THORNHILL post 1800
post 1800

pre 1800





Discovering Thornhill in St. Louis County

Post 1800 refers to the occupation of Thornhill that began with the home of Governor Frederick Bates. The lithograph and biographical information concerning Frederick Bates comes from Missouri and Missourians by Floyd Calvin Shoemaker (1943), Volume 1, page 416 to 418.

Frederick Bates was born at Belmont, Goochland County, Virginia on June 23, 1777. He served in several government positions until March 3, 1805, when he aws appointed associated judge of the new Michigan Territory, and in 1807, while in Washington on government business, Bates was appointed secretary of Louisiana Territory, which included what is now Missouri. He was also made recorder of land titles and member of a board of commissioners to decide land claims in the territory. Arrive at St. Louis on April 1, 1807, Bates became acting governor of the territory until March 8, 1808, when Governor Meriwether Lewis finally arrived at St. Louis. Bates acted as governor a second time from September, 1809, until the summer of 1812, and again for a period beginning shortly after the War of 1812 broke out and lasting until July, 1813. Bates was secretary of Missouri Terriroty until a state government was formed in 1820, and was also recorded of land titles, an office he held until 1824.

Oil portrait of Frederick Bates

His term as governor of Missouri began in the fall of 1824. Less an a year later, on August 4, 1825, he died of pleurisy at his 1000 acre estate, "Thornhill," near the present town of Chesterfield, St. Louis County. His term of office was too short for any important legislation, and may be distinguished chiefly by his veto of a bill to prevent dueling. Governor Bates refused to greet the Marquis de Lafayette when he visited St. Louis. The General Assembly made no appropriation for the visit.

The Bates home is the oldest surviving Missouri governor's home. It was constructed between 1818 and 1820. Frederick Bates purchased the land for Thornill from John Lewis in 1806. Frederick Bates married Nancy Opie Ball. Their children included Emily Caroline Bates (born 5 January 1820), Lucius Lee Bates (born 18 March 1821), Woodville Bates (born 29 July 1823; died 12 February 1840), and Frederick Bates (born 1 February 1826; died 18 October 1862). Daughter Emily married Robert Alfred Walton and their descendants remained in St. Charles County. Son Lucius Lee Bates married Dulcinea Conway, the daughter of Samuel Conway in St. Louis County, Missouri. [Summarized from a private publication by Onward Bates, 1916, photocopy in St. Charles County Historical Archives]

The following architectural information is summarized from Feasibility Study for Restoration of Thornhill Historical Area which was prepared in 1974 for the St. Louis County Department of Parks and Recration.

The house is a braced-frame structure oak (walnut for window sill framing) with 4 inch by 4 inch nominal studs on 22 inch centers. Corner posts and studs occurring at the ends of the center dividing partition are of larger dimensions and extend the full two stories in height. Sill plates are as large as 13 by 12 inches. Joists are 10.5 inches deep and vary in width from a norm of 2.5 inches. Major members are mortised and tenoned together and secured where necessary with cut (not wrought) nails.

Broken 19th century window inside the plantation house during July 1979.

Framing members for the house exhibit a mixture of axe-hewn and sawn surfaces. It would appear that members were first hewn, and then the larger members were subdivided by sawing. Thus, many joists have one sawn and one hewn face. Saw marks are normal to direction of the cut. John Lewis is known to have operated a saw mill and could have cut these members as well as the boarding for sheathing and siding. One must assume that Lewis used a vertically operating mill-saw.

The original phase of the plantation house consisted of four rooms, two on the first floor and two on the second, with an open stair. The existing stone basement with earth floor is probably original with access only from the exterior. Generally, the bottom of the wall does not extend below the basement level which may indciate that the original foor was somewhat higher.

One of the original wall cupboards, handcrafted out of white and yellow pine. The plantation house was equipped with six cupboards -- each with its own detailing. Photographed June 1979.

Foundation evidence clearly implies that the original chimneys were located entirely within the rectangular area of the main building block, but there is no way to determine whether the chimneys were built of stone or brick.

