Oliver Thornton and Mary Griswold Thornton

Oliver was the third son of Joseph and Lucretia Calkins Thornton. He was born September 6, 1806 in Pickering, Ontario, Canada.

In June, 1827 he married Mary Griswold. Mary was born February 22, 1812, making her just 15 when she married the then 20 year-old Oliver. Their marriage took place in Pickering where they continued to live for several years.

Mary's parents were Amos Griswold and Eleanor Staats. We don't know anything about Amos' parents. Eleanor's parents and Mary's grandparents were Casper Staats and Mary McVey.

Eleanor had received a grant of land in Canada because Casper was a "United Empire Loyalist". According to the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada, United Empire Loyalists were those who had been settled in the thirteen colonies at the outbreak of the American Revolution, who remained loyal to and took up the Royal Standard, and who settled in what is now Canada at the end of the war. Actually, that seems impossible since Casper was supposedly born about 1766 in Connecticutt so he would have been just 10 at the start of the Revolution. We don't know anything about Casper's parents, but it's likely they were the loyalists.

Mary and Oliver's first child, Lydia Meacham Thornton, was born 19 October, 1830. On 30 December, 1832 another child, Amos Griswold Thornton, was born. Thomas Ephraim Thornton was born on 2 January, 1835.

They were baptized into the Mormon Church in June, 1837 by Elder John Taylor. This was truly a life-changing event for them.

In September another child was born, Edward Hotchkiss Thornton. Tragically, this child would die a year later. In all Oliver and Mary would have twelve children.

In the spring or late winter of 1838, Oliver and Mary sold most of their belongings, bundled their four children in buffalo robes and embarked on a journey by sleigh from Pickering to Kirtland, Ohio. They crossed Lake Erie on the winter ice. Due to the general lack of decent roads at that time in history, this was probably not a bad route choice. They probably arrived in Kirtland sometime in late March or early April.

Fom Pickering (1) on top right to Kirtland (2) on bottom left is about 250 miles.

Joseph Smith and most of the Church leaders had already left Kirtland by this time and had settled in Far West, Missouri. The remainder of the Church in Kirtland was faced with a dilemna. Many were too poor to afford wagons and teams to move to Missouri.

The presidents of the Seventies organized a camp to go to Missouri in a body. In the words of Oliver, this was "the great camp of the saints". This camp was likened to the exodus of the Children of Israel. We don't know for sure, but it's likely Mary and Oliver traded the sleigh for a wagon and perhaps even shared space in the wagon with others who were less fortunate.

By early July, 1838, approximately 600 people with their wagons, cattle, horses and tents left Kirtland. After three months of travel, they arrived in Far West on October 2, 1838.

From Kirtland (1) to Far West (2) is a distance of about 700 miles.

One year-old Edward Thornton died towards the latter part of this journey, on 26 September 1838. This was the first of several children's graves that Mary and Oliver would be forced to leave behind. As far as I can discover, we don't have a record of where Edward was buried.

Joseph and several other Church leaders met the Kirtland Camp a few miles outside of Far West. There they were counselled to travel on to Adam-ondi-Ahman. They arrived in Adam-ondi-Ahman about sunset 4 October, 1838.

Far West, MO (1) to Adam-ondi-Ahman, between Galatin and Jameson (2), is about 20 miles.

They arrived, as Oliver put it in a short history, just "in time to suffer with the Saints the persecution of a ruthless mob". The Hauns Mill Massacre (link is to an autobiography of one of RoseMary's ancestral uncles who lost his father in the massacre) took place October 30, 1838.

By February, 1839 the Thorntons and hundreds of other Saints were driven out of Missouri by mobs acting as militia with the official blessing of the Missouri state government. This was the implementation of the infamous extermination order issued by Governor Lilburn Boggs. Joseph, Hyrum and several other Church leaders were held in the dungeon-like Liberty Jail while the majority of the Saints crossed the Mississippi to Quincy, Illinois.

This was taken during our 2004 Midwest tour. The cell was actually in the basement of the jail.

This crossing was indeed harrowing. The cold winter weather made it very difficult to survive with just the crude shelter of tents or whatever improvisations the Saints were able to gather. Many were forced to face the fierce winter with just the clothes on their backs. At the end of the journey they were faced with crossing the icy Mississippi to Illinois.

On to Illinois

Joseph Thornton and Lucretia Calkins Oliver and Mary - part 1 Oliver and Mary - part 2 Oliver and Mary - part 3
Oliver's own history Oliver's history by Hattie M. Snow Oliver Thornton by Zella Nesbitt
The Heartslinked.com home page
e-mail Dennis