Jonathan Thomas.On Aug. 19, 1910, there passed to life eternal one of Topeka's most notable citizens, Jonathan Thomas, who for nearly forty years had held a position among the most honored and influential business men of that city and as one of its most successful men of affairs. He was born at Lumberville, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, March 20, 1841, a son of Lukens Thomas and Ann Conrad, birthright members of the Friends Society, in the faith of which their son was born and reared. The distinctive force of this heredity appeared throughout the life of Mr. Thomas, in his following of personal conviction, his sound and clear judgment, his capacity for large and liberal views, and his ingrained benevolence of spirit. He was educated in Philadelphia. The patriotism of Jonathan Thomas, like his other characteristics, had an intensity that belonged to his nature and was exhibited to all interests that appealed to his mind. Believing that the Union cause was right and that it was his duty to support it, he disregarded the traditions of his Quaker parentage, though he offended his family thereby, and enlisted in the Union army. He served throughout the four years of the Civil war and rose to the rank of quartermaster. Two years after the close of that conflict, May 28, 1867, he was united in marriage, near Centerville, Ind., to Miss Josephine Brooks, and the following year removed to Illinois, where he engaged in the lumber business. Early in the '70s he came to Kansas and became a cattleman, but shortly returned to the lumber business at Topeka, in partnership with his brother, R. Thomas. The firm was successful from the first, and at the time of his death Mr. Thomas was the head of the J. Thomas Lumber Company, owner of the lumber yards at Topeka, North Topeka, Silver Lake, Wakarusa, Berryton, Rossville, Meriden, Delia, Perry, Hartford, Rock Creek, Americus, Madison, Dunlap, St. Mary's, Maplehill, Belvue and Emmett. He was of the very first rank of the influential business men, respected both for ability and personal character, and was always interested in the higher development of the city's life. Wealth came to him as the result of judicious and energetic business methods. Not only did he possess those sterling qualities, exemplified by a business career of marked success, but his character was further illustrated by the interest and sympathy he manifested in the success and welfare of others, by his benevolence, and by his broad charity in every relation. Topeka was the recipient of many benefactions from Mr. Thomas, who was public-spirited, and in whose philanthropic interests and projects was developed the modern view of the responsibility of wealth and its higher usefulness. He was the leader in the campaign to raise funds with which td purchase land for the Santa Fe shops, before the bonds for them were voted. For many years he was a trustee of Washburn College and a generous contributor to its needs. In addition to his annual subscriptions he built and gave to the college one of the finest gymnasiums in the West, as a memorial to his son, Charles Brooks Thomas. That gift was followed later by a set of chimes, which are located in the tower of the gymnasium. They were rung for him for the first time a few weeks before his death, and as a fitting and significant memorial the large bell tolled the age of Mr. Thomas by minute strokes on the day of his burial. He was a liberal contributor to the Young Men's Christian Association of Topeka and was one of three men to start the Young Men's Christian Association building fund, with a personal subscription of $5,000. He was also one of the most liberal supporters to the First Presbyterian Church of Topeka, in all its activities at home and abroad, and was a regular attendant of that church, though he had never fully renounced the good old Quaker faith of his parents. One of his noblest benevolences was the support he gave to Ingleside Home, a home for old ladies, to which he gave sufficient funds to double the former size of the building, thereby providing for twice as many inmates, and to which he also added an endowment for its future maintenance. Besides these public gifts many there are whom he befriended in private life, and thus a large part of the fortune that he made in a busy business career will live after him in perpetual usefulness and service to his fellow men. The charities and educational donations of Mr. Thomas were always unobtrusive. There was no vanity in his giving, for the impulse came from a warm heart and a genuine human sympathy. But one of his gifts bears his name and that is the gymnasium at Washburn College, which is a memorial for and bears the name of his son, Charles Brooks Thomas. Modest, reserved, and quiet in demeanor, Mr. Thomas was, nevertheless, in many ways a man of strong individuality and left no uncertain impress upon the life of Topeka, which is richer by reason of his having lived in it and reveres his memory as one of its noblest citizens.
On July 26, 1910, Mr. Thomas left Topeka for Rye Beach, N. H., for the benefit of his health, having had heart trouble for some months and hoping that the change would prove beneficial. Those hopes proved fruitless, however, and he passed away at Rye Beach Aug. 19, 1910. His body was laid to rest in the family vault in the Topeka cemetery.
Mrs. Thomas was born in Wayne county, Indiana, Aug. 9, 1844, a daughter of Jacob and Mary (Voorhees) Brooks, the latter of whom was a second cousin of the famous Indiana statesman, Daniel W. Voorhees. Jacob Brooks, born in Virginia, in 1795, was a descendant of Revolutionary ancestry and was himself a soldier in the war of 1812. He removed from Virginia to Kentucky and thence to Wayne count Indiana, where he was one of the early pioneers. He died in Wayne county, Indiana, at the age of eighty-two. Mary Voorhees was born in Ohio, in 1803, and died at the age of ninety-two, at the home of one of her daughters, in Springfield, Mo. Mrs. Thomas was educated in Earlham College, Richmond, Ind., and at the time of her marriage was a teacher in the Richmond public schools.
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas became the parents of three sons, of whom the eldest and youngestEdgar and Jonathan, Jr.,died in infancy. The other son, Charles Brooks Thomas, died at the age of thirty-one. Mrs. Thomas is a member and a regular attendant of the First Presbyterian Church of Topeka, and since her husband's death has presented to that church several Tiffany memorial windows which are intended to commemorate the memory of her husband and herself. They were dedicated on Sunday, Oct. 1, 1911.Pages 120-122 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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