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.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Distant Cousins: The Martha Elizabeth Thornton Family

Born around 1830 to John and Mary Polly Johnston Thornton, Martha met Theodore Gillett on a trip visiting family in Texas. They were married about 1855 and began a life traveling around the southwest, where Theodore and his brother preached in various towns. Martha and Theodore Gillett had ten children: Roswell, Kate, Samuel, Fannie Laura, Naomi, James T, Stephen Hudson, Harriet Fulton, Mary Gertrude, and Martha Elizabeth. Many of her descendents would be fairly prominent in their fields.

Ruth Gillett (b. June 17, 1915, d. May 6, 2006), Martha’s granddaughter, would be a pioneering aviatrix. After learning to fly in 1944, she experimented with various aircraft, including helicopters. She won the 1954 Powder Puff Derby, with co-pilot Ruby Hays, by racing from Los Angeles to Knoxville, and served as International President of the 99s, 1963-5, an organization of female pilots for which Amelia Earhart served as first President. In 1983 Ruth was inducted into the El Paso Aviation Hall of Fame and the Albuquerque-El Paso Ruth Deerman Scholarship was created in her honor, providing an award for the Future Woman Pilot Award. She sat on the board of the American Cancer Society chapter. She was married to Charles L. Deerman, a rancher in the El Paso area. Reportedly, her father, Otis Gillett, abandoned the family during the Great Depression and was a radio announcer in Flagstaff, New Mexico. Several of her siblings became prominent writers and/ or contractors. Ruth’s sister, Betty Jo Mings, is an acclaimed Christian poet. Her cousin, Ruth, also has a scholarship named after her: the Ruth E. Gillett Scholarship Fund at Andress High School, El Paso, Texas, where she worked as a teacher.

Another set of cousins, the twins Claude and Clyde Gillett became prominent chiropractors in California. Claude served on the faculty of the Southern California College of Chiropractic (1938). Clyde was on the faculty of the College of Chiropractic Physicians and Surgeons (1933) and operated clinics in Hollywood and Los Angeles. Clyde invented the Gillett Tonsil Suction and was the author of numerous papers, including “Adenoid vegetation,” the ear,” “examining the drumhead,” and “A manual of the eye, ear, nose, and throat.”

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