turner himself was the president of the Suburban Railway Company, which owned the St. Louis street car system, and the Commonwealth Trust Company. He was described by Lincoln Steffens as being a millionaire and served on the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners in the 1880’s. Turner also was a member of the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company, which raised the money to put on the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
Turner’s influence in St. Louis was exposed in a negative way by Steffen in 1902. In what became known as “The Boodle Scandal,” Turner was shown to have been a member of a cabal that bribed city aldermen and state legislators in order to get legislation passed that was favorable to their business interests. In grand jury testimony, Turner was shown to have paid over $144,000 in bribes to secure legislation that would double the value of the Suburban Railway Company, which he was looking to sell. The case was tied up in court for several years and Turner died in 1906 before facing the legal consequences of his actions.
While “The Boodle Scandal” and Steffen’s exposes may have tarnished Turner’s reputation, his legacy was saved by the service of his grandson. Charles Turner Joy was the son of Charles Turner’s only daughter, Lucy Barlow Turner, and Duncan Joy. He graduated from Annapolis in 1916 and served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. During Korea, Rear Admiral Charles Turner Joy served as Commander of Naval Forces, Far East. After he passed away in 1956, a destroyer was named after him. The USS Turner Joy, pictured above, served the nation proudly until it was decommissioned in 1982.