Early Thorntons

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The Early Thorntons of Hunt and Rains Counties
January 15, 1982  


AUTHOR'S NOTE:  Many people have helped in the writing of this work.  The names of relatives and friends who were kind enough to share their memories with me are listed in the footnotes. Without their help, much history would have been lost and this work would not have been.  

Genealogy is a continuous story that never ends. I have not attempted to tell the story in full or given any part of a complete account of the early Thorntons.  In the brief summary that follows, I have recorded the history which I have found through research and documentation. Yet, I have not begun to make a scratch on the surface of the times and history of the early Thornton family who lived so long ago just South of Lone Oak.

The early Thorntons of Hunt and Rains Counties came to the area as they Helped build the Katy Railroad from Missouri to Texas.  Three brothers: William Lafayette, Joe and Jim Thornton traveled in covered wagons along the railroad and brought their families and parents.1

Their father, whose given name is not known exactly (it is James, Presley, or Joseph Harrison Thornton) was married to Martha Roister.  She was listed on the Census of 1880 of Rains County as a widow, 66 years old.2  The couple originally came from Virginia, then lived in Missouri before they traveled to Texas and settled near Lone Oak with the three brothers.3  William L. Thornton was born to the couple in Missouri 26 July, 1840.

The Thornton families settled just South of Lone Oak on adjoining farms only about seven miles apart.4   Their father built his house in the center of the land and his sons' houses bordered on the corners.5

The three brothers were Masons.  William L., Joe and Jim were Masons in Missouri and they moved their membership to Shiloh Lodge No. 307 around 1867.6

They were affectionately addressed with the titles of "Uncles" by everyone.  William L. was called "Uncle Bill", Joe was called "Uncle Joe" and Jim was called "Uncle Jim".7

Joe Thornton had at least two children. Press or Presley was nicknamed "Starchie" and other boy's name Ed.8

Jim Thornton had four known children.  His oldest daughter's name is unknown but she married a Mr. Ogle.  His other daughter, whose name is also unknown, married Lane Hughes.  Jim had two boys, Will or Bill and Tom or T.I.9

Mary Jane Vaughan, William L.'s wife, was known as "Aunt Puss".10 They were married 7 March, 1860 in Linn, Osage County, Missouri.  After they moved to Texas, she returned to Missouri only once to visit. That was after her third child was born.12

William L. and Mary Jane had nine children.  They were: James, born in 1861 in Missouri, Reuben, born in Linn County Missouri in 1865, Evaline Kay, born 1867 in Texas, George Presley, born 17 March, 1869 in Texas, Mattie, born in 1872 in Texas, Maggie Louise, born in 1874 in Texas, Coonie, born in 1876 in Texas and Burkes, whose birthdate in unknown.  C.V. Chapman was adopted by William L. and Mary Jane.  She was born in 1863 in Missouri and her natural parents are unknown.13

The family of William L. and Mary Jane married into other early families of Hunt and Rains Counties.  Reuben married a Miss Boarman.14

George Presley married Jamina Jane Merriman 16 July, 1887 in Emory, Texas.15  Maggie Louise married J.M. Boarman.16 Coonie married Babe Reynolds.17 Evaline married a Mr. McMortie.18

William L. owned two slaves, a married couple.  Twin boys were born to the couple, Bill and Charles.  William L. raised them to adulthood and emancipated them.  He gave them a start of their own and they took the name of Thornton.  They were last seen in 1902.19    Charles Thornton is listed on the 1870 Census of Lone Oak as a fourteen year old black male, a farm laborer unable to read or write and his father listed as being of foreign birth.20

In addition to farming, the early Thorntons raised cattle.  On 24 January, 1880, William L. filed a description of his cattle brand with the court clerk of Rains County.  The ear-mark and brand are described as "...Crop and two splits in the left and under slot in the right ear.  Brand 18 on the right hip.21

Back in 1880, the male citizens of' the county were responsible for keeping the roads in condition.  During the month of February, 1880, William L., Jim, and Joe Thornton were designated as road workers for Precinct 24.22  Not only did they settle the land, they kept it In good condition.

William L. died 28 July, 1895.23  Mary Jane did not join him until 15 March, 1914.24  The early Thorntons are buried in Hooker Ridge Cemetery in the land they loved.25 Railroad builders, farmers, ranchers, conservationists, productive citizens, Masons.  As they were in life, so they are in death.  Just a little South of Lone Oak.


1Information in a letter to the author, in possession of the author from Florence Boarman, daughter of J.M. Boarman and Maggie Louise Thornton, located at Mineral Wells, Texas, 8 October, 1973.

2U.S. Census of 1880, Precinct no. 4, County of Rains, State of Texas, enumerated ZB June. 1680, p. 51.

3Information in a letter to the author, in possession of the author from C.C. Thornton, son of Reuben Thornton, dated at Liberty, Texas, 15 January, 1974.

4Information in a letter to the author, in possession of the author, from Nealie Bryan Thornton, wife of Jessee R. Thornton, dated at Lone Oak, Texas,29 September, 1973.

5Boarman, Florence, p. 1.

6Information in a letter to the author, in possession of the author from the Grand Lodge of Texas Library and Museum,        Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, dated at Waco, Texas, 19 April, 1979.

7Information in a letter to the author, in possession of the author, from A.H. May, dated at Lone Oak, Texas, 7 October, 1973.

8May, A. H. p.2.

9May, A. H. p.2.

10May, A. H. p.2.

11Court Records of Osage County, Missouri, marriage records of Osage County of William L. Thornton and Mary Jane Vaughan, 7 March 1860, filed for record 8 March, 1860, marriage Book A-1. p.312.

12Boarman, Florence. p. 1.

13U.S. Census, 1880, p. 52.

14May, A. H. p.2.

15Court Records, County of Rains, State of Texas, marriage record. of George Presley Thornton and Jamina Jane Merriman, filed for record 25 July, 1887, Marriage Record Book 1, p, 203.

16Boarman, Florence, p. 1.

17Information in a letter to the author, in possession of the author, from A.H. May, dated at Lone Oak, Texas, 6 January, 1974.

18Boarman, Raymond, son of J.M. Boarman and Maggie Louise Thornton, of Phoenix, Arizona, interview in Hobbs, New Mexico, 26 May, 1978 concerning marriage of Evaline Kay Thornton.

19Thornton, Jennie Taylor, wife of Homer Almen Thornton, mother of Ralph H. Thornton and paternal grandmother of Ruby Thornton Rudisill, of Hobbs, New Mexico, interview in Hobbs, New Mexico, 24 August, 1961 concerning Bill and Charles Thornton.

20U.S. Census of 1870 for Lone Oak, County of Rains, State of Texas, P. 30.

21Court Records, County of Rains, State of Texas, Volume 1, Cattle Brands, filed for record 24 January, 1880, P. 19.

22Rains County Leader.  "Everyman's Duty." One Hundredth Anniversary of Rains County.  Emory, Texas: Rains County Leader, 1970. no page no.

23Thompson, Robert L. Hunt County Cemeteries. (Hunt County, Texas: Robert Thompson, 1977), p. 43.

24Thompson, Robert L., p. 43.

25Information in a letter to the author, in possession of the author, from Myrtle Thornton Robinson, daughter of George Presley Thornton and Jamina Jane Merriman, Great Aunt of Ruby Thornton Rudisill. dated at Ardmore, Oklahoma, 26 July, 1973.



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