Thornton, Francis W. (unknown–unknown)

By: Craig H. Roell

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 29, 2016

Francis W. Thornton served briefly as the commander at Goliad during the Texas Revolution and later as a Republic of Texas congressman. He came to Texas before November 7, 1835, when he joined José Antonio Mexía's Tampico expedition. After Mexía's defeat he sailed with remnants of Mexía's force aboard the schooner Halcyon from New Orleans to Columbia, Texas, where he helped John M. Allen recruit troops. They were ordered to reinforce the Texas army in the siege of Bexar, but on the way from San Felipe Thornton learned of Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos's surrender. Thornton was named first lieutenant by the General Council on December 20, 1835, and ordered to Copano, the port for Bexar. By January 1, 1836, his twenty-nine men had reached Refugio. Because Sam Houston wanted to garrison Goliad with a force of regulars who respected his authority, on January 19 he ordered Thornton and his men, along with some of Ira Westover's recruits, to Goliad to relieve Peyton S. Wyatt, who had assumed command of the volunteer force at La Bahía after Philip Dimmitt resigned. Thornton assumed command at Goliad about January 19 and served as commandant until February 12, 1836, when Ira Westover and James W. Fannin, Jr., arrived.

About February 22 Fannin sent Thornton with William G. Cooke and David N. Burke to Washington-on-the-Brazos to deliver prisoners arrested as spies. After arriving on March 5, they were invited on a motion by Houston to take a seat at the Convention of 1836. Thornton probably left with Houston for Gonzales on March 7. Later, he left Houston's army at Groce's Ferry and descended the Brazos River on the steamboat Yellow Stone. He was in New Orleans recruiting troops in May 1836, and wrote the editors of the Louisville Journal in September to counter rumors that no more volunteers were needed in Texas and that the legislature was depriving volunteers of their land bounties. In the June 30 muster of the Army of the Republic of Texas Thornton was listed as a captain in Company D, First Infantry, with the notation, "on detached service; resigned the command." His name does not appear on the officers' roll of May 10, 1837. Thornton succeeded John M. Chenoweth as the representative of Goliad in the lower house of the Second Congress; he served from September 25, 1837, to May 24, 1838. Invoices amounting to $203 for supplies sold to the Texas army identify him with Goliad; Houston approved repayment to him on December 18, 1837. He received 2,560 acres of land for his service in the revolution and accepted 1,280 acres of it in Bell County on February 9, 1846. But his name does not appear in the 1850 census.

Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Thomas L. Miller, Bounty and Donation Land Grants of Texas, 1835–1888 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967).

Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Craig H. Roell, “Thornton, Francis W.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 06, 2022,

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June 29, 2016