Putnam County

HON. JAMES T. THORNTON

a prominent and representative citizen of Putnam county, is now living retired in Magnolia. His father, Anthony Thornton, was a native of the Old Dominion and belonged to a good old Virginian family who came from England prior to the Revolutionary war. He was the son of Dr. Henry Thornton, whose birth also occurred in Virginia.

In his native state, Anthony Thornton grew to manhood and received a good education. While still a young man he went to Kentucky, where he engaged in farming and later in hotel keeping, and there married Miss Ann Lee Barrett, who was born in Virginia, as was also her father, Francis Barret, who was a soldier in the Revolutionary war. She was related to the prominent and well-known Lee family of Virginia. When ten years of age she accompanied her family to Kentucky, where she became acquainted with Mr. Thornton. After their marriage they located in Cumberland county, that state, and later removed to Green county, where the father served as high sheriff. His death occurred in 1826, and in 1833 the mother came to Illinois, locating near Athens, in what was then a part of Sangamon county, but is now Menard county. Religiously she was a member of the Presbyterian church, and died in that faith in 1847. Her family consisted of eight children — Ann Fitzhugh, Henry Fitzhugh, Anthony, William, Mary Mitchell and Arnold, all deceased; John F., of Independence, Missouri; and James T., of this review.

The last named was born at Greensburg, Kentucky, August 4, 1823, was only three years of age at the time of his father's death, and at the age of ten came with his mother to Illinois. The night of the "falling stars," forever remembered by those who witnessed the wonderful sight, he was lost on Grand Prairie. Previously to coming to this state he had attended school but one year, later worked his way through a school, but is almost entirely self-educated.

In 1845 was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Thornton and Miss Mary Graff, a native of Spencer county, Kentucky, and daughter of David and Susan (Willett) Graff. Her father was a native of Maryland, of Holland ancestry, and was an early settler in Kentucky. He came to Illinois in 1834, settled in Morgan county, where he died some years ago. Mrs. Thornton was born February 3, 1818. After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Thornton lived in Menard county one season, then removed to Iowa, locating a claim in Polk county, which he improved. He was a pioneer in that locality, there making his home before the Indians left for the far west. Erecting a log cabin they lived there for three years and then returned to Menard county, Illinois, but later, in 1849, located at Magnolia.

On arriving at Magnolia, Mr. Thornton engaged in the mercantile business with his brother Arnold and they built up a large and profitable trade in general merchandise and grain. After five years he drew out of the concern and opened a drug store in the same place, which he carried on for ten years. Selling the drug store, he bought and sold stock for a time, and also purchased a farm. From time to time he added to his farming land, until he became one of the large landholders in Magnolia township. He is to-day one of the oldest living settlers in the village, and is now living a retired life.

To Mr. and Mrs. Thornton four children were born, two of whom are now living. One son, George, was accidently smothered to death in an elevator at Lostant. Those living are: John W., who married Kate Lincoln, by whom he has two sons; and James B., who married Emma Fyffe, who died, leaving no children. Mrs. Thornton, who was a most excellent wife and mother, died August 8, 1896, her death being mourned by family and many friends.

Mr. Thornton formerly was a member of the Masonic order, with which he has not affiliated for some years. Politically, he was originally a whig and voted for Henry Clay for the presidency, being a great admirer of that honored statesman. He assisted in the organization of the republican party, and for many years voted that ticket, but lately has voted the democratic ticket. During the administration of President Lincoln, he served as postmaster of Magnolia. For several terms he served Alagnolia township as a member of the board of supervisors of Putnam county, and has represented his district three terms in the state legislature. He has taken a deep interest in the schools of his village and county, and has served as school director for years, and also as school trustee.

Mr. Thornton has been a hunter in the Rocky Mountains of some note, and his skill is amply attested by elk heads and horns, Rocky Mountain sheep heads and horns, and the skins of other animals which he has on exhibition at his home. As a citizen be has ever enjoyed the respect and confidence of his neighbors, and has done as much as any other one man to advance the interests of his adopted county.

Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois  published in 1896, page 290.


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