Biography - Lewis Thomas

LEWIS H. THOMAS. As an example of the usefulness and prominence to which men of character and determination may attain, it is but necessary to chronicle the life of Lewis H. Thomas, one of the representative agriculturists and stock-raisers of Bois D'Arc Township, Montgomery County. He belongs to a highly cultured and intellectual family, whose members all possessed superior intelligence and became distinguished in the different callings in which they engaged. Born in Greene County, Ill., May 24, 1827, he is the son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Isley) Thomas, natives respectively of South Carolina and Tennessee. When a boy, the father went with his parents to Kentucky, and later went to Madison County, Ill., where he married Miss Elizabeth Isley. In 1818, he removed from there to Greene County, Ill., and bought Government land, paying therefor $1.25 per acre. He was one of the first settlers of that vicinity and built the first log cabin north of Macoupin Creek.

The original of this notice was reared to man's estate in his native county, amid scenes of pioneer life, and he was early inured to hard labor. His primary education was received in the subscription schools of Greene County, and this was afterward supplemented by a course in Carrollton Academy. Since then he has been a great reader and observer and is well posted on all the current topics of the day. In the spring of 1851 he came to Montgomery County, having previously entered from the Government a large tract of land in what is now Bois D'Arc Township, and he first resided in a little board shanty. He began at once improving and developing the farm and later erected a substantial frame house. The soil was rich and productive, and he being energetic and enterprising, everything prospered under his hands. The frame building was replaced by a handsome brick structure, but this was destroyed by fire, and in 1888 his present handsome brick residence was erected. Reading in the Prairie Farmer of the celebrated hedge fence then raised by Prof. Turner and others, he conceived the idea of fencing his farm with the same. The hedge was then known as "Osage hedge," but it subsequently received the name of “Bois D'Arc," through our subject, and the township afterward acquired the name through the hedge fence and was named Bois D'Arc Township by our subject. He has his entire farm fenced with this hedge.

Mr. Thomas owns one of the finest farms in the State, consisting of nine hundred and seventy-four acres, and he also owns seven hundred and twenty acres elsewhere in the township; besides forty-two town lots in Emporia, Kan., and one-fifth interest in thirty-four hundred acres near Warren, Minn. He is a self-made man and all his accumulations are the result of energy and industry intelligently applied. In carrying on his very extensive farming enterprises he has not lost sight of the stock-raising industry and raises a high grade of Hereford cattle, and a superior grade of Norman horses, Shropshire and Oxford Down sheep, and Poland-China, Berkshire, Chester White and Victory hogs. He has a good grade of roadster horses. All his farming operations are conducted in a progressive and superior way, as is very quickly seen when one glances over his possessions. In his political affiliations he is a Democrat and was elected Supervisor of Bois D'Arc Township by that party. He has served as Township Treasurer of schools for twenty-six years. He is an active worker in the Bois D'Arc Baptist Sunday-school and for fourteen years in succession the annual Sunday-school picnic has been held in his beautiful grove. He was one of the founders of the church and has always been liberal in his contributions to its support.

During the long years he has spent in this county, Mr. Thomas has seen the country bloom and blossom like the rose, and has taken a deep interest in its progress and development. In 1856 he received the gold medal from the Illinois Agricultural Society for having the largest amount of well-set and cultivated hedge on one farm, this being the first and only gold medal offered that year by that society. In the same year he received the silver medal given for one thousand rods of the best hedge fence in the State, this being given by the Illinois State Agricultural Society. In 1858, he received the gold medal for the best and greatest variety of cultivated timber in a grove in the State, given by the same society.

Mr. Thomas and his fine farm have acquired a State reputation and well they merit it. He is known far and wide for his hospitality, genial good-nature, and his great generosity, and his intelligence, enterprise and many estimable qualities have gained for him a popularity not derived from any factitious circumstance, but a spontaneous and permanent tribute to his merit. For a number of years he was engaged in surveying and continued this for many years in the northern portion of Montgomery County, locating and surveying all the roads in Bois D'Arc Township as well as surveying many school sites, a work for which he was well qualified.

The marriage of Mr. Thomas united him with Miss Sarah Ann, daughter of Isham and Sarah (Vaughn) Linder. She was a lady of noble character, and her death, which occurred February 27, 1887, was a heavy bereavement to her husband and children. Of the latter there are six, as follows: Etta L., now the wife of Edward Kendrick, of Buffalo, N. Y.; John I., William H., Mary L., Samuel and Minerva C.

On October 3, 1889, Mr. Thomas was married to Agnes E. Ball, daughter of Richard M. and Maria (Evans) Ball, who were natives of Wales. Mrs. Thomas was born in Brecknockshire, Wales, February 21, 1851. She came to America with her parents when she was four years of age. They located in Virden, Ill., at which place she received her public school training. She was for three years a student at Normal University, Normal, Ill., and was graduated from that institution at the head of her class in 1877. She taught in the public schools for sixteen years, the last seven of her work in that line being done in the Washington School, Chicago. She saw that Chicago was a growing city and in 1888 purchased a lot in Lakeside, a suburb of Chicago. It is a section of an ellipse three hundred and forty-five feet front and is but two blocks from the famous Sheridan Road, which is the boulevard from Chicago to Ft. Sheridan. Its market value is now three hundred per cent, of its cost. Religiously, she is connected with the Methodist Church and is liberal in its support.

Mrs. Thomas is the youngest of a family of fourteen children, ten of whom are still living. They are as follows: Frederick, a machinist of Springfield, Mo., who has served a number of terms as President of the School Board and is identified with all the public interests of Springfield; Mrs. Arabella Lloyd, of Thomasville, Ill.; William E., who died in London, England, in 1891; Thomas, a retired farmer of Girard, Ill., who served three years in the army; Richard, a blacksmith of Virden, Ill., and an active worker in the cause of temperance, who has served a number of terms as a member of the Town Board and one term as Supervisor of his township; Maria, who died in Wales in 1852; Mary, wife of Robert Brooks, of Kane, Ill.; Francis, wife of A. J. Witt, of Virden, Ill.; Ann, wife of Calvin W. Tunnell, who died near Virden in 1872; John, a banker of Farmersville, who in a public capacity has been Director of Schools, Supervisor of his township and has settled more dead men's affairs than any citizen of Macoupin County; James, a twin brother of Henry, who died in Virden in 1856; Henry, a prominent farmer and stock-raiser near Girard; and George, a retired farmer near Girard, who has been Treasurer of the State Grange for nearly twenty years.

The members of the Ball family are ardent Republicans. The family is noted for its clearness of perception, its keenness of insight, its largness of heart and its soundness of judgment. The father of this family died eight months after the family came to America. The mother is still living, at the advanced age of eighty-eight years. Her mind is still active and she retains her interest in current events.

Extracted 29 Nov 2016 by Norma Hass from 1892 Portrait and Biographical Record of Montgomery and Bond Counties, Illinois/u>, pages 119-121.

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