The Life Story of James Brighton Thornley
Colaborador: stepnic Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
As told to Sylvia R. Toolson, a friend and neighbor in January 1955.
My father, Robert Thornley, was born in 1830 at Preson, Lancaster, England. He was a member of a family of six children. He emigrated to America in 1855, and paid his own passage to Utah by working as a teamster. He drove three yoke of oxen. When he arried in the Salt Lake Valley, he worked in the L.D.S. tithing office as a butcher.
My mother, Annie Brighton, was born about 1840 at Glascow, Scotland. Her parents died when she was just a girl. She lived with her brother until they emigrated to America. In 1857, she pulled a handcart across the desert plains to Utah. Soon after she arrived in the Salt Lake valley, she met Robert Thornley. They were married in the summer of 1859 in the Salt Lake Endowment House. They moved to Smithfield, Utah, to make their home and live the remainder of their lives. They both died and are buried in the Smithfield cemetery.
I, James B. Thornley, was born 16 May 1877 at Smithfield, Cache, Utah. I was the 7th child in a family of 10 children. In their order: Robert Brighton Thornley; John Stewart Thornley; William Thornley; Ellen Thornley; Annie Thornley; Seth Thornley; Thomas Thornley; James B. Thornley; George Thornley; Samuel Thornley.
I was born in a two room log cabin located at 150 E. Center Street. Our log cabin had a dirt roof and floor. I often wonder how mother took care of us. There were ten children and Grandfather Thornley lived with us for yet, we often had one or two friends living with us too. I was blessed by my father, Robert Thornley 24 May 1877.
Mother made my first suit of jeans. She sheered the sheep, washed and carded the wool, then sent it to Logan, Utah to be woven into cloth. When the cloth was returned, she sewed my suit by hand. I was a very proud lad in my new suit. Our shoes were made by the Z.C.M.I. Company at Salt Lake City. They were of valley tanned leather. This valley tanned was no special process, just the hair pulled off the hide. In the winter, we used burlap sacks wrapped around our shoes to keep our feet warm. A few years later we wore felt boots that looked like stockings. We wore hand knit socks and mittens. My trousers, and coat were made of jeans cloth, a grey color.
My early education was at a private school. Mrs. Ainscough, was the school teacher. My father paid for my tuition by furnishing wood from the canyon to heat the room. There were about 12 pupils of all ages. We sat on a log bench by a table and used slates to write on. We would start school a short time before Christmas and continue until the farm work started in the spring. I went to the fourth reader in school.
My father owned a small farm in Smithfield. He raised the necessary food for our family. We raised grain and corn to feed our hogs, which we fattened for our family meat supply. We also sold some of the hogs. Our sweetening for foods was molasses. We raised the sugar cane, and took it to the molasses mill to be processed. The molasses mill was located where Homer Daines home stands. There is still a bump where the water that generated the power for the mill, run down in a stream. During a dry season they used horses to pull the molasses grinder. The people who operated the mill received one half of the molasses for their pay to process it. Our family received 100 gallons of molasses for one years use. During the fall season, we gathered wild berries and choke cherries. Mother preserved them and they were put in large crock jars for winter use.
Father was the town butcher. We boys would go with him to help dress the meat. Many of the people would have their animals butchered just before Christmas. Our family would go out in four groups. We would work until noon, killing the animals. In the afternoon, we would cut the meat up. Our pay was seven to ten points of meat for each animal of pork, or fifty cents in cash. With beef, we got one dollar for each animal killed and butchered.
I was baptized in Summit Creek on 2nd E. Street in Smithfield, Utah. They made a dam in the creek to hold the water back to make it deep enough to baptize. It was a real cold day. I was baptized by Erick Danielson and confirmed by Robert Bain. I was ordained a Teacher 22 Feb 1893 by R.A. Bain; Ordained a Priest 21 Dec. 1893 by George L. Farrell.
In my youth our recreation was varied. We played basketball, participated in horse races, swam in the Bear River and the canals, went camping for the summer. In the winter, we went to dances twice a week in our homes. If there was a homemade carpet on the floor, we rolled it back and had a wonderful time. We had a fiddler and a caller. We each contributed 10 cents pay for the music and the “Caller.”
Our celebrations were on May Day. We went up Smithfield Canyon about 3 miles, just across the creek from the Mile’s farm. We had a picnic, King and a Queen and Royal guards for this celebration. Our 24th of July celebration was under the direction of the Sunday School. We had a parade, a nice program under a nice brush bowery built for the occasion. The bowery was always built where the city park of Smithfield is now, in the center of town. After the program there was always competitive races and contests. This was carried on year after year.
