The following biography for Calvin was taken from a book called "The History of Polk County, Iowa" (1880):
THORNTON, CALVIN-Farmer, section 6, P. O. East Des Moines. Was born in Vermillion county, Illinois, January 7, 1830, and in the fall of 1849 came to this county and has since resided here. He is a cabinet maker by trade and in his early days followed the carpenter business. He now owns an excellent farm of about 230 acres, with good improvements. Was married, January 1, 1854, to Miss Annette Harris, a native of Henry county, Indiana, born March 15, 1831. They have seven children: Nancy E. (wife of Jonas Henderson), Jerome B., Ida Jane (now Mrs. W. R. Wilkins, of Audubon county), Laura V., Alta M., Viola and Maud.
The following biography was taken from the book "Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa" (1908):
The early events of Polk County were very frequently punctured with the doings of Calvin Thornton. Born January Seventh, 1830, in Vermilion County, Illinois, of Scotch-Irish ancesty on his father's side, and English on that of his mother, he passed his boyhood days on the farm of his father, and helped his mother with her weaving by doing the spooling and quilling. His education was a tussle between his animal propensity for sport and book learning. Whe asked about it, Calvin replied " The most schooling I got was learning to play what was called "townball", "bullpen" and other games. To be sure we had a log schoolhouse, with puncheon floors, and slabs for seats. In the summer, the teacher would lie down on one of the slabs and go to sleep, and either fall off accidentally or with the assistance of some passing pupil. In the winter, there were boys as large as teacher, and you bet they kept him awake". Calvin, however, secured an education sufficient to fit him for successful business, and when 17 years old, he concluded he could do better than living on a farm - that he would learn a trade. His father attempted to dissuade him, telling him that it was intention to give each of his children a farm or set then up in business. if he left home, he would get no farm, and no start in business from him. Despite the wishes of his father, Calvin apprenticed himself for 30 months to learn the trade of cabinet maker. At the end of the first year of his apprenticeship, in 1848, he got a ticket of leave to visit his father, who had moved to Polk County, Iowa. His visit completed, he returned and served the remainder of his apprenticeship. In September, 1850, he returned to Fort Des Moines, in a prairie schooner, stopping at "Uncle Tommy" Mitchell's tavern to take a rest and be ready to wrestle with Skung River bottoms. He forded the Des Moines River between Grand Avenue and Walnut Street, and landed on the west side with a good suit of clothes and but a few dollars in his pocket. He at once began with his trade, but soon after rented the small frame shop and tools of John Reichnecker, which was on the west side of 4th Street, where the Munger Hotel now is. Calvin was often reminded of the "no farm decree" of his father, which was faithfully kep, and which later in life Calvin often said was a real benefit for it forced him to rely on his own resources. One of his earliest customers was Elder J.A. Nash, whose first wife died of consumption, and he had Calvin make the coffin. There were no burial caskets in those days. The Elder visited the shop several times desirous that the coffin should be good and strong, as her father might decide to send the body back east and he wanted it safe for the journey. The incident ripened into a firm and lasting friendship between the two. In January, 1851, Calvin decided to invest in farm land. Judge Cassady entered 40 acres for him with a military land warrant, which was paid for mostly in furniture. Every dollar he could spare from his business, he invested in additions to his 40 acres, until he had acquired 240 acres. In April, 1851, he was elected Clerk of Delaware Township, and soon after Township Assessor, Director of the School District, and President of the School Board, and held one or more of those offices so long as he lived in the township. In 1854, he married, built a house and went farming. In 1857, Douglas Township carved out of Delaware Township, and Calvin was appointed by the County Court to organize the township for election, revenue and judicial purposes. He was elected the first Justice of the Peace in the township and held the place so long as he resided there. He was also a school director. A few years later, his father-in-law died, leaving him a farm which is now the State Fair Grounds. Calvin sold him farm, settled with the heirs of his father -in-law, took possession of the farm, and lived there until he sold it to the State Agricultural Society in 1886.
In October, 1862, he was elected a member of the Board of County Supervisors, to re present Douglas Township, and reelected in 1864. During the war period, the Board was an active and busy body, for the demands of families of the men who were in army were numerous and imperative, requiring almost daily sessions. It was an intelligent, patriotic body, and the soldier boys from Polk County and their families were cared for with fidelity and liberality. When the second court house was built, bonds of the county were issued in 1859 to raise funds therefor. A large number of the bonds were sold to Clarke, Dodge and Company, New York. At the January meeting of the County Supervisors, they put themselves on record to-wit: "Whereas it is believed that a large share of the bonds known as Court House Bonds are owned by parties in rebellion against the government, Therefore, Resolved, that the Treasurer is hereby instructed not to pay interest on said bonds unless he is well satisfied that the owners are truly loyal. April Third, 1865, the Board was in session when the report came of the surrender of Lee's army, whereupon, it was immediately Resolved that the Clerk of the Board is hereby authorized to illuminate the Court House at the County's expense this night, in honor of the capture of Richmond by the armies of the Republic of the United States. Resolved that the Clerk be and is authorized to have thirty-six guns fired this evening in honor of the recent victories of the Union army near Richmond.
