Welcome to Tampico, Illinois
Washington Thomas

Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall & Putnam Counties, IL
Originally Published 1896
S. J. Clarke Pub. Co.
Chicago, IL
Reproduced on CD

Transcribed by: Denise McLoughlin
Tampico Area Historical Society

Pages 623-625

Washington Thomas. The fine farm on section 5, Gold township, belonging to this gentleman, is conspicuous for the manner in which it has been improved and cultivated, and is evidently the homestead of one of the most enterprising men of Bureau county. He not only successfully engages in general farming, but is also an extensive breeder of polled angus cattle. He was born in Steuben county, New York, November 3, 1825, a son of James Crawford and Independence Jane (Armstrong) Thomas, both natives of Pennsylvania, where their marriage was celebrated. Later they removed to the empire state. The father, who was a contractor and builder, met his death in Allegany county. New York, while erecting a church. In trying to place the bell a stick of timer fell upone him, killing him instantly.

Our subject was but four years of age at the time of his father's death, and soon afterward went to live with his paternal step-grandfather, where he remained a short time. Later he made his home with various persons, and at a very early age began the battle oflife for himself, his first employment being on the Erie canal, where he rode a horse on the towpath. In that way he earned his living for a few years, and later for a number of years was with an extensive lumberman of Allegany county, New York. He learned to read and write at school, which he attended a little more than a year, but took up the study of arithmetic alone, doing most of his examples on a lumber pile.

On the 2nd of July, 1848, Mr. Thomas led to the marriage altar Miss Sarah Bennett, of Allegany county, who was born in the parish of Stoak, Dorsetshire, England, and when two years of age was brought to the United States by her parents, William and Ann (Serely) Bennett. Three children graced this union, as follows: William J., born at Millington, La Salle county, Illinois, in 1854 was provided with a good common school education, and is now married and living at Thomas, in Fairfield township, Bureau county, where he is serving as postmaster and is engaged in merchandising. He has three sons. John York, born in 1858, in Yorkville, Kendall County, Illinois, is now a farmer of Gold township, and by his marriage has two daughters, Ann, also a native of Yorkville, is the wife of Byron Hogeboom, of Rock Falls, Whiteside county, Illinois, by whom she has a son and daughter.

Soon after his marriage, Mr. Thomas emigrated to Dane county, Wisconsin, where he remained but a short time as he could find no employment, and from there drove to La Salle county, Illinois, locating at Asbury. He engaged to work for a preacher at eight dollars per month, but never received his wages, and had to pay seventy-five cents per week for his wife's board. For one year he successfully operated a stone quarry on shares, but in the fall of 1849 returned to New York, where he remained a little over a year, and then again took charge of the stone quarry in La Salle county. In 1853 he embarked in the butchering business, furnishing meat by contract to the hands employed on the construction of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad. In 1856 he removed to Yorkville, the county seat of Kendall county, where he followed the butchering business until 1870, often dressing as high as two thousand hogs in the winter season, which he would ship to Boston, Chicago and other markets. This proved a profitable business, though he often lost as much as five thousand dollars per week, and at other times he would make ten thousand dollars in a single day.

In Yorkville, Mr. Thomas invested extensively in real estate, and at one time owned five different farms in Iowa. In 1866 he purchased one hundred and sixty acres in Gold township, Bureau county, a part of his present farm, which at that time was still in its primitive condition, the only improvement being a rude house. Here his family removed in 1872, and for a time he engaged in dealing in stock at Tampico. He added to his original purchase from time to time, buying swamp land from the swamp commissioners, which he has transformed into a highly productive tract, and now owns a valuable farm of five hundred acres. He also has three hundred and twenty acres of good land in Rawlins county, Kansas.

Mr. Thomas has also dealt extensively in land in Bureau county, and sold a tract to the first Swede who settled in this vicinity. There are now so many of that nationality in the community that they have two established churches. It was through the influence of our subject that the post office of Thomas was established, and unknown to him it was named in his honor. He secured the post office route from New Bedford to Yorktown by way of that place where an intermediate office was established. He suggested the name of Lands End, but as the people wished a simpler name, they objected and he then suggested the name of Granger. But as that was the name of the poorest generals in the union army, it was also rejected, and unknown to our subject, the office was named Thomas. Mr. Thomas also had the post office started at Yorkville, which cost him two hundred and forty dollars. On coming to the county there had been no road laid out to his place and he had to buy a road across two and a half acres. The changes that have since taken place have been wonderful and rapid, and in the transformation of this section of the county he has borne an important part, reclaiming many acres which for years were considered useless.

Politically, Mr. Thomas is one of the most reliable members of the democratic party, and cast his first vote for James Buchanan, but in 1860 and 1864 supported Lincoln for the presidency. He has served as a delegate to the various conventions of his party, and has most creditably filled the offices of pathmaster, school director, school trustee and supervisor of gold township for two terms, at the end of which time he refused to serve longer. He also refused to run for sheriff, and was elected to the office of justice of the peace, bu would not qualify. He holds membership inYorktown lodge, No. 365, F. & A. M., at Tampico, which he joined in 1871. He has taken a lively interest in matters pertaining to the progress and development of his adoptied country, is one of its most public-spirited and enterprising citizens, and no man within its borders is more widely or favorably known than Washington Thomas.

TAMPICO AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY - MUSEUM - FAMILY HISTORY LIBRARY/RESEARCH CENTER  119 Main St., P. O. Box 154,  Tampico, IL  61283   www.tampicohistoricalsociety.com   tampicohistoricalsociety@gmail.com  President Joan Johnson, 815-438-7581 or garyjoan@thewisp.net  Family History Coordinator, Denise McLoughlin 815-718-3617. We are an all-volunteer organization so your donations are always appreciated!  Sign up to receive our e-newsletter. Thank you!  Visit us on FACEBOOK, too.