Marchant Thomas Family
by Betty Thomas Finger
Conclusions and speculations about
Marchant Markum Thomas
I must begin by apologizing for the delay. When I started my website in June of 2002, I had the basic foundation for this article, but I wanted to go back through my notes and verify everything. It was like opening a can of worms. The more I found, the more I needed to find. Then after my site went up, it was so much fun hearing from everyone related to the Marchant Thomas line that I diverted my time and attention to answering correspondence from visitors to my site. Now, so as not to neglect the article altogether, I have decided to present it in a progression of stages.
Some of the topics I will consider are: Who are Marchant's children and where were they born, Who was his wife and where were they married, Speculations on who Marchant's father was and who his wife's father was, and other topics, including the topic presented below in Part I.
As mentioned on my acknowledgements page, my knowledge of the Marchant Thomas clan began with William Thomas' work published in the Clay County Ancestral News. From there I checked all possible sources in and around Owsley County, Kentucky (census records, land records, tax lists, vital statistics, etc.), including what Arch and James Bowman had compiled on the Thomases. Judy Tate (see some of her work at Newton Co. AR) led me to the South Carolina Thomases and I have researched land and court records in the SC/NC area as well. The Leonardo Andrea collection at the South Carolina Archives was a big help there. I have tried to substantiate & build upon what these researchers have done and I continue in my quest for a clear perception of the truth. I will share my conclusions thus far with you and, in the years to come, any changes that will add to or alter these conclusions. Your input is welcome.
MARCHANT THOMAS VS ABRAHAM THOMAS
I feel that the most important issue involves the relationship of Marchant Thomas to Abraham Thomas. An error that has become widespread and continues to circulate is that Marchant Thomasis connected to the Abraham Thomas line. Although there are various reasons for this, the most influential one, I believe, is the book, Thomas Family History 1385-1995 from Wales to Eastern Kentucky, Vol. I, by Charles Thomas (of the Abraham Thomas line). I first saw his information at the Clay County Historical Society in the publication Family Histories of Letcher County. I have written to him more than once to get his answer to the question of what he based his connecting of the two Thomas families on, but have been unable to get a response.
It may be that he based it on nothing more than that the two men ended up in Owsley County by 1844. * Abraham, b.1770, VA, came to Kentucky from VA whereas Marchant, b.1771, SC, came to Kentucky from SC via Georgia. Marchant showed up on the Clay County KY Tax List in 1808 (as Marchant Thompason). Abraham was already in KY by then, but he was in Madison County, 1807 (From Madison County Tax Books 1802-1814, Kentucky Historical Society, Reel # 73-0258, researched by Jim Cox). Abraham Thomas was never on the Clay County KY Tax Lists.
Togin Cassell, an avid researcher and direct descendant of Abraham Thomas, had her family history handed down to her in a Family Bible and Abraham's son,Isaac Franklin Thomas, was said to be born 1806, in Owsley Co. (in 1806 that would be Madison County). The rest of the children were born in Virginia or in Estill, Lee or Owsley County KY (before Lee was formed in 1870 it was part of Owsley County. Prior to Owsley's formation (1843), it was part of Estill County). So the picture we get here is that Abraham's family lived in the area of what is known today as Lee or Estill County. Marchant's children were born in NC/SC, GA, and Clay County, KY. Marchant owned property on Cow Creek in what is now Owsley County in 1821 and his son Joseph owned property on White Oak Creek in the south central part of Owsley since about 1835 (see map). As we look at this, we can see that the two men never lived in the same area together. It was not until 1850 that we even see their descendants living in the same county. So any conclusions based on their living close to one another do not stand up.
Another discrepancy in Charles Thomas' book that contributed to the belief that Marchant and Abraham's families were connected was to list James Edward Siasee Thomas as a son of Marchant. However, Marchant's son James is living next door to him on the 1830 Clay County KY Census and appears on the Clay County Tax Lists from 1820-1842, while James Siasee Thomas is in Ashe Co. NC having children born from 1821 to 1836 - all in Ashe County.
There are other things that can contribute to the confusion if a researcher has not been thorough. On the 1850 Owsley County census, there is a Joseph Thomas household with Abraham's widow living with them, but this is NOT Marchant's son, Joseph. He is in Household number 587, probably on White Oak Creek. Whereas Abraham's son Joseph is in HH number 151, probably in the section that became Lee County since, in 1870 when Lee was formed, he is on the Lee County census. (See map below showing location of property owned by each Joseph in 1847).
Here's another snag: Someone might see Isaac Thomas on the 1850 Owsley County census and conclude that he is Marchant's son, BUT Marchant's son Isaac is in BREATHITT County, KY in 1850 and Marchant and Jemima are living with him. The Isaac in Owsley County is in HH 141 which is only 10 dwellings away from the Joseph mentioned above in HH 151. There are other Thomases in that area as well, but you might notice that some of the older ones are born in Virginia. It is my experience that anytime we see Virginia as a birth place (on the Kentucky censuses), these are not the Marchant Thomas family.
