The pride and strength of any country, its mainstay and support, is the farmer, whose toil produces food for the masses, and without whose labors poverty and ruin would soon come to the nation. The hardy frontiersman of America had much greater tasks before him than the mere tilling of the soil--he had forests to raze, rivers to bridge, roads to make, privations and hardships innumerable to endure, trials and dangers at which the bravest heart might well quail, yet rarely did he falter in the grand and noble work, none the less noble because self-imposed--the work which meant civilization, progress and prosperity in regions hitherto uninhabited, save by the red men and wild beasts. In the mighty work of rendering the great state of California a fitting place for mankind Edward Thomas has certainly done his share, and no one is more deserving of praise. Mr. Thomas has been identified with various important business interests which have resulted in winning for him success, and now he is living retired in the enjoyment of a well-earned rest, making his home with his daughter, Mrs. James A. Nelson, on Roberts Island.

His birth occurred in Wales in 1827 and he there remained until 1848, when, leaving the little rock-ribbed country of his nativity, he sailed for America, taking passage at Liverpool on a westward-bound sailing vessel, which after a pleasant voyage of twenty-one days dropped anchor in the harbor of New York. Leaving the metropolis he went to Pennsylvania, where he resided for a short time and afterward went to Minnesota, but his stay there was also brief and in 1849 he came to California. He made his way down the Mississippi river to New Orleans, where he took passage on a vessel that went by way of Cape Horn, arriving at San Francisco after a long and dangerous voyage of two hundred and sixteen days.

Mr. Thomas was employed at the carpenter's trade in San Francisco, but soon went to the mines on the American river, where he engaged in a search for gold. Later he made his way to the southern mines of California in Calaveras county, and followed that pursuit for several years. He also became a stockholder in the Union Water Company, which supplie water for the use of the miners in their operations in the gold fields. He resided in that locality for more than a quarter of a century, and for fourteen years was practically the manager of the Union Water Company, which was a most important element in the development of the rich mineral resources of that portion of the state. He also owned interests in mines representing a large financial investment.

It was during his residence in Calaveras county that Mr. Thomas made a trip to his native land. He sailed for Wales in 1861 and continued there for about three years. On the 6th of April, 1864, he was married in Wales to Miss Jeannette A. Powell, and with his bride returned to America. They became the parents of two children: Mary A., who is now the wife of James A. Nelson, an agriculturist living on Roberts Island, San Joaquin county; and one daughter now deceased.

In 1881 Mr. Thomas sold his interests at the southern mines and came to French Camp, San Joaquin county, where for many years he was promoter of and conducted the well known hostelry known as the French Camp Hotel. This he sold in July, 1903. He had made it a leading institution of its kind, and won favor with the traveling public and secured a liberal patronage. Now in the evening of life he is living retired, making his home with Mr. and Mrs. Nelson on Roberts Island. His rest is well merited, for his was an active business career, characterized by the careful conduct of his various interests and by indefatigable diligence.

Mr. Thomas usually votes with the Democracy, but does not consider himself bound by party ties and frequently votes for the nominee on other than the Democratic ticket. Great have been the changes which have occurred in California during his residence here. The incidents and events which to many others are matters of history and of record are to him matters of experience. He bore the hardships and trials incident to the development of the mineral resources of the state at an early day, when few of the conveniences of civilization could be enjoyed nd when a lawless element ruled to a considerable extent in the mining camps. His life history, if written in detail, would prove a most interesting and entertaining one, giving a clear picture of those early days. As the state has emerged from pioneer conditions he has rejoiced in its advancement and progress, and in communities where he has lived he has borne his full share in the work of public improvement. His name should be inscribed high on the roll of California's honored pioneer citizens, and few there are remaining who have so long been identified with its history.

Source: History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume II

The Lewis Publishing Company - 1905
Edited by Leigh H. Irvine

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