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View Tree for John ThomasJohn Thomas (b. 16 Oct 1733, d. 09 Jul 1821)

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John Thomas Grave

John Thomas5, 6 was born 16 Oct 1733 in Southampton, VA, USA7, 8, and died 09 Jul 1821 in St Clairs Bottom, Smyth, VA, USA9, 10.

 Includes NotesNotes for John Thomas:

JOHN THOMAS, Progenitor of the Thomas family, which flourished for more than a hundred years on the South Fork of Holston River, was born October 16, 1733, according to family records. The names of his parents are unknown, as are also the place of his birth and that of his marriage. He died in Washington County, Virginia, on July 9, 1821, and was buried in the St. Clairs Bottom Church Cemetery.

There are several unanswered questions about the provenance of John Thomas. The veracity of much of the early history of John Thomas and his ancestry is questionable, and some of it is patently untrue. Much of the "Thomas family mythology" can be traced to an unpublished, typed manuscript entitled "The Thomas Ancestors of William Crockett Thomas of Wytheville, Virginia," which has up to now been accepted as reliable family history by his descendants and historians as well.

In the above mentioned essay, John Thomas's parents are said to have been Amos Thomas and Ruth White, who, according to that account, were married in Boxford, Massachusetts, where their son John was born in 1733. Soon after his birth, the family moved to a village near Lebanon, Connecticut, where John grew to manhood, and from whence his is reported to have come to Washington County, Virginia, in 1761, where he married Mary Robinette, "a girl from that locality," on March 26th of that same year.

According to family data published in 1980 by John Marshall Raymond in the book. THOMAS FAMILIES OF PLYMOUTH COUNTY, MASSACHUSETTS, John Thomas was not the son of Amos Thomas, who descended from John Thomas, a Welsh immigrant, who came to Plymouth Colony in 1635. This research shows that Amos Thomas married Ruth White, not in Boxford, Massachusetts, but in Lebanon, Connecticut, in May of 1736. They had five daughters and two sons, who were all born in Lebanon. Neither of their sons, however, was named John, who, according to W. C. Thomas's account, was born three years before Amos Thomas and Ruth White were married.

There are other discrepancies in the apocryphal account of the arrival of John Thomas in Virginia. Washington County, for example, was not established until 1776, and there were few settlers in the area as early as 1761. Early court records fail to mention a pioneer Robinette family in Southwest Virginia at that time, and extensive research has failed to locate the marriage record of John Thomas and Mary Robinette anywhere in the colony. If John Thomas came to Virginia in 1761, as reported, he came to some other region before he settled on the South Ford about 1771.

Another typed page of Thomas family data entitled "Partial Record of the Thomas Family of Smyth County, Virginia," most probably compiled by Charles Benton Thomas, great grandson of John Thomas, states that his ancestors originally settled in Southampton County, Virginia, before coming to Washington County. A thorough search of vital records and deeds of that county in the county seat at Courtland failed to reveal a trace of a John Thomas and his family there. That leaves the origin and provenance of John Thomas in limbo.

Thomas is a well known Welsh surname and the Thomas family, no doubt originated in that section of the British Isles. Some family accounts state that John Thomas was born in Wales, where he died on July 9, 1821, "in his 88th year, in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, Europe." The fascination of John Thomas's descendants with Wales, and the oft repeated tale that he returned to his native land to visit relatives may indicate that he was, indeed, born there. He may have been married there, and his four oldest children were, perhaps, born there, but he did not die there. The settlement of his estate by his son Thomas Thomas proves beyond question that John Thomas died at his home in Washington County, Virginia.

Whatever the truth about his origin and his early residence in America may turn out to be, he must have been in Southwest Virginia by the year 1771. In A SEED-BED OF THE REPUBLIC, published in 1962 by Robert D. Stoner, in a "List of Tithables in Capt. Campbell's Company for 1772 taken by R. D. (Robert Doacks)," the name of a John Thomas is found and immediately beneath it appears the name of a Thomas Thomas. If they were father and son, as it appears, it is curious that a six-year old boy could have been considered a tithable. No other Thomas Thomas appears in any documents of this section of Virginia,except Thomas Thomas, son of John.

Another proof that John Thomas was in Southwest Virginia prior to the Revolution is a Fincastle County Survey for 404 acres of land, which was drawn for him on the 9th of March of 1774. As the copy of the original document found in Montgomery County Plat Book A, p. 33, shows the first land John Thomas acquired was "A part of the Loyal Company's Grant, lying in Fincastle County on the south fork of Holstons river.

It is reasonable to assume that John Thomas had been living on this property a few years prior to the date the surveyors came to register it in his name. Some of his neighbors: The Bishops, the Coles, the Woolseys, and others, had occupied their land on the South Fork as early as 1771, and it can be surmised that John Thomas arrived about the same time. Many of those early settlers in that section of Virginia could trace their origins to New England ancestors, who moved westward to the Hudson Valley in new York State before they emigrated to the highlands of Virginia. Further research may show that John Thomas accompanied them.


Washington County records and tax books show that there were two men named John Thomas in the county in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. It is easy enough to confuse them. On some tax lists, one is listed as "Walker Mountain" John Thomas; the other is obviously the "South Fork" John Thomas. Apparently is was the "Walker Mountain" Thomas who was hauled before the county court on November 20, 1781, for "feloniously taking from Samuel Paxton one Bushel and a Peck of Salt."

It was, however, the "South Fork" John Thomas, who acknowledged himself "indebted to the Commonwealth of Virginia in the Sum of Four hundred pounds Specie, ..." at a court held in Abingdon on November 21, 1781, and recorded in these works in Minute Book 1, p. 126:

"Be it remembered that John Thomas, William Scott and James Herrald Severally acknowledge themselves Indebted to the Commonwealth of Virginia in the Sum of Four hundred pounds Specie that is to say the said John Thomas in the Sum of Two hundred pounds and each of Securities in the Sum of One hundred pound of their respective goods and Chattels Lands and tenements to be Levied and to the said Commonwealth rendered yet upon this Condition that the Said John Thomas personally appear at the next Grand Jury Court to be held in May next and be of good behaviour to all the good people of this Commonwealth and depart not without Leave of the said Court then this recognizance to be Void otherwise to remain in full force."

The reason John Thomas was place under this Recognizance Bond is not clear. It appears, however, from the context that he may have been accuse of being a Tory, or British sympathizer, against whom similar court action was taken during the Revolution. The resolution of the court order, unfortunately, cannot be located in the Washington County court records. As no further action was taken by the court against Thomas, one must assume that he exonerated himself and the matter was dropped.

Tax and census records show that John Thomas was a farmer, who raised cattle and horses on his farm. The Washington County, Virginia, "Personal Property Tax Report," made for Col Arthur Campbell's Precinct in 1782, shows that John Thomas paid tax on seven horses and seventeen cattle. Over the following years, the number of livestock, which was taxable, varied from year to year.


During his lifetime, John Thomas acquired additional property on the South Fork River, which adjoined his original 1774 survey of 404 acres, which lay on the South side of the river, across from the present Riverbend Cemetery and the residence of Julias and Margaret Ann Britton. Today part of that survey is owned by the heirs of P. G. Buchanan.

On September 15, 1795, a survey was made in Thomas's name for a 230 acre tract located on the "waters of redstone on the South side of the South fork of Holston river." That survey was confirmed by the Land Office in Richmond, on March 5, 1800. It was on that tract that a grist mill and a sawmill were erected at the mouth of Red Stone Branch, where remains of the "upper dam," as it was called, are still visible in the river bed. This tract of land became the site of Abijah Thomas's Holston Mills complex about 1860.

During the recent demolition of the Donnelly house, located near the mill site on John Thomas's land, it was discovered that a two-story log house with a basement had been incorporated into the right-rear corner of that large frame residence. John Thomas may have built that house; if he did not, his son Thomas Thomas, or his grandson, John Thomas did.


The dispersal of John Thomas's real estate began on January 21, 1820, when he signed two deeds "for & in consideration of the natural love & affection" he had for his son, Thomas Thomas, and the children of his deceased son, Abijah. To the latter: Sally Allen, John, Polly, Betsy, Martha, Samuel, Anna, and David, he conveyed "a parcel of land lying & being in the County of Washington of the South side of the South Fork of Holstein River containing 275 acres...." (Washington County Deed Book 7, p. 158.) By the other deed, he devised to Thomas Thomas his Redstone property, which amounted to 230 acres more or less.


John Thomas's will, a curious document, is transcribed in Appendix I from the original copy found in Washington County Deed Book 3, pp. 17-18. His will, which was signed before David Denton, John Anderson, and James Hull, witnesses, on May 23, 1821, contains some inexplicable irregularities. For example, he bequeathed to his wife, Mary, " land & house, and household furniture... for her freely to enjoy during her life." Mary had been dead almost six years before her husband signed his will. Did he not remember that she had died February 2, 1816, and that she was no longer alive? Apparently not.

A few lines later, the will states: "My land I give to Thomas & Abijah my sons to be equally divided between them..." The testator intended, it can be assumed, that his property be divided between his sons after his wife's death. But Abijah was dead and had been since 1819. Did John Thomas not recall that he had already deeded Abijah's children 275 acres of land in 1820, and that he had given 230 acres to his surviving son, Thomas Thomas? The latter acquired approximately 129 acres of his father's land, not accounted for in the two deeds, after John Thomas's death.

John Thomas appointed his sons Abijah and Thomas Thomas to be co-executors of his last will and testament, but Abijah had been dead two years when his father signed his will.

Apparently the phrase in his will, referring to his being "of perfect mind and memory" was only a pro forma statement, for his memory was far from perfect. He expressly stated that after his wife's death, "I give my daughter Martha [Harris] and her children the sum of one hundred pounds..." and "I also give my daughter Annas Children the sum of one hundred pounds to be equally divided among them to be paid by my Executors." It appears from the context that Martha Thomas Harris was still alive at the time and that Anna was not, but with the confusion already commented upon above, it is impossible to know for certain.

In the settlement of the estate by Thomas Thomas, the only surviving executor, which was returned to court and recorded April 20, 1824, there is no mention of the bequests John Thomas had made to Martha and her children or to Anna's. The $447.79 remaining in the hands of the executor, was "... to be equally divided between the executor & the heirs of Abijah Thomas dec'd. Thomas Thomas, executor, had already settled with George and Sally Allen, heirs of her father, Abijah Thomas, for their share of the estate, but what about the money left to Martha and Anna's children?

Another anomaly concerning the settlement of this estate is the fact that the executor paid for having the estate appraised and had a sale of his father's personal property, but no record of either the Appraisal Bill or the bill of Sale in in the files of the court in Washington County.

The settlement of John Thomas's estate, transcribed in Appendix II, from Washington County Will Book 5, pp. 61-62, shows that Thomas Thomas, his only surviving executor paid $9.00 for his father's funeral expenses, which proves beyond doubt that John Thomas died in Washington County, where he was buried in the St. Clair's Bottom Cemetery.

Note: All the above information was taken from a book by Mack H. Sturgill. ABIJAH THOMAS & HIS OCTAGONAL HOUSE. Tucker Printing. Marion, Virginia. 1990. pp. 3-8.
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