The Yorkshire Thorntons

The Thorntons of Bradford - Leeds and their relatives, past and present








The Voyages From Eccleshill, Idle and Calverley to Erie, Pennsylvania:
Emma Britton Thornton's Story, 1918
Same Voyage, Two Voices
Boats From Eccleshill, 1832 - 1855 
Thomas Thornton Returns to Yorkshire, Part I, The Voyage

This segment opens with a family history that was written and presented by Mrs. Thomas (Aunt Em, nee Emma Britton) Thornton, Albion, PA at the twenty-fifth reunion held at their home August 15, 1918. Reprints of this talk are still available at Thornton-Coates reunions.
Emma Britton Thornton's Story, Delivered at  the 1918 Reunion

A Genealogy of the Thornton-Coates Families, 1832 - 1918

The years 1832, 1842, 1847, 1848 and 1855, respectively, form the nucleus from which arose the Thornton-Coates reunion. For in those years these families sailed from England to hew out their future in America, and from these families have sprung those who are with us today. There are many that have passed to their reward since those eventful years, and others who are absent today for various reasons, all of which we hope were beyond their control.

In 1832
In 1832 when the General Williams, a sturdy sailing vessel of those days, touched America, there stepped ashore in New York Harbor twenty-one ruddy English men, women and children. Among them we can find record of the following: Joseph and Mary Burnley, the former an astronomer and the latter a coffin maker. They were the grandfather and grandmother of B. J. Coates, who is with us today. There were also in the party Benjamin and Nancy Waddington and their four children, John, Benjamin, Wilkes and Sarah. They were six weeks coming over. If it took that long to get troops over to that country now we would never have licked the Kaiser.

Just before the General Williams arrived in New York they were held up by pirates, but they were captured and executed soon after arrival in New York. The party of twenty-one continued their journey from New York by way of the Hudson River and Erie Canal to Buffalo and to Erie on board a packet called the Hornet, and notwithstanding the name of the boat none of those who settled in these parts feel they were in the least stung by their selection of this section of country as their future homes. The principal occupation of the Coates family was machinists.

In 1842
No less courageous, no less ambitious and determined was the party of four who came to America ten years after the Coates contingent, in the month of July, 1842. John Thornton, with his wife and two children, Joshua C. and his sister, Hannah, came here to make their future home. Their grandchildren remember of hearing them say that when they arrived in Erie they did not find the Coates family, and being in a strange land and not accustomed to American ways, their lodging the first night in Erie was a fence corner.

In 1847
The next party that determined to make America their home consisted of Thomas Thornton and his wife and five children, who sailed from Liverpool July 6, 1847 and landed in New York seventy-one years ago yesterday (August 14, 1918). Two of the five children are with us today, William Thornton and Mrs. Hannah Van Camp. The first work he did in America was to build a stone wall. For years he lived in Fairview and Girard Townships. In the early 60’s he moved to Albion and purchased what was the old Grey’s Woolen Mill, located on the west side of town, and rebuilt the same and continued to operate it until November, 1875, when it was burned with all its contents. In the spring of 1876 he built a woolen mill on the north side of town near the grist mill, which he purchased and operated until his death.

In 1848
In the year 1848 Jowett Thornton, father of the late Thomas Thornton of Elk Park, Girard township, left his family in England and came to New Mexico to superintend the construction of the first woolen mill in that state. He remained six years with the firm. In the year 1854 his wife crossed the ocean and joined her husband in New Mexico. Three children --- Thomas, Benjamin and one daughter were left with relatives in England. After leaving New Mexico he settled in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. At this time he sent for his children; on their arrival in New York they were met by their parents, where there was a reunion of parents and children.

In 1855
In the year 1855 Joseph Thornton, father of Harry Thornton of Erie, came to America and settled in East Springfield, Pa. After three years he went to Fairview, where he engaged in the clothing business until the year 1873, when he moved to Erie where he continued in the clothing business for several years.

The principal occupation of the Thornton’s was the manufacture and sale of woolen goods, also flour milling, farming and stock raising.

