History of Bucks County, Pa Volume 3 by William H. Davis
Names and Page # Index



OLIVER M. THOMAS, of Hilltown township, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, near Line Lexington, is the sole survivor, of the paternal name, of a family that was once very numerous in Hilltown, and whose members were among the largest landowners and most influential people in the township.  He also resides on land taken up and improved by his ancestors nearly two centuries ago. 

                Rev. William THOMAS, or as he was more familiarly know, “Elder THOMAS,” the paternal ancestor of the THOMAS family of Bucks county, was born in the year 1678, in Lanwenarth, Merionethshire, Wales, on the borders of England.  He belonged to a family that possessed considerable means, being freeholders of a considerable estate.  His parents were members of a Baptist church in Merioneth, and he was reared in the tenets of that faith, and receiving a superior education for his time, and being of a studious and pious disposition, he became a speaker in religious meetings of his sect when still a young man, and though never an ordained minister, continued to administer to the spiritual needs of his neighbors through his entire life.  Rev. Abel MORGAN, for many years pastor of the Baptist church at Pennypack, and the founder of the Montgomery Baptist church, and also a native of Merioneth, was his acquaintance and friend.  Prior to his coming to America his parents located on a farm called Blassaw of Wyn, in the parish of Bedwildy, some distance from the place of his nativity.  At the death of his parents he sold the patrimonial estate, and being possessed of sufficient means to settle himself comfortably in a new country where land was cheap, he made his preparations to embark for Pennsylvania.  He had married in 1710 Ann (maiden name not recorded), born in 1680, and his eldest child Thomas was born in Wales in 1711.  In January, 1711-12, he transported his household goods and his wife and infant child to Bristol, England, and, having engaged passage on a ship lying there bound for Philadelphia, had his goods, clothing and the greater part of his cash taken aboard.  Being informed that the ship would not sail for several days, he took his family to the country to await the day of sailing.  Though he returned before the appointed time, the ship had already sailed, though still in sight.  After an ineffectual attempt to overtake her he was forced to await the sailing of a later vessel.  He and his family arrived in Philadelphia on February 14, 1712, and, though he found the vessel there in which his goods had been transported, the dishonest master had absconded with everything of value he could lay his hands on, and he had the mortification of seeing some of his own clothes on the backs of persons who had bought them of the dishonest master.   Wholly without funds or any worldly posessions, (sic) he was forced to look about for means of obtaining a livelihood.  Fortunately, he had learned the useful craft of a cooper, and meeting with a family by the name of Watkins, whom he had known in the old country, he obtained sufficient funds to pay for his passage and to equip him in a modest way to follow his trade.  In the latter part of the year 1713 he located in Radnor township, now Delaware county, where he followed the trade of a cedar cooper for some time, returning later to the east side of the Schuylkill and locating in the Northern Liberties.  By industry and shrewd business tact in the course of five years he accumulated sufficient funds to repay his benefactors and to warrant him in fulfilling his original intention of becoming a freeholder.  At that time the township of Hilltown, though already surveyed, was held in large tracts of one thousand to three thousand acres by a few residents of Philadelphia and vicinity.  Among these was Jeremiah LANGHORNE, of Bucks county, then chief justice of Pennsylvania.  Of him Mr. Thomas purchased 440 acres lying along the county line between Line Lexington and Telford, for eighty-eight pounds.  The purchase, being consummated February 12, 1718, William THOMAS removed his growing family to his new purchase, which was entirely unimproved.  He soon erected a substantial though modest house which continued to shelter him and some of his descendants until nearly a century later, being demolished in 1812.  Continuing his lifelong habits of industry and thrift he was able five years later to purchase another tract of three hundred acres one and h half miles further north, part of which is still in possession of the subject of this sketch.  In 1725 he purchased 406 acres in two tract, one of them adjoining his first purchase, and the other adjoining the New Britain line, where he later erected a Baptist church and gave to the township, with land sufficient for a graveyard.  In 1728 he purchased another fifty acres, making in all 1258 acres, whose total cost was 361 pounds. 

                He continued his religious labors from the time of his arrival in Pennsylvania, and on locating in Hilltown united himself and his family with Montgomery Baptist church which had been founded in 1714.  This church being, however, over three miles away, he began to minister to the Welsh Baptist settlers in Hilltown, located still farther away from the church, first at his and their houses and in the open air, and later at the little meeting house erected on land donated by him as before stated.  He also assisted the Rev. Benjamin GRIFFITH in his pastorate of Montgomery church.  The meeting house erected by him in 1737 stood for forty-four years, being demolished in 1771, and a more commodious building erected in its place.

                Death closed the earthly career of this pious Welsh pioneer on October 6, 1757, and a large flat marble slab marks his last resting place in the shadow of the church his earnest labors had helped to establish, on which is inscribed the date of his death and age, and the following singularly appropriate and unique epitaph, composed by himself:

“In yonder Meeting House I spent my breath;

Now silent mouldering here I lie in death.

