Saturday, April 19, 2014


Three biographies - 1881, 1888 and 1922:

Bio by Alley Bowen, 1881

The subject of this narrative was born in Ohio county, Kentucky, January 27, 1813. At the age of twelve years, he accompanied his parents to Marion county, Missouri; thence they proceeded to Lewis county, in the same State, and there he received his education, as well as being reared a farmer; the last sixteen years of his residence, farming on his own account. In the year 1819, crossed the plains to the Pacific slopes, in a train of forty-two wagons, conducted by Ebenezer Ously, and arrived in California, in September, of the same year. Mr. Thomas, like every one else, first engaged in mining, his initial venture being on Dry creek. Giving up the search for gold in two weeks, however, he turned his attention to teaming until the following Spring, when he opened a grocery, in partnership with John Bane, and conducted it until December, when he sold out, and sailed from San Francisco, December 14, 1850, on a visit to the Eastern States, arriving at his home in Missouri, February 15, 1851.

 On April 18, 1853, we find Mr. Thomas, once more about to undertake the weary journey across the plains, bringing with him a drove of cattle. He came direct to Gilroy township, Santa Clara county, arriving November 1, 18.53. He first resided in a rented house near the old homestead, but, subsequently, having purchased outright a squatter's claim, he located thereon—the farm on which he now lives—comprising four hundred and sixty-five acres in possession, and nine hundred and forty-five acres in an undivided grant. For the first twelve years of his sojourn in the county, Mr. Thomas engaged entirely in stock-raising, but latterly, he has confined himself chiefly to agricultural farming.

In the year 1855, his father, James Thomas, who was born August 27, 1786, made the journey to this State—a rather severe undertaking for a gentleman of seventy years—and joined his son, remaining with him until his death, which occurred in October, 1869. Our subject was married, May 7, 1837, to Phoebe F. Bane, a native of Bracken County, Kentucky. 

1888 BIO

Massey Thomas was born on Green River, in Ohio County, Kentucky, January 27, 1813. His parents were James and Elizabeth (Miller) Thomas, the former being a native of Tennessee. Massey Thomas, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was born in Virginia, and was a soldier in the Revolutionary army. He emigrated to Tennessee when there was nothing but a pack trail there, and removed to Danville, Kentucky, when James was a mere child. The family was contemporaneous with Daniel Boone. He afterward removed to Ohio County, where he died and was buried on his own farm. Massey Thomas, Jr., was reared in Kentucky until he was fourteen years of age, when his parents removed to Marion County, Missouri, and after remaining there three years removed to Lewis County, where he grew to manhood, and bought and improved a farm. In 1849 he crossed the plains in Eb. Ousley's train bound for California, and after a trip of five months reached Sacramento. He then went to the mines at Auburn, but in one month gave up mining and went to teaming, at which he earned from $25 to $30 per day. He followed this business eighteen months, and then returned to Missouri, by way of Panama and New Orleans, and February 15, 1851, reached his old home. He remained there until April, when he again came to California, bringing 300 head of cattle, which comprised his entire capital.

        He reached Gilroy about the middle of October, and located where he now resides. He erected his present residence in 1862. Mr. Thomas was married, May 7, 1837, to Miss Phebe Foster Bain, a native of Bracken County, Kentucky, daughter of Balden and Nancy (Reynolds) Bain. Her parents were natives of Virginia. Her grandfather Reynolds was a soldier in the Revolutionary army. Her grandmother was a sister to Daniel Webster, and Governor Reynolds, of Missouri, was Mrs. Thomas' uncle. Her mother died in Bracken County, Kentucky. When Mrs. Thomas was seventeen years of age (in 1833) she went with her sister to Missouri, and located in Lewis County. Her father afterward removed to Pike County, Missouri, where he died. Mr. Thomas' father came out to California in 1855, in his seventieth year, and resided here until his death, in 1868. He was a great hunter, and while out deer-hunting one evening he was thrown by his horse near a precipice and was not found until the next morning, and soon died. He clung to his hunting proclivities until his death. He was born August 27, 1786. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas have reared ten children: James Balden, born June 30, 1838, and died October 29, 1859; Mary Susan, born February 3, 1840, wife of William O. Barker, now residing in Fresno County; Thomas Reynolds, born December 8, 1841, and died in 188–; he was a grain dealer in Gilroy; John and William (twins), born October 28, 1843; the former resides in San Benito County, and the latter died January 4, 1880; Benjamin F., born December 22, 1846, was educated in San Jose and is now practicing law in Santa Barbara; Louisa E., born August 7, 1848, died December 7, 1849; Massey, born December 10, 1851, now residing at San Felipe; Clayton R., born January 25, 1854, residing with his parents; and Charles E., born January 15, 1857, now residing at San Miguel. Mr. Thomas was an old-line Whig in the days of that party, but upon its disintegration became a Democrat. His father was also a Whig, and later a Democrat. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas are members of the Christian Church, and he is an Elder. He was one of the founders and principal supporters of the Gilroy congregation, and he and his wife were among the original members.

        Mr. Thomas has a fine ranch of 501 3/4 acres in Gilroy Township, 300 acres being valley land and the balance table-land. It is all susceptible of cultivation. He usually raises about 250 acres of grain annually, 200 acres of wheat, and 50 of barley. His crops have never failed. His wheat usually averages from fifteen to twenty-five centals to the acre, and he has raised seventy-five bushels of oats to the acre. His barley yields about twenty-five centals to the acre. His table-land is used for pasturage mostly. He has about seventy head of cattle and thirty-five horses. His brand is a capital "T," with the lower portion ex­tended through a small "o." He raises choice stock of all kinds. He also has an orchard with most of the varieties of fruits, and has been a successful fruit-raiser.

Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888. Pg. 611-612

49er- Pioneer Rancher of Gilroy
Bio by Sawyers, 1922

Much goes to make up the history of any nation or communities-group, but whenever the story of Santa Clara County, lists unrivaled resources and its phenomenal growth shall be written, the historian will be sure to include a record of development such as that of the late Massey Thomas, the well-known '49er, who with much to choose from turned to agricultural pursuits in this highly-favored region, and selected historic Gilroy as his abiding place. Along the banks of Green River, in Ohio County, Ky., on January 27, 1813, he entered the family of James Thomas and his good wife, who had been Miss Elizabeth Miller, before her marriage; and he was christened Massey, after his Grandfather Thomas, who in the stirring days of the American Revolution, made an illustrious name for himself in many battles waged for our independence.

Growing up, the grandfather removed from Virginia to Tennessee, nothing daunted by the fact that he had only rough pack trails instead of even country roads to travel over; and with the responsibility of caring for their infant child James, the intrepid pioneer and his wife settled in Danville, Ky., where they became neighbors albeit at what today would be consider handsomely distant, to the renowned Daniel Boone, the hero of the Battle of Blue Licks, who had doubly earned his title after the clever expedient by which he escaped from four armed Indians through having thrown tobacco into their eyes and blinded the redskins. Developed, like Boone and his doughty sons, to hardihood and extreme self-dependence, Massey Thomas after a while sought better prospects on a farm in Ohio County; and there he at last found a peaceful conclusion to his strenuous earthly progress.

The grandson who had the honor of bearing the brave old Massey's honored name, the subject of this review, continued in Kentucky until the middle of his teens, when he removed to Marion County, Mo., and for three years worked hard to get a foothold. Then he selected Lewis County for a farm investment, and he developed the rough land into something more indicative of civilization. When the news of the discovery of gold in California, however, was received in Missouri and the neighboring region, Massey Thomas, like thousands of others, became restive and eager to dare in the hope of sharing; and he was not long in crossing the plains and going to the mines. He was also not long in discovering that far more certain wealth might be easily acquired by catering to those who were seeking the gold; hence he turned his attention to teaming, and often earned as much as thirty dollars a day.

A year and a half under the trying pioneer conditions of California at this period of over-influx and scanty provision was enough for the common-sense of this practical, progressive man, and Mr. Thomas, in the early spring of 1851, returned East, reaching his old home in Missouri on February 15. In April he again came to the Coast, but this time he brought with him a herd of 300 cattle, which he knew would be worth more, in a way, than the much sought for gold in the mountains. By the middle of October he had located upon the 500 acres which he was to make his celebrated home-place, and there, with three-fifths of his acreage in the fertile valley, he embarked in extensive farming to wheat and barley. He also took up stock -raising and cultivation of fruit, improving his stock to the highest standard, and introducing from abroad, and cultivating originally himself, some of the best and choicest and newest varieties of fruits. In this way, by the most scientific methods then known, he made his farm one of the most valuable ranches in this part of the county.

The marriage of Massey Thomas and Phoebe Bane and was of the pleasant social events of that section and period, the bride having been a daughter of Baldwin and Nancy (Reynolds) Bane, and one of the belles of Bracken County, in Kentucky, where she was born December 12, 1821. She could remember the stories handed down in her family of her grandfather, who shouldered a musket in the Continental Army, and she could also recall many interesting anecdotes about famous folks of by-gone days, for her maternal grandmother was a sister of Daniel Webster, the famous statesman and orator, and she was a niece of  Thomas Reynolds, who was born in Kentucky in 1796, removed to Missouri and died in 1844, in the same year in which he concluded his four-year term as Governor of Missouri, his untimely demise preventing his reelection as a popular official. At the beginning of her teens, Mrs. Thomas was taken to Missouri by an older sister, and they located in Lewis County in the fall of 1833; and later the family removed to Pike County, Mo., where Mr. Bane died.

 The following are the children of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas; James Baldwin Thomas, who attended the San Jose schools and then went to Cambridge, Mass, and lacked but one year of graduating from college when he was stricken with pneumonia and died, in 1859; Mary Susan, Mrs. W.O. Barker, now deceased; Thomas Reynolds, was a grain-dealer in Gilroy several years before his death. John and William, twin-brothers, were born on October 8, 1843; the latter died in 1880, and John lives in Hollister. Benjamin F. Thomas, who was born in 1846, rose to distinction as a legal practitioner at Santa Barbara and he died there in 1922. Louise E. died in early childhood. Massey, born on December 10, 1851, now lives on part of the home ranch, in the old ranch house; and Clayton R. was born on January 25, 1854 and remained with his parents; while Charles E., born three years later, died on the home place. Mrs. Thomas died May 22, 1892.

Originally a stanch Whig, Mr. Thomas later espoused the cause of the democratic party seeking state sovereignty, and with his equally Christian wife, he became an ardent worker in and a real pillar of the Christian Church, helping both to found and to build up the branch in Gilroy. All in all, Massey Thomas, representing, with his accomplished wife, some of the finest blood and traditions of American history, was himself influential and helpful to an exceptional degree in his day in hurrying on the great Pacific commonwealth to her destiny, and he merited and enjoyed the esteem and confidence of his fellowmen to a high degree. He died at his home south of Gilroy in 1900, aged eighty-seven years.

Transcribed by Carolyn Feroben, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County, California, published by Historic Record Co., 1922, page 432

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