Our ancestor where known lineage stops

Most interested readers trace their ancestry to my grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Thornton who spent his entire life on or near Turkey Creek, Putnam County, West Virginia. Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” was the son of Addison Henry Thornton. Addison or Henry was the son of Starling Thornton. Starling Thornton is our ancestor where the proven lineage stops. Starling Thornton was born February 15, 1776 and died January 1, 1849 in Franklin County, Virginia. In the year 1798 the name of Sterling (Starling) Thornton appears for the first time on the Franklin County, Virginia Tax List. It is not known where he was living in 1798 or if his parents were still in the area. Starling Thornton married Sally Sarah Moseley August 29, 1803 in Franklin County, Virginia. Sally was living on Storey Creek, Franklin County, Virginia with her father Mordecai Moseley. Mordecai had lived on Storey Creek for nearly twenty years as indicated on the following land transfer:

Henry County Deed Book 2 (1780-1784) page 174, dated April 7, 1784 ; Mordecai Moseley, of Henry County, purchased from James Standiford, of Henry County, for 40- 170 acres of land in Henry County, on the waters of Stony Creek.(That portion of Henry County became Franklin County when it was formed in 1786)

Starling and Sally started their married life on Storey Creek and later managed to purchase some of her father’s land. The record of their first land transfer follows:

Deed Book 5, page 650

Moseley to Starlin Thornton This Indenture made the 16th August 1809……Mordecai Moseley of the County of Franklin and state of Virginia for and in consideration of $200.00 lawful money of Virginia conveys to Starlin Thornton of the county and state aforesaid one certain parcel of land situate, lying and being in the county aforesaid on the waters of Storey Creek containing by estimation 601/2 acres with all houses, orchards, woods, ways, waters and water courses thereunto belonging to the said Thornton, his heirs and assigns, forever.

Mordecai Moseley

Test: Robert Jones
Wilender Moseley
Ruth Moseley

At a court held for Franklin County October 2nd 1809. This indenture of Bargain and Sale between Mordecai Moseley of the one part and Starling Thornton of the other part was acknowledged by the said Mordecai Moseley and ordered to be recorded.

Teste James Callaway C.F.C.

Starling and Salley apparently were successful with their farming because they purchased more land that is recorded as follows:

Deed Book 11, Pages 416, 417, 418

Garnett’s heirs to Starling Thornton

This indenture made 26th August 1826, Milly Garnett (also written Mildred Garnett in this Deed), Susan Jones, and David J. Ayres and Maria, his wife, all of the County of Essex, for and in consideration of #378.00 lawful money of the commonwealth convey to Starling Thornton of Franklin County, his heirs and assigns, a certain parcel of land lying and being in the County of Franklin and containing agreeably to a survey made by Lewis Davis, surveyor of the said County, 297 acres…….it being part of a survey of 1480 acres held by Reubin Garnett deceased, and by his Last Will and Testament given to the said Mildred Garnett, Susan Jones and Maria Ayres, his daughters…….will recorded in Essex County………

Mildred Garnett

Susan Jones

D.J. Ayres

Maria Ayres

Franklin County 29th September 1825 Surveyed 297 acres on the waters of Town Creek…….adjoining Dickinson’s line, Standifer’s line………Graham’s line………..Crossing Chestnut Mountain and branch to the beginning.                                         Lewis Davis S.F.S.

Sold to Starling Thornton

Essex County………..30th August 1826…….Mildred Garnett, Susan Jones, D.J. Ayres and Maria his wife, made acknowledgement of this Deed before Justices of Peace Essex County.

At a Court held for Franklin County at the Courthouse on the 2nd day of October 1826, This Deed……et cetera…………..was exhibited in Court………and ordered to be recorded.

Caleb Tate, Teste

After Starling and Sally made the land purchase in 1826 they had accumulated over 300 acres of land that included a mountain. The mountain that was owned by Starling was later named “Thornton Mountain” and is still referred to by that name.


Thornton Mountain, Franklin County, Virginia and cornfields along Storey Creek.


This map shows the elevation contours of the Thornton Mountain area. The location of Thornton Mountain is:

– 2.5 miles north on Rt. 607 to the town of Waidsboro, Virginia.

