Frost Thorn, empresario and merchant said to have been the first Texas millionaire, was born in Glen Cove, New York, in 1793. He first came to Texas with the trading company of William Barr and Peter Samuel Davenport. On April 15, 1825, he and Haden Edwards obtained empresario contracts from the Mexican government. During the same year Thorn was married to Susan Wroe Edwards, daughter of Haden Edwards. The couple had three children. Thorn donated land for church sites, served on the board of health of Nacogdoches, aided Stephen F. Austin in getting colonists into Texas, attempted to persuade José de las Piedras to join in the revolution against Anastasio Bustamante, was elected to the state legislature of Coahuila and Texas, and was chairman of the Nacogdoches committee of vigilance and safety during the Texas Revolution. He also aided in the establishment of the University of Nacogdoches and served on the board of trustees. Thorn's chief interest was in the acquisition of land. Besides his own empresario contracts with Benjamin R. Milam and Green DeWitt, whereby he obtained a share in each of their grants from the Mexican government, he acquired additional titles to land grants until his holdings amounted to hundreds of thousands of acres. His other business activities included trade with the Indians in the areas of his landholdings, a general store in Nacogdoches operated in partnership with Haden Edwards, a bank, a salt mine, and a lumber business. Thorn also operated large farms both in Texas and in Louisiana and attempted the establishment of towns in East Texas, one of which, called Thornville, was located north of Nacogdoches. His business activities resulted in the accumulation of a fortune estimated at well over a million dollars. He died in Nacogdoches on December 3, 1854, and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.
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Robert Bruce Blake Research Collection, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University; Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin; Texas State Archives, Austin; Houston Public Library, Houston. Carolyn Reeves Ericson, Nacogdoches, Gateway to Texas: A Biographical Directory (2 vols., Fort Worth: Arrow-Curtis Printing, 1974, 1987). Lucy May, The Life and Activities of Frost Thorn (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1939). Raguet Family Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. James Harper Starr Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Frost Thorn, Journal (MS, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 18, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
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January 28, 2020
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