Thornhill (Forkland, Alabama)

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Thornhill 01.jpg

The front elevation of the main house in 2010
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Nearest city Forkland, Alabama
Coordinates 32°41′18″N87°55′45″W / 32.68833°N 87.92917°W / 32.68833; -87.92917 Coordinates: 32°41′18″N87°55′45″W / 32.68833°N 87.92917°W / 32.68833; -87.92917
Built 1833
Architect William Nichols
Architectural style Greek Revival
NRHP reference # 84000618 [1]
Added to NRHP May 10, 1984

Thornhill is a historic plantation near Forkland, Alabama. The Greek Revival main house was built in 1833 by James Innes Thornton. [2] The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 10, 1984. [1]

Plantations in the American South aspect of the history of the American South

Plantations are an important aspect of the history of the American South, particularly the antebellum era. The mild subtropical climate, plentiful rainfall, and fertile soils of the southeastern United States allowed the flourishing of large plantations, where large numbers of workers, usually Africans held captive for slave labor, were required for agricultural production.

Forkland, Alabama Town in Alabama, United States

Forkland is a town in Greene County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 649. It was incorporated around 1974.

Alabama State of the United States of America

Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.



James Innes Thornton was born October 28, 1800, at the Thornton family plantation known as Fall Hill, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was educated at Washington and Lee University and then emigrated to Huntsville, Alabama. He began to practice law there in 1820. He was elected as Alabama's third secretary of state in 1824 and remained in that position until 1834. After this he retired from public life and became a planter in Greene County. Thornton married Mary Amelia Glover in 1825, daughter of Allen and Sarah Norwood Glover of Demopolis. [2] They had two children. Her brother, Williamson Allen Glover, developed the neighboring plantation known as Rosemount. Mary died after only a few years. In 1831, Thornton remarried to Anne Amelia Smith of Dumfries, Virginia. Anne died in 1864. He then remarried in 1870 for a third and final time to Mrs. Sarah Williams Gould Gowdy, daughter of William Proctor and Eliza Chotard Gould of the Hill of Howth in Boligee. Thornton died at Thornhill on September 13, 1877. [2]

James Innes Thornton was a prominent Alabama, USA, planter and politician.

Fall Hill

Fall Hill is a plantation located near the falls on the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Though the Thornton family has lived at Fall Hill since the early 18th century, the present house was built in 1790 for Francis Thornton V (1760–1836). The land on which Fall Hill is located is part of an 8,000 acres (3,200 ha) land patent obtained by Francis Thornton I (1657–1727) around 1720. The present-day town of Fredericksburg, Virginia is located on that original patent.

Fredericksburg, Virginia Independent city in Commonwealth of Virginia, United States

Fredericksburg is an independent city located in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 24,286, up from 19,279 at the 2000 census. The city population was estimated at 28,360 in 2017. The Bureau of Economic Analysis of the United States Department of Commerce combines the city of Fredericksburg with neighboring Spotsylvania County for statistical purposes.

Regarding the Thornton connection to George Washington, Mildred Washington Gregory, George Washington's paternal aunt and godmother, had three daughters who married three Thornton brothers. Mildred Gregory's daughter Frances (circ. 1720-1790)(first cousin of George Washington) married Col. Francis Thornton III (circ. 1711-1748) of Fall Hill. They were the great-grandparents of James Innes Thornton.

Thornhill Plantation was developed as a cotton plantation in the early 1830s and extended over 2,600 acres (11 km2). It utilized the labor of 156 slaves by 1860. About a third of the slaves lived in quarters behind the plantation house. [3] According to the diary of Josiah Gorgas, in talking with Thornton at Thornhill on Tuesday, June 6, 1865, less than two months after the end of the Civil War, Thornton "oppos(ed) ... the doctrine of secession and necessary deduction that we fought so valiantly (in the War) and bled so freely in a cause radically wrong." Gorgas pointed out however, "He has, I learn however, done his share to sustain the war, & perhaps that consciousness makes him talk the more freely of his former views" [4]

Josiah Gorgas Confederate Army general

Josiah Gorgas was one of the few Northern-born Confederate generals and was later president of the University of Alabama.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The Civil War is the most studied and written about episode in U.S. history. Primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people, war broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

In the context of the United States, secession primarily refers to the voluntary withdrawal of one or more states from the Union that constitutes the United States; but may loosely refer to leaving a state or territory to form a separate territory or new state, or to the severing of an area from a city or county within a state.


The plantation schoolhouse at Thornhill, built circa 1845. Thornhill Schoolhouse.jpg
The plantation schoolhouse at Thornhill, built circa 1845.

