William Henry Thomas

(1864-1947)

The Second Generation

copright ©2003 by Jeffrey L. Thomas
jltbalt1@verizon.net

 

Right: William H. Thomas at his 81st birthday

William Henry Thomas was born on August 12, 1864 in Hyde Park, Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. He was one of eleven children of John J. and Elizabeth Davis Thomas, Welsh immigrants that arrived in America in 1848. Our first glimpse of William is from the 1870 census. By 1870 Hyde Park had been incorporated into the City of Scranton, and it is here in Scranton's 4th Ward (Hyde Park) that we find the Thomas family in the 1870 returns.

Name Age Occupation Place of Birth
John Thomas 48 Miner Wales
Elizabeth 45 Keeping House Wales
John 20 Miner PA
David 18 At School PA
Thomas 16 Mule Driver in Mines PA
Jeremiah 14 Mule Driver in Mines PA
Hosiah 11 At School PA
William 6   PA
Franklin 2   PA
Emma Thomas 6   PA

John J. Thomas is listed as a coal miner owning real estate valued at $2,500.00 and personal property valued at $800.00. The returns show that John and three of his sons were employed in the mining industry. By 1870 daughters Elizabeth and Hannah were no longer living with their parents. Elizabeth's fate is unknown, while Hannah had already married Tunis Thomas and was busy raising her own family nearby. Along with William, sons Hosie and Frank Thomas make their first appearance in the census. Emma Thomas, who would appear again with the family in 1880, was likely a niece or cousin.

John J. Thomas died either February 10, 1875 or February 13, 1876, and was buried at the Washburn Street Cemetery in one of the plots he purchased in 1865. In 1879/80 the widowed Elizabeth Thomas remarried John E. Jones, (mentioned above), himself a recent widower, and Elizabeth's underage children became part of the Jones household. The 1880 census shows us that the Jones family lived in the 2nd ward of Scranton rather than the 4th (Hyde Park). In the census John E. Jones is listed as the head of the family, Elizabeth is listed as his wife, and her children, Hosie Thomas, Frank Thomas, and Dannie Thomas, are listed as John's stepsons. The census also tells us that John occupation was "Saloon Keeper".

1880 Census, City of Scranton, 2nd Ward:

Name Relation Age Place of Birth Occupation
John E. Jones Self 44 Wales Saloon Keeper
Elizabeth Jones Wife 50 Wales Keeping House
John E. Jones Son 20 PA Coal Miner
Hosie Thomas Step-son 20 PA Coal Laborer
Frank Thomas Step-son 12 PA At School
Dannie Thomas Step-son 8 PA At School
Emma Thomas Other 17 PA Servant
John T. Thomas Other 50 PA Coal Miner
Edward Lewis Other 40 PA Plasterer

Noticeably absent from the Jones household is 16 year old William Thomas. There is a William Thomas in the 1880 census living in Scranton's 1st Ward, working as an apprentice blacksmith and living with the family of Owen Farry. Although this individual could be our William, more research is necessary for confirmation. Although the Thomas family made their living from the coal mines in and around Hyde Park, with father John and most of his sons working in the mines in one capacity or another, it appears that William did not follow his father and brothers into the mines.

On February 13, 1886, William H. Thomas married Mary Jane Hares. She was born April 11, 1866, and was the daughter of Welsh immigrants George Hares and Elizabeth Williams. Mary's father George served in the Civil War and had died in 1867 at the age of twenty-seven. In 1870 her mother Elizabeth remarried William B. Morley, and Mary Jane was raised in the family of her step brothers and sisters. Although we do not know exactly where William and Mary Jane Thomas lived after their marriage, we know that they lived in Hyde Park.

Mary Jane and William raised a family of nine children, eight of whom lived to maturity. Daughter Stella died as a child sometime before 1900. Their children were as follows:

George W. Thomas (1886-1934) was the oldest of William and Mary Jane's children. As a teenager George worked with his father as a stove mounter, and towards the end of his life worked as a milk man. He married Catherine Campbell and raised a family of six children in Scranton, Howard, George, Catherine, Dorothy, Ruth, and Emma Jane. George Thomas died suddenly in 1934 at age 48, and was buried in the Thomas family plot at the North Chinchilla Cemetery in Scranton. Today his descendants represent the largest branch of the William H. Thomas family.

