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Below is a family biography included in the book, The History of Knox County, Missouri published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1887.  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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Jacob Thomas, the wealthiest man in this section of the country, and one of the most honored and esteemed, is a son of Peter Thomas, a native of Virginia, but of German descent, and was unable to speak a word of English at the age of eight years. Peter Thomas accompanied his parents to Ross County, Ohio, in 1808, where he received a limited education at the neighboring schools, and where he, in later years, was united in marriage to Miss Sarah Weider, daughter of Jacob and Sarah Weider, of Ross County. Peter Thomas made farming his chief occupation throughout life. In 1825 he moved to Pickaway County, Ohio, where he resided until 1845, and then moved to Adams County, Ill., where he lost his wife in a few years. This lady was a devout and earnest Christian woman. After the death of Mrs. Thomas, Peter moved to Augusta, where he made his home with his daughter, Margaret May. Mr. Thomas was a man of remarkable constitution, courage and determination. At the time of the war of 1812 he wished to enlist and fight for his country, but was rejected on account of his youth. Nothing undaunted, he applied a second time, was accepted, and served in the above-named war under Col. Entricon. In politics Mr. Thomas was a Whig in the days of that party, but in 1856 became a strong Republican. He was an enthusiastic and ardent admirer of great and good men, of whom, in his estimation, Lincoln was one of the first. He was the father of ten children, nine of whom he raised to maturity, and all but two of whom are now living. His son, Nelson, died in infancy of the whooping-cough, and Michael lost his life by being caught under a falling bank. Our subject, Jacob Thomas, was the eldest of the ten children, and was born in Ross County, Ohio, in 1820, but was reared principally in Pickaway County, Ohio, where he received but a meager education. He came to Adams County, Ill., with his parents in 1845, and in May, 1848, was married to Miss Elizabeth Striekler, of Scotch-German descent, and a native of Westmoreland County, Penn. Jacob and wife made their home at his father-in-law’s while they improved some land which Jacob had selected, and which consisted of 160 acres, which Peter Thomas purchased for $200, and presented to his son. By the following fall the land was improved to some extent, and a nice cottage built, in which the newly married couple moved, and, in the language of our subject, spent “their happiest days and looked forward to as an abode of quiet and rest,” but the duties and care of their happy and busy life have been so great and many that complete quiet and rest have never been found. Mr. Thomas spent eight successful years upon his highly improved farm in Adams County, Ill., to which he had added more land, and in 1854-55, in partnership with J. Pierce and S. McGinnis, he purchased 900 head of Texas cattle at a cost of $2,800 for each man, and after the cattle had eaten all of Mr. Thomas’ provisions, Mr. McGinnis called for a division, which was soon made, each receiving a third of the stock. In regard to the choice of cattle, they agreed to separate them, in pairs and toss up, which they did, and Mr. Thomas proved to be the fortunate one. He was afterward offered $500 to boot to exchange, but refused the offer. Fortune favored Mr. Thomas all through his cattle transactions, and in a comparatively short time he had cleared $4,000 which gave him his real start in life. From time to time he borrowed different sums of money from his friends, by whom he was highly valued and esteemed, and who proved their implicit confidence in his integrity by loaning him the money without security, he giving only his personal note. Among these friends may be mentioned Henry Whitford and Mason Wallace, and it may here be said that Mr. Thomas never violated the confidence placed in him, and can proudly say that he has never defrauded any one in any way. From the time of his cattle transactions our subject continued to be successful, although he at times met with minor losses, but, being a man of perseverance and courage, soon overcame these. In 1856 he sold his property in Illinois, crossed the Father of Rivers, and spent the following winter on the Bourn farm near La Belle, Lewis County. In the summer of 1856 he purchased 1,600 acres of land in Knox County, Mo., at $5.25 per acre, and about 200 acres of timber at $9 per acre, out of which he superintended the making of 18,000 rails the following winter. After building a log cabin he and his family moved to Knox County in 1857, where he immediately engaged in farming and stock raising, and is now one of the best examples of what an enterprising and energetic business man may accomplish in that line that this country can offer. At the time of his settlement in Knox County there were none of the fine schools and prosperous towns of the present, and he was obliged to work his way through many hardships and privations which are always incident to pioneer life. He was also deprived of the educational advantages and business training, which are such great helps to success in life, and all his present wealth is due to his own energy, intelligence, resolution and economy, which were rendered more effective by the brave and faithful assistance of his good wife, without whose aid it is doubtful if he would ever have attained his present prosperous condition. Mr. Thomas considers the two great essentials to business success “honesty and industry.” At the present writing he is probably worth between $150,000 and $200,000. His farm is one of the finest in this part of the country, and consists of 2,500 acres in one tract, under a fine state of cultivation. He is an extensive dealer in fine stock, and owns a full-blooded English horse known as “Magician,” No. 3206, of which he has just cause to be proud. He has a full-blooded Cruickshank bull named “Knight of Aberdeen 3d,” and a fine Kentucky jack. Mr. Thomas is at present making a specialty of the rearing of roadster horses. Mr. Thomas, whose wife was a member of the Methodist Church, was left a widower in 1881. To this union four children were born: Whitmer, Austin (who died in infancy), Wilber and Clark. Whitmer, of Atchison County, Mo., married Miss Dewitt, whose parents formerly resided in Palmyra, Marion County. Wilber is an extensive manufacturer of wire fence in Quincy, and his wife is a daughter of William D. and Elizabeth Dell, the former being deceased. They have two children: Earl and Harry. Clark, who is yet unmarried, is a young man highly esteemed, and lives with his father. His sons inherit their father’s sociable and hospitable disposition, and like him are highly respected by the community.

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This family biography is one of 204 biographies included in the Knox County, Missouri portion of the book,  The History of Lewis, Clark, Knox and Scotland Counties, Missouri published in 1887.  For the complete description, click here: Knox County, Missouri History, Genealogy, and Maps

View additional Knox County, Missouri family biographies here: Knox County, Missouri Biographies

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