William Nichols is believed to be the architect of the main house at Thornhill. Nichols became the state architect of Alabama in 1827. He is known for designing the now-destroyed Alabama State Capitol building at Tuscaloosa and the former Mississippi State Capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi. The house at Thornhill was completed by 1833. The monumental two-story portico with six Ionic columns was added circa 1850. David Rinehart Anthony, of Eutaw, is believed to be the builder who made the portico addition and second story balcony (crisscrossed lattice railing). The house measures 55 feet (17 m) wide. Inside is a 14 ft (4.3 m) wide by 40 ft (12 m) long central hall with a spiral staircase at the back. There are two rooms to either side. The left front room was the parlor, with the dining room behind it. On the front right was the master bedroom with the plantation office behind it. Upstairs is a matching hall and four bedrooms. All eight rooms are 19.5 feet (5.9 m) square. The downstairs rooms have 12-foot (3.7 m) ceilings. The upstairs ceilings are 11 feet (3.4 m).

William Nichols (architect) English-born American architect

William Nichols, Sr. was an English-born architect who emigrated to the United States and became most famous for his early Neoclassical-style buildings in the American South. He is best known for designing early statehouses for North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama City in Alabama, United States

Tuscaloosa is a city in and the seat of Tuscaloosa County in west central Alabama. Located on the Black Warrior River at the Atlantic Seaboard fall line of the Piedmont, it is the fifth-largest city in Alabama, with an estimated population of 100,287 in 2017.

Old Mississippi State Capitol

The Old Mississippi State Capitol, also known as Old Capitol Museum or Old State Capitol, served as the Mississippi statehouse from 1839 until 1903. The old state capitol was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. In 1986, the structure was designated a Mississippi Landmark and became a National Historic Landmark in 1990.

Originally there was a brick kitchen behind the house, it later burned. Additions were made to the original structure from circa 1890 to 1949. They were razed in 1994 and rebuilt to better match the original intent of the house. The house and grounds were extensively recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1934. [5] The plantation schoolhouse was constructed circa 1845. The Thornton children, as well as neighboring plantation children, were taught there. Surrounding the schoolhouse are 230-year-old post oaks.

<i>Quercus stellata</i> species of plant

Quercus stellata, the post oak or iron oak, is a North American species of oak in the white oak section. It is a slow-growing oak that lives in dry, poor soils, and is resistant to rot, fire, and drought. Interbreeding occurs among white oaks, thus many hybrid species combinations occur.

Family Cemetery

The main staircase at the rear of the downstairs central hall. Thornhill 02.jpg
The main staircase at the rear of the downstairs central hall.
Gate to the family cemetery in September 2011, following damage from a tornado on the grounds. Thornhill Plantation Cemetery 1.JPG
Gate to the family cemetery in September 2011, following damage from a tornado on the grounds.

Buried in the family cemetery, located a few hundred feet east of the main house, are: [6]

Grandson James Innes Thornton (March 10, 1873 - July 23, 1951) was re-interred in Eutaw's Mesopotamia Cemetery, next to his second wife, Helen Williamson Allison Thornton (February 15, 1890 – December 12, 1963). His first wife, Betty Woolf Thornton (April 23, 1887 – September 22, 1932), was re-interred in the Dayton Cemetery.

Thornton's first wife, Mary Amelia Glover Thornton, is buried in the Glover Mausoleum at Riverside Cemetery, Demopolis. His third wife, Sarah Williams Gould Gowdy Thornton (June 11, 1824 – August 23, 1885), is buried in the Bethsalem Cemetery, Boligee.

See also

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Thornhill Plantation at Wikimedia Commons

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Thornhill may refer to:

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  1. 1 2 National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service.
  2. 1 2 3 "Alabama's Secretary of State: James Innes Thornton". Alabama Department of Archives & History. 21 August 2007. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
  3. "Thornhill Plantation, Greene County, Alabama". American Memory Collection. Library of Congress. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
  4. Wiggins, Sarah Woolfolk (1995). The journals of Josiah Gorgas, 1857-1878. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. ISBN   0-585-16196-8.
  5. "Thornhill Plantation, County Road 19, Watsonia, Greene County, AL". Historic American Buildings Survey. Library of Congress. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
  6. Jacobson, Kim (October 2007). "Thornhill Plantation Cemetery". Magnolias and Peaches website. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
  7. Glass, Mary Morgan; Greene County Historical Society (1977). A goodly heritage : memories of Greene County. Clarkesville, Tennessee: Josten's. OCLC   3168829.