Elizabeth Thomas (1888-1957) married John "Jack" Ahearn, and had three children, Eileen, John, and Betty. Her marriage to Jack Ahearn was not a happy one, and their separation meant that Elizabeth had to work to support her family. Because of this, Eileen and Betty spent a lot of time with Elizabeth's sister and brother-in-law Blanche and Wilfred Harris. For years Elizabeth worked for the Hadon Craftsman Company in Scranton. She died in 1957 and is buried in the Thomas family plot in North Chinchilla.

Chester Howard Thomas (1890-1927) worked in the coal mines as a young man, and later became a seaman 2nd class with the U.S. Naval Reserve, serving as a cook in the during the First World War. After the war he returned to Scranton where he worked as a restaurant cook. Chester spent several years in Detroit Michigan, but returned to home to Scranton shortly before his death in 1927. He died from tuberculosis on June 29, 1927 at the West Mountain Sanatorium in Scranton. He was the first family member buried in the Thomas plot in North Chinchilla, and a WWI military stone marks his final resting place. I have always wondered if spending time in the mines as a youth in any way contributed to Chester's early death at age thirty-seven.

Stella Thomas (1894-1895). Although Stella (Estella) is mentioned in the family tree complied by the late Wilfred Harris, little else was known about this member of the family. We know that she died sometime before 1900, because her mother Mary Jane is listed as having lost one child by the time the census for that year was taken, however we had no idea how old Stella was at the time of her death. Then in June of 2007, I finally located her death certificate, (City of Scranton), which tells us that Stella was born in August of 1894 and died 24 Oct 1895 at the age of 14 months. The certificate indicates that she died of bronchitis and was buried in the Washburn Street cemetery. It is not known if a permanent marker ever marked her final resting place. If it did, no such marker exists today.

Hannah Thomas (1896-1964) married David I. Richards and had two sons, William and John. After they were married Hannah and David lived close to Hannah's mother and father in Green Ridge, before moving to Washington D.C. In Washington David secured a government job as a printer, and later helped his brother-in-law Willard Thomas get a job in Washington in the printing industry. Hannah Thomas Richards died in Washington in 1964, and was buried in Abington Hills cemetery in Clark's Summit near Scranton.

Blanche Thomas (1898-1966) married Wilfred J. Harris (1897-1983), and spent most of her life in Scranton. Although Wilfred and Blanche had no children of their own, they stepped in and helped raise sister Elizabeth's children after her separation from Jack Ahearn. Wilfred and Blanche were members of the Green Ridge Baptist Church, where Blanche taught Sunday School for many years. Blanche also gave all the children swimming lessons at her home on the lake, and each child was rewarded with a dollar upon completing her swimming test (including your's truly). Wilfred was very interested in the history of the Thomas family, and later in life he complied the first known genealogy of the descendants of John J. Thomas. His work, in turn, formed the basis for my own research on the Thomas family. Blanche died in 1966, and both she and Wilfred are buried in Shady Lane Cemetery near Scranton in the same plot as Wilfred's parents.

Grace Thomas (1900-1976) never married, and helped care for both her mother and father in their declining years. Like her brother Willard and her brother-in-law Dave Richards, Grace eventually moved to Washington D.C. where she worked in the printing department of the U.S. Civil Service Commission for over 30 years. After retiring she returned to Scranton and lived in a small apartment owned by her brother Jack. Grace cared for both her mother and father in their declining years, and because Grace lived with her parents for so long, certain Thomas family traditions were passed down through her, including the Thomas family recipe for making Welsh cakes. Grace died in Scranton in 1976 and is buried with her brother Jack and his wife Helen in Abington Hills Cemetery in Clark's Summit.

Willard Thomas (1902-1953) my grandfather, married Dorothy Ellen Boorem and had one son, Lee. After the marriage in 1926 Willard and Dorothy lived in Scranton, but later moved to Washington, D.C. after Willard found work at the government printing office. Willard died in a hit-and-run car accident in Washington on July 21, 1953, and was buried in Abington Hills Cemetery. We will cover his life in greater detail in a later chapter.

John Hares "Jack" Thomas (1904-1970) married Helen Seel and eventually settled in Scranton, where he opened his own printing business, the Jack Thomas Printing Company. In 1967 Jack Thomas was named Scranton's "Printing Man of the Year." Jack and Helen had one child, Mary Jane. Late in life Jack purchased a home on Winola road in Clark's Summit, where he lived until his death in 1970. Towards the end of her life, Jack's sister Grace lived in a small apartment on the same property. Jack, Helen, and Grace Thomas are buried in Abington Hills in Clark's Summit.

