A couple theories on Starling’s father

Many theories have been made concerning the father of Sterling (Starling) Thornton from Franklin County, Virginia but none have been proven. The date of Starling’s father’s birth can be estimated by using the date Starling was born which was 1776. If Starling’s father was 21 when Starling was born that would mean a birth date around 1755 and if Starling’s father was older that would change the birth date to dates possibly back to around 1730.

  1. One theory on Starling’s lineage is back to William Thornton from Gloucester, Virginia. William is often referred to as the Immigrant and was a prosperous plantation owner. William (Immigrant) had sons that moved north toward Fredericksburg and also south toward Brunswick County, Virginia. Sterling is a fairly common name in this line of the Thornton family. In the year 1782 (when Starling was approx. 5 years of age) the following individuals, of adult age, by the name of Sterling Thornton were taxable and in residence in the following counties: (1) Amelia County, (2) Gloucester County, (3) Henrico County. William Thornton that was born 1717 and the great grandson of William Thornton (the Immigrant) had 6 sons that had birth dates within the range for Starling’s father. The sons of William Thornton from Brunswick County born 1717 are:

    James born 1743
    John born 1744
    Francis born 1747
    William born 1751
    Sterling Clack born 1753
    Rueben born 1756

    William Thornton that was born 1751 has been considered the father of Starling by many researchers.  Starling was thought to be one of the infants referred to in the following Brunswick County Court document:

    Brunswick County, Virginia  Court Order Book No. 13 (1774-1782)
    At a court held for Brunswick County at the courthouse on Monday 28 of June in the Third Year of the Commonwealth and in the year of our Lord Christ 1779, Sarah Thornton is appointed Guardian to Sterling and William Thornton orphans of William Thornton deced., she having together with Edward Goodrich and William Thornton, Gent. her securities entered into and acknowledged their Bond in penalty of 500 pounds conditioned as the law directs agreeable to an Order of the last Court.

    The dates of the orphans are within a reasonable timeframe but there were no Thornton or Goodrich relatives that are recorded in Franklin County, Virginia during Starling’s lifetime.

  2. Another theory on Starling Thornton’s father relates to another group of the Thornton family. In the years 1782 through 1785 the names of John Thornton Senior and Luke Thornton are found on the lists as residents of Henry County, Virginia (in that section which became Franklin County in 1786). John and Luke Thornton are listed in Franklin County in the years 1786 and 1787 as the only adults of that surname in this county. A record in Henry County Order Book 3 (1782-1785) page 165, dated July 22, 1784 states John Thornton Senior was exempted from the payment of County levies in the future, which indicate that he must have been about 64 years of age (or thereabouts) thus born circa 1720. John and Luke Thornton do not appear on the tax lists of Franklin County after the year 1788. John and Luke are known to be from the Mark-Luke line of the Thornton surname. The Mark-Luke line was originally from the Richmond area and not proven to be connected to the William of Gloucester line. John Thornton, because of his age may not have been Starling’s father. John sold his land to Walter Dent in 1789 and John and Luke moved to the Spartanburg, South Carolina area. Luke Thornton could have been the father of Starling but it doesn’t seem likely that he would go to South Carolina without his son. The name Luke doesn’t appear in Starling’s family and that also makes it seem unlikely.
    There are a few records in the Henry County, Virginia area that refer to a Henry Thornton owning land in that area. Henry (the son of John above) has been thought to be Starling’s father. Henry Thornton sold his land in Franklin County, Va., May 21, 1817 to Robert T. Woods (D.B. 8, p. 67). The name Henry was not used in the Starling family until the grandchildren (Page Thornton named his first son Addison Henry).The theory that Henry Thornton was indeed Starling’s father seems more likely than theory a (William the Immigrant family line) because of a few facts:

      1. The Thornton family living in Franklin County, Virginia during Starling’s childhood and young adulthood were John and his two sons Luke and Henry.
        1. John Thornton owned land on Chestnut Creek which is the southeast watershed of Thornton Mountain where Starling later purchased land in 1825.

          This Indenture made 1st April 1787……..Obadiah Gravit of the County of Franklin for and in consideration of thirty pounds current money of Virginia conveys to John Thornton, his heirs and assigns, forever, of the same county, one certain Tract of Land containing 100 acres it being part of an order line situate, lying and being in the county aforesaid beginning at a branch on Chestnut Creek adjoining Robert Wood……….John Martin……..across the said Ridge to Luke Thornton’s mill path………to the said order line belonging…….

          Witnesses: None Obadiah Gravit L. S. (His mark)

        2. Luke Thornton owned land on Chestnut Creek that was closer to Thornton Mountain than his father John.

          Luke Thornton granted 237 acres on Chestnut Creek adjoining Waltons order line on June 1, 1782 in Henry County, Virginia (became Franklin County 1786).

        3. Henry Thornton owned land on Standley’s Creek that is the southern watershed of Thornton Mountain.

          Henry Thornton granted 200 acres on the head waters of Standley‘s Creek on September 20, 1816 in Franklin County.

    The approximate land locations are shown on a Franklin County map below:thorntonmtnmap


    The appearance of the Thornton family in the map above, makes it seem more likely that Starling was a descendant of John Thornton.

      1. There is a fact that might help in determining the father of Starling Thornton. The father and son named John and Luke Thornton left the Henry-Franklin County area of Virginia and settled in the Spartanburg area of South Carolina. John Thornton was too old to be Starling’s father. Luke Thornton migrated to South Carolina with his family and Starling was probably too young to stay in Franklin County, Virginia. Henry Thornton was in the Franklin County area after his father (John) and his brother (Luke) had migrated to South Carolina.
      2. The most recent DNA results have proven that most of the early Thornton families can be traced to a common ancestor in England. The DNA results also prove no direct relationship of the William of Gloucester line and Mark-Luke lines. The DNA results show no connection of the Starling Thornton family to the William of Gloucester line which increases the possibility of his father being Henry Thornton. Another recent DNA match to within 3 DNA markers is to a descendant of Josiah Thornton born 1758 that lived in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Josiah Thornton was a son of John and a brother to Luke and Henry. John and Luke Thornton moved to the Spartanburg, South Carolina area before 1800.John Thornton was  probably  the grandfather  of Starling Thornton and  some facts about John might  be of  interest at  this  time.  John Thornton was born 1715 in Richmond County, Virginia. John Thornton died in Spartanburg, South Carolina after the year 1800. John Thornton married Jemima Longworth in 1740 Orange County, Virginia. John’s father was Mark I Thornton and his mother was Mary Bruce. Jemima Longworth Thornton was born September 1724 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Jemima’s father was William Longworth and her mother was Millicent Ransdell. John and Jemima Thornton’s children were:
        1. Luke THORNTON  born: 1743 Orange Co., Va  died: 1801 Spartanburg Co., S.C.
        2. William THORNTON  born: 1747 Lunenburg, Va.
        3. Randolph THORNTON  born: 1759 Lunenburg, Va.
        4. Josiah THORNTON  born: August 22, 1758 Va.; died: Nov 1849 Wayne, Tennessee
        5. Jane THORNTON  born: January 9, 1763
        6. Henry THORNTON  born: 1750 Lunenburg County, Va.

    John Thornton was the grandson of Luke Thornton that was born in England to Henry and Deborah Scoper. The Henry Thornton line traces its roots to west-central England or Cheshire County.


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