One of our members is researching the history of Thornton. In the process, she has found some interesting bits of information, which we share with you. Here's what has been learned thus far. If you have information, or photos about this town or the families that lived here, please send them to us.
Mokelumne City was located three miles north of the present city of Thornton on the road to Franklin.
In 1850, just after the Benson Ferry river crossing was established, Mokelumne City was surveyed along the river's edge, and lots were sold. The building of the Lower Sacramento Road in 1853, through Woodbridge, connected Stockton to Sacramento and helped the area grow. Mokelumne City was laid out at the junction of the Cosumnes and Mokelumne Rivers. The Snap brothers opened a general store, and the town provided supplies to the miners in the Mother Lode. The river was its lifeline. Light steamers could navigate the river ten miles above the point where the Mokelumne merged with the San Joaquin River.
In 1857, a sloop, the Mary Bowers, sailed up the Mokelumne to its junction with the Cosumnes at Mokelumne City. At one point, Mokelumne City, with its deep-water connection to San Francisco, was the second largest city in San Joaquin County. It competed only with Stockton. Mokelumne City boasted 23 houses, a hotel, and a lumberyard. As the gold rush ended, the trade to the mining camps lessened, and Mokelumne City began to decline. The final blow came in 1862 when the flood came. Nineteen houses were swept away. All the bridges across the Mokelumne were gone, even the one far up river at Clements. After the flood, very little remained. A few people stayed until 1898 when the Barber family purchased the town site.
Today, the Housken House stands on Franklin Road. It was originally two buildings, a hotel and a bar. In the flood of 1862, it floated downstream a half-mile south and a little east of the town. Because it came to rest on land owned by the same man, it was not returned to its original site. Instead, it was put on logs, pulled by a team of horses, and placed next to a nearby road. The house gets its name from W.C. Housken, who was born in the house, was a Justice of the Peace for Union Township, and was a resident of Thornton for over 83 years.
Benson Ferry: Just one-third mile west of Mokelumne City was the river crossing, Benson Ferry. It was established by Edwin Stokes and A.M. Woods. John A. Benson purchased the ferry in 1850. He then built a house there in 1852. During the flood of 1862, the Benson house was lashed to a large tree and was saved from being washed down river. On December 5, 1996, a brush fire, which got out of control, burned the old Benson House and the Benson Ferry. The Benson Ferry Road sign is all that remains today.
New Hope: New Hope was founded because of the flood of 1862. It replaced Mokelumne City. This time, the town was not built directly on the river.
New Hope grew slowly. By 1880, New Hope had a blacksmith shop, stable, saloon, post office, and several homes. In 1863, Arthur Thornton purchased a ranch in New Hope, and in1879, he married Emma Greives. Mr. Thornton built a two-story home and opened a store with a partner, E.A. Borrland. The daily stage line to the Lodi Railroad Station ran by their store. On November 12, 1878, Arthur Thornton was appointed postmaster, a position that he held for thirty years.
In 1904, the Western Pacific Railroad wanted to put a line through New Hope. Arthur Thornton, who owned 1000 acres of land, offered the right-of-way through his land, with the thought that the railroad would bring business to New Hope. The Western Pacific honored Thornton by naming their new station and large freight depot after him. The city, New Hope, was officially renamed "Thornton" five years later on November 26, 1909.
More about the Thornton family.
The Barber family of Thornton.
More about the Housken family. New
Galt Area Historical Society Home page
Last edited 17 March, 2006