Biography - William Thomas

WILLIAM HENRY THOMAS, a resident of Vienna, and County Clerk of Johnson County, is one of the veterans of the Civil War, in which he took part when he was but a mere youth, and throughout his entire career he has honored the citizenship of this his native county both in public and in private life. He was born October 28, 1845, in Simpson Precinct, of which his father, Washington G. Thomas, was an early settler.
Washington Thomas was born in Tennessee, and was a son of Henry Thomas, who was also a native of that State, coming from its earliest pioneer families. He was a farmer by occupation, and in time he too became a pioneer, coming to Illinois in 1832, making the journey with teams, and at first locating in the wilderness in what is now Burnside Precinct. A few years later he removed to Simpson Precinct, where he bought land, which in time he developed into a good farm. At the outbreak of the War, our subject's grandfather, Henry Thomas, was still living on the old homestead, but his patriotism was aroused at his country's peril, and he left his comforts and all that he held dear to give his services to the Government. He went to Peoria and joined the Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry. The infirmities of age were upon him, however, and he was soon discharged on account of disability. He returned to Johnson County and died here in 1885, full of years.
The father of our subject was thirteen years old when he came to Illinois with his parents. He grew to a stalwart manhood amid pioneer surroundings, and in due time took unto himself a wife in the person of Mary Simpson, a native of Johnson County and a daughter of William Simpson, one of its pioneers. Mr. Thomas took up a tract of Government land in Simpson Township, and built thereon the log house in which his son, our subject, was born. He improved his land, and made it his dwelling-place until the time of the war, when he sold it, and bought another tract of land in the same township, which he still makes his home.
He of whom we write is one of seven children. He was given excellent advantages for obtaining a sound education, of which he laid the basis in the district school, and he subsequently attended the Southern Illinois College, at Carbondale. The same spirit of loyal devotion to his country that had animated his grandfather found ready echo in the heart of our subject, and, though he was scarcely eighteen years of age, he too volunteered to assist his fellow-countrymen in suppressing the rebellion, and on the 9th of December, 1863, his name was enrolled as a member of Company G, Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry. He served steadfastly until after the close of the war, his regiment for the most part being on duty in Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia, and his career as a soldier reflected credit on his native State. He was honorably discharged in July, 1865.
Returning to his old home after he left the army, Mr. Thomas soon began to utilize his education b}' teaching, and was engaged in that profession during the winter seasons for six years, occupying himself the rest of the year in farming. After marriage he bought a farm in Simpson Township, which he sold three years later in order that he might devote himself to mercantile pursuits, which he followed at Sanburn four years. He then resumed his former occupation, buying a farm in Bloomfield Township, which he carried on successfully until he sold it in 1891, at the same time buying another in the same township.
Mr. Thomas is well fitted both by native ability and education for public office, and his fellow-citizens have often called him to fill responsible positions. He held the offices of Township Clerk and Township Treasurer and Justice of the Peace in his native township; and in Bloomfield Township he has been Justice of the Peace and School Director. In 1890 he was elected Clerk of Johnson County, and in this position has won a high reputation for efficiency, and is accounted one of our best officials. Our subject's war record is commemorated by his connection with the Grand Array of the Republic as a member of Vienna Post No. 221. Religiously, he is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to which his wife also belongs. In politics, he was a Republican for many years, but he is now identified with the People's party.
Mr. Thomas was married in 1870 to Miss Martha Adaline, daughter of William R. and Sidney Amanda (Waters) Whiteside, and a native of Pope County. They have a pleasant home abounding in comfort and cheery hospitality, and seven children have blessed their union: Charlie E., Willard G., Orpha B., Fred, Louis F., Lilian May and Birdie.

Extracted 17 Apr 2016 from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 160-161.

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