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vitals sources
go to Elisha Thornton Jr.'s page

Rebecca's signature on one of her husband's probate documents when she was 67.

.....Rebecca was likely born and raised on a farm in Dartmouth, MA, in the vicinity of Aponagansett Meeting House. She was a life-long member of local Friends Meetings. Elisha Thornton moved to New Bedford and was admitted to the Monthly Meeting there. He met the Russell family that had been instrumental in forming the town, and it was inevitable that his and Rebecca's paths would cross. He transferred his membership to the Dartmouth meeting, undoubtedly while courting Rebecca, and after they married they probably moved into the Thornton home at the corner of Seventh and School Sts. in New Bedford.

.....Rebecca was visiting her daughter Mary Briggs and her family in Brooklyn when she died, possibly of tuberculosis, but otherwise of old age. She had, before then, sold the house at 20 Seventh St. in New Bedford and lived at what had been her parents' house at the corner of So. Sixth and Spring Sts. She is buried next to Elisha and in the same plot as several of her children and grandchildren in Rural Cemetery, New Bedford. New Bedford city directories for the 1860s call her "Rebecca A. Thornton."

Material from Rebecca's estate file:

Be it remembered that I, Rebecca Thornton of New Bedford, County of Bristol, State of Massachusetts, being of sound disposing mind & memory do make & publish this as my last will & testament

1st It is my wish that all my just debts should be paid

2nd I give & bequeath all my household funriture, plate, wearing apparel & clothing to my five daughters to be equally divided between them

3rd I give & bequeath all my right & interest in the legacy of ten thousand dollars, left me in the will of the late Sylvia Ann Howland,1 as follows (this division will make the amt. equal to be recd. by my daughters from their father & my estate, with the exception of the portion given to Rebecca.

to Mary B. Briggs, twenty two hundred dollars
" Rebecca R. Thornton, twenty two hundred dollars
" Frances M. Ricketson, twenty two hundred dollars
" Virginia R. Gerrish, twenty two hundred dollars
" Catherine R. Hoskin, twenty two hundred dollars

4th all the remainder of my estate both real & personal of every name & nature I give and bequeath to be equally divided between my nine children, namely, John R., Gilbert R., Elisha, Mary, Rebecca, Frances, Daniel, Virginia & Catherine

5th I hereby nominate & appoint my son John R. Thornton, executor to this my last will & testament & it is my wish & direction that no bonds shall be required of him by the Probate Courts

6th all the property bequeathed to my daughters in this my last will is to be held by them in their own names free from the control of their husbands

Signed, sealed & published and declared by the above named Rebecca Thornton as her last will & testament in the presence of us who at her request have subscribed our names as witnesses
[the will isn't dated, but it was after Sylvia Howland's will was presented at court in 1865 and before her son Gilbert died in 1867]

Rebecca Thornton (seal)

Dennis Wood
Fred S. Allen
Walter S. Thornton

I, Rebecca Thornton, make and ordain the following as a codicil to my last will

Where as my son Gilbert R. Thornton has deceased, I give and devise the share of my estate given to him in my said will to his two children, Gilbert E. and Florence Thornton, to them and their heirs to be equally divided between them

Schedule of Personal Estate

household furniture 200
19 shares 1st National Bank New Bedford 2280
14 " Mechanics Nat Bank New Bedford 1610
5 " Wamsutta Mills (new) 375
cash 962.26
interest in S. A. Thornton Est. 500.00
legacy from Sylvia Ann Howland estate 10,000.00

signed, sealed and declared

New Bedford 10 m 9 1868

Rebecca Thornton (seal)

Dennis Wood
Fredk. S. Allen
Walter S. Thornton

children of Rebecca Russell and Elisha Thornton, Jr.:

i. Joseph Ricketson, b. 8 August 1805
ii. Sarah Ann, b. 15 November 1806
iii. John Russell, b. 8 October 1808, m. Sophia B. Spooner, 1835
iv. Gilbert Russell, b. 31 December 1810, m. Sarah H. Barker, 1837
v. Mary Brown, b. 15 January 1814
vi. Elisha, b. 1 August 1815, m. Mary H. Allen, 1838
vii. Rebecca Russell, b. 16 March 1817
viii. Daniel, b. 28 April 1819
ix. Virginia R., b. 11 July 1821, m. William L. Gerrish, 1847
x. Frances Moore, b. 31 October 1823, m. Joseph Ricketson, 1843
xi. Catherine R., b. 28 June 1826, m. John Hoskins

vital records sources: Rebecca's birth and marriage dates come from the Dartmouth, MA, published vital records. Her death date comes from a death certificate issued in Brooklyn, NY (1869, #8532), a Massachusetts State Dept. of Health death registration (vol. 220, p. 134) and her gravestone. Two sources reported her death for the 1870 US census mortality schedule. One (New Bedford, 5th Ward, p. 2) says she was 83, died in October of old age. The other (p. 1 and specifying that the information from son Daniel's household) says she was 82, died in November of consumption. Her death certificates don't mention consumption, but since the other information is correct in one of the mortality schedule entries, this should be taken seriously.

1Sylvia left money to relatives and friends, including Rebecca and her daughters Sarah Ann and Virginia. Sarah's bequest was to revert to her mother if she died before her, which she did shortly after Sylvia's will was made. The Howland bequest was realized after a long court battle ended in 1872. An account of it is in Rebecca's file, her executor noting that it amounted to $3,426.58 on 3 May 1872. The original bequest was for $5,000, and combined with that of Sarah, should have totalled $10,000. Taxes reportedly were not taken out of the bequests but out of the capital of the estate. A review of the Howland estate files may reveal why the amount was so much less in the end.

all text and photographs © 1998-2005 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted