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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Arthur Baker Thomas

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 174-179 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

Contents | Portraits | Illustrations | Maps

Portrait of Philip Thomas

Portrait: Philip Thomas

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Arthur Baker Thomas, president of Philip Thomas' Sons Company, Incorporated, lumber dealers and manufacturers of Utica, is a worthy representative of a family that has figured prominently in business circles of this city for nearly nine decades. He was born in Utica on the 18th of May, 1859, a son of Philip and Frances (Baker) Thomas. The birth of the father occurred in Newport, Herkimer county, New York, on the 27th of March, 1815, his parents being Thomas and Sarah (Phillips) Thomas, who emigrated to the United States from Pembrokeshire, South Wales, in 1796, and took up their abode in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Four years later, in 1800, they removed to Newport, New York. Philip Thomas, who was the sixth son in a family of eight sons and two daughters, had attained his majority when he came to Utica and embarked in the building business in association with his brother Daniel, their shop being located on Union street. The Thomas brothers were intelligent, industrious and reliable and made a success as builders. Later Daniel moved to New York Mills and Philip carried on the business alone. He was an architect as well as builder, drawing the plans for many of the structures erected by him. Among the buildings erected under the supervision of Philip Thomas may be named the City Hall; the First Presbyterian church, which was located on the corner of Washington and Columbia streets in 1852; Grace church; Calvary and St. George's Episcopal churches; Bethany church; the Utica Orphan Asylum; and many of the old-time residences on Genesee street. A contemporary biographer wrote of him:

"He died May 17, 1886, aged seventy-one years, having ably and conscientiously performed his part during a long and active life. He was a man of unwearied industry, undaunted perseverance and remarkably good judgment, his name being an honored one in the city in which he had resided for a half century. In his dealings he was entirely reliable, and he enjoyed the goodwill and esteem of the best people of Utica and Oneida county. He served at one time as a member of the common council. During the war Mr. Thomas was an active abolitionist. Although beyond the age limit to be drafted into the army, he became a commissioned officer in a cavalry company. This company was formed and drilled chiefly as a protection to the city of Utica which, it was feared by many, would be attacked, but was also to be called into active service for the country if needed."

In 1845 Philip Thomas married Fanny Thomas of Utica, and to them were born three daughters and one son, the eldest, Margaret Frances, alone reaching maturity. She died July 5, 1872, aged twenty-five years, and the mother passed away in 1855. On the 9th of June, 1857, Philip Thomas married Frances Baker, also of Utica, daughter of Arthur and Harriett (Silver) Baker, who came to this country in 1823 from Havre, France, although both were born and educated in England. The children of the second marriage were three sons and one daughter, as follows: Arthur Baker, of this review; Frederick Silver, who is now a resident of Deansboro, Oneida county, New York; Herbert Norris, who departed this life in October, 1911; and Marion Phillips.

Portrait of Arthur Baker Thomas

Portrait: Arthur Baker Thomas

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Arthur Baker Thomas, the eldest of the sons of Philip and Frances (Baker) Thomas, pursued his education in the public schools of his native city and in the Utica Free Academy. In 1879, when a young man of twenty years, he secured employment as a carpenter in the lumber mill of William B. Williams & Son at Whitesboro, there remaining for three years. On the expiration of that period, in 1882, he returned to Utica and entered the lumber mill of General Sylvester Dering, in whose service he continued until the death of his father in 1886. At that time he and his two brothers, Frederick S. and Herbert N. Thomas, formed a partnership under the name of Philip Thomas' Sons. They gradually began concentrating their attention upon the lumber business, which has been successfully continued to the present time. In 1896 the old site of the firm on Kemble street was disposed of to the city and upon it was erected the beautiful new Utica Free Academy. At its present site, No. 1621 Kemble street, the company has ample accommodations and every facility for handling lumber on an extensive scale. In the year following the demise of his brother, Herbert N. Thomas, Frederick S. Thomas sold his interest in the business to George R. Ainsworth and the enterprise was incorporated as the Philip Thomas' Sons Company, with Arthur B. Thomas as president and George R. Ainsworth as secretary and treasurer. The strict integrity which has ever characterized this concern in its dealings has won for it an enviable reputation wherever its name is known and it enjoys a large and lucrative patronage.

On the 21st of March, 1889, Arthur B. Thomas was united in marriage to Miss Wilhelmina H. Winter, daughter of Christian and Louise Winter of Utica. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas became the parents of two children: Raymond Philip, whose natal day was February 29, 1892; and Frances Louise, born January 23, 1901. The wife and mother was called to her final rest on the 14th of November, 1909, after twenty years of happy wedded life. On June 6, 1919, Mr. Thomas was married to Miss Esther E. Williams.

Mr. Thomas is a republican in his political views but not an active party worker. He has membership connection with the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Utica Chamber of Commerce, the Northeastern Retail Lumbermen's Association and the National Retail Lumber Dealers Association. His religious faith is indicated by his membership in the Episcopal church, while fraternally he is identified with the Masons, belonging to Faxton Lodge No. 697, A. F. & A. M.; Oneida Chapter No. 57, R. A. M.; Utica Commandery No. 3, K. T., of which he has been treasurer for a number of years, and Ziyara Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S. He is likewise connected with Utica Lodge No. 33 of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. A lifelong resident of Oneida county, he has become widely and favorably known throughout the community and has long enjoyed an enviable reputation as one of the leading business men and highly esteemed citizens of Utica.

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