This collection contains 43 letters of Lucy Smith Crittenden Thornton (1802-1885), wife of United States Government Land Commissioner
in California Harry Innes Thornton (1797-1861),
chiefly to her son attorney Harry Innes Thornton, Jr.,
as well as other Thornton family members. Even though the letters chiefly deal with family matters and the Thorntons'
social lives in San Francisco and Oakland, California, many of the letters also discuss the
social conditions in the post-Civil War South and family friends who left the South
because of failing plantations.
Lucy Smith Crittenden Thornton (1802-1885), sister of Kentucky Senator John J. Crittenden, was
married to Harry Innes Thornton (1797-1861), Judge of the Supreme Court of Alabama. The couple
had four children: Harry Innes Thornton, Jr., Bessie Thornton, Margaret Thornton
Fall, and Sarah (Sallie) Thornton. In 1849 the Thorntons moved to San Francisco,
California after President Fillmore appointed Harry Innes Thornton Government Land
Commissioner. Harry Innes Thornton, Jr., became an attorney and politician. Although
the Thorntons lived in California, the family remained loyal to Alabama and the
South and when the Civil War began Harry Innes Thornton, Jr., resigned his position
as California State Senator, traveled to Alabama and joined the 58th Alabama
Infantry. After the war, Harry Innes Thornton, Jr., lived in Texas, Montana, Utah,
Nevada, and California while he continued to practice law, specializing in mining
litigation and criminal defense. The younger Thornton married his cousin Katherine
Marshall Thornton in 1868.
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