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Walter and Margaret Thornbrough Family

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Walter Thornbrough was the son of Edward and Jean Thornbrough of Armaugh County, Ireland, Chester and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Thornbroughs were in Ireland for only one generation so his heritage is English. His wife's name was Margaret, but her surname is not known, although several have been suggested. In December 2010 we received a notice from John Howard that the US and International Marriages index online at gives her as Margaret Beeson. Following up on this we found that the record is there as married in 1737 in Pennsylvania, and born 1718 with spouse Walter born 1705. We have added this information to this page. Also see thoughts on a possible first wife at the bottom of the page.

  Walter Thornbrough
born abt. 1705-1708 Armaugh, Ire
died by 2/1783 Guilford Co, NC
Margaret Beeson
born about 1718
died bet. 1774 & 1783 Guilford Co, NC
Married: Pennsylvania

Henry Thornbrough born Pennsylvania; married Rachel Moon
Hannah Thornbrough born 11/20/1738 Chester Co, Pa; married Abraham Woodward
Margaret Thornbrough born about 1744 Chester Co, Pa; married John Canaday
Joseph Thornbrough born Chester County, Pa; married Elizabeth White
Mary Thornbrough born Chester County, Pa; married Robert Turner
Edward Thornbrough born Chester County, Pa; married Elizabeth Mendenhall

There may be other children, and there is confusion between possible children of Walter and his uncle Thomas Thornbrough (cf Hannah Thornbrough Woodward and Jane Thornbrough Mendenhall). Children Margaret, Mary, Edward, and Joseph are named as children of Walter in New Garden Monthly Meeting records in North Carolina.

From Pennsylvania to North Carolina

Pennsylvania Records

The first record of Walter Thornbrough is on a 1729 tax list in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He was single and had probably just turned 21 (source for possible birth date of 1708). His father had been added to tax lists in Chester County in 1722. He also signed the marriage certificates of his brothers Thomas & Robert Thornbrough when they married Davis sisters on 10/11/1729. This would also indicate he was at least 21. The names are all given as Thornbury and Robert and Thomas were of Thornbury Township (note it is a myth that the township was named for this family. It was so named long before they came and was named after a place in England.) That Walter is son of Edward Thornbrough is confirmed by Edward's will in 1734 where he left one ewe and one lamb to Walter. The name is given as Thornbrugh in this will.

Virginia Records

The next record for Walter is in Northern Neck Land Grants in Virginia, which show he was granted 368 acres on the north run of Middle Creek, Frederick County, Virginia, by Thomas, Lord Fairfax, Baron of Cameron, on November 18, 1752. The land shared a common line with his uncle Thomas Thornbrough. That Walter actually lived there is verified on the Frederick Co, Virginia tax list of 1754 where Walter Thornbaugh paid his taxes in 1754 with 196 pounds of tobacco. We know that Thomas Thornbrough returned to Pennsylvania in 1758 because of trouble during the French and Indian War.

North Carolina Records

We know that Walter & son Henry and other family members and the Moon family went instead to Rowan County, North Carolina, where Henry & Rachel Moon Thornbrugh were married on 7/12/1758 at New Garden Monthly Meeting. Both Walter & Margaret Thornbrugh signed his marriage certificate. On 18 January 1757, Mordecai Mendenhall and wife Charity leased to Walter Thornbrough(so spelled) for 17 pds Virginia money, 437 acres on Richland Creek in Rowan County, North Carolina.

Daughter Margaret Thornbrough married at New Garden in 1764 to John Canaday.

Other than the marriages of his children, the only record of Walter at New Garden was his dismissal from the meeting on 10/28/1769. No reason is given so it was probably for nonattendance. It occurred shortly after his son Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Mendenhall. His son Joseph was dismissed in 1774 for his marriage out of unity (to Elizabeth White).