– 6 miles from Waidsboro, Virginia northwest on Rt. 40 to the town of Rocky Mount, Virginia.

– 24 miles from Rocky Mount, Virginia north on Rt. 220 to Roanoke, Virginia.

The #1 is the approximate location of the Page Thornton home and the #2 on the map indicates the location of Thornton Cemetery (picture below).

The Page Thornton home is thought to also be the site of the Starling Thornton home. The Page Thornton home site was actually in the headwaters of Town Creek, which flows to the south. Storey Creek headwaters are on the north side of Thornton Mountain which may have been closer to the Moseley land.


This monument is located in the Thornton Cemetery on Thornton Mountain. The monument lists Starling Thornton, his wife and children. The children of Starling (Sterling) Thornton and Sally Moseley are:

(1) Rhoda was born 1805 and married James Gadd 1827.

(2) John was born 1806 and died 1888, married Lucy Parthana Ashworth. Lucy was born 1812 and died 1888. John and Lucy had 12 children.

(3) Sterling Moseley was born 1808 and died 1893, married Milicent H. Whitten April 8, 1843. Sterling was the first person baptized at Providence Church (Rt.607 Franklin County, Virginia) and buried in the church cemetery.
(4) Samuel G. was born 1810 and died 1872, married Mary Jane Claughton August 22, 1844. Mary was born 1828.

(5) Elizabeth M. was born 1813; died 1888, married Owen Stanley. Owen was born 1822 and died 1857.

(6) Page James was born July 9, 1815.

(7) Burwell was born 1818 and died 1864, married Ruth Willis 1856.


Sarah Moseley Thornton was probably born in Franklin County, Virginia and her parents were from Prince George County, Maryland. Sarah’s father was Mordecai Moseley the son of John Mawdesley. Sarah’s mother was Rebecca Duval the daughter of Benjamin Duval and Anne Griffith.

Starling was apparently somewhat educated as indicated by the handwriting on the document below. Starling’s consent for his daughter’s marriage is shown below:

The next document is a handwritten will by Starling Thornton:



March 22nd 1845

This is my will concerning my servant Gaberel. If Gaberel lives longer then I do he is to live with Page Thornton if Page Thornton is living. Page Thornton is to see to him and take care of him and Page Thornton is to have a full share of my estate besides Gaberel living with him and if Page is not living, Gabe may live with John Thornton or any of my sons as he may chose. No person shall have any power to sell Gaberel and if my wife is living she is to have no control over Gabe. And if Gabe lives when he is past labour or when he can labour but very little and has not laboured enuf for them that he lives with to pay them for maintaining of him when he is past labour he is to be maintained out of my estate. In witness thereof I have here unto set my hand and offered my seal the day and year above written.

Starlin Thornton   (seal)

Witness: M. Taliaferro

At a court held for Franklin County the 1st day of January 1849. This writing purporting to be the last will and testament of Starlin Thornton, dec’d was processed in court and it being proved that the said writing was wholly in the proper hand writing for the said Starlin Thornton. It is ordered that the same be recorded as the last will and Testament of Starlin Thornton.

An interesting story about the slave Gaberel should be included at this point:

A copy of the Thornton Family newsletter dated 1995 that mentioned the marriage of Polly Thornton and Jeremiah Ferguson. The newsletter also stated that Polly (Mary) Thornton married Jeremiah Ferguson in Franklin County, Virginia in 1837. Jeremiah made his will in 1834 and named Polly and her seven children as his heirs. All but two of her children were of legal age (born before 1813 if legal) and all seven changed their surname from Thornton to Ferguson after the marriage. Jeremiah owned a slave named Gaberel. When Jeremiah died in 1843 the slave Gaberel was not sold with his other slaves and property. Franklin County Will records show that the Sheriff came and got Gaberel (a pre-arranged deal) to settle a debt. Starlin Thornton turns up with a servant named Gaberel.

The will of Starlin Thornton mentions a slave named Gaberel and how to handle him with no mention of descendants or estate. Gaberel died at the age of 55 of old age according to Franklin County death records. He is buried near the Page Thornton home site on Thornton’s Mountain.


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