The census of 1900 gives us our first glimpse of the family of William and Mary Jane Thomas. The census shows that in 1900 the Thomas family were renting a house at 530 Evans Court, just off North Hyde Park Avenue. William is 35 years old, his occupation listed as "Stove Mounter". These were undoubtedly the years William was employed by the Scranton Stove Company, using the skills he learned as an apprentice in his youth (see the 1880 census). Mary Jane is listed as the mother of 6 children, 5 of whom are still living. The 6th child is the aforementioned Stella. Eldest son George (age 13), like his father is listed as a stove mounter, while daughter Elizabeth (age 11) and son Chester (age 10) are listed as "at school". Hannah (age 3) and Blanche (age 1) round out the Thomas family.

The Scranton Stove Manufacturing Company was founded in 1865, the year after William Thomas was born. The company was originally located on West Lackawanna avenue in Hyde Park, but later moved to Dunmore. The business consisted of a foundry building, two fitting, mounting and machine buildings, and two warehouses. William spent much of his adult life working for the Scranton Stove Co. He began as a "stove mounter," moved to the foundry, and later worked for the company as a stationary engineer, before retiring from the company ca. 1934 at age seventy. Some of William's skills as a metal worker can still be seen today. Following the death of his wife Mary Jane, William made a metal flower urn that can still be seen in the Thomas family plot at the North Chinchilla Cemetery.

Having awakened in the latter 1880s, Hyde Park and Scranton saw dramatic changes in the last two decades of the 19th century as the result of modernization. In these decades innovations such as the telephone, paved streets, street cars, and electric lights were becoming common. In fact, by 1900 electricity had largely taken the place of horse-drawn transportation on almost all public lines, which now reached even previously remote parts of the city. Modern offices and commercial structures were erected, including a new City Hall, a new post office, the Albright Library, and a new train station on Lackawanna avenue. The Linden and Spruce street bridges were built, connecting Hyde Park and Scranton, and the Hotel Jermyn became the city's first modern hotel.

The 1900 census reveals that William and Mary Jane Thomas and family were renting a house in Scranton's 4th ward (Hyde Park) located at 530 Evens court, just off North Hyde Park avenue. The family is listed as follows:

Name Relationship Date of Birth Age Marital Status Children born/living Occupation
Thomas, William Head Aug 1864 35 M14   Stove mounter
Mary Jane Wife Apr 1866 34 M14 6/5  
George Son Aug 1886 13 S   Stove mounter
Elizabeth Dau Aug 1888 11 S   at school
Chester Son Apr 1890 10 S   at school
Hannah Dau Aug 1896 3 S    
Blanche Dau Sept 1898 1 S    

The returns indicate that all members of the Thomas family of school age and older could read and write, and that eldest son George at age 13 was already working with his father at the Scranton Stove Company. The 6/5 on Mary Jane's line indicates that she had given birth to six children, but only five were living in 1900, the one deceased child being the aforementioned Stella.

Although the population of Scranton and Hyde Park continued to grow during the next decade, the area suffered a major setback when most of the steel mills quit the city beginning at the turn of the century. Most of the once-thriving mills were dismantled and removed, beginning a period of economic hardship from which the city was never able to fully recover. At about the same time the DL&W Railroad moved its station uptown to the present location. Although this major move created new jobs in the company's car and machine shops, it was not enough to offset the loss of the steel mills.

Below: view of Scranton in the ealry 1900s.

By 1910 William and Mary Jane Thomas had moved from their home on Evans Court to a duplex at 538 N. Hyde Park Ave owned by Mary Jane's mother Elizabeth Morley. Elizabeth and her children Catherine, Daniel, Minnie, and Catherine's husband John MacWilliams and their sons Wainwright (Dutch) and Alvin, lived on the other side of the duplex at 540. By this time all of William and Mary Jane's children had been born and all of them were living with their mother and father with the exception of eldest son George who was already on his own. The 1910 census marks the first appearance for three Thomas children, including my grandfather Willard Thomas, born in 1902. William's occupation is listed as "Engineer / Stationary" and the only other person working is son Chester (age 19) listed as a laborer in the coal mines. Next door Daniel Morley (age 24) is also listed as a laborer in the mines. The census return for the Thomas family is as follows:

Name Relationship Age Marital Status Children born/living Occupation
Thomas, William Head 44 M24   Engineer Stationary
Mary J. Wife 42 M24 10/9  
Elizabeth Dau 21 S    
Chester Son 19 S   Laborer Coal Mines
Hannah Dau 13 S    
Blanche Dau 11 S    
Grace Dau 9 S    
Willard Son 7 S    
John Son 5 S    

Below: The Thomas-Morley home at 538-540 North Hyde Pake Avenue.

