My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in the book,  Portrait and biographical record of Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties, Pennsylvania published in 1894 by Chapman Publishing Company.  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.

* * * *

JAMES THOMAS. The Lehigh Valley has few industries of greater importance than the Davies-Thomas Foundry and Machine Works, which is one of the most successful enterprises of Catasauqua. It was established in 1865 by the firm of Davies, Thomas & Co., who conducted it for three years. In 1868 the senior partner and his son bought the interest of Mr. Thomas, and the business was carried on under the firm title of Davies & Son until the death of the elder Mr. Davies in 1876. Since that time, Davies, Thomas & Co. have been the proprietors The works are situated on the east bank of Catasauqua Creek, adjoining the borough limits, and cover about five acres of floor space. The works contain every convenience for the successful prosecution of the work, and the quality of the products is inferior to none.

The success of this enterprise is due in no small measure to the energy and business ability of the junior partner, the subject of this sketch. A record of his lineage and life will therefore possess for our readers more than ordinary interest. He is of Welsh parentage, his father, Hopkin Thomas, having been born in Glamorganshire, South Wales in 1793. The latter remained on the home farm until about sixteen years of age, when he was apprenticed to the Neath Abbey Works, near Neath, South Wales, to learn the trade of a machinist. Possessing more than ordinary ability, it was not long after the expiration of his apprenticeship before he was promoted to a high position by his employers.

While he met with fair success in Wales, Hopkin Thomas realized that America offered better opportunities than his own country, and therefore in 1834 he emigrated hither. Landing in Philadelphia, he obtained employment without difficulty in the Baldwin Locomotive Works, and later entered the shops of Garrett & Eastwick. His next position was as Master Mechanic of the roads and mines of the Beaver Meadow Railway Company, and while thus employed his inventive genius was further developed. In his mechanical inventions and appliances he was conceded to be the pioneer of the Lehigh Valley. Through one of these inventions anthracite coal was first made available for use in locomotives, and in the application of coal as a fuel he was at least twenty years in advance of all others. He invented and successfully used the chilled cast-iron carwheel, as also the most improved and successful mine pumps and machinery of the day. In mechanical matters, in railroad and in coal interests he may justly be regarded as a public benefactor.

Notwithstanding his unusual ability, Mr. Thomas was peculiarly modest and unassuming in his character, and it was this fact that prevented him from gaining fame and wealth. Content to elevate humanity and benefit mankind, he gave no care to realizing from his inventions. In his business relations he was upright, in his social intercourse genial, and in his home the typical head of a happy domestic circle. He married Miss Catherina Richards, of Merthyr-Tydvil, South Wales. They were the parents of the following children: William R.; Mary, Mrs. James H. McKee; Helen, Mrs. John Thomas; James; and Kate M., wife of James W. Fuller. The father of this family died in Catasauqua May 12, 1878. He had been a resident of this borough since 1853, when he was appointed Master Mechanic of the Crane Iron Works.

The subject of this sketch was born in Philadelphia, September 22, 1836, and is the youngest son of his parents. He accompanied his parents to Catasauqua, and from this place, about 1859, he went to Parryville to take the superintendency of the Carbon Iron Works. In 1871 he went to Jefferson County, Ala., and while there held the position of Manager of the Irondale and Eureka Iron Companies, and enjoys the distinction of having made the first coke iron in Alabama. Returning to Catasauqua in 1879, he formed a partnership with George Davies under the firm name of Davies & Thomas. The works have been enlarged from time to time and are now among the most extensive and best equipped of their kind in the state.

With every enterprise calculated to promote the prosperity of Catasauqua Mr. Thomas is prominently identified and in warm sympathy. Through his efforts the borough secured the Electric Light and Power Company, of which he is one of the principal owners. He is President of the Wahnetah Silk Mill Company. Though not taking an active part in politics, he has frequently been chosen to occupy positions of trust and responsibility, and represented the Republican party as delegate to the national convention at Minneapolis. He takes an active interest in the welfare of the school system, and served for some years on the School Board. In religious belief he is connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church at Catasauqua, and was instrumental in securing the erection of the edifice adorning the corner of Fifth and Walnut Streets.

* * * *

This family biography is one of numerous biographies included in the book, Portrait and biographical record of Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties, Pennsylvania published in 1894 by Chapman Publishing Company. 

View additional Lehigh County, Pennsylvania family biographies here: Lehigh County, Pennsylvania Biographies

View a historic 1911 map of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

View family biographies for other states and counties

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