Herman and Jane Mary had thirteen children. I will place their dates on the timeline page, for the sake of having the information in one place, but I will also provide a snapshot of each one in this post. In time, I may break this record into sections; until then, I apologise for the length.
In 2017, I visited the Thorn family crypt in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. In many ways that day trip was a catalyst for this book. Until then my interest in our American ancestry had been one of idle curiosity. On the last day of visiting our son at St Thomas Aquinas College, I found myself with some free time. I had been Googling about the Thorn’s during my visit and had found a terrific private genealogy resource, which is no longer online. It completely intrigued me. If I had begun my search today, the resource would no longer have been available, and I might not be on this journey.
Life is all about the timing!
My husband kindly agreed to visit the cemetery with me to see if we could find the crypt. It was misty, gloomy day, befitting the mood, and we got terribly damp traipsing through the cemetery’s Gothic scenery. When I finally had the good sense to go to the office and ask for help (after hours of wandering in circles), I uncovered a treasure trove. The crypt, which I had expected to be the resting place of three or four ancestors, actually contained several generations of family. Not just Thorns, but Kirkland’s, de Pau’s, Fox’s and others. I have a video I took of the moment, which I’d love to share, but the file size is too large.
After that pivotal moment, my research began in earnest. I soon learned that immense tragedy and heartache in the way of premature deaths, feuds over money, and petty jealousies, accompanied a family this large. Sadly, for Herman, almost all of his sons predeceased him. Most of his daughters made what an historical romance writer might describe as “brilliant matches,” but the reality was often fraught.
I will spend more time on certain children, especially my great, great, great grandmother Jane Mary Thorn. The others either died young, or I have been unable to find little information about them.
I am struck by so many things as I begin organising this research, but the selective nature of historical records is the most poignant revelation to me. Who and what decides that one person is remembered over another? Why should one life be prescribed perpetuity, when another is completely forgotten. It is often not about important deeds or fame, but a matter of politics or economics or social convention.
I am again reminded how women throughout history have been largely (and usually only briefly) memorialised through their husbands or their marriage and children. A skewed and constraining lens, and a large slice of world history lost.
At the moment the timeline for the children is inaccurate. I am yet to verify the following dates on the births and deaths register, but this will provide a starting point. I will amend these as information comes to light.
William Jauncey Thorn (b.1811; d.1830) The heir to Herman and Mary Jane’s fortune died in a fox hunting accident at Cambridge and was buried in Grantchester cemetery, aged 19 years. His tombstone inscription reads: To the Extreme Grief of his Family and those many Friends whose Esteem and Affection he had (the remainder is unreadable). His remains were later transported to the family crypt in the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. An account of the tragedy can be found in notes on interesting people in notes about Grantchester Church.
Fatal Accident. – An accident of the most lamentable nature occurred in the afternoon of Thursday the 18th instant, in the open fields of Barton, near the Grantchester inclosures. A party of students had been hare hunting, and were collecting the hounds together in order to return to Grantchester, when one of them in attempting a leap, fell from his horse, which immediately galloped away. Two of the gentlemen rode after the animal with the intention of stopping it, and while riding at full speed the three horses came in contact with great violence, and one of the riders, William Jauncey, esq. Fellow Commoner of St. John’s College, was thrown to the ground. The shock was so great as to cause a severe concussion of the brain. The unfortunate gentleman was taken up quite insensible, and removed to Mr. Lilley’s house [Manor Farm] at Grantchester. The most skillful medical assistance was immediately obtained from Cambridge, but without avail – he exhibited no signs of life, except some convulsive movements of the limbs, from the time of the accident up to the moments of his death, which took place at six o’clock on the following (Friday) evening. Mr. Jauncey, an American by birth, was a fine intelligent youth, about nineteen years of age, and the possessor of a noble fortune.
Angelina Jauncey Thorn (b. 1813; d. 1877) married at the American Embassy in Paris in 1835 to Lewis de Pau of New York, grandson of Comte de Grasse. Angelina and Louis owned and lived on Starin’s Glen Island off New Rochelle:
“Depau was the grandson of the Comte De Grasse, The Admiral of France, commanding the fleets operating with Rochambeau in 1781. De Pau was also Napoleon III’s U.S. fiscal agent. At this time the island was named “Locust” after the lush groves of Locust trees found throughout the property. At the center of the island he built a grand mansion surrounded by well landscaped grounds and fish-ponds, and containing hot-houses, bathing facilities, billiard rooms and a bowling alley. De Pau used his home to entertain such luminaries as Presidents Chester A. Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant, James Garfield, Jenny Lind, Aaron Burr and Daniel Webster. De Pau sold the island and mansion to John Schmidt in 1862 before leaving for Prussia.” (Find A Grave)
James Jauncey Thorn (b. 1814; d. 1845) buried in Pere La Chaise cemetery, Paris. He married Baroness Therese Von Leykam (b. 1808 approx; d. 1856), sister-in-law of Prince Metternich, in 1834 in Switzerland before moving to Florence.
