Thomas, Thomas Stephens - Biography

Thomas S. and Emma P. Thomas

Thomas S. Thomas was a truly remarkable man. This self-educated farmer, third grade education, excelled in music, philosophy, writing, inventions, and philanthropy.

Tom was born in Carmarthenshire, South Wales on October 18, 1864, to Morris Thomas and Eleanor Stephens Thomas. He was the fourth in line of five children: David Stephens, Margaret, Morris, and Evan. He came to America with his mother and two brothers, David and Evan, after his father and a brother and sister had died in Wales. The mother and three children boarded the ship "Minnesota" on June 2, 1869, and after landing on the East Coast, they rode the first Mormon emigrant train to Ogden, Utah. They walked from Ogden to Willard, Utah, where Eleanor met and married Moses Dudley, a polygamist.

A daughter, Mary Ann, was born to them while in Willard. Evan died at age three. From Willard, Eleanor, David, Tom, and the baby daughter moved to Cherry Creek, south of Malad. They struggled to survive, and subsisted mainly on wheat gleaned from the fields of the farmers in that area. She divorced Mose, and with her two young boys, David and Tom, and baby daughter, moved to the sagebrush of St. John to homestead in the year 1878.

Eleanor's brothers and sisters, the Stephens' took up homesteads nearby. Together with their mother, Tom and Dave proceeded to clear and plant the land, and consequently, the boys' formal education in Malad was very limited. They farmed the land the rest of their lives. Eleanor, called Mongee, (grand­mother in Welsh) by her grandchildren and all her posterity thereafter, was a midwife, and walked many miles throughout Malad Valley to deliver babies.

Tom married Emma Matilda Peterson, a very gentle and quiet girl, on November 17, 1888. She was the only daughter of Peter Peterson, who was born in Sweden, August 28, 1839, and Gurienne Poulson Peterson, who was born in Norway, June 3, 1883. Peter Peterson and Gurienne Poulson met and married in Cache Valley, Utah, and three children were born to them in Cache Valley: Peter, Joseph, and Emma. They moved to St. John in 1870, where another child, John H. Peterson, was born. Peter Peterson was a tailor by trade. He and his wife came to this country as converts to the LDS Church.

Emma was a good wife and mother and kept a meticulous home. She worked at the things that it took to put good food on the table very meal: a garden with all kinds of vegetables and berries, a huge orchard, chickens in the coop, canning and storing food. She was a good seamstress and kept the children neat and well-dressed at all times. She could take care of anyone who was ill, and seemed to know what would make them well.

To Tom and Emma were born ten children, nine of whom survived: Mrs. David L (Margaret) Evans, Malad; Dr. Thomas S. Thomas, Morristown, New Jersey; Peter Thomas, St. John; Mrs. Ralph (Emma Merle) Jones, Pocatello; David S. Thomas, Ogden, Utah; Mrs. Joe (Ellarene) Price, Provo, Utah; Evan Thomas, Provo, Utah; John Warren Thomas, Malad; and Mrs. Leland D. (Melba) Jones, Malad. Rula died at age six months.

Evan Stephens, the first chorister of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, was an uncle. He recognized Tom's abilities, especially musical. Evan taught him at his home in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tom was also taught to play the organ by Professor Edward Woozley. Tom played the piano by ear and was self­taught at all other instruments. He composed and arranged music. Some of the early choirs and bands in St. John and Malad Valley were organized by this man. He taught music to children from all over the Valley. His own children excelled at music, and most area dance orchestras included one or more Thomases. For many years he was music director of the Malad school system.

In 1894, Dr. Morgan declared Tom dead. The doctor called Tom's wife, three children, mother, and brother to his bedside. After four hours he recovered. He wrote three essays in which he philosophized on life on earth and in the hereafter. One of these writings, "A Glimpse of the Future," was published. How this remarkable man must have labored over words and composition to write these philosophical studies!

Poetry and prose were Tom S. Thomas's primary methods of expression. Once again, this man taught himself cantor and rhyme by reading what others had written. He has left a multitude of handwritten poems. He was a favorite at all patriotic assemblies. He would compose and recite a poem for the occasion. He would also willingly compose a poem about a person who had passed away, and recite the same at his funeral. He used poetry to vent his anger. Tom enjoyed a drink, so naturally, he left a scathing poem about "Blue Nose" prohibitionists. He was a farmer, and money was short, and he wrote about the hard times.

Tom liked to roam the mountains around Malad Valley, especially the Daniels area, looking for prospective mines, and enjoying nature, which he loved. With a friend, David M. Williams, he worked one or more mines for several years.

Later in Tom's life, about the same time the government sheep experiment station started the Columbia breed of sheep, Tom purchased some Rambouillet ewes and a Lincoln ram and started his own flock of Columbias, which were later taken over by his son, Pete. The Columbia herd is now owned by a grandson, Garth Thomas, of St. John.

Tom was an inventor. A perpetual motion machine was constructed in the shed behind the house. He spent endless hours improving and talking about his machine. Several times he felt he almost had it working. He patented a noiseless railroad rail connection. The weight stress of a train brought this to an end. He patented a hay guard with a swivel tongue, a replaceable edge for a plow shear, a combination cigar and cigarette holder, and a disposable spittoon. He had drawings made of his inventions, and models constructed. He then contacted numerous people who might market his inventions. As is evident, his mind delved on various projects, none of which were successful. He tried, and in trying, does that make him a failure? I think not. This man of humble origin has left a legacy of siblings throughout the West, America, and the world. Governor John V. Evans of Idaho is a grandson. Tom was always proud to be a pioneer of St. John, Idaho.

(From St. John, Oneida County, Idaho: A collection of personal histories from the time of the first settlers to the present day, pp. 252-253.)




Thomas, Thomas Stephens


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