Twenty-five years ago, while returning from Exposition Park at Conneaut Lake, two members of the Thornton families met on the Bessemer train. While having a chat they decided that a reunion of the Thornton and Coates families should be held each year. On August 20 of that year the first re-union was held at the pleasant home of the late J. C. Thornton of Fairview Township, with an attendance of 80. On the third Thursday of August of each year since that time we have met at different homes and a quarter of a century has rolled around since reunion No. 1. Today we have met to celebrate the twenty-fifth reunion of the Thornton and Coates families. Since the first reunion we have twenty-five births, twenty-five deaths and thirty-two marriages.

At this time I will say in behalf of my husband and children: We believe you are here because you want to be, not because of compulsion, but a desire to meet the dear ones all together again. We bid you welcome to our home and hope you will be able to carry pleasant memories from our home to yours and as the older ones pass on to that land where reunions shall never end, may the younger members of these families be enthusiastic enough to carry on the work that was commenced a quarter of a century ago.


The Same 1842 Voyage, Other Voices
It was the same ship, the same voyage, the same ocean. John Thornton and his family and John Cass and his family left Bradford on the same canal boat and crossed the ocean on the same ship. They would be separated in New York at Customs.  John and other Thornton cousins would join forces with John Cass two years later in founding Thornton, Cass & Company, aka the Harbor Creek Woolen Mill.

I. This version of the voyage of 1842 is from the journal of Joseph Keith ("Keith", or "JK") Thornton (1905-1955):

"John (Thornton) married Martha Coates, a sister of Ann. John was born in 1811 and died at Fairview, PA in March, 1888. It has been said that John and his family sailed for America July 13, 1842. The ocean trip required 35 days between Liverpool and New York. From New York he went to Albany and took a canal boat to Buffalo, then followed the lake to Erie. On August 25 he slept on land for the first time since sailing. This was in a fence corner near Erie. He was accompanied by his wife and two children, Joshua and Hannah. Three days later John wrote to his relatives in England that he had not slept on land for 44 days."

II. The following description of the journey of the John and Hanna Pratt Cass family, is from Miss Barham's account. Emma Barham (1861-1917) was a Cass and the Cass family historian.

"So on the sixth of July, 1842, they left home and friends for that long journey which took two months to complete. They journeyed all the way from their home to Erie, Pennsylvania, by water, going on the canal which passed their house, to Liverpool. They sailed on the good ship `Sheridan' under the command of Captain Cornish. It was a sailing vessel, as there were but few steamers in those days. They were five weeks on the ocean. On arriving at New York they were delayed a week getting their goods through the Custom House. From New York they sailed up the Hudson River to Albany. There they again took the canal boat to Buffalo. At Buffalo they embarked on a sailing vessel and landed in Erie early in the morning of September fifth, just two months from the time they left home."

(The discrepancy in the starting dates in the two accounts may be explained by whether one counts the first day as being from Bradford or Liverpool.)


Boats From Eccleshill, 1832 - 1855
This is an amplification of Emma Britton Thornton's welcoming remarks at the 25th Thornton-Coates Reunion in 1918.

Voyage of 1832, The General Williams
“In 1832 when the General Williams, a sturdy sailing vessel of those days, there stepped ashore in New York Harbor twenty-one ruddy English men, women and children…” Emma Britton Thornton, 1918.

(1&2) Joseph & Mary Burnley: grandfather and grandmother of B.J. Coates
(3,4,5,6,7,8) Benjamin and Nancy Waddington and their four children, John, Benjamin, Wiles and Sarah: Nancy Waddington was an aunt of B.J. Coates (The 1880 census shows a Benjamin Waddington, born in England, a machinist now 54 years old, living in Allegheny (Pittsburgh's North Side), Allegheny County, PA, , with a wife, three children and a son-in-law living under his roof.)
(9, 10) Benjamin F. and Elizabeth Coates: father and mother of B.J. Coates
(11, 12) John Coates, Grace Coates, brother and sister of B.J. Coates
(13, 14) Joseph Hardaker, Joseph Burnley: Cousins of B.J. who were orphans raised by Joseph and Mary Burnley.

Later research strongly suggests that James and Hannah Mitchel Glover and their four children, John, Mitchel, Grace and Elizabeth, were also on the General Williams. Several generation later, a Glover would marry into the Thornton-Coates-Hartley extended family.

Voyage of 1842, The Sheridan
(1,2,3,4) John and Martha Coates Thornton, and two children, Joshua C. and Hannah
(5&6) plus John and Hannah Pratt Cass: (Hannah’s mother was a Coates and an aunt of Benjamin F. Coates.)

