Notes for Col. Francis Thornton, Jr.

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Notes for Col. Francis Thornton, Jr.

  Born in Stafford County, VA  Settled at Snow Creek, near the present Fredericksburg about 1703. Snow Creek flows into the Rappahannock River a short distance below Fredericksburg. When John Taliaferro and Francis Thornton settled there, that section belonged to Essex Co. and they were near neighbors and brothers-in-law. The act creating Spotsylvania Co. in 1720 specified Snow Creek as its Southern boundary. This put John Taliaferro into the new county and left Francis Thornton in the old.  There is a recorded deed in Essex County, dated Mar 1703/04 from Francis Thornton of Stafford conveying to Francis Thornton, Jr., then of Essex Co., VA, a tract of about 700 acres at Snow Creek. Snow Creek was in Essex County and then part of it was in Spotsylvania County when it was formed.  First Justice in Caroline County.  Justice of Essex County  Burgess for Spotsylvania 1723-1726  Lt. Col. of His Majesty's Militia in Spotsylvania Co., Virginia  Three of their sons married Gregory sisters; his son Francis built Fall Hill in Fredericksburg, Va.  Died at Snow Creek, Essex Co., Virginia 

In May 1719, Francis Thornton, Jr. and Mary his wife, of St. Mary's parish, Essex, conveyed to Augustine Smith and John Taliaferro, churchwardens [for a consideration of five shillings], 300 acres in the fork of Snow Creek, for a glebe.

Near the Thornton cemetery in Kenmore is a road sign erected by the Virginia Conservation Commission which reads as follows: “Fall Hill - on the heights one mile to the west, the home of the Thornton family from about 1736. Francis Thornton 2nd was a Justice, a Burgess 1744-45 and Lieut. Col., of his Majesty’s Militia for Spotsylvania Co. He and two of his brothers three Gregory sisters, {Note: the sign is obviously referring to Francis Thornton, III and not the II], first cousins of George Washington. Fall Hill was still owned and occupied in 1997 by direct Thornton descendants.” [Note: Mrs. Lynn W. Franklin, Sr., still lived there as of 1997]. On the way up to Fall Hill, one finds a large old water-worn stone called the “Indian Punch Bowl” and it’s seated on the banks of the Rappahannock River. It was originally carved into the rocks by Indians who used it to brew their poison for the tip of their arrows. Francis Thornton, II found the bowl, cleaned it out and served tasty punch in it during his river parties. The date he carved (1720) and the initials of his guests can still be seen today! There he held a fish fry for his friends every year for forty years.

It will be recalled that the Virginia council in 1745 made two grants each for 100,000 acres: one to James Patton and the other to John Robinson. Several years after his patent, John Robinson formed the Greenbrier Company to market the acreage. The company took its name from the Greenbrier River on which the grant lay, the area involved being the first lateral river bank beyond the Alleghenies. Eventually the Greenbrier Company became a satellite of a much larger speculation created by Robinson and his friends.

When the Ohio Company was about to receive its charter by means of pressure from London, Speaker Robinson and his legislative cronies decided to organize a still more ambitious scheme. Called the Loyal Company, it was launched and received both council approval and the governor's sanction without trouble. The grant was for 800,000 acres along the western frontier of Virginia. In terms of present geography, most of the Ohio Company patent fell in West Virginia, as well as a part of western Pennsylvania; while the Loyal Company patent fell mainly in what is now Kentucky.

The Loyal Company was backed by the newer aristocrats from the Piedmont. The more prominent were Peter Jefferson, father of Thomas Jefferson and the wealthiest squire in Albemarle County; Dr. Thomas Walker, a practicing physician and surgeon without medical degree; John Lewis, whose family enters prominently in Revolutionary annals; five Merriwethers, who were related by blood to almost anyone of importance in western Virginia; Francis Thornton; and Edmund Pendleton. Most of these men were members of the council or assembly. Pendleton was the front man for the John Robinson interests, Lewis represented the Shenandoah Valley and the others were mainly from Albemarle County. The older aristocrats were not completely excluded: for example, Francis Thornton and Thomas Nelson were members of both the Loyal Company and the Ohio Company. In general, however, there was a clear line separating the two competing cliques.

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