Richard Thorley

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The American "Thurlows"

    The IGI shows three sons, John (21 Aug 1628), Francis (7 Feb 1629/30), and Thomas (1 Jan 1632/3) born to a Richard THORLEY at Holme On (Upon) Spalding Moor, Yorkshire (YKS), England.  Holme On (Upon) Spalding Moor is about 10 km (7 miles) to the west of the parish of Rowley, YKS.  Rowley, YKS was the home parish of Rev. Ezekial Rogers, the Pastor of the congregation which founded Rowley, Massachussetts (Mass.) in the American colonies in 1639.  It is known for certain that Richard and Jane THORLEY were at Rowley, Mass. in early 1640 (see Extracts from "Some Newbury Thurlows and Their Descendants", below).  Amongst their children were two sons, Thomas and Francis, whose ages (from burial records) agree with the birth dates stated in the IGI.  One can reasonably assume then that Richard and Jane were members of Ezekial Rogers's congregation from Yorkshire, England which settled Rowley, Mass.   Also, their sons are those referenced in the IGI as being born at Holme On (Upon) Spalding Moor.  Presumably, the eldest of three boys listed, John, died before the family arrived at Rowley, Mass.  Richard and Jane moved from Rowley to Newbury, Mass. in 1650 where some of their descendents still reside today.  [at this time the original records referenced in the IGI have not been independentally verified]

    Richard and Jane THORLEY can rightly be described as the "head" of the American "Thurlows".  The THURLOW ONS has revealed that their descendents comprise, by far, the largest percentage of THURLOWs in the USA today.  The largest group today resides in Maine.  This branch of the family, for the most part, appears to be descended from Richard and Jane's son Francis.   As well as leaving a line in Mass., those branches descended from Thomas fanned out across America after the Revolutionary War.  They were amongst the earliest "frontier pioneers" of the American West, establishing branches of the family in Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, and most other western and mid-western states.

    There is perhaps some controversy regarding the name change from THORLEY to THURLOW.  Richard and Jane THORLEY's THURLOW (plus variations) descendents are a vital and important part of the THURLOW ONS.  It is only for the purpose of compiling a factual historical recornd and an accurate family tree that the THURLOW ONS takes the position that THORLEY is historically and genealogically distinct from the THURLOW surname.  THORLEY most likely derives from a northern English place name, specifically Thornley, Lancashire.  The word itself is Old English, řorn ("thorn bush") + lŽah ("wood, clearing").   THURLOW on the other hand is an East Anglian (south east England) place name also derived from Old English meaning "troop, assembly" + "hill" [ref: A Dictionary of Surnames, Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges, Oxford University Press, 1989]. 

    The surname of Richard and Jane THORLEY's descendents evolved through several variations between the late 1600s and late 1700s.  The variations settled upon, included THURLOW most commonly, but  THORLA and THURLO are also used today.  It is surmized that this change occured either by the choice of Richard's descendents or was effected by the various clerks who were recording their name.   Due to the influence (with the Puritans in particular) of Secretary John THURLOE in the 1650s and Lord Chancellor THURLOW in the mid to late 1700s THURLOW was almost certainly a very well known surname during the period in which the name changed.  Richard's descendents may have chose to change their name to associate themselves with these individuals.  Or, the various Town Clerks who would have been more familiar with the THURLOW name, may have unintentionally changed the spelling of the name.  How THORLEY and THURLOW were pronounced with the northern and southern English accents of the day may have been an important factor in this case. 

It is worth noting that there are at least four other unrelated THORLEY families documented in the THURLOW ONS whose surname was changed to THURLOW.  In these case the surname changed occured in the late 1700s to early 1800s.  For three of these families the surname change appears to have occured after they emigrated to Canada in the early 1800s.  The influence of the Town Clerks is suspected as the reason for the change.

David Weston, Oct 2000

    Extracts from "Some Newbury Thurlows and Their Descendants", compiled by Philip Sawyer Lacy, New York City, 1968:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

    Founding of Rowley, Massachusetts with early (1639-1650) map showing location of first settlers

Rowley Map.jpg (57181 bytes)

    "The location of the lot belonging to the Rev. Ezekiel Rogers can be found near the church at the eastern end of Wethersfield Street. It is understood that about sixty families came to America in 1638, with the Rev. Rogers, who had been, for l7 years, at Rowley Parish, Fast Riding, Yorkshire, near Hull. Early in 1639 the most of these families settled in the town of Rowley, Essex County, Mass. This Rowley was incorporated the 4th of September, l639. No record of the names of those families comprising the group leaving Yorkshire has ever been located, due most likely to the burning of the Reverend's house at some point in time. However, it is not unreasonable to assume that many of the families shown on this map were members of that original Yorkshire group. "

The "Thurlow Bridge" Today

Thorley Bridge.jpg (32294 bytes)

(Photo courtesy of Chip Thurlow, August 2000)

    The sign reads: "Thurlow's Bridge- 1654 Originally Thorley's Bridge. Site of the first bridge over navigable waters of the Parker River.   This was a toll bridge levied on animalsonly".  The bridge has been rebuilt and replaced several times I was told by a local historian who also said that it is the fourth oldest continuous bridge site in the US! I have other pictures which show the unspoiled view from the bridge of the salt marsh facing south and east.

This portion of the Parker River is in an out-of-the way area between Newbury "center" (not much there) and the Governor Dummer Academy - a private school in South Byfield, MA.  The area is mostly salt marsh with a few attractive houses overlooking the bridge and the marsh.  There is no evidence of a "Thurlow" homestead. 

"History of Newbury Massachusetts -1635-1902" by John J. Currier; Peter E. Randall Publisher, PO Box 4726, Portsmouth, NH 03801 for only $20.   This reference is over 750 pages of Newbury history with over 50 Thorley/Thurlow references.

Chip Thurlow, Oct 2000

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For questions or comments on the THURLOW One Name Study or its associated web site please contact David Weston via email or through the THURLOW-L Mailing List.