Voyage of 1847, The Columbia
(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) Thomas and Anne Coates Thornton and five children, including Hannah, Elizabeth, William, John, and Joshua. Samuel Hartley was probably on this ship too and from his immigration records we know that it was the Columbia. Samuel  would marry Elizabeth Thornton, daughter of John, a few years later.

Voyages of 1848
(1) Jowett Thornton left England for New Mexico. He would bring his wife and children in stages from England to Erie by 1855.
(2)Benjamin (F.) Burnley: Erie County Naturalization records show him as being born in 1818, emigrating in 1848.
(3) William Metcalf and (4) Harriet Elizabeth Thornton Walker and their two children, (5) Mark Wright and (6) Elizabeth Ellen Walker. Harriet died at sea and the children were raised by Thornton relatives.

Voyage of 1855
(1) Joseph Mann Thornton and wife (2) Mary (Polly) Blakely

(1) Joshua Jewett, born 1813, emigrated 1840
(2) Mark H. Beaumont, born 1809, married Sarah Thornton , emigrated 1850. Sarah was probably a sister, perhaps a first cousin, of Thomas and John Thornton.



Leeds to Liverpool -
“The Leeds to Liverpool Canal was authorized by an Act in 1769 ‘for making and maintaining a Navigable cut or canal from Leeds Bridge … to North Lady’s Walk in Liverpool and thence to the river Mersey.... The boats were to be sixty feet long and fourteen wide of forty to fifty tons burthen and so be able to travel from Liverpool to Hull without any transshipment of cargo. It would not require more than six or seven days to pass from Liverpool to Hull at a charge of twenty-three shillings per ton.’ In 1774 it was opened from Liverpool to Wigan and in 1776 to Burnley. The final connection was not made across the watershed to the Yorkshire section at Gargrave until 1816.” (This is a straight-line distance of perhaps 60 miles.) See "West Riding of Yorkshire," Arthur Raistrick, 1970

 The Leeds-Liverpool canal today is a tourist attraction. - - - ->

Erie Canal – The Erie Canal was begun July 4, 1817 in Rome, New York and finished just eight years later on October 25, 1825. The route was from the Hudson River at Troy to Rome and Syracuse and on to Buffalo. It was 363 miles long, 40-feet wide and 4-feet deep and cost $7 million. In 1865 it was widened and deepened to 70 and 7. The canal reduced the per-ton cost of moving a ton from Buffalo to New York City from $100 to $10. Passengers moved 100 miles in 24-hours. New York City to Buffalo now took only four days. This had the effect of opening up the interior of the country to development and drastically reduced the cost of food and other goods in the seacoast cities.



Thomas Thornton Returns to Yorkshire, Part I, The Voyage

In 1880, 33 years after leaving Yorkshire for America, Thomas Thornton went back to Yorkshire to visit and make a postman’s holiday tour of some of the Bradford-Leeds woolen mills. He was accompanied by his 29-year-old son Joseph.

He does not make any references to his initial trip across the ocean although there are many opportunities. He and his wife Ann Coates Thornton and five children came over on a sailing ship. Thomas and Joseph went back on a sailing ship assisted by a steam engine. When they arrived in Glasgow they were awed by the large all-iron, all-steam ships that were being built there. In 1847 it took 38 days to cross the Atlantic. In June of 1880, with the westerly winds behind them and a steam engine taking up the slack, the trip took only 11 days. In 1880, Thomas and Joseph were traveling first class; no doubt an upgrade from 1847.

In 1847 the 60-mile plus canal trip from Eccleshill/Bradford to Liverpool took three days. In 1880, they were on the train just five hours for the 180 mile ride from Glasgow to Bradford.

Thomas’ spelling may be phonetic but his meaning is clear and direct. As Thomas writes in this letter, “You must excuse my righting & spelling. If I had been at school as much as some of you I could write some better.”

This letter is a day-by-day description of the voyage from New York City to Bradford and his first day on land.

