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This Changing World

The Columns of Will Ball


Thornton Family


Many years ago there stood, on the southwest corner of 12th and Broadway, a two story frame house, a good, substantial seven or eight room house.  It was the home of Henry Clay Thornton, a lawyer who had offices at 210 Fourth Street.  He owned both the home and office building.  Judge D.P. Baldwin occupied the room at 208 Fourth Street and, we believe, owned that building, for around the turn of the century the two men built the structure that now occupies the site, calling it the Baldwin-Thornton building.  On second thought, we are inclined to think the building was erected after Mr. Thornton had passed away, for we remember very well when the new building went up and we knew Judge Baldwin very well but we cannot remember Mr. Thornton.  His heirs, a son and a daughter, undoubtedly joined the judge in putting up the buildings and giving it their name.

Both the son, Henry Worthy Thornton, and daughter Pearl had left Logansport before that time.  The mother, Mrs. Millamenta Comegys Thornton, we do not recall, her middle name was Hungarian.  She was of Hungarian descent.

Both son and daughter were tall, handsome young people.  The son was a strapping fellow, well over six feet tall, very active and vigorous.  He had been a star football player at the University of Pennsylvania where he got his B.S. degree and was mentioned for the All American team at Vanderbuilt.  When he came home on vacation, he had a habit of striding up and down Broadway to and from his home as though he had a long way to go and very little time to get to his destination.

The daughter, Pearl, was also tall and erect and very popular with people of her age.  She later married Isaac W. Geer and came back to Logansport with him to live in the old home place when he was appointed division superintendent of the local Pennsylvania Railroad office.  That was about 1904 or 1905.  The remained here several years.

Henry prepared for college at St. Paul’s school at Concord, New Hampshire.  After finishing at Pennsylvania, he took a job as a draftsman in the office of the chief engineer of the southwest system of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  The offices, I believe, were at Columbus, Ohio.  His advance was very rapid.  Starting in 1894, as chief engineer, by 1901 he was an engineer of maintenance of way.  In 1911 he was made superintendent of the Long Island Railroad, a Pennsylvania subsidiary.

In 1914, Lord Claude Hamilton, chairman of the board of the Great Eastern Railroad of England, asked Samuel Rea, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, to recommend a man for general manager of his railroad which was in difficulty.  Rea named Thornton.

At the sudden outbreak of World War I, the main burden of moving the troops fell on the railroads..  Thornton proved so highly efficient that it was not long before he occupied the post of Inspector General of Transportation of the British Expeditionary Forces with full charge of the movement of British troops in England and France.

He was married on June 20, 1901 to Virginia Dike Blair, a Pennsylvania girl by whom he had two children, James and Anne.


Logansport Press, July 8, and July 14, 1951


Transcribed by Christine Spencer, April, 2009

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