James was only 31 when he died. They had three children, Jane, William and James Jr. James Jr married Countess de Bastard d’Estang (with thanks to Anthony Hoskins for some of this information).
Meanwhile, the Prince of Mettemich married in Vienna Miss Leykam. The sister of the new princess had also had her novel. She was kidnapped by Captain Thorn's son, Mr. Jauncey. Captain Thorn wanted to oppose the marriage, but learning that his son was to become the grand chancellor's step-frère, he coaxed himself and gave his consent.
Mary Jane Thorn (b. 1816; d. 1866) eloped with the Comte Camille de Varaigne of France when she was fifteen, and married him in 1832 according to the “acte reconstitué”. The Comte de Varaigne became chamberlain to Napoleon 111. They had two children.
John Jauncey Thorn (b. 1818; d. 1819) buried at Trinity Church (?) He was fourteenth months old when he died.
Jane Mary Thorn (b.1821; d.1873) married Baron Etienne de Pierres in Paris in 1842. They had three children, Henri Stephane (Captain of the 7th Dragoons), Herman Fortune, and Jeanne Marie.
I am the a direct descendent of Jane Mary and her son Henri Stephanee, and stories about her in our family lore are why I started researching this book. She became Lady in Waiting to Empress Eugenie and was widely regarded as the finest horsewoman in France. She is immortalised in various art works and sculptures but most famously because she is in the famous Franz Winterhalter portrait.
Herman Thorn (Jr) (b. 1823; d.1849) Captain of the First Dragoons, drowned crossing the Colorado River. Brevet Lieutenant and later Captain, Herman Thorn. He apparently applied for West Point but was not accepted, so he sought service in Europe and found it among the hussars in Austria where he rose to the rank of First Lieutanant. Later, he was allowed to join the American Military and distinguished himself in Mexico.
Alice Thorn (b. 1825; d. 1874) was an opera singer who married Amedee, Comte de Ferussac of France, a papal count, in the Church of St Clotilde, and the American Embassy, in Paris, 1845. It is thought that prior to 1869, Alice and Amedee separated, and she returned to New York with the two younger children. The two older children remained in France.
She once sang a Haendel duet with Irish composer and singer, Michael Balfe. Les Beaux Arts reported that “the pure voice of the young singer, assisted by Mr. Balfe , was a perfect match for the elegant music of the famous composer…”.
Alfred Thorn (b.1827; d. 1854) married Clotilde Barili, celebrated Italian soprano. Clotilde was the half-sister of Adelina Patti (who Verdi described as the finest singer that ever lived) , and aunt of Alfredo Barili. In her prime, Clotilde was described as “young, pretty, and interesting, and, for a short period, regarded as little less than a divinity by the dilettanti of New York.” The Barili’s and the Patti’s produced a musical dynasty that had significant influence on the Western world. I found this delicious snippet about Clotide’s mother, Caterina, which I just had to share:
Initially, I found it difficult to find anything much about Alfred himself, and then I discovered this intriguing article:
“[Chlotilde] Married first to Mr. Alfred Thorn, a native of New York, where he died. They had two children Henrieuquta who died in Mexico being 16 months old and Hermann Alphonse who died at 10 months. [She] Married for second time to Mr. Carlos Scola 16 May 1855.”
Alfred died aged 27 of yellow fever on a boat returning from Vera Cruz, and Clotilde later died from consumption in Matanzas, Cuba at the age of 29.
Zerlina Thorn (b. 1828 approx.; d. 1836) drowned at Trenton Falls in New Jersey. In the Annals and Recollections of Oneida Country there is a touching recount of Zerlina’s death. She is described as child of uncommon loveliness. On a day out at Trenton Fall’s a servant requested that he carry her across the water. Herman apparently reluctantly gave her over to the servant’s care while he tended to his wife. The servant slipped, losing hold of the child. She drowned, but he was pulled to safety. Zerlina was eight.
Eugene Thorn (b. 1831; d.1876) married Mary Hyslop of New York, daughter of wholesale merchant, Robert Hyslop from Robert Hyslop and and Sons. They had no children, but I discovered this amusing description on Mary in the social pages of Littell’s Living Age:
Ellen Thorn (right b. 1833 in Paris; d. 1891) married to Edward Kirkland of New York at Calvary Church in 1858. They lived in West Sixteenth St until her mother died in 1873.
Ida Thorn (left b. 1835; d. 1867) married Samuel Mickle Fox of New York in 1857 (family from Philadelphia). Fox’s father was a name partner of law firm Bolton, Fox, and Livingston. Samuel’s mother was a Grasse dePau, who must have been related to Angelina Thorn’s spouse’s family. Ida was Samuel’s second wife. When she died, he went on to marry Amelia dePau, who must have been some kind of cousin of his as well. Ida was considered a real beauty and is immortalised in a GPA Healy portrait with one of her sisters. I am assuming that it is Ellen in the painting with her.