Captain Harry Griffith, Clerk of the Board, who had served two years as commander of the First Iowa Battery in the field, on hearing the resolution read, leaped to his feet, called Pete Myers to take his place, and before the Board had adjourned, he had a twelve-pounder belching fire, smoke, and noise at 'coon point. His thirty-six guns were supplemented with one hundred more ordered by the state. The whole town was wild with exhuberant cheering.
In 1869, the county was infested with horse thieves and perpetrators of other robberies among the settlers. The Vigilance Committee of Allen and Four Mile Townships determined to put and end to it, within their jurisdiction at least. Suspicion fastened upon "Jack" Hiner as one of the gang, and he was brought before Esquire Prentice, and old settler, a few miles east of the Capitol. Hiram Y. Smith, a young lawyer, who subsequently became Prosecuting attorney for the county, and congressman, appeared as Hiner's attorney. There was a large gathering of farmers present, and considerable excitement. After a long hearing, which lasted until night, the court decided there was not sufficient evidence to hold the defendant, and he was discharged. He was immediately taken in charge by a number of men. Smith's horse was brought up, he was told that his services were no longer required there, that further attempt to save his client would be futile, and the best thing he could do would be to get back to Des Moines and stay there. The advice was given with emphasis, which received prompt attention. That was the last known of "Jack" Hiner. What became of him has since been a mystery. Knowing that Calvin was familiar with all that was going on in those days, I asked him not long ago if he knew what became of him, to which he replied: "The last I heard of "Jack" Hiner, he got into a deep hole in the Des Moines river, between Mrs. Henderson's and Rees Wilkins' place. Of course I was not there, but some of the old boys told me a committee was appointed to take him to jail, but when they go along in that timber on the river bank, he got away from them, and made the highest jump they ever saw a man make - fully as high as their heads - and into the river. You certainly know that is a dangerous place to get into on a very dark night. A person is likely to find a watery grave, and no one would feel in duty bound to risk their life at such a time in trying to save him. 'Tis sad, 'tis pity, 'tis true. But it was a weak committee, composed of such men as 'Tom' Mattocks, Jarvis Hougham, J.C. Taylor, and some others that I might mention not yet dead. If Calvin's explanation is correct, that committee must have changed their plans, for on the night Hiner disappeared, "Jim" Miller says the sixty feet of rope in the well on his farm, not far from where the committee took charge of Hiner, was taken by a group of men who would not let him get near enough to identify them.
Politically, Calvin is a radical Republican. He was a charter member of the party , in 1853. So popular was he in the party, he was selected as a delegate to nearly every Republican county convention during his residence in the county, and so much faith had the people in his business capacity, honesty, and integrity, he was elected Justice of the Peace, Director, President, and Secretary of a school district, Township Supervisor or Assessor continuously in the several townships of Delaware, Douglas, Lee and Grant, which by the changes of geographical lines, his farm fell into, from the time he was twenty-one years old until he left the county, in 1886. Some of the time he was Director, President, and Secretary of the same school district, until the Legislature prohibited the office of President and Secretary being held by the same person. He was a charter member of the Tippecanoe Club. He was a man of affairs in the early days. Socially, he was affable and companionable. He was a firm and active helper of the church and school. Reared as a Quaker, he abjured all fraternal organizations, except the Grangers.
When the Des Moines Plow Company was organized, he became a stockholder, and later President, until it was changed to a barbed wire company. In 1875, the company made a contract to manufacture and supply the State Grange (Patrons of Husbandry) at reduced price, barbed wire in opposition to the Washburn, Moen trust. Immediately, a big fight was on in the courts. Calvin was an active participant in the scrimmage from start to finish. There were thirty-one subordinate granges in the county, and Calvin was a charter member and Master of Grant Township Grange. He showed the courage of his conviction by affixing his signature to the fifty-thousand dollar bond which carried the contest to the United States Supreme Court and victory. Then he was satisfied. When the Iowa National Bank was organized, he invested four thousand dollars in its capital stock.*
January Fourteenth, 1907.
*He died in Pasadena, California, September Third, 1908.
Found on the internet:
"After his death, the land passed down to his daughter, Araminta Harris Thornton and her brothers. Araminta’s husband, Calvin Thornton was born in Illinois in 1830, the fourth of ten children. His father followed his brother, Riley who came to Polk County in 1846. Calvin visited in 1848, but didn’t return to Ft Des Moines until 1850, after completing an apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker. He bought farmland in 1851, became Delaware Township clerk, Director of the School District and President of the School Board. He was the township’s first Justice of the Peace. He married Araminta in 1854 and they had seven children. Calvin and Araminta took possession of the farm after selling their own place and settling with John Harris’ heirs. In 1886 he sold the farm to the Iowa State Fair Board and bought a farm in what is now the heart of Pasadena, California. The 1890 census listed Calvin as “Orchardist.” He died in 1908 at age 78. Araminta died one month short of her ninetieth birthday in 1921".