Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Monday, August 13, 2007

Martin V. Thornton - Mother's Pension

I received this much-awaited file in today's mail, but I'm left asking one big question. Is Agnes the mother of James M. Thornton? Why am I now questioning this conclusion that has seemed correct for so long? It's because in the pension file, there is sworn testimony that Agnes lost 3 sons in the Union Army and a 4th son en route to join the Union Army. The exact statement is:

She had two sons who was married in the Union army and they died while in the service. She lost three sons in the Union army and one was killed by the rebels trying to get to the Union army and he left a helpless family . . .


I know that I will need to gather additional evidence to prove James M.'s relationship as son to Richard and Agnes because this file greatly weakens support for this statement, but I still believe it to be true. Maybe it is only because I want to believe that I haven't been barking up the wrong tree all these years, but I believe that she (and her neighbors) lied to get a pension. Why? Because there are no additional Thorntons in the 1st Alabama Cavalry (or its preceding Tennessee regiment) that could be the 3rd deceased Thornton. There is also no mention made of Adaline, wife of Martin Aldridge, believed to be James M.'s older sister who was also living. Elizabeth, who was born about 1830 is also not mentioned. It is possible that she died between 1850 and 1860 or that she married and moved away.

The only living children of Richard and Agnes listed in the pension (from an 1873 document) are:

Daughter Catherine, age 48, who married Isaac Johnson. She is said to be poor and residing in Fayette County. [This is the one we know as Cassy who was born about 1828 according to census records.]

Daughter Martha, age 40. She is said to have never married, crippled, residing in Walker County, and "begging." [Census records say she was born about 1833.]

Daughter Eppy, age 38. She is said to have married an old man Rutledge, having not lived with Agnes for 23 years. She is very poor and residing in Walker County. [Census records indicate Eppy as born about 1838.]

We are still left to wonder about the Susan Thornton (age 16) and the Richard Thornton (age 8 months) living in Agnes' household in 1870. (She is listed as Susannah in 1860.) Neither of these individuals is addressed in the pension.

Agnes' poverty was emphasized in all the statements from acquaintances. Her son Martin is said to have been the only source of income for the family from 1857 up to the time of his death. His main employers were said to be Moses L. Johnson and David Studdard. It was stated that Richard Thornton became disabled with palsy around 1 April 1857, that after Martin enlisted in the army that Richard also developed chronic diarrhea, and that he died 2 November 1862. [This date varies slightly in some documents, but this seems to be the most prominent date for his death.] Multiple persons stated that Richard and Agnes never owned their own land. In his sworn statement, Moses L. Johnson states that "since the soldier's death, the claimant has subsisted mostly by begging." Richard's physician, who was deceased by the time of the claim, was Jeremiah Manasco.

The big breakthough is that we learn Agnes' maiden name and the location of her marriage to Richard. Agnes was a Barnum. One document states that they were married in the house of John Barnum in Franklin County, Georgia 16 May 1817 by John Waumack, Justice of the Peace. In another place, Agnes says she thinks the year was 1820.

We also learn what the "V" in Martin V. Thornton was. His full name was Martin Van Buren Thornton, and he had always been called "Van."

Something that was interesting was a statement that Agnes had resided within one mile of her present residence for 25 years. She was presently living 8 miles south of Kansas (in Walker County) near the Fayette County line. Other documents state that the little house in which she resided was owned by Moses L. Johnson. In 1868 her address was Dublin P.O. in Fayette County; in 1873 it was Kansas P.O. in Walker County.

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