Jesse and the Donner Party

This file starts with research on Coats Thornton and later has information on his son Jesse.

Who was Coats Thornton?

I first noticed the name Coats Thornton when doing family research. I noticed that he was in West Virginia on the 1810 Mason County, West Virginia census.

1810 Mason County, WV Census – Coats Thornton age 26-45(1765-1784),7 boys, 2 girls and wife age 26- 45

I decided to find out more about Coat Thornton and my search went back to Virginia. Coats Thornton was found on the Loudoun County, Virginia tithable lists.

The Index to the Tithables of Loudoun County, Virginia 1758-1786 by Margaret Lail Hopkins includes the following:
Coats Thornton – Shelburne Parish 1782, 1784
John Thornton – Shelburne Parish 1766, 1773-1775, 1779
John Thornton on Shelburne Parish 1766 Loudoun County, Virginia tithables would indicate a birth date of 1745 or earlier and the possible father of Coats. Coats Thornton on the 1782 list of the same parish would indicate a birth date of 1761 or earlier.

There was an Elisha Coats living in Loudoun County about the time of the John and Coats Thornton. This surname may be an answer to the first name of Coats Thornton.

The fact that Coats Thornton married Mary King, daughter of Henry King, in Augusta County, Virginia in 1787 might indicate a birth date around 1766. If Coats Thornton was married when he was listed on the 1782 tithe list in Loudoun County, Virginia then his marriage to Mary King could have been a second marriage.

Coats Thornton is said to have had twenty children by possibly three wives.
The known children of Coats Thornton are listed below:
1. Sarah C.
2. Mary
3. John
4. William
5. Hiram
6. James Coats had a son James Madison Thornton that married Elizabeth C. Kenton, daughter of Simon Kenton, famous frontiersman of Kentucky and Ohio.
7. Robert
8. David H. (was a twin)
9. Jesse Quinn was born August 24, 1810, near Point Pleasant, Virginia (now West Virginia).
10. Nancy
11. Henry
12. Joseph
13. Jacob

One of Coats Thornton’s sons became somewhat famous and his short biography is quite interesting.

Jesse Quinn was born August 24, 1810, near Point Pleasant, Virginia (now West Virginia). He grew up in Champaign County, Ohio, and studied law in London for nearly three years. Returning to the United States, he read law in Virginia and was admitted to the bar in 1833, afterward attending lectures at the University of Virginia. In 1835, Thornton moved to Palmyra in western Missouri, where he practiced law; he also edited a newspaper. On February 8, 1838, he married the widowed Agnes (Nancy) M. Huston Logue, a teacher. Thornton, an abolitionist, ran into difficulty in pro-slavery Missouri and in 1841 he and his wife moved across the Mississippi River to Quincy, Illinois. Thornton corresponded with newspaper editor Horace Greeley and was acquainted with senators Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri and Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois.

Jesse Quinn Thornton was governor of Oregon and wrote a book about the Donner party. Jesse was originally with the Donner Group but separated from that party when the party left the Oregon Trail. The Donner Party traveled a less established trail which proved fatal for many members of that party.

I have no proof that Coats Thornton is in any way related to my family but researching his life was interesting.



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