The mother of Anna Maria Brodeau Thornton had also been widowed early. She kept barely above poverty by becoming a schoolmistress. She accompanied the two lively younger women to Monticello, and beside them was Anna Maria's husband, Dr. William Thornton. Thornton was an active opponent of slavery, though the luxuries of his life had come not from medical practice but from his plantations on Tortola, in the British West Indies. He later enjoyed governmental sinecures provided by the Virginians, as well as commissions from them to design city mansions. He had earned his medical degree at Edinburgh and traveled widely in Europe, with many adventures. Indeed, thunder at Monticello and Thornton's role in the Washington City establishment bring to mind the story of this future Commissioner of the United States Patent Office and architect of the Capitol huddling under a skin tent, as a rainstorm swept the Isle of Staffa in the Hebrides, with the young man who a half century later, as James Smithson, established the Smithsonian Institution.
Thornton was one of the first investor-inventors in steamships, won the competition for the design of the Capitol (though President George Washington understood that he was too inexperienced to be entrusted with building it), and took an administrative role in the Capitol construction process, while serving as Patent Office commissioner. Much later, he assisted Jefferson with the designs for the University of Virginia. Thornton was probably—there are no drawings—the author of the