Biography - James Thomas

JAMES THOMAS. While it is not to be denied that a man is not only the architect of his own fortune, but also the molder and former of his own character, it is nevertheless true that nationality is a mighty factor in the inherent traits and qualities which a man must cultivate or modify. The warm, impulsive races of the South need to tone and strengthen their natural traits by strong principles to which they should unflinchingly adhere. And while the nations of the North are conspicuous for the sturdy integrity of its peoples, their natural sobriety of temperament should be warmed and lighted by the geniality and affability borrowed from the Southern natures.

Our subject is descended from a nation noted for strength of character and intellectual depth. The Thomas family are of Scotch and Welsh ancestry. The grandfather of our subject, Joseph Thomas Sr., was born in Scotland. He came to this country after his marriage to a lady whom it seems was of Welsh parentage. Their first settlement in this country was made in the State of Kentucky and there Joseph Thomas, the father of our subject, was born. He was about fourteen years of age when the family left Kentucky, and crossing the Ohio River located in Knox County, Ind., and here the senior Joseph Thomas and wife spent their last years, being old people at the time of their death. It was in Knox County, Ind., that Joseph Thomas, Jr., grew to manhood, reaching his majority in his adopted state. He there married his wife. The lady's maiden name was Mary Chambers. She also was a descendant of a Welsh family who, after the birth of part of their children, settled in Knox County, Ind. After marriage Joseph Thomas and wife removed to Sullivan County when it was new and unbroken. There they preempted a tract of Government land upon which they lived and placed valuable improvements. After a number of years the wife and mother died having attained quite advanced years. Her death took place in Sullivan County. Our subject's father, Joseph Thomas, then came to Illinois and spent his last years in Shelby County. He was ninety years of age when his death occurred. Both he and his wife were attendants on the Baptist Church, of which Mrs. Thomas was a member for long years before her death. They were pioneers well known for their kindliness and hospitality. They located in Sullivan County, Ind., in the wilds and were surrounded by Indians. Game could be gotten in abundance.

The original of our sketch is the youngest of fourteen children, there being seven sons and seven daughters. Two of these died while quite young. The other twelve children grew to manhood and womanhood, all marrying and rearing families, with the exception of two sisters. All of the brothers and sisters are now deceased excepting our subject and two other brothers, Calvin and Alexander. The former is a farmer in this township. The latter a farmer in Jasper County, Mo.

Our subject was born in Sullivan County, Ind., August 24, 1834. Here he became of age and later removed to this State and was married in Pickaway Township, this county. His wife's maiden name was Malvina Casey. She is a native of Pickaway Township where she was born August 23, 1840. She is a daughter of John and Nancy (Denton) Casey, natives of Kentucky, where Mr. Casey was born in 1813. They were yet young when Mr. and Mrs. Casey came with their parents to this State settling Pickaway Township, Shelby County, when the place was new and unbroken. They purchased a tract of Government land and devoted themselves to improving a farm, but after some years left this place and went to Shelbyville. There the parents of Mrs. Thomas died, aged respectively seventy-two and sixty-eight years. Mr. Casey was a Democrat in politics. For one year he was a member of the State Legislature, sent from Shelby County, and was then elected County Judge, which place he filled for several years. He was also a member of the Board of Supervisors for several terms and Justice of the Peace for many years. He served through the Mexican War as Orderly Sergeant of his company, and saw some hot fire from both sides. He was known in the county as an active worker in the political cause, whether local or national. He had by a former marriage to the one we have mentioned, one child, Jemima. The mother was Mahala Jackson, who died at her child's birth. This daughter is still living.

Mrs. Thomas is the eldest but one of a family of twelve children. Only four, however, are still living. Our subject's wife was reared to womanhood in Pickaway Township, this county. She is an intelligent woman who has been the star of encouragement to her husband in all his undertakings. She and her husband are prominent members of the Baptist Church, of which body Mr. Thomas has been a Deacon for a number of years past. Politically our subject is a Democrat, as was his father who was a soldier in the War of 1812, and who fought with Gen. Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe.

He of whom we write and his amiable lady, are the parents of eight children, four of whom are deceased, namely, Halie, and three others who died in infancy. The living children are William R., Mary J., Nancy J. and Clara A. William is his father's able assistant in running the farm and is a promising young man who is highly respected throughout the vicinity. All of the children are intelligent and well educated. Since marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas have lived on their beautiful farm located on section 24, of Flat Branch Township. Here he owns three hundred and twenty acres which is all under cultivation with the exception of ten acres. The place boasts the finest improvements, and a good class of buildings, and the owners are proud of the fact that they have earned all that they possess by their own industry and foresight.

Extracted 27 Sep 2020 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 705-706.

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