In 1920 the Thomas family was still living at their home on 538 North Hyde Park Avenue. The other half of the duplex at 540 had been the home of Mary Jane's mother Elizabeth Williams Hares-Morley and her children, however Elizabeth died in 1915. In the 1920 census 540 is occupied by Elizabeth's children (Mary Jane's half-sisters) Catherine Morley MacWilliams, Minerva Morley, and Catherine's sons Wainwright and Alvin. Inexplicably absent is Catherine's husband John MacWilliams.

Even more interesting is the composition of the Thomas family in the 1920 census, where William, Mary Jane and all of their children are present in the household. While this circumstance creates a neat and compact family record for the researcher, the presence of all of the children raises some questions. By 1920 George, Elizabeth and Hannah were married, yet the returns show that they were living with their mother and father rather than their respective spouses.

The returns list William Thomas as the head of the household, age 43. This is incorrect because William was born in 1864, which makes him 55 in 1920. William's occupation is listed as "Stationary Engineer - Storage House." His wife Mary Jane is listed as 53 years old. Next is George, (age 35), Elizabeth, (age 32), Chester, (age 30), Hannah, (age 24), Blanche, (age 21), Grace, (age 19), Willard, (age 17), and Jack, (age 15). George's occupation is listed as "Foreman - Boiler Company," while Chester is listed as "Cook - Restaurant". Blanche is shown as a "Clerk - Correspondence School," Grace as a "Binder- Book Company," and Willard as a "Clerk" working for the Correspondence School (ICS). Next door Catherine MacWilliams is also listed as a "Binder" for the Correspondence School.

Living just a couple of houses away at 530 North Hyde park Avenue, we find William's brother Hosie Thomas and his wife Elizabeth. Hoise's sons William and Daniel, who were living with their mother and father in the census of 1910, were killed in a mining accident sometime prior to 1920.

This would also be the last return for the Thomas family in Hyde Park, the place William H. Thomas had called home since his birth in 1864, and the place the Thomas family had called home since 1850. Although our next ancestor, Willard Thomas, would remain in Hyde Park, by 1930 William and Mary Jane and most of the family moved.

By 1930 William and Mary Jane Thomas relocated from Hyde Park to the community of Green Ridge, where they purchased a house at 1360 Monsay avenue, and became members of the Green Ridge Baptist Church. It is in Green Ridge that we find the family in the 1930 census.

The returns show that William and Mary Jane were living on Monsay Avenue, and the household included William, (age 63), Mary J., (age 62), daughter Grace, (age 25), and son John (Jack - age 23) and his wife Helen. William's occupation is listed as "Engineer - Stove Works," an indication that he may have still been working for the Scranton Stove Company. Daughter Grace's occupation is listed as "Mailing Room - Correspondence School," while Jack's occupation is given as "Salesman - Roofing Mfg." The returns show that William owned his home which was assigned a value of $8,000.00. This would be the last set of returns in which Mary Jane. Six years later she and her husband would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, however Mary Jane would die the following year in 1937.

Living next to William and Mary Jane on New York Street, was the family of their daughter Hannah and her husband David Richards. The family included David, Hannah, and their sons William T., and John H. (Jack). Dave Richard's occupation is listed as "Pressman - Correspondence School". Finally, living just a few houses away from William and Mary Jane on Monsay Avenue, is their eldest son George Thomas and his large family. This would be George's final census appearance, as he would die in 1934. In 1926 son Willard Thomas married Dorothy Boorem and after their marriage the family rented a house on Dartmouth Street in Hyde Park, where their son Lee was born in 1929.

William and Mary Jane Thomas celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on February 13, 1936. There was a big family party at the couple's home in Green Ridge, the result of which was a marvelous family photograph, featuring practically all of William and Mary Jane's living descendants. At age seventy, William Thomas was the oldest member of the group, while Lee Thomas (my father), was the youngest, at age six. Sadly, almost one year later to the day, the matriarch of the Thomas family was gone.

Mary Jane Hares Thomas died on February 9, 1937 at her home on Monsay avenue. She was ill for some time, and fell into a "uremic coma" several days before her death. She was buried in the Thomas family plot in the North Chinchilla Cemetery, joining her sons Chester and George. Eventually William Thomas placed a metal urn he had made with his own hands near her grave.

