History of Wayne County Indiana -1872 …a son of John Thomas, from South Carolina to New Garden in 1811. He not only encountered the unavoidable hardships of pioneer life in general, and among others, that of going on horseback thirty miles to get bread-stuff, but was obliged, with others, to flee for safety during the Indian troubles. Notwithstanding his fear of attacks from Indians, he held his peace principles too dear not to be preserved at any hazard, even of life. He took his lock from his gun, and hid the gun at a distance from his house, lest, in case of an attack, he might be tempted to harm the Indians. …He was liberal and charitable; and was during his life a member of the society of Friends.
Francis returned with his parents to Piney Grove Meeting along the NC/SC border following time spent in Guilford County during the Revolutionary War. Francis requested transfer to the Great Contentnea Monthly Meeting in Wayne County North Carolina where in 1807 he married Lydia Woodard and took up a life as farmer. Eventually being honored as the father of the Indiana Yearly Conference, the following was said many years later in memoriam: [while in Wayne County NC] “Francis was visited by an aged Quaker minister named Abel Thomas. After staying the night, the minister got up early and took a walk over the farm. When he returned, he told his host that he had an impression from the Lord, that it would be right for him to sell the farm and move to the territory of Indiana.”
By way of recent contact after seeing this post, a friend of this family has passed on to me a copy of the original land grant Francis Thomas received in 1835. I can imagine the document in his hands and of its journey ending up on this page. Thank you to those who appreciate and share our history.
Beginning in the summer of 1811, Francis, his parents, and family moved to Richmond Indiana where they were received into membership at Whitewater Monthly Meeting. Also, removing to the same area was Thomas Willcutts and the family Francis’ late uncle James. Shortly upon getting settled, Stephen’s father John died and is buried at nearby New Garden Meeting where most of the family attended. Note that Wayne County Indiana got its name from the Quakers in Wayne County, North Carolina. And, New Garden Meeting (located in Newport, now Fountain City about 10 miles north of Richmond) was named for New Garden meeting in Guilford County North Carolina.
I remember calling and arranging to meet the Quaker minister at New Garden Meeting. I drove up from North Carolina in torrential rains that began to subside as I reached my destination. The minister did not make it as he was only helping in interim as the congregation was in decline and the church was without a regular minister. I instead was gladly met by the piano player who had served the church for many years. She gave me a program, told of old traditions including how in the olden days, men and women sat on opposite sides of the little church and the minister did not offer sermons as such. Instead, each and all were called to speak as so moved by God.
Seeking more, I was led to a tiny corner room that served as library. Musty and damp, opening the door we were greeted with water running down the walls and over the few shelves filled with books. As it’s likely they would not survive much longer, my guide told me to please take any books I believed may pertain to my family. It was her concern, and mine, to get the books to a safe home where they would be loved and cared for. Thinking I had found the holy grail of all Thomas history, I later realized that the one catching my attention was actually an ancient leather bound book titled “ A Journal of the Life and Times of Thomas Story.” I also was given Clarkson and Sarah Jane Thomas’ Union Bible. My immediate family knows why I would choose this book. That’s all! After learning that I am not blood kin to this family, I’ve tried repeatedly to get the books back to the rightful families.
I spent the next week in the area scouring through books at Earlham School of Religion (a Quaker College) and taking in the sites. I toured the home of Levi Coffin, father of the Underground Railroad. It was there I overheard who I believe to be some of his descendants in deep discussion about a possible movie. Apparently, Levi and wife separated and ultimately divorced due to his work and being away from home. The church ordered a period of separation during which time Levi’s wife became pregnant. At a time when National Geographic’s had just completed an amazing article on Levi Coffin, a believed descendant of this child was apparently preparing to make a movie from the child’s viewpoint.
I’d like to tell more about my trip and of the story of this Thomas family. It’s an amazing place, a vacation for the soul, and trip I’ll always hold dear. After leaving Fountain City I traveled across Indiana to the town of Paoli where John’s brother Lewis settled and died. That story will be next, but for now, I’d like to end with a slideshow of images followed by a few excerpts from a memorial: “Incidents in the Life of JOHN THOMAS in connection with the Underground Railroad, as remembered by his sons.”
From the Memorial of John Thomas published in 1913
“When the escaping slaves came to the Thomas farm they would be hidden in the field during the day and their meals furnished them. They traveled mostly in the fall when the weather was warm and sometimes they would live on roasting ears which they cook themselves …father had a rigid rule that no fleeing negro would be permitted to tell his name, or whence he came, or how his master had treated him before his escape. The purpose of this rule was that his own conscience might be clear so that should a slave owner arrive and inquire about the escaped slave, he could truthfully say he did not know ….Luke remembers one morning when he was a boy, he got up in the morning as usual and when he came down stairs to put his boots he discovered that the whole room was full of negroes, the escaping crowd being made up of men, women, and children. It was on a New Year’s morning when the party had arrived in the night from another station.”
Stephen Thomas is my direct family line. I am so delighted to see the pictures of Francis Thomas and John Thomas and all the family photos and information. I am directly related to them – my 3 and 4 great grandfathers. My great great grandfather, John Thomas of Sandcreek, Bartholomew Co., Indiana had a station for the Underground Railroad at his home there. My great grandfather was Clarkson Thomas, my grandfather Wm. Leroy Thomas, and my father Richard Thomas. I would love to see and know more and to add anything I can.