The only original mantle remaining in situ within the plantation house during 1979.
There is little evidence of any major changes occuring between the time of the completion of the wings (ca. 1810-1820) and the first decade of the 20th century.

Black and white photograph of the backporch of the plantation house, circa 1940.
Frederick Bates, his wife, Nancy Opie Ball, and their two sons, Dr. Frederick Bates and Lucius Lee Bates, are buried in the family plot north of the plantation home. A fifth stone bears the name of John M. Trent (1854-1890) at the top, with Jas. W. Trent and Lucy A. Trent lettered side by side of the lower part of the stone. The only other legible data indicates that Lucy died in 1854, a few months after the birth of John M., probably indicating the James and Lucy were the parents of John. Oral history provided by Mr. Faust indicates that the Trents served as a family physician to the Bates.

Archival research by Professor David Browman (Washington University) indicates that Frederick Bates had two sets of enslaved Africans at the plantation. In 1812, he purchased three slaves named Sam, Polly, and their son Juno. The correspondence of Mr. Bates mentions bountiful crops harvested by the slaves in 1812 and 1813, but no later references. It is uncertain if these enslaved Africans were sold or died.

A small outbuilding just to the north of the plantation house had an unique architectural feature of a porch on all four sides. One interpretation of this building is that it functioned as the slave cabin.

In 1818, the mother and brother (named Edward) of Frederick Bates moved from Virginia to Missouri. In that year, Frederick purchased Ben from his family to serve as his blacksmith. Ben is referred to as the individual responsible for moving all the family possessions down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi River to St. Louis.

Receipts from Bates estate indicate that he purchased Lucy (age 6) and Sylvia in 1820. He purchased Winnie/Winney and her 3 daughters (Mary, Henrietta, and Harriott) in 1824, just one year before his death.

The probate records of Frederick Bates, from 1825, list the following slaves:

Ben, approximately 47 years old
Winny, his wife, approximately 33 years old
Henrietta, 4 years old
Mary, 2.5 years old
Harriett, 1.5 years old
Margaret, 6 months old
Sylvia (spelled Silva), 32 years old
Lucy, 13 years old

Adria LaViolette identified several 19th century ceramic types in the assemblage of material excavated from the Thornhill plantation home during the 1979 field season. Specifically, she identified

I. Redware
.A. unglazed "Flower pot"
.B. Glazed
...1. Clear or yellow-green lead glaze
...2. Red-brown or other dark glaze

II. Yellowware
.A. Clear glaze only
.B. Clear glaze with portions unglazed
.C. Monochrome or polychrome banding
.D. Clear galzed with mottled brown glaze
.E. Rockingham green/brown tortoise shell-like glaze
.F. Brownware

III. Stoneware
.A. Assorted paste colors, unglazed
.B. Assorted paste colors, non-salt glazed
.C. Assorted past colors, salt glazed
.D. Assorted paste colors, salt glazed, interior Albany slip
.E. Assorted paste colors, salt-glazed, stenciled decorations

IV. Ironstone
.A. Undecorated white
.B. White with blue floral transfer
.C. Other decorations

V. Creamware
.A. Creamware
...1. Annular mocha
...2. Other possible
.B. Pearlware
...1. Handpainted
...2. Transfer printed
...3. Annular
.C. White ware
...1. Transfer printed
...2. Painted edge-decoration

Large sherd ID = II-2033-409, Thickness = 7 mm.
Small shed ID = II-2033-412, Thickness = 4 mm.

LaViolette's study of the 19th century ceramics concluded: "The ceramics probably being used during the Frederick Bates period can be postulated from what has been found at the site from the first decades fo the 19th century. These types are shell-edged pearlware, redware; stoneware with Albany slip, cobalt transfer printed pearlware; hand-painted cobalt and a hand-painted polychrome pearlware, and some mocha ware. Toward the late 1820s there would have been a deviation of taste toward whiteware light transfer patterns which were just becoming available.

