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The Thomases

              William Thomas (1807 - ) came to Bloomington from Ohio, where he had married Catherine Haines, a daughter of Benjamin Haines. William served as County Assessor 1851 – 1858 and Treasurer 1851 - 1861, which involved travelling all over the county inspecting the properties on an annual basis. It was a task that could take several months. As the County Treasurer he brought all the payment of taxes up to date and brought the debt on the courthouse up to date for the first time since it was built in 1836. He started a fire insurance company which his son Lewis later continued. He farmed 100 acres extending northeast from the corner of Main and Jefferson for many years. He built a beautiful large house at 515 E Jefferson, but in his old age he had to give it up in payment of a secured debt.

 

               Perhaps it was in Guthrie’s Ark that William Thomas would tell the story of a trip to Chicago with an “old soldier” to sell horses. The men were driving 54 horses for J. C. Duncan & Co. in March of 1848. When they reached the Vermillion River, the wooden bridge had washed away in big storm. The old soldier swam the cold, raging river 17 times that day, pulling horses across the river. Still, when they were taking the wagon across and a collar fell off a horse and the old man dove into the river after it. William Thomas had to go in the river after him and pull him out, exhausted. Thomas was afraid the man was dead, but application of whiskey revived the old soldier, and they went on their way to Chicago.

 

               Lewis Thomas (1838 – 1909) followed his father’s example in civic service and was elected Mayor of Bloomington in 1886 – 88 and again in 1900 - 1903. During the Civil War he was agent for the War Fund. He married Belle Moore in 1859 and had two sons with her, Harry and Wilbur. Neither of them lived in McLean County after reaching adulthood.

               Rebecca Thomas (1831 – 1884) married George Lichtenthaler who was one of the multi-talented men of the Victorian era. He was a druggist, a banker and a naturalist. His collection of shells and algae from the Northwest was given to John Wesley Powell and was one of the primary assets of the Natural Sciences Department before a fire that burned most of the collection in the 1940s.

 

               Arabell Thomas (1843 -1916) married James C. Elder and lived in Bloomington almost her entire life. James Elder was a grocer and farmer and his last work was as circuit clerk in McLean County. They had three sons, none of whom remained in McLean County. The Elders took in Annie Henning, a New York orphan from the orphan trains sometime before 1900, and she lived in their home as a servant.

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