The Early Clay Countians

The Clay County Bicentennial is a great time to look at how far we’ve come, but also to look at individuals who have left their legacy in in our rich history. Not just by their actions during their life, but in writing down their stories.

The Clay County Museum is fortunate to have had many such volunteers in its own history, all 57 years of it. Our building, filled to the brim with donations of artifacts from many generations also has notes of family histories, humorous tales and a wealth of research writings. Visitors have shared memories of our building as well as the county. Here I have a blast from the past … all the way back to 1973.

Forty-nine years ago, in a Museum newsletter, Sheridan A. Logan wrote of the Thornton Family, an interesting and important family in the development of Clay County. In the article he asked “Now – what sort of a place was Liberty, the county seat of newly organized Clay County in 1822?” and goes on to answer the question with a quote from Mrs. Shubael Allen who came to Clay County from Kentucky in 1822. She wrote:

I found good Society in Clay County when I went there. There were a great many men of force of mind – a few finely educated. Many of the ladies were from the best social Dinah Ayres Trigg Allen by Geo. circles of Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and

Caleb Bingham, 1835. elsewhere. In 1833 I doubt if there was a town of its size in

the United States that had so many brilliant men and women in it as Liberty.” As you may know, Mrs. Allen was Dinah Ayres Trigg prior to her marriage. Together they had a plantation south of Liberty at Allen Landing, now Liberty Landing. They fostered growth in the area catering to river traffic and the military at Leavenworth. Mrs. Allen was sister to Elizabeth Clarke Trigg who married John Thornton who married in 1829 and then moved to Clay County. Mr. Thornton was one of the first judges serving the Clay County courts.

The Thorntons were blessed with 8 children – 7 of them female. Mary (Mrs. Robert W. Donnell,) Frances (Mrs. John Doniphan) and Theodosia (Mrs. Leonidas M. Lawson) moved to Platte County and were as influential there as their father and sisters were in Clay County.

Jane, the oldest daughter married General Alexander W. Doniphan, well known lawyer and war hero. He also demonstrated his place in history when having received an order in the Missouri Militia in 1838 to shoot captured Mormon Joseph Smith and his men responded with, “It is cold blooded murder. I will not obey your order – and my brigade will march to Liberty tomorrow morning at eight o’clock. If you execute these men, I will hold you responsible before an earthly tribunal, so help me God."

Adeliza married William Morton, Susan married James H. Baldwin and Caroline married Olive P. Moss. Mr. Moss was a farmer who served as sheriff of Clay County and State Representative. Mrs. Moss was responsible for the red marble monument for her parents, her husband and her self.

John c. Calhoun Thornton, the only son, attended college, studied law and practiced in St.

Joseph. A captain of artillery, after the battle of Shiloh he recruited for General Sterling Price. After the war he moved to Montana, practiced law and owned mining operations.

At right, the Thornton family monument in Fairview Cemetery, Liberty, Missouri.


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