Grandfather Thornley usually won the “Scyth” contest. I remember one year a celebration was not held. Some young men, the size larger than I, chopped down the Liberty Pole. Those boys had to appear before the public, in Sacrament meeting and ask forgiveness. Part of their punishment was to plant a new Liberty Pole. Different methods of discipline was used. If a man got drunk, he had to appear before his Priesthood Quorum, and ask forgiveness and be re-Baptized.
Our Christmas usually consisted of homemade molasses candy and doughnuts sweetened with molasses. The girls received rag dolls. Father made a “Saw Roger,” for the boys. This toy was carved from wood. It was about 15 inches high with carved arms and a solid body and legs. It stood on the edge of a table. The two arms held a bar of wood, and a weight was put on this bar, usually a potato. This would govern a moving motion of this bar, and give the appearance of a man sawing wood.
When I was 15 years old, my brother John, homesteaded a farm at McCammon, Idaho. I worked three summers for him. We planned that when I became old enough, I would get 80 acres of it. When I was old enough, I drove a wagon to Pocatello, Idaho to file a claim on this farm. A neighbor knew our intentions and went there by train and filed on the property first. John felt as badly as I did. He wanted me to take half of his farm, but I wouldn’t do that.
When I was 18 years old, I went to work in the gold mines at Merker, Utah. It was quite an experience for me. I roomed with very undesirable companions, generally. In spite of all this, I was able to keep myself straight and clean. It lasted for 6-8 months, then I came home for the summer. I worked in an underground tunnel and mined copper. This copper mine is now known as the Utah Kennicott Copper company, or Rio Tinto. Other places I worked were from Bingham, Utah to Silver City, Utah. I worked in the “Tescora” Copper Mine, the Diamond Copper Mine. I became ill while at this mine so I returned home.
At a social gathering in Smithfield, I became better acquainted with Mary Smith, whom I had known since we were children. I escorted her home from the social. The next day I returned to the mines. We corresponded with each other and most of ur courting was done through the United States Mail. A year later, I returned home to ask Mary to be my wife. From the letters she had written, I felt quite certain she would say yes. She accepted my proposal of marriage. We agreed that I should return to the mines to work for another six months. That my earn enough money to get married. I remember the day we were married very plainly—I borrowed a buggy to take us to the Logan Temple. The roads then were just field roads. We left soon after daylight. We saw several coyotes along the road. I carried my Temple clothes in a flour sack and I thought Mary was quite stylish to have a small grip for her clothes.
We were married by Apostle Marriner W. Merrill, then the President of the Logan Temple 23 May 1900. We returned home after the marriage to a lovely party at father’s home. We had a nice wedding supper, program and dancing. The carpet was rolled back for the dancing. I had one week off from the mines. I then went back to Silver City and rented a house for us to live in. This house was about 3 miles from the mine. Mary joined me and we began house-keeping. Each day I walked to the mine to my work. Most of my companions had wives. They were nice couples. We associated with them socially. We lived in Silver City until June 1901, when I received a letter from a man in Cottonwood Canyon. He asked me to work in his copper mine. We moved up there and Mary stayed with me until October. I then brought her back to Smithfield to stay with her folks for the winter. The winters in Cottonwood were severe, too severe for her.
That winter, the snow was 15 feet deep. Our cabin was literally buried in snow. We dug a stairway from the door up to the top of the snow. We went to the mine on skis. We had to cross a flat surface area for about 400 yards. We put tall sticks in the snow to blaze our trail back so we would not get lost in the wind and the snow.
The next summer I went back to Smithfield where I was employed as city water master. I returned to Cottonwood at winter to work in the mines. Our first child, a son James Done Thornley was born 16 February 1902 at Smithfield, Utah. We built our first house then. It was red brick. Heber Floyd was born here on 30 May 1904. I was city marshal for 3 years. We wanted to live closer to town, so we traded our home for the old Langton home, which stood where the Junior High school now stands. We lived there about 20 years. After my term as Smithfield marshal expired, I returned to work at the mines for another year or two.