Present at Thornhill are many British-manufacture ceramics which date to the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and so similar is the range of wares there to those found by Jim and Cindy Price (1979) in the Eastern Ozark Border region dating to the early 19th century that a substantial time lag does not exist for the St. Louis are for acquisitions from the East Coast. Some popular ware types are not present at the site..."

It is possible to summarize the relative abundance of certain "type" ceramics by looking at the "Minimum Vessel Numbers" for the decorated varieties of Creamware:

Shell-edged Pearlware, 1780s to 1820s
..Minimum Vessel No. = 22

Hand-painted Cobalt Pearlware, 1790 to 1830
..Minimum Vessel No. = 8

Cobalt Transfer Pearlware, 1780 to 1820
..Minimum Vessel No. = 40

Hand-painted Pearlware, 1790 to 1820
..Minimum Vessel No. = 15

ID = 79-2033-101 thickness = 3 mm.

Fineline and Sprig Pearlware, 1800 to 1820
..Minimum Vessel No. = 11

ID = 79-2033-260 Length = 7.6 cm, width = 5.7 cm, thickness = 4 mm, weight = 25.9 grams.

Mocha Annular Cream & Pearlware, 1790 to 1840
..Minimum Vessel No. = 3

Pastel Transfers Pearlware, 1795 to 1815
..Minimum Vessel No. = 6

Light Color Transfer Whiteware, 1820s onward
..Minimum Vessel No. = 56

ID = II-2033-453, length = 4.1 cm, width = 4.1 cm, thickness = 3 mm, weight = 5.8 grams.

ID = 79-2033-174, thickness = 4 mm.

Cobalt Transfer Whiteware, 1830s onward
..Minimum Vessel No. = 3

ID = 79-2033-324, thickness = 6 mm.

ID = 79-2033-301, Length = 14.1 cm, width = 10.2 cm, thickness = 6 mm, weight = 109.4 grams.
Flow Blue Whiteware/Ironstone, 1830s onward
..Minimum Vessel No. = 22

Shell-edged Whiteware/Ironstone, 1830s onward
..Minimum Vessel No. = 5
Evidence for 19th century diet at Thornhill includes both plant and animal remains. Butchered remains of cow, pig and deer were recovered from units II-3 in Level 4. Pamela Ashmore summarized the animal economy as one that emphasized pig as the fundamental farm animal. Pork was supplemented by beef and occassionally lamb. Hunting activities also brought in venison (deer), raccoon, and wild turkey. Selected species represented by minimum number of individuals and actual bone weight:

Domestic cow (Bos taurus) 13 individuals; 1,012.1 grams

Domestic pig (Sus scrofa) 34 individuals; 856.8 grams

Domestic sheep (Ovis aries) 4 individuals; 66.6 grams

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) 3 individuals; 94.9 grams

Raccoon (Procyon lotor) 5 individuals; 34.5 grams

Gray squirrel (Sciurus carolingensis) 6 individuals; 12.6 grams

Eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) 2 individuals; 2.0 grams

Domestic cat (Felis domestica) 1 individual; 15.1 grams

Another interesting aspect of Thornhill is the fact that over 900 peach pits were discovered in the 18th century deposits. It is inferred that these are Spanish peach (Prunus persica) that required careful cultivation in an orchard. Blackberry/rasberry seeds are other examples of fruit recovered in the excavation around the Bates Plantation house. The peach pits and blackberry/rasberry seeds may have been discarded after the processing of the fruit into brandy or a fruit wine. Other edible plant remains include the seeds of squash (Cucurbita pepo), muskmelon (Cucumis melo), bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis), walnut, and hazelnuts (Corylus americana).

This website is based upon Thornhill: An Emergent Mississippian Farmstead in St. Louis County by Neathery Batsell (Fuller) submitted as her Masters Thesis to the Department of Anthropology, Washington University, during 1985. The text was adapted for the web by Professor Michael Fuller (SLCC). The website was constructed by Adjunct Professor Neathery B. Fuller (SLCC).

Site Constructed 19 October 2001

Modified 29 November 2011

Neathery and Michael Fuller,

Archaeologists and Web Designers