My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Pulaski County, Arkansas published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1889.  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.

* * * *

Prof. W. S. Thomas is in charge of the geological and scientific investigations of the land department of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway. He is of Welsh descent, and was born in Waterford, Saratoga County, N. Y. His early years, however, were spent in Norwich, Chenango County, N. Y., where he received an excellent common-school education, supplemented by a thorough scientific course at Rensselaer Poly technic Institute, at Troy, N. Y. After completing this he made a tour of investigation for eastern parties, in 1848, through the mineral region of Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa, and his was one of the first reports of importance ever made on the Northwestern mineral region. Upon finishing his work in that section, he went to Washington, D. C. Here he gained a high reputation for his investigations in electric forces, and was tendered by Prof. Joseph Henry, of the Smithsonian Institute, charge of the chemical apparatus that had just been presented to the institute by Dr. Hare, of Philadelphia. This offer, however, he thought best to decline, as he was too well pleased with the mineral wealth of the district he had examined in the West, and was only awaiting the proper opportunity to return there. Several electric appliances, the result of Prof. Thomas’ labors, were patented. He was elected a member of the American Scientific Association, and was for many years the youngest member of the society. For two or three years before he came west again (in 1854), Prof. Thomas was connected with the newspaper press of New York City. He returned with ample capital behind him to develop the coal resources of the section around Rock Island. The mines were opened at Carbon Cliff, from which came the first coal that ever reached the Upper Mississippi River by rail, and the first ever shipped west of the Mississippi River. These mines were also the first established coal deposits in Rock Island, Davenport, Iowa City, and other towns in the interior. He was interested in the organization and building of the several railroads in that section, notably the Rockford, Rock Island & St. Louis, of which he was director for many years. He remained actively connected with the coal and railroad interests of Illinois and Iowa up to 1876. In 1876, eastern capitalists, who had great faith in the judgment of Prof. Thomas, and contemplated investing in Arkansas mineral lands, induced him to go to that State and carefully examine the antimony region of Southwest Arkansas. After the completion of this examination he felt so thoroughly impressed with the natural resources and capabilities of the State that he returned to Illinois and disposed of his interests there, and returned to Arkansas to make it his future home. The St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway, which had just acquired from the General Government its land grant of over one and one-half million acres, decided that it was best to look into the mineral resources of their lands before disposing of them for agricultural purposes. They engaged the services of Prof. Thomas, and his reports have governed the land department since that time. Prof. Thomas determined to devote his fine farm (the Gov. Rector plantation), fourteen miles southwest of Little Rock, to experimenting, with a view of determining the best agricultural products and breeds of stock for the climate of Arkansas, and the results of these experiments have been very flattering and all that could be desired.

* * * *

This family biography is one of 156 biographies included in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Pulaski County, Arkansas published in 1889.  For the complete description, click here: Pulaski County, Arkansas History, Genealogy, and Maps

To view additional Pulaski County, Arkansas family biographies, click here

Use the links at the top right of this page to search or browse thousands of other family biographies.