Black Home Owners of Truxton Circle- Richard R. and Richard H. Thornton

According to the 1900 Census Richard Thornton lived at 1520 3rd St NW. It’s the house with a porch in the middle of block where Bates St terminates, not the weirdo yellow house. According to the 1902-1903 Washington City General Assessment, he owned a lot of lots on Square 521.

But looking deeper it appears there are two Richard Thorntons, Senior and Junior. Going back to the 1880 Census we find the elder Richard R. Thornton (1835-1888/1898?) and the younger Richard Henry Thornton (1868-??) at 1520 3rd St NW.

There were a number of people at 1520 3rd Street in 1880. There were six people in the house: Richard, his wife Clara (nee Taylor, 1828-1913), their 3 daughters, Fanny, Patsy and Florence, and son Richard H. In 1900 Richard H. was the head of the family. He lived there which his 1st wife Vandelia (nee Copeland) and mom Clara, along with another household, George Green, his wife and daughter.

RR Thornton had several other properties on the block. In 1905 he (then a dead man) owned lots 4, 14, 18, 19, and 20. His son RH Thornton owned lots 15 to 17, which is odd, because 1520 3rd St NW is lot 17 on Square 521. Since many of the lot numbers have changed, I needed to go to the Library of Congress’ maps.

Section-From-1909-Map
Section from Plate 33 of 1909 Baist map

On the General Assessment page lot 4 was split into a north and a south. They were both one coal yard.  Lots 14 to 20 were Thornton owned. Looking at the map, according to the map notations lot 17 is 1522, so off by one. If the current addresses line up with some current and past lot numbers, then the Thorntons owned 1514-1526 3rd St NW. These were properties with renters and family members.

So around 1888 we all assume Richard R. died from the date of his will (req. logged in Ancestry Library). In the will he left 111 O St NW to his daughter Fanny Williams. His 2nd daughter Patsy Bradford got 1526 3rd St NW. His youngest daughter, Florence O. Thornton, was to get 1514-1516 3rd St NW after the death of her mom. Richard H. was to get 1520-1524 3rd St NW after the death of his mom Clara. That is what shows up in the 1905 General Assessment for Richard H. The properties for the female members seem to have gotten stuck in their father’s name.

But we’re not done with the last will and testament of Richard R. Thornton. On the 3rd page he mentions Grace Johnson, and describes her as, “(my daughter and wife of Dennis Johnson)”. I looked at Dennis Johnson in my last post. His wife Grace, shares the same maiden name, Taylor, as her mother Clara. I’m sure there’s an interesting story there. Grace was to get $300 from the sale of the coal yard.

I don’t know if Richard R. Thornton rented out the coal yard or ran a business from it or anything. His occupation on the census was “laborer”. Was he being modest? Looking at a 1887 city directory, he was running a laundry at 1514 3rd St NW. So in addition to the rental properties on 3rd St, he had a lot of things going on. When he left the world, despite not being able to read or write, he left property for his wife and children. Since he also served in the Civil War, it appears he left her a pension.

I know I’m supposed to kill my darlings when writing but I found something which makes me wonder what happened. Richard H. shows up on a Syracuse New York marriage certificate. In 1933 he’s a 61 year old chauffeur marrying a 47 year old domestic named Florence Van Alstyne. It was the second marriage for both. He had land. He was a landlord. I guess I’ll have to investigate.

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