Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Women in the Family: Elizabeth Thornhill Jones

My posts so far have centered around fascinating men on my Dad's side, John O'Brien and Robert Thomas Jones Sr. This post highlights Robert's wife, Elizabeth Thornhill Jones. When Robert Sr. and son joined the 5th Infantry and went off to fight in the Mexican War in 1847, Elizabeth stayed behind with their nine children in Jefferson County. She must have been a strong woman, as she lead the household in the 1850 & 1860 Censuses before moving in with her daughter Sarah Melissa Jones Daniel in the 1870 Census.

Elizabeth Thornhill was born in Culpeper, Virginia in 1808 to parents Joseph Thornhill and Sarah Westall. Sometime after Elizabeth was born, her parents moved from Culpeper, Virginia to Jefferson County, Tennessee. She had at least one older brother, Richard Thornhill (22 Oct 1805-15 Dec 1876), and at least two younger brothers John, Alexander, and youngest sister Sarah Jane. I would be interested to know more about the journey from Culpeper to Jefferson County, what it was like for a family between 1810-1819. Culpeper features prominently in my family across several different lines, so I will have quite a few upcoming posts about this part of Northern Virginia.

It is possible their route followed present-day I-81, like this route courtesy of Google Maps:
Once in Jefferson County, Elizabeth's family lived very near the Jones family. I posted previously a copy of the marriage record for Robert and Elizabeth ("Betsy" in the record) dated 20 October 1824. In the 1830 US Census, Robert Jones is listed as head of household next door to Sarah Thornhill, Elizabeth's mother.

It is unclear if Robert Sr. made it back to Jefferson County from Memphis after he mustered out of the 5th Infantry in July 1848, but certainly Elizabeth had to bear the news of her oldest son Robert Jr. drowning at Muscle Shoals, Alabama in December 1847. Elizabeth and children were living near to Robert's parents, Thomas and Nancy Jones, so it is likely she was able to look to them for some support, and to her siblings and their families in Jefferson County. [Update 4 February 2012 - See posts on The Sad Fate of Robert Thomas Jones Part 1, Part 2]

The 1850 Census record in the 13th District of Jefferson County shows the family:
In the 1860 & 1870 Censuses it is noted that Elizabeth could not read or write, although she did have an estate worth $300 in 1860.

The Civil War years brought more difficulty in Jefferson County, and more heartbreak for Elizabeth. Two battles were fought in Jefferson County in December 1863 & January 1864, probably near the Jones & Thornhill homes. Elizabeth's nephew John A Thornhill served as Captain of Company B in the 9th Tennessee Cavalry for the Union. Elizabeth's son, Francis Marion Jones, served in Thornhill's company. Francis deserted the company in Nashville by February 1864 and started walking home to Jefferson County. He was captured by Confederate troops in Jefferson County (probably very close to his home) and held as a prisoner of war. He is buried in Hamblen County, Tennessee in Cedar Grove Cemetery alongside other members of the Thornhill family. On 24 June 1864, John A Thornhill and 16 of his men met a violent end in Jefferson County [I'll have more on this in future posts].  All of this must have been incredibly difficult for a single mother such as Elizabeth.

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