Quakers were among the earliest from North Carolina to make the move to Indiana. It’s there where in 1813 they built a church called the Lick Creek Monthly Meeting. Fleeing the institution of slavery in North Carolina, this group of Quakers formed a new seat of government in Indiana they named Orange after the county they left behind.
Not all the settlers of this new land in Indiana came from Orange County North Carolina. Also making the move were Quakers who had attended the Piney Grove Meeting located along the North and South Carolina border in present day Richmond County, North Carolina.
It is in the Piney Grove community where at first I believed my Thomas family once lived and worshipped. However, years of research covering many miles of landscape proved that belief to be in error. I’ve written about this “Other Family” …of Robert, William, Tristram, John, James, and Benjamin Thomas. Some of these brothers were large slave owners and their uncle Philemon of Marlboro County SC even owned slaves in the number of hundreds. Led by an opposing viewpoint, brothers John, Lewis, and the children of James made abolition a profession of their faith. In doing so, they removed to Indiana where the families were instrumental in the Underground Railroad.
Most of the Quakers in this Thomas family moved to New Garden Meeting in what’s now Wayne County Indiana. Francis Thomas among them is recognized as father of the Quaker’s Indiana Yearly Conference. In writing about these people, I’ve intentionally left out mention of Lewis Thomas who was also Quaker and who also made the move. There was something about him and where he lived that I was not yet ready to discuss. So here we go. Unlike his brothers, for some reason, Lewis separated himself from the family and chose to settle at Lick Creek located in Orange County near the Kentucky state line.
Around the year 2000, I made the trip to Indiana, driving through the densely wooded Hoosier National Forest to reach the lands of Lewis Thomas. My visit started with a drive through Paoli, the county seat. It was a sunny summer morning, the grass was richly green and the court house grounds were draped in red, white, and blue in preparation for an outdoor festival. Booths were filled with crafts, streets were lined with vendors, and the air filled with the sound of check-check-check in preparation for a scheduled concert on the court house lawn. As it turns out my timing was sadly in vain as the courthouse offices were closed in observance of a federal holiday. I would have really enjoyed a full day or more in the area though more stops to the north beckoned.
Now some 18 years later, I’ve come across very interesting connections binding my Thomas family here in North Carolina to other families who journeyed to Indiana. The connections do not relate to Lewis Thomas and “the others” per say, but maybe in some way they do. At this point I just don’t know.
It’s interesting back in North Carolina that from the county of Orange sprung Chatham where also flows a waterway by the name of Lick Creek. My story is a based on the lands near this Lick Creek in North Carolina where once lived a person named Joseph Thomas.
It is a different kind of story, one that’s very much different from the dialogue I grew up believing. And for the record, Joseph Thomas of Chatham County, North Carolina, is considered to be racially white as is supported in DNA and public record.
Let’s set the stage with a little background on the Quaker named Lewis Thomas, head of the other Thomas family who settled in Orange County, Indiana.
The son of Stephen Thomas, Lewis Thomas was born in Talbot County Maryland on 10 May 1750. His family removed to North Carolina shortly after his mother’s death. Per sale of his estate, Lewis’ father Stephen died in Anson County prior to Aug 1774. And soon after, Lewis Thomas married Agnes Breeden as their first child was born in Nov 1775.
Lewis Thomas acquired land along Jones Creek on the west side of the Pee Dee before moving a bit east where he received a land grant west of Gum Swamp along Bear Creek. This location was nearer to his older brothers John, James and Benjamin and was also close to Piney Grove, a meeting house for the Society of Friends known as Quakers.
During the American Revolutionary War, many Quakers removed themselves from their rural preparatory meetings. At that time, and in search of security both in terms of safety and practices of faith, Lewis Thomas moved west to be nearer the mother church.
Dated 16 Aug 1783, at the height of the southern campaign, Lewis bought 172 acres on the Reedy Fork of the Haw River in present day Guilford County. The family attended nearby Deep River Preparatory.
Following the war, in 1787 the family sold the land and returned south of Piney Grove Meeting where Lewis Thomas, a carpenter of Marlborough County SC, purchased land east of the Pee Dee River. And then in 1815, Lewis and others from Piney Grove sold out and moved to now Orange County, Indiana, where they were granted certificate to Lick Creek Monthly Meeting. Again the move was made in search of security but this time was due to the growing intolerance of slavery. I’ve learned little further on Lewis Thomas other than the realization that Lick Creek served as a southern gateway for the famed Underground Railroad. Nested in the densely wooded hills of southern Indiana, the meeting house was in close proximity to the slave taking state of Kentucky.
On the “third day of the fourth month 1826,” Lewis Thomas penned his last will and testament:
Will Record 1
Orange County, Indiana
pages 37 & 38
LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF LEWIS THOMAS
Whereas I Lewis Thomas of the County of Orange and State of Indiana being of sound and disposing mind and memory do make and ordain this my Last Will and Testament in the manner and form following:
It is my will that all my just debts be paid
And first I give and bequeath unto my beloved wife, Agnes, a tract of land where I now live including the house and plantation and I also give unto my beloved wife all my stock and farming utensils, also one bed and beding and such part of the kitchen furniture as shall not be hereafter be otherwise disposed of during her natural life.
It is also my will that my son, Tildan, have all my stock, farming utensils, bed furniture, etc., that is all the portion of my wife at her decease. I also will and bequeath unto my daughter, Ruth Ann, Cow and calf, five head of sheep, two feather beds and furniture, one bureau, six puter plates, one iron pot. I also give unto my son, Lewis, the tract of land I now live on containing eighty eight acres including the above mentioned part at the decease of my wife. I give unto my son Joseph, one dollar, to my son, Stephen, I give one dollar, to Burral Graham, I give one dollar, to Charles Baucham one dollar, to John Baucham one dollar, to Eli Moris one dollar, James Atkinson, one dollar, to William Trueblood one dollar and to Danile Lambdin I give one dollar.
And Lastly I ordain constitute and appoint my truly and well beloved friends Shadrach Ditto and Tildan Thomas, joint executors of this my Last Will and Testament utterly disallowing and revoking all other wills by me made or intended, ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last Will and Testament.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this third day of the fourth month in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty six.
(Seal) Lewis Thomas
Test: Thomas Atkinson
Some of the children of Lewis Thomas remained in the area while most scattered north and west to other meetings nearer to the new state of Illinois.
As for my trip to Indiana, I remember the county seat of Paoli and of driving east a few miles on Hwy 150 through wooded forests to where I found the Lick Creek Meeting House. Actually being the third built of three churches with that name, the Lick Creek Meeting House that I saw was small and old. Its graveyard mostly represented families of the 1800’s.