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Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Seneca and Schuyler Counties, New York published by Chapman Publishing Co., in 1895.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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HON. JAMES B. THOMAS. In the onward march of the human race money has always exerted a vast influence. It has determined the destinies of nations and the fortunes of individuals, and in every case those who have had money behind them have had a determining share in social and commercial development. Despite the teachings of a philosophy strange to human life, it has also had much to do with the religious developments of the world. The power of money has indeed its own limitations. It cannot take the place of character, it buys no intellect, and guarantees no royal road to learning, but in the hands of people of character, honesty and integrity, controlled by a kindly spirit, and animated by good intentions, it does give vast power, and the men who wisely administer it are justly counted among the benefactors of the community. In the way of promoting trade, and keeping industry active, and making exchange easy and rapid, it is impossible to tell what good a village bank may do to a wide stretch of country and to many people who rarely hear of it, and scarcely know of its existence. In this catalogue of useful agencies the banking house of LeRoy C. Partridge, of Ovid, may be placed. Of this bank Mr. Thomas is Cashier and half-owner, the other half being owned by Mrs. Ellen C. Partridge, who is the President of the institution.

Jonathan and Nancy (Scott) Thomas, the parents of our subject, were natives of Pennsylvania and New York, respectively. Their line of descent is from Wales, and some of the best characteristics of that people appear in the present generation. Liverton Thomas, the grandfather, came from the Old Country to make his home in the land that William Penn had peaceably acquired from the wild Indian, and governed under the inspiration of the laws of brotherhood and peace. In 1806, while still a young and unmarried man, Jonathan Thomas removed from Pennsylvania into what is now Seneca County, and established himself as a produce dealer and merchant at Sheldrake. He was among the first to settle in the town, and he encountered all the hardships and privations that wait upon those who open a new country. He lived to be eighty-six years old, and died in 1867. His wife touched her ninety-third year, dying in 1879. They were the parents of eleven children, of whom two, twin girls, died in infancy. John died when one year old. Mary Ann became the wife of John Harris, and died in Sheldrake, leaving three sons and one daughter. Sylvester D. is a farmer in the town of Ovid. Missouri, the wife of Edwin Schotts, died in Sheldrake. Waterman followed his father’s business of produce dealing and store-keeping, and died in Michigan. Nancy S. died at the age of eleven years. Abner D. was the next child after the birth of our subject, and he may be found busy and earnest upon his farm near Middleville, Mich. In this band of brothers and sisters one was to be a minister of the Gospel, Jonathan, Jr., a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church, located at Whitneyville, Mich.

Jonathan Thomas was also a tanner and furrier, and he carried on this business in connection with his other pursuits for many years at Sheldrake. He was a member of the Baptist Church, and was highly respected in the community.

The subject of this sketch was born in Ovid, July 4, 1823, and was given good educational advantages for the times. After finishing the common school he was sent to Ovid Academy, where he acquitted himself creditably. He found his first work in life, after school days were over, to be that of farming, which business he followed until 1865. Then he turned his attention to banking, and, associating himself with LeRoy C. Partridge, opened the first bank at Ovid, the management of this institution remaining in his hands from that day to this. To those who know the facts, it need not be said that in his career he has manifested a commercial genius of very high character. To-day he is the owner of seven farms, which are highly improved and thoroughly cultivated. He has other investments, and is beyond question one of the solid men of Seneca County. After the death of Mr. Partridge, his widow retained his interest and became the President of the bank. The partnership is harmonious, and the bank is considered very sound.

Politically Mr. Thomas has trained with the Democratic party. He has held positions of trust and honor, has been Town Collector, Supervisor, Under-Sheriff, County Treasurer, Member of the Assembly, and in 1888 attended the National Democratic Convention at St. Louis as one of the New York State delegates. For twenty-nine years he has been Treasurer of the Willard State Hospital, an institution expending more than $350,000 every year. He has also been called to act in other public and semi-public capacities which need not be detailed, except to say that he has been for many years the President of the Board of Trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Ovid, of which organization he has been a member for more than fifty years. He is much sought after to act as executor and administrator of estates, and the school money of the Union School District has long passed through his hands as Treasurer.

In 1845 Miss Lucinda, daughter of Clement Jones, of New York City, became the wife of our subject. They have two children. Edwin H., an exceedingly prosperous farmer in the town of Hornby, Steuben County, is the manager of a tract of land consisting of more than nine hundred acres; his wife was Clara Burrill, of Hornby, in Steuben County. Frederick resides in Ovid, and is employed in his father’s bank as assistant cashier. His wife was formerly Miss Elizabeth Hoyt. After a married life of more than forty-nine years the wife of our subject died, in February, 1895.

The band of Ovid was equipped by Mr. Thomas, and is known as the J. B. Thomas Military Band. He has long taken a keen interest in the welfare of the patients at the asylum, and started a most useful agency of recreation, furnishing an outfit for the band at Willard State Hospital. For ten years he has paid in $200 a year for the entertainment of the patients.

In 1856, while a member of the State Legislature, Mr. Thomas was instrumental in the passage of a bill for the establishment of a State Agricultural College. This was accomplished and the institution was located near Ovid. Not seeming to fill a long-felt want, it was converted into the Willard State Hospital, and Mr. Thomas has been closely associated with its management. While in the Legislature Mr. Thomas was a member of several important committees, and was influential in shaping legislation. He was on the Committees on Canals, Engrossed Bills and Railroads, and his character and worth were recognized by appointment on several special committees. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity, but finds that business keeps him closely confined at home.

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This family biography is one of the numerous biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Seneca and Schuyler Counties, New York published in 1895. 

View additional Seneca County, New York family biographies here: Seneca County, New York Biographies

View a map of 1897 Seneca County, New York here: Seneca County, New York Map

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