Connie, in the late 1990’s I drove from NC to IN to lay my eyes on these things thinking it was my family. Records and now DNA have disproved that possibility. I’ve posted most of what I have other than a few stories I was told while there. I have Clarkson’s study bible and would like to get that back to a safe place such as Earlham College.
Thank you for replying to me. Have you tried writing to Earlham College to mail the Bible back to them? I live in Alaska where I came to homestead in 1972 (guess it’s in my blood!) and can’t be of much help delivering it. I downloaded the picture of Sarah Thomas, Clarkson’s wife, and I have one of the original memorial booklets for John Thomas written by his sons. The old leather bound book about Thomas Story is on archive.org so I can read it there; it is a real treasure, for sure. Was there still an active Quaker community in Fountain City at that time?
The land grant shown above is part of an estate I am helping settle. We have listed it on Ebay starting bid is only $40. This link should take you there if interested,
https://www.ebay.com/itm/President-Andrew-Jackson-Indiana-Land-Grant/123016826078 if it doesn’t please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi! I am a newbie when it comes to genealogy but do believe I am in the direct line of William (Ram Billy) Thomas, son of Stephen Thomas, through William’s son John William Thomas. John is in William’s will as a son, so there is no issue there, but records for John (in Anson) are hard to come by. I have just today contacted the historical society there to see if I could get information some way, if they have any such information available. Unfortunately I cannot attend the places to investigate, as you have, as I now live in Canada. I am trying to join DAR as I have another ancient grandfather who served in the revolution, but William Thomas is accepted as a patriot by DAR so I was hoping to use his service to join. I am unable to find records of John William Thomas’ marriage and other events, but do have some info (censuses etc) which are not enough really to prove to DAR my lineage. I actually have A LOT of family linked up to NC beginning around the 1720s. Ancestry.com has limited documentary resources and there is a lot of misinformation from people who dont know what they are doing (linking up completely wrong people as family members.) Do you have any suggestions for online research. I am going to do the ancestry.com DNA test but they are really giving me a problem about ordering a DNA test on my account and having it shipped to Canada. Makes no sense. (I have already done 23 and me, but that doesnt tell me anything helpful really.) Sorry for the long message but I can see you really have a lot of knowledge and I could use some guidance. The John William Thomas I believe I am related to is: Birth 1769 • Anson, North Carolina, USA; Death 9 FEB 1853 • Burial: Helms Cemetery, Barbour, Alabama.
If you can provide any guidance or online resources I would be extremely grateful.
Alicia, I think you’ve got a mistake in the thinking. William “Ram Billy” Thomas the senior had a son William who also served in the war. Junior went by the tag “silver heels” because he was shot in the foot during the war. I have no idea where those two terms come from! William Senior also had a son John who moved to Montgomery/Stewart Counties TN. Records in relation to the estate division for William Senior mentions John in TN. So, it’s not possible for William Senior to also have a son named John William Thomas who lived in western Anson on the Mecklenburg County line. So, that John William is not the son of William Senior.
But, your in luck! John William in western Anson descends from John Thomas who was earlier in Chatham County NC. There are good deeds for him there though nothing prior. That John, John Thomas of Chatham County, petitioned the state for benefits for his service in the war. It’s a clear shot. I wrote up the info at the following: http://www.angelfire.com/nc/benjthomasofansonnc/jwthomas.html also, many years ago I put together the following on my website: http://www.angelfire.com/nc/benjthomasofansonnc/jw.html
Now, if this works for you, which I think it will …I’d like to ask a favor. My Benjamin Thomas line was also once believed to be from William Senior’s family. He’s not. Instead, my Benjamin ties to a large group of Thomas who were also in Chatham earlier. We’ve done the Y DNA tests for male lineages. Would love it if you knew of a male Thomas who would be willing to be tested. BTW, know there are a few from your John William who have been tested and their DNA is widely different that that from William Senior. In that there’s no doubt.
Do you happen to know who the parents of his grand-daughter-in-law, Luzena Johnson Thomas, are? Or how I could find out. Trying to piece together my family tree and I’m stuck with her. (She married Jeremiah M. Thomas, Francis’ grandson).
Thank you for the response but don’t think I can help you further. This was long believed to be a line of my family but in doing research I discovered records that my Benjamin Thomas of Anson is not the same as John’s brother. john’s brother Benjamin moved to Tennessee and then to Alabama. That said, in learning of this, I stopped my research of [your] family and of those who moved to Indiana. I’d suggest contacting folks at Earlham College in Richmond Indiana, I’m not sure what direction your Jeremiah went in life. Wish I could be of help.
I looked up Luzena Johnson on Familysearch and it said her mother was Ruth Moody and father William Johnson, born in Spiceland, Henry Co., IN, 1844 and children Rhoda Emma and Oscar Evart. Does that give you something to proceed with?
Thanks! .. I remember driving through Spiceland on my way from Fountain City to the archives in Indianapolis. It was early summer and tornadic storms were rolling in from the Mississippi.
Yes! Thank you. Rhoda Emma Thomas is my great-great grandmother. I remember my grandpa talking about her all the time!! Crazy that this family was part of the Underground Railroad. I know am attorney in NC and work with victims of forced labor. Really getting back to my roots!