|Water Tower and
Masonic Lodge Building
|Masonic Lodge Building
Thornton, Texas is Kosse's neighbor to the north. It is
located eight miles north of Kosse on State Highway 14.
Settlement at the site began in 1868. The Houston and
Texas Central Railway ran a line from Hearne to Groesbeck
through the area in 1870, and Cain Hogan settled on Steele
Creek just west of the present townsite. The community
became a stop on the railroad and was named for John E.
Thornton, another early settler.
In 1873 a Thornton post office opened with William L. Wright
as postmaster. Soon cotton gins were set up nearby, and
Wilson Brothers, a mercantile business, located in Thornton.
Ceramics were manufactured from the fine, white clay called
kaolin found in that locality. Agriculture was the mainstay of
the area. Thornton Institute, an early college, was founded
in 1877 by Edward Coke Chambers. He was also placed in
charge of the local grade school, which he turned into a
preparatory school. He quit both schools and left Thornton
in the late 1880s, and the institute was sold to Henry P.
Davis. After enrollment dropped, the institute became
Thornton School. The Thornton Masonic lodge, No. 486,
was chartered with thirty-two members in 1878. Other
organizations followed, including the International
|Organization of Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, the Woodmen of the World, and
the Order of the Eastern Star.
By 1880 Thornton had a population of 200, thirteen businesses, and three churches.
In 1890 it had a population of 466, steam gristmills, and a local newspaper called the
Herald, which merged with the Groesbeck Journal in the 1940s. Later newspapers
included the Hustler, the Democratic Eagle, the Topic, and the Press. In 1904 the
population was 586, and unsuccessful attempts were made to incorporate. Thornton
was incorporated in 1907 for municipal purposes, and W. C. Cayton was elected
mayor. During this period the population steadily grew and business continued to
expand. In addition to the cotton gins, schools, churches, and steam gristmills, the
town soon had eighteen brick stores, a bank, a commission house, a hotel, and
electric lights. Between 1910 and 1920 the population count remained at 678. On
February 10, 1918, Cyrus F. Smythe landed the first airplane at Thornton, flying in
from Houston. By 1926 Thornton had 733 residents, a deep water well, and telephone
connections. The total enrollment in the local schools was 259 students. The next year
the population reportedly rose to almost 2,000, and another bank was opened in town.
By 1931 the population was back down to 739, and thirty-five businesses were located
there. Between 1969 and 1989 Thornton had a population between 408 and 498, and
the number of businesses was five. In the 2000 census the population stood at 525.
This article was written with information garnered from the Handbook of Texas Online.
Photos compliments of www.texasescapes.com.