In late 1944 William H. Thomas composed his last will and testament, (Page 1 and Page 2) naming his son Jack and daughter Grace as co-executors. In his will, dated October 17, 1940, he leaves $25.00 to the six children of his deceased son George, and an equal share to each of his surviving children, with the exception of Grace, who received a double share "in consideration of services rendered to me and my wife during our lifetime." He also directed that he was to be buried in the family plot in North Chinchilla, with his date of death to be cut on the family stone.

Although William drafted his will in 1940, he still had several years of life remaining. He remained in his home on Monsay avenue until 1944, when failing health forced him to move in with his daughter Grace in Washington D.C. William was almost 80 years old at the time of the move, and since Grace worked, it was difficult for her to care for her father full time. Fortunately, Grace's brother Willard and his wife Dorothy lived nearby, and Dorothy often helped out by staying with her father-in-law while Grace worked. By the time William approached his 83rd birthday in 1947, he had become almost completely dependent, and on one particular evening Dorothy remembers that William's doctor confided in her that her father-in-law was in fact dying.

William Henry Thomas died on April 27, 1947 at the home of his daughter Grace in Washington, D.C. He suffered a massive stroke while in the upstairs bathroom and died soon thereafter. Although his obituary (below) appeared in the Scranton Times the following day, there was no death certificate filed in D.C. William was transported back to Scranton, where he was buried, according to his instructions, in the family plot in the North Chinchilla Cemetery.

WILLIAM H. THOMAS IS DEAD; FUNERAL THURSDAY

Former Scranton Resident Succumbs At His DaughterÂ’s Home at Washington, D.C.

William H. Thomas, eighty-two, formerly of 1360 Monsey Avenue, died at the home of his daughter, Miss Grace Thomas, Washington, D.C., last night following a year's illness. Mr. Thomas was born in West Scranton and had resided there until 1921 when he moved to Green Ridge. He was employed as a stationary engineer by the Scranton Stove Company prior to his retirement fourteen years ago. He had made his home in Washington for the past three years. The deceased was a member of Hyde Park Camp, Patriotic Sons of America, and Green Ridge Baptist Church. Surviving are four daughters, Mrs. Elizabeth Ahearn, this city; Mrs. David I. Richards, Washington; Mrs. Wilfred J. Harris, this city, and Miss Grace (Thomas); two sons, Willard, Washington, and Jack H. Thomas, Clark's Summit a local printer. Funeral services will be held at the Snowdon Funeral Home, 1810 Sanders Avenue, on Thursday afternoon at 2 o'clock. Rev. Alpha Finch will officiate. Burial will be in North Chinchilla Cemetery. Friends may call after 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon.

Some have said that William Thomas was a hard man and a stern father, while others claim that he became hardened following the death of his wife Mary Jane in 1937. Irregardless of my great-grandfather's personality, William and Mary Jane Thomas deserve a great deal of credit for successfully raising a large family through the difficult years of Scranton's economic decline. The record clearly shows that William H. Thomas worked hard at providing a decent living for his wife and children, and today this legacy of success is carried forward by his descendants.

Jeffrey L. Thomas
Updated September 2003
jltbalt1@verizon.net

Below: Photograph of the William H. Thomas family taken at the 50th wedding anniversary party of William and Mary Jane (center). Click here, or on the photograph for a larger version of the photo that includes a list of other family members depicted.

 

The Thomas family plot, North Chinchilla Cemetery

Although the first and most of the second generation Thomas family members are buried in the Washburn Street Cemetery, William Henry Thomas chose the smaller North Chinchilla Cemetery for his family plot. Today the Thomas family plot in Chinchilla includes William, his wife Mary Jane, their children George, Elizabeth, Chester, and Elizabeth's daughter Eileen.

General view of the Thomas family plot in the North Chinchilla Cemetery
Grave of William H. Thomas (1864-1947) and his wife Mary Jane Hares (1866-1937)
Grave of George W. Thomas (1886-1934)
Grave of Elizabeth Thomas Ahearn (1888-1957)
Grave of Chester H. Thomas (1890-1937)

 

Additional family information

Last Will and Testament of William H. Thomas, Page 1 and Page 2
Obituary of William H. Thomas
Obituaries for some of William & Mary Jane's children
Go back a generation to William's father, John J. Thomas
Return to the main page at the Thomas Family Web Site

 

Web site copyright ©2004 by Jeffrey L. Thomas, with all rights reserved
e-mail: jltbalt1@verizon.net