June 10, 1880, Eccleshill Near Leeds Yorkshire England

Dear Wife & Children all, I rite this to inform you what I have been doing since I left you. We sailed out of New York on the 10th of June (1880) at 10 minutes to eight clock in the morning in the Pennsylvania State Line. Captain Stuart, a plain man, a very cautious man. We past Brooklin (Brooklyn) on our left and Governors Island on our right, up the bay we pas Statton (Staten) Island on our right & Fort Hamilton on our left, & Long Branch on our right & Long Beach on our left and long it is. It reaches far into the sea. All up Sandy Hook. It was a beautiful morning & a most magnificent sight that could be seen. The Pilot left us before we left Sandy Hook.

Got breakfast, rather late, the first on board. Dined on salmon & every kinds of meats all feeling well, in good spirits. We left Long Beach about noon. We had a good run of about 10 to 12 miles per hour, till seven clock. Came into a strong fog. Blows the steam whistle every two minutes. Went to bed at eight clock. Got up Friday morning the 11th. All clear and fine but a little sick. We had maid 281 miles in 24 hours. Two vessels in sight. Smooth sea and wind against us from first. Pases one vessel. Speak (to) her. She sends out to us two men in small boat. Captain throws out to them some New York papers to them to inform them of the nominations of (presidential and vice presidential candidates) Garfield & Arthur.

After having had a very pleasant day, went to bed about 9 clock. Got up on the Saturday 12th about 7 clock. All well. Sea smooth. Two sails in sight, and some porpoises. Got breakfast of oat meal porridge & eggs & so forth. Good appetite. Sea as smooth as Lake Erie. It came raining at noon, and blows a fine breeze. All sails set.

Bill of fair for dinner, beef stake, mutton, salmon & other fish, ham & eggs, veal in all shapes, turkey, chickens, duck, all kinds of soup, pastre, apples, peches & plum pudding blaising on the table, cheese and rubarb tarts of every kind, ground rice pudding and all kinds of pickles cauliflowers onions and many more things to numerous to remember. Porrige at 7 in the morning. Full table at 9 for breakfast. Dinner at a full table.

We have in our first cabin saloon to dine with Captain and Perser about 30 persons, in the 2 cabins about 25 persons & in steerage 30 persons and about 40 ships hands in all. About 125 persons on board.

Almost all on board are Scotch. There are al very good behaved people. I have not heard one oath swore yet by anyone.

Raining still. Cannot go on deck. Go to bed in clothes.

Sunday morning the 13th
Got up about half past seven. Had very little sleep, a cold foggy morning. About 50 degrees, one sail in sight. 10 clock clears up. Some sun shines but soon very ruff. I am very sick all day. We had a surman preached in our saloon at 10 clock. I cannot give you the lesson or the text though I heard them. I was to sick.

The wind has changed now from southeast to northeast. We have sails up. We shall be at midnight tonight about 1000 miles from New York. I got a little toast & cup of tea & walk the deck till ten oclock then went to bed, weary but not to sleep.

You must excuse my righting & spelling. If I had been at school as much as some of you I could write some better.

Monday morning the 14th
Joseph (his son Joseph, 1851-1903) is very sick and I should be if I was to raise my head off the pillow, but that is the way I do. I have nothing to raise it up for, only to see the large rolling blue waves. About two clock afternoon I got up to eat one potato, a little mutton & a cup of tea. A very cold day. About 50 degrees and raining and rolling pretty bad. We past four large icebergs today. One of them looks as large as all Albion Borough.

Their was something rong with our engine about six clock tonight. We had to stop about one hour. Had a run till dark. Captain durst not venture to run in the dark so we had to stop till daylight. We was in the ice field. To run against one of those would have be a bad misfortune for us all. We could not go on deck. Went to bed at eight clock.

Tuesday morning the 15th
Did not get out of bed all day. Rained and thundered. The worst day we have had. Nothing to eat. Nothing all day.

Wednesday the 16th
Got up about 9 clock. Sea running high and rolling. One ship in sight. No appetite. Went on deck all day. Turned out fine this afternoon. I ham feeling better. Joseph is very sick. Got about 1800 miles. Went to bed.

Thursday the 17th
One week on water. A very fine morning. No appetite. Got some oatmeal gruel to breakfast. It does me a good deal of good. Got a bottle of porter. Eat a good dinner of turkey & beans, rice pudden. On deck all day. Very fine and warmer. We past two full sail vessels about 8 clock tonight about one & half miles away. I am feeling very good. Eat more today than in five days past. On deck all singin and a man playing flute to end up with God Save the Queen and Old Lang Sign & Hail Columbia & Star Spangled Banner. Eleven clock went to bed.