We have made an assiduous search for a will for Walter Thornbrough in both North Carolina and Tennessee, without success. A Thornburg genealogy seems to imply that there was one but we found the following. In an article "Guilford County Intestates, 1781-1796," North Carolina Genealogy, Spring-Summer 1971, page 2611, there is an entry for February 1783: "John Kennedy Executor of the Estate of Walter Thornbery (Decd) came into Court & produced Receipts from the several Legatees (being of full age) in full of their several Legacies.(Note: No will of Walter Thornbery [Thornburg] is on record; this is an example of where the word 'executor' was used, when the word 'administrator' was needed. Editor)." In another part of the article the Editor explains that a testator names his executors in his will...the Court appoints an handle the estate of the intestate. His notation that John Kennedy should have been called "administrator" implies that Walter died without a will. We attempted to follow up to see if the receipts from the Legatees could be found in the court records. The Guilford County court had no record of the transaction (Guilford had been set off from Rowan County in 1770) . Guilford County Courthouse burned in 1872 and many records were lost. The John Kennedy named is, of course, his son-in-law John Canaday who married daughter Margaret. The name Canaday is often written as Kennedy by clerks in both North Carolina and Tennessee.

William Scroggins, a Thornborough researcher, kindly sent us a transcription of a lease of land from Walter and Margaret Thornbrough to their son Henry Thornborough of 220 acres on 20 October 1761. The indenture to son Henry can be seen on the land page. Both Walter and Margaret made their mark on the indenture instead of signing. Walter used "W" as his mark, and Margaret used "M" as her mark. The location of the land can be seen on the Guilford County land ownership map. We now know that Walter and Margaret lived in the southwest corner of present day Guilford County, not far from Deep River.

Walter Thornbrough owned other land received on a Granville grant. In Rowan County Deed Book 14, #3146 there is a deed from Ledford to Teiss for 180 acres "which was part of a 660 A Granville grant on both sides of Abbotts Creek to Walter Thornbury on 27 August 1762, and by Thornbury it was conveyed to Ledford...". We will try to learn the location of Abbott's Creek, but apparently Walter did not keep the land long, although it is a little unclear whether he conveyed the entire parcel or just the 180 acres. On 4 May 1774 there was a lease and release from Walter Thornbury and wife Margaret of Guilford County to Jacob Tice for 330 acres. We know then that Margaret was still alive at that date. The 330 acre parcel is probably the same one in a lease and release dated January 10, 1764, from Walter Thornbury and wife to William Letford (an added note on the record says wife's name is Margaret).

Other records found for Walter in Rowan County Court Records: 22 October 1757 - On motion it is ordered that Walter Thornbury be Commissioner for the Road from the Path that goes from Mordicai Mendenhalls to Hawards down to the Trading Path, and William Ellis down to Yadkin Road. In October 1760 Walter Thornbury was security for the administration of Silvenas Hawood. (Note: this was likely Stephanus Haworth? who died sometime before 1766)

We have had a brief discussion with Herbert Standing who published a widely quoted paper about the Thornbrough family in 1974. He proposed a theory that Walter Thornbrough had a first wife, Hannah, who signed with Walter on a marriage certificate in Virginia of Thomas Thornbrugh, Jr.. We know of the Hannah Thornbrough signature but had no idea who she might have been.

Mr. Standing's theory is an interesting one and could explain several mysteries. It lends credence to researchers who have put forth Beeson as the surname of Margaret. The surname Beeson was prominent in the area that Walter lived in Virginia and if Margaret was indeed a second wife then Beeson would be credible. Because so many of the Hopewell Meeting Records have been lost over the years it is difficult to make any followup on this. We believe the marriage certificate signed by Hannah Thornbrough may still be available as it has been quoted by researchers. Unfortunately the quotes have garbled the order of the signers and it would be necessary to see the original to know where Hannah signed on the certificate (whether as family for Thomas Thornbrough - or as only an attendee at the wedding). Also to see if Margaret Thornbrough signed the certificate as the list of signers is not complete in the published records. We have added information above about Margaret Beeson from the US and International Marriages index on

12/16/2010 Added information about Margaret Beeson as wife.
9/30/2006 Added a note about possible daughter (or ward) Jane Thornbrough Mendenhall.