Time Traveling—BEDFORD 1840s…
Published in Times Mail newspaper May 18, 2018, by Becky Buher, Guest columnist
In the 1840s, Bedford had a population of about 500. Twenty-five-year old George Abram Thornton arrived in Bedford in 1846 when the town had existed about 20 years. He had studied law in Paoli, Ind., under the direction of his brother, Volney, and came to Bedford to practice law.
The following diary excerpts enable us to experience some of the life, social, business and religious associations of this thrifty, up and coming lawyer.
3—Sunday—Beautiful day. Communion meeting at N.S. [New School Presbyterian] church…
4—Rain, rain, rain. Water higher than before known.
8—Probate court sits until 13th.
1—Froze last night. Intended returning to Bedford, roads too rough.
3—Commissioner’s Court in session.
15—Home made candy making at Miss H’s.
20—Write home to E.M.T. [his sister Elizabeth], T.V.T. [brother Volney] and M!A!B! [Mary Braxton his future bride.]
1—Receive license to practice law from Judges McDonald and Otto.
3—Employed in case vs. Williamson. Gain it. Fine day. Jeff [his brother, an Indiana University student] came down yesterday evening. Goes home this morning.
10—Received letter from Mary last night. Good.
12—Singing school commences in town. Mr. Wheeler teacher.
In July 1847, George married Mary Amanda Braxton in Paoli. Two days later, the newlyweds arrived in Bedford.
13—Father and wife, Jo T., Richard Woolfolk, Susan Parker to Paoli. Warm day. Wonder of wonders; Married at last, this evening at 9 o’clock to the right one.
15—Start to Bedford, reach there in good time after being frightened in the river by horse refusing to go along.
16—Party at Mr. Clark’s at night.
18—Attend S. School and Church with wife.
19—Little party at Mr. D. Dunihue’s.
When George and Mary were first married they lived in a boarding house, but soon rented Mrs. Malinda Yandle’s 15th and Lincoln/L Street house.
2 and 3—Attend Baptist meeting. Hear President Chandler preach.
18—Mrs. Yandle moves.
15—Go to Leesville.
16—Go to Fayettesville.
20—Take possession of Mrs. Yandle’s house.
21—Things come from Paoli. Tate [hired man] brings them.
23—I go to Reading. Come home and take supper at home —first meal I ever ate in my own home. Good indeed.
25—Circuit court meets. Horse gets out of lot, leaves for parts unknown.
10—Very cold. Can’t travel.
13—Start home. Break down near Eversole’s. Come as far as Nugent’s in mud. Remain all night.
21—Dr. R and wife, Bryant and wife take tea with us. Muddy, slippery. Went to country yesterday. Dinner at Allen Burton’s. Return to Jim Beasley’s. No money.
In 1849, the Thornton’s purchased Lots 46-47 from Charles P. Read/Reed for $500. Their new one-story home was located on the south side of the present 14th Street [currently First Methodist Church parking lot.] As funds allowed, the grounds were improved and included a house, barn, carriage house, smoke house, cistern, animal lot and gardens.
3—Move to own house. Hard work. Clean up grounds, yard, etc.
18-21—Reed finished plastering. I worked at home, whitewashing, etc.
16—Mrs. Rawlings, Bryant and Rariden here to tea.
9 to 13—Cut up and stack corn in lot. Make gate and hang it. Bring in pumpkins. Make shed.
16—Work at home part of the day. My 28th birthday.
20—Loan money to Dunn and Munson.
23 —Attend Sons of Temperance meeting tonight.
24-27 —Paper room today all day. Work roads. Paint house. Take depositions.
6—Party at Jess Mitchell’s.
10—Haul straw, put down carpet, etc.
21—Messrs. William Blackwell, Williamson and Rector here to dine.
16—Campbellite or Reformed meeting in Baptist church.
23—Make balance of fence between Raney and me. [Marshall Raney/Reney lived next door.]
17-21—Gray digs cistern. Roach works at walling cistern.
23-24—Work wheeling away dirt from cistern…
The frugal couple and their children lived in their home for ten years and became wealthy. They built Elmwood, [Day and Carter Mortuary site], and when that eight-acre estate was completed, in 1859, they sold their first home on Lots 46-47 for $2,000.
More of Thornton’s 1847-1851 diary can be read at the museum.
Sources: Diary excerpt from THE ANNALS OF A FAMILY by Joseph F. Thornton, museum records.