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
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
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.
(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.)