The "Pioneer History" column of Oct. 26, 1983, featured a story about the first man to move his business into the Town of Lowell, soon after the village was platted by founder Melvin A. Halsted in 1852. It is fitting to honor his memory again during Lowell's sesquicentennial year with additional stories about the man who built a hotel and a general store south of the historic Halsted House, on Main Street in Lowell.
Jonah Thorn was born at Warrenburg, near Saulsbury, Wiltshire, England, on December 31, 1813. At the age of 19, with his brother, Franklin, Jonah sailed to the United States by the way of Canada in 1832.
After six years' residence in the state of Ohio, he moved to Lake County, Indiana, where he became the first man to move his family into the original Town of Lowell.
He had married Phoebe Richmond while in Ohio, and their two daughters were Lauretta Abagail (born 1838) and Sarah Jane (born 1841).
He built his small hotel and general store on the corner directly south of Melvin Halsted's house, the buildings set back from the street to allow ample room for wagons and teams.
The wooded trough bringing water from the dam on Main Street to Halsted's first grist mill (1853) on Mill Street crossed the land directly south of his business. Soon a new brick church was built nearby, and a few other pioneers were in business on Main Street.
But the county decided to build a new east-west "county road" a block or two south, and many of the Main Street businesses saw the advantage of the new thoroughfare and moved to what is now Commercial Avenue.
Jonah also moved to the new area, closed his general store and went into the hardware business at the corner of Commercial Avenue and Wall Street. His hotel and residence remained on Mill Street for decades.
In late March 1877, word went around the settlement that a man was shot to death just inside the front gate of the Thorn Hotel. The terrible sight was witnessed by Mrs. Thorn, who was standing in the hotel doorway talking to blacksmith Cornelius Blachley, the victim, when he was shot by John Myers, 74, who claimed that Blachley was holding property that belonged to him.
In later years the Thorn home was across the street from the present Methodist Church. Jonah Thorn was a very successful businessman who took great interest in the development of the Town of Lowell, building many homes and businesses. For a while he owned much of the business property on the south side of Commercial Avenue in downtown Lowell.
Jonah's daughter, Lauretta Abagail, married plumber John Ault, the son of early settler Andrew Ault. Daughter Sarah Jane wed Perry D. Clark, son of the 1837 pioneer and Lowell's first doctor, Jabez Clark. The daughters had a good knowledge of business affairs as well as their households.
Perry was the operator of the Clark Brick Yard at a site north of Main Street at Liberty Street, where most of the bricks in the present historical downtown buildings were made.
Soon after the death of his wife Phoebe, Jonah Thorn married Lucretia Foote, whose husband had passed away that same year. His third wife was Elizabeth Hullinger (1828-1879), who witnessed the murder in front of the hotel in 1877. Jonah's fourth marriage was to the widow Scritchfield. After his fifth marriage to Marietta (Mrs. Jabez) Barrows Clark in the 1890's, the newlyweds lived in a frame duplex home near the corner of West Main Street and Nichols Street.
The 1855 hardware store established by Jonah Thorn at Commercial Avenue and Wall Street was consumed by the flames of the big fire of 1898. At the time of the fire, the store was owned by partners Haskin and Brannon. For many decades, only the foundation of the building could be seen, until the present building was built for V.J. Roberts' law office.
Jonah Thorn, who "was an honorable, upright man in his dealings with his fellowman and was always accounted one of our best citizens," passed away September 2, 1899, at the age of 85. His wife, Marietta Barrows Clark Thorn, died a few weeks later on Sept. 30, 1899, and was laid to rest beside her first husband, 1837 pioneer Dr. Jabez Clark.
The Thorn and Clark families are proudly listed among the pioneers who contributed to the development of the Town of Lowell.
Return to Lowell History
Return to the "Pioneer History" A to Z Index Page