In 1926, we sold our home to the school organization and moved. Heber Whiting now owns that home. In 1940, we built a small home on this same lot, just south, next door to the Heber Whiting home. I still live here alone in 1957. Mary died 18 June 1948 in the home. This was a terrible blow to me and my family. My memories go back to Sylvester Lowe, who was chairman of the School Board. He offered me a job as the janitor of the Summit Schools. There were 3 schools for me to take care of which I did for 39 years. I became pals with the school children. I loved them dearly and they showed their affection for me all those years.
Mary and I had six children. They are as follows; James Done; Heber Floyd; Alveretta; Brighton; Elliott; and Cherril. I have 25 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. Our children were all married in the temple. I am still living in my own home, taking care of myself, and enjoying life and the companionship of my family, friends and neighbors. I am retired from my school job. I am self supporting on my school retirement fund. Our children have brought a lot of joy and happiness and some sorrow into our lives. Sorrow came with the death of our 20 year old son, Thomas Brighton on 12 June 1930. He suffered for nineteen weeks with blood poisoning.
About 9 July 1921, we were living on a farm in Amalga, Utah. Mary’s brother, Wesley had just left her father, who was the night watchman at the sugar factory. Evelyn Peterson was with him. Our son Elliott and his cousin, Louis S. Peterson ran to catch onto the buggy. The farm we were living on joined the Peterson farm. Elliott’s foot slipped and went through the wheel. His food and leg wrapped around the axel three times. This made it necessary to amputate the leg just below the hip. That was the hardest experience we ever saw happen. I was so proud of Elliott. On the way to the hospital Elliott said, “Do you think I’ll die, daddy?” I told him I didn’t think so. I assured him that the doctor would fix him up. Then he said, “I wonder if I can play ball.” I said I think so. Then after thinking a few minutes he said, “If I can’t run, I can hop.” He was only seven years old. He accepted the loss of his leg and very readily adjusted to his condition until he never seemed handicapped at all. He participated in athletics, basketball, and track activities. He received 1st Place honor in Junior and Senior high school in High Jump, in Broad Jump and in Chinning. He receive special recognition in the newspaper, Ripley’s “Believe it or not.”
Twice in my life- time I have tried to buy a farm for my family. I had no one to help me in these attempts, so I was not successful as a farmer.
On the 2nd of January, 1946, I had a bad heart attack and was in bed for almost a year. I was nursed by my dear wife and family. I was just beginning to get my strength back and to feel better when I lost my beloved wife and companion on 18 June 1948. We lived a full happy life together. We were always united in our plans and worked together. My memory of her is very sweet and although I am very lonely at times, I have happy memories.
I have always been an ardent fisherman. I still enjoy the sport. When I was young, I took my boys with me fishing. Now that I am older, they take me with them. I enjoy nature in all her glory, and take pride in my vegetable and my flower gardens each summer.
My church activities have been varied; a few of them are as follows; I have been a member of the choir since I was 23 years old. For 48 years, I was president of this organization. I have served as Counselor in the M.I.A. and Superintendent of the Sunday School in the 2nd Ward, a Sunday School teacher, a teacher in the Priesthood, and a Scout leader.
I was president of the building committee when they remodeled the old 2nd Ward tabernacle and they then installed the pipe organ. I have participated in many choir operas and enjoyed singing in many communities in Cache Valley. One of my favorite songs in base is “A Sleep in the Deep.” We went traveling in Ludlows and sleighs. We enjoyed lovely friendships with opera cast members. I am a High Priest in my ward, the 3rd ward. I feel that while I haven’t made any outstanding financial successes that my life has been full and a happy one. Five of our six children are still living. We have tried to educate them. They have nice homes and lovely nice families.
I have seen most of my old friends leave this world. Two of my brothers are still living. George and I have always been able to visit. I have always been able to visit with my friends and neighbors and enjoyed their companionship.
The Lord has been very good to me. I am very thankful for my membership in the L.D.S. Church and the testimony that I have of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
(On the 17 Aug 1959, James Thornley died at the home of his daughter, Alveretta Thornley Jorgensen (Mrs. Milton Jorgensen) at Lewiston, Cache, Utah. He had suffered terribly from diabetes. He bumped his toe and it never would heal. The skin just dried on the bone, as it became infected and this trouble just kept slowly moving up his leg. The doctors would not amputate. He stayed at his son Done’s home in Kaysville for a long time before going to Alveretta’s. His children were all very thoughtful and good to him.
His memory will live on in the hearts of all of those who knew and loved him. He was buried by the side of his dear wife in the Smithfield cemetery, 20 August 1959.) By Phyllis Peterson Tueller