Friday the 18th
Got up at 7 clock & on deck. All well. A very fine morning. Sea smooth. Got breakfast beef stake & ham & eggs, coffee. Good appetite. Towards night got colder. Was on deck till 9 clock.

Saturday 19th
Did not get up till nine clock. The sea was the ruffest this morning that I have seen it yet. Almost all passengers was sick. I am a little sick. Got no breakfast. All right by noon. Got dinner. Good appetite. Feel well. Good supper. Pases a two mast brigantine vessel loaded with lumber for Yarmouth England. Prominaded on deck till eleven clock.

Sunday the 20th
Got up on deck at six clock. A three mast brig pasing just now with 21 sails furled to the breeze, loaded with timber. We could have thrown a stone on to her deck. Is a beautiful sight as I ever saw. The sea as smooth as can be. Got a good breakfast of ham & eggs. Preaching at ten clock in saloon. Singing was good. First lesson first Chapter Psalms. Second lesson, Luke ii Chapter first 13 Verses & 13 Verse for text. He drew some very good comparisons, appropriate to the situation. We all enjoyed it very much. He was a local preacher from Brantford, Canida. He was a Scotchman, a miller. His name is David Plever. Got dinner of turkey & bread stuffing, rice pudding & rubarb pie and all other dainties. All in good spirits and appetite. Promenaded till 10 clock. Best day out. Went to bed.

Monday the 21st
I ham up and on deck at five clock. Expected to be able to see land but was disappointed. Raining and a little fogge. At about 8 clock saw with glass the high rocky gorges (?) of Ireland. Got into the channel. Many vessels in sight & small boats. Got breakfast. We are calculating to get off this vessel today. We are well on board. The highlands of Scotland is just coming into view on our left & Ireland on our right. We are detained by fogs all the way. Got a good dinner. We are going very slow. There is one island on the Ireland side, called Elce Crag (Ailsa Craig, south of Arran, west of Galloway) rock as hard as marble. The report was that it is 900 feet high and 3 to five miles round it. A vessel can sail close to it. It is inhabited with birds, goats & rabbits. Reports was that a vessel had run against it in the fog and demolished it. The highland is a grand sight to see. All shapes of mountains. We enter the River Clyde this afternoon. It is the finest river I ever saw. We got to Grineck (Greenock) a little before dark. This is the place where all the large iron steamers and boats are built. Now it is 21 miles to Glascow and all the way up is docks for boat building. We saw the last one of the eight large iron steamers going to France. It was splendid large steamers. As vessels land here when the river is down, it raises hear about 10 feet. The tide was right for us. We had two tugs to tow us up. We was drawing 22 feet of water. We got into port about eleven clock at Glascow (Glasgow) time and Pitsburg (Pittsburgh) time of half past six. Went to bed on boat. All still and quiet. All safe.

Got up at five in the morning the 22nd. All luggage examined by Revenue Officer. Got breakfast on board and (a) pas to Liverpool 233 miles. They run to Liverpool by boat. Our agreement was by water. It is a very ruff coast. There is also a railroad to Liverpool. They gave us ours by rail. We had to go through a good part of the city to their depot. It is an old city of about half a million inhabitants. It is not a very hansom city, nor bad looking. We take cars at ten minutes to ten this morning. Their was four of us. They put us into box and locked us up, and went 180 miles by three clock in the afternoon. We go through Dunn Blain (Dumbarton) & Dunn Frees (Dumfries) & Carlile (Carlisle) to a place called Clicfield (?). Now we are 53 miles to Liverpool and only 36 miles to Bradford. We did not now of this till we got hear. We are in Yorkshire now. We could be in Bradford tho first so we take the Midland Road to Skipton, Keighley & Bingley & Baildon & Shipley to Bradford. That 180 miles through Scotland is the first country I ever saw you can see ten thousand acres of land. As you can find 100 acres on the Ridge Road, but it is not possible for me to describe it.

I got to Betty at six clock to supper. I found them all in good circumstances except Job. He has given up working.

They was looking for me. They had got to know through Joseph sending a paper. We had a good cry & a good laff & chat and went to bed. Slept some.