Thursday, June 14, 2012

William Thornton and Mary Kennedy

Our history of the Thornton family must begin with Henry Thornton, born 9  January 1755; who married Sarah Walker. To this union at least one son was born at Blaris, Down, Ireland, named Arthur Thornton, 24 July 1776.  A hand loom weaver by trade who achieved the title of Journeyman, Arthur married Agnes Nancy Collins. Nine children were born to them while they resided in Blaris, Down,  Ireland between 1798 and 1825;  Sarah, born 25 November 1798;  Elizabeth, born 6 March 1801;  John, born 4 February 1804- died May 1913; William,  born 1 Jun 1806; Jane, born 1 April 1809; Ann, born 17 September 1812- died 31 May 1840; Arthur, born 1 April 1816; Mary  born Sept 1821, died 20 August 1822;  and Mary (a second one) who was born 23 Dec 1825. 
            William Thornton, the fourth child, was our great-grandfather and the immigrant ancestor who came to America.  We have specific knowledge of his brother, Arthur; his sister, Jane; and his aged father whose name was Arthur, being left behind in Scotland.           
            William Thornton married Mary Kennedy, 8 March 1830 at Maypole, Ayrshire, Scotland. She was the daughter of John Kennedy and Martha Clendine, born 17 March 1808. When William and Mary left Scotland, Mary and her two brothers, Hugh and Samuel were “all that were left in life of her numerous family.” Since the marriage entry for William and Mary stated “both of this parish,” Mary’s family must at that time (1830) also have been living in Maypole.
            Following the trade as cotton hand loom weaver, William established his family in Maypole, Ayrshire, Scotland.  While in Maypole, five children were born to them:  John born 18 January 1831; Agnes born 12 Dec 1832- died 6 October 1833; Samuel born 10 August 1834; Hugh born 16 August 1836; Arthur born 19 May 1838.  soon after Arthur’s birth, they removed themselves to the nearby parish of Prestwich (1838).  At Prestwich four more children were born: Thomas Gilbert, born 22 January 1841; Margaret Eccles born 4 January 1844; Alexander Kennedy, born 6 April 1847; Mary, born 18 November 1849 died 11 March 1852.
            All but two of these children would go to America.  The two little girls, Agnes, and Mary were buried in Scotland.
            According to his own entry in the William Thornton Journal.  William wrote:
            “We conformed to the laws of the Church of Scotland until the 19th of May 1850, when by the Spirit of Inquiry for truth. . . went to hear the despised people so called Mormons.   I believed truth when I heard it and yielded obedience to the new revelation from Heaven, was baptized for a remission of my sins.  In short time my wife and children obeyed the gospel as it has been revealed in these last days.  As a testimony of the above, we sold our house in 1853 and removed to Great Salt Lake City, the place God appointed for the gathering of his people.”
            By March 28, 1853 William and Mary Thornton had left Prestwich and had traveled to Liverpool, England and were onboard the ship “Falcon”  ready to embark to the United States of America.  The month previous Samuel, their second son then nineteen year old, has sailed on the ship “Jersey” for New Orleans.  As the 813 ton ship  “Falcon” lifted anchor to sail, William and Mary must have had mixed feelings.  John, their oldest son, would be left behind.  John had married Susan Currie and they had a little daughter, Marion Montgomery. Ten years would go by before they would be reunited.  William’s aged father, Arthur Thornton, was residing at an institution at Maypole so it was difficult leaving him also.  Both William and Mary were past the age of being “young and adventurous”.  William was 46 and Mary was 44; their youngest child, Alexander was five.  They had borrowed money from the Perpetual Emigration Fund which had been set up by the LDS Church to assist its emigrants.  They knew there was little chance of their ever seeing Scotland again. Yet, their testimony of the cause to which they were committed was so great that they had sufficient faith to trust themselves to God’s care and to set sail with 324 other Saints under the direction of Elder Cornelius Bagnall.