Now someone might point to the similar names of the two Thomas families as an indication that they are related, but these names were very common names in ALL families of that time. What IS noteworthy is that NONE of Marchant's children are named Abraham nor any of THEIR children, in fact the name, Abraham, is found NOWHERE among the descendants of Marchant Thomas (down to this day, to my knowledge).
We must realize that Thomas is a very common English surname and conclude that there were simply OTHER Thomas families living in Southeastern Kentucky at the same time. In fact, there were MANY different Thomas families that ended up in Kentucky, and some of them came very early.
Attention Please. If you are using any data from my site, I would appreciate it if you would attach my name to it as the source. I have put a great deal of time and effort into separating the Wheat from the Weeds in my Thomas information. That's not to say it's infallible, but my conclusions are based upon extensive research. I have made every attempt to go to the primary source wherever possible, even going to the National Archives in Washington, DC to view original pension records. All of my sources are documented and I have tried to verify information given to me by others. You are welcome to use information from this site if you credit me as the source (can be in the form of a link to my site). Your cooperation in this will allow me to keep my site freely accessible to everyone.
© 2003 Betty Thomas Finger
© 2003 Betty Thomas Finger
Betty Thomas Fingerhttp://www.marchant-thomas.com/index.html
I was born in Kentucky, the first child of Bill Elijah "Lige" Thomas and Mildred Louise "Mickey" Overman. Dad was born and raised on Doe Creek Road in Owsley County until about the age of 16. His mother, Lona Sizemore, died in 1923 when Lige was 13 years old and by 1926 he and his dad, Lewis "Bud" Thomas, had moved to Newport, KY. It was there that Lige met and married my mother, Mickey, in 1946. It was a second marriage for both of them, Mom having 2 small children from her first marriage. They lived in Newport for four more years and then in 1950, having heard glowing reports about job opportunities in California, they packed up their belongings and they with their 5 small children, set out for California. I was 3 or 4 years old at the time. They settled in the small mountainous community of Coarsegold, California.
In 1954 Mom and Dad divorced and I was raised by Mom and my stepfather, Gerald "Jerry" Cross, in Ahwahnee, California, a small country town near the foothills of Yosemite National Park. I didn't see much of Dad until years later when I was in my teens or pre-teen years. One thing that stands out in my mind about my visits with him at those times was his yearning to return to the hills of Kentucky where he grew up. Sad to say, he was never able to realize that wish, but it instilled in me the desire to someday go to his childhood home. Through the years he told us bits and pieces about his life in Owsley County, mentioning once that we had a Cherokee grandmother somewhere in our line. (Doesn't everyone?) Later that tantalizing little bit of information would impel me to learn more.
In 1972 Dad died at the age of 62 without ever having returned to his beloved Kentucky home. As the years passed I became occupied with the all-consuming task of raising a family of my own. It was not until 1989 when my younger sister, Joyce, asked me about our Cherokee ancestry that my interest in family history was aroused again. I also began to think about how little I knew about Dad's family. None of us had ever met our grandparents on Dad's side since they were already gone before Dad married Mom. These two things became the motivating force behind my search for my family roots.
My search for family history led me to Owsley County, KY. First I learned what I could from the few living relatives that were remaining and got some facts I could start with. From that I was able to send for public records through the mail and I made weekly trips to the LDS Family History Center where I scoured census records and vital statistics. When we made our first trip to Owsley County, a cousin, Henry Sizemore, took us to the Griffith "Griffey" Cemetery, relating information he knew about various ones buried there and to Doe Creek road, known locally as "Thomas Holler". What a thrill it was to finally see the area where Dad had spent his youth, and we copied information from the headstones that were readable in the cemetery. While in Owsley County, we visited the county library and examined the records available in their genealogy section. This helped to widen out my knowledge of the people I was kin to. Since that time we have made several trips to Owsley and other counties gathering information from historical societies and cemeteries, etc. And now we have the Internet! I have been able to make so many connections from cousins everywhere and, since posting my website on the internet, I have heard from many, many Marchant Thomas descendants. We also now have the Owsley County History and Genealogy Society which is growing in leaps and bounds, making available to researchers everywhere as much information as possible on Owsley County genealogy and history.
In conclusion, I'd like to add that in a recent trip to Owsley County, we found an adventuresome soul (James Bowman) who was willing to take us all the way up the left fork of Doe Creek road where Dad lived and played in his youth. We found what was left of the home where his grandfather, Elijah, had lived and I have preserved a piece of that homestead, in the form of a Daylily, that I transplanted here at my Sacramento home.
|Dad, age 60, and me |
(blonde wig & all!)
|In front of what remains of the home where Elijah Thomas, b.1842, lived out his last days, taken October 2002|