Portrait and Biographical Record of
Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania,
Chapman Publishing Co., New York, 1897.
Although the subject of this sketch was a native of Pontypool in Monmouthshire, it is included here in our Brynmawr-Scranton connection section because his father was from Nantyglo, an industrial community only a mile from and sharing much in common with Brynmawr. The essay is also interesting because the first paragraph reminds us that those who crossed the ocean to America did not always keep in touch with family left behind in Wales. As a point of reference, it should also be noted that Minooka, in Lackawanna County, Pa., is a community just south of Scranton and is a part of what could be called greater Scranton.
William Thomas (page 407)
William Thomas, a master mechanic for William Connell & Co., at No. 1914 Cedar Avenue, Scranton, was born in Pontypool, Monmouthshire, South Wales, May 24, 1836, the son of John and Jane (James) Thomas, natives of Nant-y-glo, Glamorganshire, and Pontypool, Monmouthshire, respectively. His paternal grandfather, William Thomas, who was a superintendent of furnace, crossed the ocean at the age of ninety-one and until his death five years later made his home with his daughter, Mrs. Margaret Davis, who has settled at Merion Station, Montgomery County, Pa., about 1840. Our subject came to this country in June, 1865, but did not know the exact whereabouts of his relatives, and failed to find them until twenty years afterward.
The active life of John Thomas was principally passed as a master moulder in Pen Twyn, Monmouthshire, England, and he died in 1848, at the age of about forty years. His wife, who was a daughter of William James, a collier of Pontypool, joined her children in America and died at Minooka, when seventy-four years old. Of her five children, three attained years of maturity: William; Mrs. Margaret Thomas of Minooka; and Mrs. Catherine Seal, of Rendham, this county. The childhood years of our subject were passed in Pontypool until he was nine years of age, when in 1845, he accompanied his father to Rouen, France, and remained there and in Le Havre de Grace until the Revolution of 1848. In the fall of the same year his father died at Watford near London, where he had been employed as a master moulder.
The poverty of the family obliged our subject to begin to earn his livelihood at a very early age, and for six years he was engaged as a workman in machine shops, where he learned the engineer's trade. In 1865 he took passage on the steamer, "Kangaroo," at Liverpool and arrived in New York after a voyage of fourteen days, proceeding from there to Danville, Montour County, Pa. After a year there, in 1866 he went to Minooka as an employee of Hon. William Connell, with whom he has since remained. For four days he was a laborer in the old Stafford mines and was there noticed by Mr. Connell, who said he had a more responsible position for an engineer and so gave him employment in that capacity at the National mines. Soon he was promoted to be outside foreman in the Stafford mines, afterward was made locomotive engineer between the Meadow Brook and National, and in 1887 became master mechanic, with entire charge of construction. He now resides at the William Connell homestead in Minooka.
In Glamorganshire Mr. Thomas married Miss Mary A. Sullivan, who was born in Rhymney, Wales. Her father, Jeremiah Sullivan, a native of Ireland and a mechanic by trade, came to America and spent his last days in Minooka, where he and his wife died. Of ten children of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas, the following are living: Mrs. Maggie Keuster of Minooka; James, who is with William Connell & Co.; Mrs. Nellie Hewitt, of Scranton; Harry, also with William Connell & Co.; Gertie; William, Jr.; and Maude, at home. Mary J., wife of John R. Wilson, died in Minooka.
A Republican in politics, Mr. Thomas has served on standing county committees very frequently and has been delegate to county, district and state conventions. For three years he was school director in Lackawanna Township and served as secretary of the board most of that time. In Taylor he was past chancellor of the Knights of Pythias and past noble grand of Taylor Lodge No. 668, I. O. O. F., past officer in the encampment of Hyde Park, and past officer of the Order of Foresters, but retains his connection only with the Odd Fellows.
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