Welcome to our Thornton family

In this blog we attempt to create a visual history of a main southern Kentucky Thornton branch, descended from Scots-Irish Thorntons who may have arrived in Pennsylvania in the mid-1700s. If your goal is to check whether or not you or a family member are listed in our genealogy file, the first eight posts contain more than 1,500 names, listed generationally. Use the 'find' command to scroll through the material...Good luck.

Also, if you have photos, corrections, or inquiries, please feel free to contact us at thorntonsoky@gmail.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Distant Cousins: Henry Clay Thornton

Henry Clay Thornton, son of William and Martha Patton Thornton, was born Dec. 12, 1839, into a family of overachievers: his siblings’ families excelled in education, medicine, and law. Henry C. Thornton became a lawyer of good reputation who mentored other local lawyers, including his nephew William Wheeler Thornton, a future Deputy Attorney General of Indiana, judge, and Indiana Supreme Court Librarian. A building still stands in central Logansport that was built to house his law office: the Thornton-Baldwin Building. Later in his life, Henry would move to Pennsylvania from where his wife, Millamenta Comegys Worth, originated. Her parents were members of a prominent farming family in eastern Pennsylvania. They had two children: Henry Worth and Margaret Worth. Henry Clay Thornton died Oct. 9, 1901, near Newtown, PA. Minerva Thornton Bickell referred to Henry as a lawyer living “near Philadelphia” in her 1907 family history.

Margaret Worth Thornton married Isaac Wheeler Geer (b. Feb 1, 1873), son of David and Eunice Orinda Witter Geer and grandson of Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Geer of the American Militia (who was also a prominent New England businessman and office holder). Isaac W. Geer worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad and served as Superintendent of its Logansport Division, which included the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and St. Louis lines. Margaret and Isaac had two daughters: Helen Thornton (b. Jan. 27, 1903, Newcastle, PA) and Margaret Worth (b. Oct.11, 1909, Logansport, IN). Margaret Worth Geer married John Henry Kleine who later served as an Illinois State Representative from Lake Forest, a suburb of Chicago. John and Margaret Kleine had two children: John Geer and Margaret Eleanor. Helen Thornton Geer was an author and professor of Library Science at the University of Rhode Island.

Sir Henry Worth Thornton was born Nov. 6, 1871, in Logansport, Indiana. He had a privileged upbringing, attending St. Paul’s, a prominent boarding school, and, afterwards, the University of Pennsylvania, where he excelled at football and helped the team to win the championship by defeating Princeton. After graduation he coached Vanderbilt University’s football team to a 7-1 record (1894). Henry began his long career in the railroad business by joining the Pennsylvania Railroad where he was a draftsman and engineer. In 1911 Henry was promoted to General Superintendent of the Long Island Railroad. In 1914, when England needed a manager to modernize the Great Eastern Railway, upon recommendation from the managers of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Sir Henry was chosen. His ability to modernize and to move supplies was useful during World War I: In 1917 he was made Director General of Allied Railways in France and in 1918 Inspector General of Transportation (Military Rank: Major General). Henry was made a Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1919 (He had given up American citizenship in 1916).

In 1922 Canada sought a proven manager to modernize its railway system and to finish amalgamating several disparate and costly lines: Sir Henry Worth Thornton was chosen. He immediately made a name for himself by introducing passenger friendly travel (radios in car, more relaxed seating) and worker-friendly policies. He experimented with new technology, like ball-bearing locomotives. His innovation with radio was a precursor to Canada’s national broadcasting services. In the early 1930s, when the Great Depression took a toll on the railway’s profits, the Conservative Government forced Sir Henry to resign, denied him a pension, and forced a bank to remove him from its Board of Directors. Sir Henry Thornton died one year later (March 4, 1933; New York City) from cancer, nearly broke and disgraced. Later governments recognized the modernizing influence of Henry, and his reputation was restored: he was inducted into the National Railroad Hall of Fame in 2002.

Sir Henry Thornton married Lady Virginia Dike Blair on June 20, 1901. She came from a prominent western Pennsylvanian family. They had two children: James Worth and Anna Blair. After divorcing Lady Blair Thornton in 1926, he married Ms. Martha Watriss, daughter of Franklin N. Watriss, a prominent lawyer and member of the Nassau County Commission, NY.

Sir Henry and Lady Thornton (left) at the Ontario Jockey Club in Canada (1920s). (City of Toronto Archives)


Virginia said...

Ahh..Geer descendants! The Geer Family Association--see our website at www.geerfamily.org--likes to publish interesting stories of Geer/Gere/Gear folks and their descendants. Any chance I can publish a story on one of Isaac Wheeler Geer's descendants (with picture) in a future GFA Newsletter, with permission?
Ginger M. August

Will Lewis said...

Great; I'll see if I can track one down for you...