Page 633-634, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Butler County, Kansas by Vol. P. Mooney. Standard Publishing Company, Lawrence, Kan.: 1916. ill.; 894 pgs.


W. J. Thomas, a Butler county pioneer and prominent farmer and stockman of Milton township, was born in Hancock county, near Findlay, Ohio, January 22, 1858. He is a son of S. S. and Sarah Jane (Huff) Thomas, natives of Ohio. S. S. Thomas was a son of Samuel and Sabella Thomas, natives of Pennsylvania, who were pioneers of Ohio. Sarah Huff, mother of W. J. Thomas, was a daughter of John Huff, a Pennsylvanian who went from that State to Ohio at a very early day. He and his wife walked, carrying their few belongings, when they removed from one State to the other. S. S. Thomas, the father of our subject, was reared in Ohio, and when the Civil war broke out, he enlisted in an Ohio regiment, and served throughout that conflict. Shortly after receiving his discharge from the army, he removed from Ohio to Davis county, Missouri, locating with his family about three miles from Gallaton, the county seat. They lived there when the James boys and other brigands were operating in that section, and were there at the time that the gang murdered Mr. Cox, the president of a bank.

After remaining a short time in Davis county, the Thomas family removed to Platte county, Missouri. When they first located in Platte county, that section was still pretty strongly Southern, and Mr. Thomas, having been a Union soldier and a strong Republican, encountered considerable political sentiment against him. Before election day he was notified that if he went to the polls and voted the Republican ticket that he would be killed, but he went to the polls and voted, and the threat resolved itself into a mere unfulfilled promise. He found out later, however, that his life had been saved through the influence of a local constable, who was a friend of his.

In 1870, S. S. Thomas, with his family, came to Butler county, Kansas, locating in Plum Grove township. Later Mr. Thomas filed on land in section 12, Milton township. Here he built a one room cabin, 12x15 feet, and proceeded to improve his place, and engaged in farming. When he came here he was poor, his entire capital consisting of a team, wagon, a large family and five dollars in cash. The first years on the plains were a continuous struggle for existence. There were crop failures, prairie fires and grasshoppers, and when they did succeed in raising a good crop there was no market for it, and while they had plenty of plain food, and feed for their stock, they were unable to get money to buy the little necessaries of life, and W. J. Thomas says that when he came here with his parents, as a boy ten or twelve years old, and looked over the unlimited, barren plains; that it just appeared to him as though they would starve to death there; that while game and fish were plenti-


ful, the outlook was not very encouraging, with not an ounce of flour in sight, not even any salt. Their nearest trading point where they could buy such provisions, if they had money, was at Cedar Point, thirty miles away, and it required two days and two nights to make the trip there and back. S. S. Thomas and his boys worked hard and soon got a start in life, and he became one of the prosperous farmers and stock men of Butler county. He died in August, 1897, and his wife died, February 18, 1903.

W. J. Thomas was married December 1, 1885, to Miss May A. Corfman, a daughter of Jacob and Sarah C. (Hoover) Corfman, natives of Ohio. Jacob Corfman is a son of Conrad and Mary (Reigle) Corfman, the former a native of Ohio, and the latter of Pennsylvania, and both of German descent. Jacob Corfman grew to manhood in Hancock county, Ohio, and in 1885, when Mrs. Thomas was eighteen years old, the family came to Butler county and located at Brainerd, which was then a new, booming town, and rented a house there from S. S. Thomas, who was then keeping a hotel at Brainerd. Mr. and Mrs. Corfman were the parents of eleven children, and they now reside at Burns, Kans. After his marriage, W. J. Thomas was foreman on the Stevens cattle ranch for seven years, which was one of the largest in that section of the country, containing twenty-five sections of land. Mr. Thomas later bought forty acres of land, which he afterwards disposed of, and bought the old Thomas homestead, which has since been his home. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas are the parents of the following children: Herman A.; George W.; William J.; Laura N., deceased; Donald A.; Dora J.; Charles R.; one who died in infancy; Harve A.; Anna M., and Chester C.

Coming to Kansas at the time of life which he did, W. J. Thomas had an opportunity to observe the conditions of frontier days, at a time when they made lasting impressions on his mind. He has vivid recollections of the great prairie fires which swept the plains in those days. He says, sometimes when conditions were right, prairie fires would sweep over the country, burning a section of fifty miles wide, and he is of the impression that many of them were started by the Indians. Prairie chickens were so plentiful that they frequently destroyed crops. Mr. Thomas is a Republican, and takes an active interest in local affairs, and is one of the progressive and public spirited citizens of Milton township.

Previous | Main Page | Biography Index | Next

Pages 633-634,