History

The First Millionaire of the Lone Star State: How Thorn Made His Fortune

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Frost Thorn, a merchant, born in Glen Cove, New York, came to Texas and became the first millionaire of the state. According to the Texas State Historical Association, Thorn didn’t make his fortune by striking oil like a lot of Texas millionaires. In 1825, Thorn made his millions by obtaining a share of individual grants through empresario contracts, titles, and land grants he had acquired when he moved to Texas.

Thorn settled in Nacogdoches, Texas. He learned trading from working with William Barr and Peter Samuel Davenport’s trading company. He and a colleague branched out when they started working with the Mexican government to acquire land through empresario contracts. It was when Thorn had attained land of his own that he began building his fortune. At the peak of Thorn’s career, he owned property in every current-day county

The First Millionaire of the Lone Star State: How Thorn Made His Fortune

Photo: @kirillvasilevcom via Twenty20

Nacogdoches was nothing more than a frontier outpost when Thorn arrived. Thorn, however, would develop it into one of the main traveling and trading arteries between Texas and the U.S. Thorn also started a general store that benefitted the growing town and where Sam Houston would one-day shop. He was well-liked by Texans and he was a vigorous citizen. He used his wealth for good by donating to charities, giving land to build churches, and he served on the Nacogdoches board of health.

The First Millionaire of the Lone Star State: How Thorn Made His Fortune

Photo: @Mehaniq via Twenty20

Thorn’s services supported Stephen F. Austin in bringing more colonists to Texas. During the Texas Revolution, Thorn became chairman of the committee of safety and vigilance. He ran for office and was elected state legislature of Coahuila and Texas. Thorn didn’t stop there. He went on to serve on the board of trustees at Nacogdoches University and sponsored many educational programs. He is remembered as Texas’ first millionaire and also the first banker. He gave loans and charged interest.

Thorn was married with two children. Both children tragically died when a storm came in off the Atlantic and shipwrecked their yacht. Thorn’s legacy, however, lives on through the many services he began and fostered in Texas. In 1854, Thorn died and was buried in Nacogdoches at the Oak Grove cemetery.