Who was Margaret Gale Thornton?

Margaret Gale married Joseph Thornton on 24 Dec 1729 in New Jersey even though both were from Pennsylvania.  John Thornton was born in Buckingham, England, where he was christened as a Quaker and then immigrated to Philadelphia before establishing himself in Newtown, Bucks County.  Because Margaret was not a Quaker (she had sworn a corporal oath on the Holy Evangelists in 1733) they married out of meeting across the Delaware River in New Jersey.

Margaret Gale, born in Bristol, Pennsylvania, was the daughter of a blacksmith who had emigrated from England to Pennsylvania. The Half Moon Inn in Newtown was the original home of Margaret and Joseph Thornton. It was also known as Thornton’s Tavern. Joseph built the Inn in 1733 as a tavern and was a popular place to meet and gather, as Newtown was the county seat of Bucks County. Joseph died intestate in 1754, and his estate was insolvent so the sheriff sold the Court Inn in 1755 to satisfy debtors.  Margaret Gale Thornton was appointed the administratrix of Joseph’s estate and guardian of their nine surviving children.

Margaret repurchased the property and managed the Inn with her son John (a soldier in the Pennsylvania Militia during the Revolutionary War) until his death in 1786; and then managed on her own until her death about 1790. In 1757, Margaret purchased the lot on the south side of her tavern and a few years later had built a brownstone house with a brick front.  In 1782 Margaret expanded the house by adding a half story to it.  Margaret was known as a capable woman and was a more successful innkeeper than her husband had been. Her name is on the “List of Persons Praying Recommendations to the Honorable John Penn, Esq., to be Licensed to keep Public Houses in the County of Bucks,” from the June session in 1766. In 1779 Margaret paid the supply tax owning 6 acres, 3 horses, and 1 cow. By 1784 she is recorded as having 6 acres, 1 dwelling house (in which lived 2 white inhabitants) and 2 out-houses.

She survived all but 3 of her children and her estate amounted to a little more than 239 pounds. Between 1754 and 1790, under the management of Margaret Gale Thornton, The Half Moon Inn offered meals and lodging to people coming to the county courthouse and others that had to meet in Bucks County.  One can imagine that during this time, the Inn was a destination to meet with likeminded colonists regarding events of the day as well as liberty. It was also a place where Margaret Thornton, as Innkeeper, could provide for colonists including militia, in which her son John was enlisted, and the Continental Army during the American Revolution.