WILLIAM GRANT THOMAS. Most people are willing to judge a man by the evidence he leaves lying around of his work and what he has been able to accomplish in a material sphere. Thus when travelers through Rooks County come into Ash Rock Township and view the well ordered and productive fields, the immense barn, home and other improvements, they are well satisfied without further proof that William G. Thomas, the creator and owner of all this property, is first of all a successful Kansas farmer and a citizen whose life has meant a great deal both for himself and for others.
Mr. Thomas has in fact lived in Kansas for forty years, but was born at Oskaloosa, Iowa, May 2, 1864. For several generations his ancestors lived in Wales, where the head of three successive generations was named Jesse. The founder of the family in the United States was Jesse Thomas, born in Wales and the oldest of eight children. He settled in the Carolinas, and was a soldier in some of the early colonial wars. He was with Washington in the Virginia Militia at the time of Braddock's defeat. He was five times married and had three sets of children.
Nathaniel Thomas, of the first set of children, was born in North Carolina and married Dorcas Harris, of the same state. Their son, William Thomas, one of seven children, was born near Columbus, Ohio, and married Olivia Weatherby, a native of New Jersey, and daughter of Benjamin and Sarah (Mathias) Weatherby, both of New Jersey.
Benjamin Franklin Thomas, son of William and Olivia Thomas, was born May 13, 1832, in Logan County, Ohio. He was a carpenter and cabinet maker by trade, and took an active part in building up Oskaloosa, Iowa. He married at Sioux City, Iowa, November 17, 1853, Rhoda Maria Heatherington, who was born in Knox County, Ohio, January 16, 1835. They became the parents of six children, three sons and three daughters, William Grant Thomas being the youngest son.
William Grant Thomas received his early education in the public schools of Oskaloosa and also of Kansas. He came to Kansas with his parents in the fall of 1878. His father homesteaded the southeast quarter of section 25 of Ash Rock Township in Rooks County. William G. was then fourteen years old, and he continued to live at home and work on the farm for his father and mother until he was twenty-one. Fraternally he is a member of the Modern Woodmen of America and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and is a thirty-second degree Mason and Shriner.
On November 12, 1885, at Osborne, Kansas, Mr. Thomas married Miss Anna Lucinda Bates, daughter of Sutliff and Orilla Ann (Fisk) Bates, of Michigan. Her father was a soldier with an Ohio regiment of artillery in the Civil war. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas became the parents of four children. Lillian Lee, born January 20, 1887, at Woodston, Kansas, was educated in the public schools and is now the wife of Edward George Meyer, a farmer at Woodston. Elsie May, born at Woodston May 31, 1888, who also had a public school education, was married to Abram Downer Hull, a Woodston farmer. Lawrence William, born at Woodston September 5, 1897, is a farmer on the home place and married September 5, 1918, Miss Sylvia Koontz, of Stockton, Kansas. Clifford Elton, the youngest child, was born at Woodston December 18, 1914.
William G. Thomas attained the age of twenty-one and took upon himself the responsibilities of a family without having acquired any capital to speak of. All the good land opened for homestead entries had been taken in Rooks County and the only opening by which he could establish a place among the farm owners in that section was by purchase. He therefore contracted to buy eighty acres, and was able to make a very small payment on the land. The payment gave him very little privilege beyond the opportunity to use and cultivate the land, and he had to continue making other payments in order to make good his title. Eighty acres at that time was a very small tract of land in Western Kansas. With that as a nucleus Mr. Thomas undertook the struggle with destiny and by hard work and unusual good management has accumulated a total of 1,760 acres, all good Kansas land, and has made improvements on three farms valued at about $25,000. On his own home farm he has built a modern farm house, equipped with electric lights, hot and cold water and other modern conveniences. It is on this farm that he has erected what is probably the largest and best built barn in the state. It is such a barn as the agricultural journals delight to picture. The barn is 100 feet long, 64 feet wide and 64 feet high. It has stall room for fifty-four horses and fifty head of cattle, while the hay mow has a capacity of 500 tons of loose hay. In its construction, it may be stated, there was used 120,000 feet of lumber, 115,000 shingles, 7,000 pounds of nails and 1,200 pounds of bolts. It is a barn that speaks the last word not only in size and spaciousness, but in efficiency and system.
Over this barn might properly be written the inscription "Kansas Wheat Paid for This Barn." It is as a wheat farmer that Mr. Thomas has been most successful in years past. All the improvements on his farms were made from the proceeds of wheat raised on his own land. If any man has reason to justify his faith in Kansas wheat it is Mr. Thomas. Some years ago he invested in land near Portland, Oregon, and his investment there is now valued at fully $40,000. Naturally some of his resources have gone into community affairs. In 1909 he helped organize the Rooks County State Bank of Woodston and was elected vice president upon the organization, and in 1911 was elected president. He has held that office ever since. He was elected commissioner of the First District of Rooks County in 1910 on the democratic ticket for a four year term, and was re-elected in 1914 and again in 1918. Successful democratic candidates were not numerous in 1918 in Kansas, and it is proof of Mr. Thomas' personal popularity and the confidence felt in his official and business judgment that he was the only democrat in the county who had opposition chosen to office. He is an all around loyal, public spirited and generous Kansan, has subscribed liberally and exceeded his quota for liberty bonds, Red Cross and other war causes, and the quality of his patriotism and faith in the country at large is a reflection of the unbounded faith he has in Kansas, where he has made his fortune and where he believes it possible for any poor man, industrious and frugal, to make a better start at farming than anywhere else in the Union.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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