            One primary objective of the Missionaries was to select qualified converts who would emigrate to Utah Territory in America. To qualify, they had to possess substantially the following qualifications:  Good, if not robust, health physically and mentally; able to endure the hardships of becoming pioneers in a primitive land. Special skills, crafts, resourceful intelligence and adaptability in creating an entirely new community of compatible people might be said to be the acme of desired qualifications.
            On May 18, 1853, the ship “Falcon” sailed into New Orleans harbor.  “Four children died during the voyage, but the general health of the company was good. From New Orleans, Elder John Bron, the Church Emigration agent at New Orleans, accompanied the saints up the Mississippi River. They landed at St. Louis May 27th and re-embarked for Keokuk the same day, arriving in the latter place in the beginning of June.” It is not clear whether they sailed up the Missouri or went overland to Winter Quarters, later known as Florence, Nebraska.  At any rate, the long trip west to Great Salt Lake began at Winter Quarters.  William and Mary with their family arrived in Great Salt Lake the 16th of October 1853.
            Our Thornton family moved to Big Cottonwood, put in some crops and then moved to Mill Creek the end of the next year to a house of their own.  On April 9, 1855 they moved to American Fork, Utah.  For one month they rented a house then built one of their own. Their belongings were few but included a wagon and two horses.  Disappointment was expressed by William when he wrote: “Grasshoppers this year have destroyed the wheat crops.”  
In 1860, “I received a letter from my brother Arthur in Scotland, Ayrshire, Maypole giving me the news of my father’s death, his son William, my sister Jane. My father died January 11, 1860, was born July 24, 1778.  Sister Jane died December 16, 1859.  My nephew William died July 31, 1859, his age was 19 yrs, 3 mo.”
            John, the son who was left in Scotland, began his preparations to come to America.  They had three children now:  Marion Montgomery, Mary Kennedy, and William Ward Thornton. It was May 30th, 1863 when they set sail on the ship “Cynosure.” The ship sailed from Liverpool, England with 754 Saints aboard.  They arrived safely in New York harbor July 19th.  John records in his journal:  “Started from Florence, Nebraska, Aug 8th with ox team and arrived in Great Salt Lake City October 4th. Was met by father, brother, Alex; and brother-in-law, Frederick Wright. Settled in American Fork, Utah and remained there until April 27, 1865, when, in company with my father and mother, brother Hugh and family we started for Iowa.”
            John’s record continues: “My Father and Mother joined the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the fall of 1864 and he concluded to leave Utah and move to Iowa.  In the Spring of 1865 sold out his property and prepared to move east.  27th of April started from American Fork with 2 wagons with Father and Mother, Hugh and wife, Elizabeth, and 2 children in one wagon. John and his wife, and mother-in-law and 3 children in the other wagon.  Camped at Fort Douglas till 18th May and then started out with an escort.  All went on well till the 8th of June when we left the head of the Sweet Water, at noon we camped. At Antelope Springs in the afternoon, Father was taken sick with inflammation of the bowel and continued very ill till half past 11 o’clock a.m. and died.  He was able to talk till a few minutes before he died.”  William was buried  beside the road at age 59 years, having spent 12 years in the Salt Lake Valley
            Situation of his children at his death: John and Hugh with him when he died; Samuel and Arthur in California; Thomas and Margaret and Alexander in Utah.
            John and Hugh Thornton and their families, along with Mary continued their journey to Iowa.   John’s record : “We settled down on a place in Mills CountyIowa on Elm Creek.  Mother (Mary Kennedy Thornton) paid $200 for 40 acres of prairie land and gave me (John Thornton) 10 acres.”   Mary was living with John and his family in the 1870 Census in Mills County, Iowa, she was 62 at the time.   John died in  1871 at age 40- it is assumed the Mary moved in with Hugh as she died in Avoca, Nebraska April 12, 1885 while Hugh was residing there with his family.   She was buried in Avoca, Kansas

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