Oakleigh Thorne

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W.O.S. Thorne, more generally known as Oakleigh Thorne (July 31, 1866 − May 23,1948), was a publisher of tax guides who also served as a director of Wells Fargo & Company from 1902 to 1918. He later became a breeder of champion Angus cattle.

Early life and family[edit]

Thorne was born in 1866 in New Hamburg, New York, the son of Edward Thomas Thorne and Charlotte (Pearsall) Thorne.[1] He was educated in the schools of Poughkeepsie, New York. On February 26, 1889, he married Helen Seymour Stafford, with whom he had three daughters. The couple made their home in Millbrook, New York, which remains the family's principal place of residence.[2]

He should not be confused with his great-grandson Oakleigh Thorne, who was #1014 on Forbes' 2008 list of the world's billionaires.[3]

Business career[edit]

In 1892, Thorne purchased a small printing company that under his management became Commerce Clearing House, a major publisher of tax guides for lawyers and accountants.

Thorne was elected a director of Wells Fargo & Company on January 2, 1902. This was at the time control of the express company passed to E.H. Harriman; the company headquarters moved from San Francisco to New York City in 1904. Thorne remained a director of Wells Fargo until the company ceased express service in 1918.[4]

Expanding into the realm of railroad speculation, Thorne and his partner Marsden J. Perry bought up a controlling interest in the failing New York, Westchester and Boston Railway in 1906. Combined with the assets of the competing New York & Portchester Railroad, the Millbrook Company was created as a holding entity that was transferred to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad following the Panic of 1907.

Thorne was president of Trust Company of America when its main office on Wall Street was the target of a bank run starting on Wednesday, October 23, 1907, during the Panic of 1907. It survived, with the backing of J. Pierpont Morgan and an infusion of gold from the Bank of England and other European sources.[5][6]

In addition to his connection with Commerce Clearing House, Wells Fargo, and Trust Company of America, Thorne was a director of the Corporation Trust Company and of the Bank of Millbrook.[7]

Agricultural career[edit]

In 1918, Thorne changed careers to focus on developing Briarcliff Farms in Pine Plains, New York, originally a dairy farm that he used for beef cattle production. He became the first to win the grand championship at the International Live Stock Exposition twice, in 1931 and 1933. He became president of the American Angus Association, from 1929 to 1931, and was inducted into the Angus Heritage Foundation Hall of Fame in 1934. He also served as chairman of the Better Beef Association, leading efforts to establish grades on market beef in 1927.[8]

Oakleigh Thorne died on May 23, 1948.


  1. ^ Hutto, Richard Jay, and June Hall McCash. Their Gilded Cage: The Jekyll Island Club Members. Indigo Custom Publishing, 2005.
  2. ^ Who Was Who in America, Vol. II, P. 532. Chicago: The A.N. Marquis Company, 1950.
  3. ^ Despite the fact that Thorne had only daughters, so that his surname did not pass into the following generation, one of his grandsons appears to have changed his surname back to Thorne.
  4. ^ Noel M. Loomis, Wells Fargo, pp. 284, 285, 289, 310.
  5. ^ Mark Sullivan, Our Times, 1900-1925, Vol. III, pp. 504, 510-511. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930.
  6. ^ Walter Lord, The Good Years. From 1900 to the First World War, pp. 191-194, 198, 201-204. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960.
  7. ^ Who Was Who in America, op. cit.
  8. ^ Saddle & Sirloin Club Portrait Collection (PDF). Louisville, Kentucky: Kentucky State Fair Board. 2013. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-9634756-4-0. Retrieved March 6, 2015.