These silent lips shall wake and yet declare,

A dread Amen to truths they published there.”

                His wife preceded him, dying November 5, 1752, at the age of seventy-two years.  By his will dated December 11, 1753, he devised to the inhabitants of Hilltown forever the meeting house erected by himself, and the graveyard in which to bury their dead, both to be for the use of the people of whatever religious creed, “Papists and those who refuse to take the oath of allegiance to a Protestant king excepted,” and, in reference to the graveyard, “those guilty of self-murder only excepted.”  The house was also to be used for school purposes.  A considerable sum was also devised for the use of the Baptist church.  His large real estate holdings were divided among his children, most of whom were already settled on the lands then devised to them.  Elder William THOMAS and Ann his wife, were the parents of seven children;

1. Thomas, born in Wales in 1711, died in Hilltown, January, 1780.

2. John, born in Radnor, Delaware county, December, 1713, married Sarah JAMES, and was for many years paster of the Montgomery and Hilltown Baptist churches and has left numerous descendants.

3. Gwently, born 1716, married Morris MORRIS.  She inherited from her father the farm near the meeting house, and she and her husband are the ancestors of the MORRIS family of that section, and many others scattered all over the country..

4. Anna, born 1719, married Stephen ROWLAND, some of whose descendants still reside in Hilltown.

5. Manasseh, born 1721, died in Hilltown, February 7, 1802.

6. William, born 1723, married Abigail DAY, and died in Hilltown in 1764.

7. Ephraim, a twin of Anna, born 1719, married Eleanor BATES, and died in 1776.

All these children left families and spent their lives in or near Hilltown.

                Thomas THOMAS, the eldest son of Elder William THOMAS, was the direct ancestor of the subject of this sketch.  He married in 1735, Margaret BATES, and settled in a house erected for him by his father on the tract purchased in 1725, of Rowland ELLIS, and this tract and fifty acres of the first purchase of his father was devised to him later.  In addition to this he purchased in 1735 seventy-nine acres, and in 1750 he purchased a tract of five hundred acres, but immediately conveyed one hundred acres, each to his brothers Manasseh and John.  With the 250 acres received from his father he was therefore the owner of 629 acres.  He was a member of the Montgomery Baptist church, but attended the Hilltown Baptist church and became a member there on its acquiring a separate existence.  He died in January. 1780.  His first wife, Margaret BATES, died prior to 1750, leaving three children, Morgan, born 1736, removed to New Jersey, where he died unmarried: Ann, who married (first) John CUSTARD, and late in life Jacob APPENZELLER: and Alice, born 1746, married John MATHIAS, and died in Hilltown, October 25, 1810, leaving a large family.  Thomas THOMAS married a second time prior to 1750, Mary WILLIAMS, who bore him ten children, viz.: Elizabeth, married Henry GODSHALK;  Esther, married William WILLIAMS; Job, born 1751, married Rebecca BATES, daughter of Thomas and Sarah; Amos, born 1752, married Ruth BATES, sister to Rebecca, removed to Virginia, where he was a captain in the Revolution.   Jonah, born 1754 or 1755, married Sarah FREEMAN, daughter of Richard; Catherine married Charles MILLER, and settled in Northampton county; Asa, born February, 1758, married Martha JAMES, daughter of Abel and Mary (HOWELL) JAMES, of New Britain, was a soldier in the Revoluton; (sic) Sarah, born 1760, married Patrick MAITLAND, and settled in Buffalo Valley, (Union county, Pennsylvania); Abel, born 1762, married Mary JAMES, another daughter of Abel and Mary (HOWELL) JAMES and settled in Shenandoah Valley; Anna, twin of Abel, married Joseph MATHIAS.

                Job THOMAS, eldest son of Thomas and Mary (WILLIAMS) THOMAS, was born on the old homestead in 1751.  Though two of his brothers were soldiers in the Revolutionary army, he held aloof from the patriot cause, and had little faith in its ultimate success.  In 1774 his father and mother conveyed to him 150 acres of the 500 acres tract purchased in 1750, and he later heired fifty acres additional, and lived thereon until 1793, when he sold it and removed to the Buffalo Valley with a part of his family, and later to Shamokin, where he was killed by a falling tree in June, 1798.  His widow and family returned to Hilltown, where the former died June 30, 1819.  Job and Rebecca BATES were the parents of eight children, as follows:  1. Thomas, married Mary MATHIAS.  2. Abiah, married Sarah ASHTON.  3. Ruth, never married: 4. Adin, married Morgan CUSTARD. 5. Zillah, married Eber THOMAS, son of Manasseh.  6. Sarah, married Richard HEACOCK.  7. Mary, married Owen ROWLAND.  8. Ann, married Issachar THOMAS, son of Elias and grandson of Ephraim THOMAS, third son of Elder William Thomas.  Ephraim had heired from his father a portion of the 300 acres purchased by Elder William THOMAS in 1723, and upon which his father had erected him a house in 1740, and this tract descended to his son Elias, and through him to Issachar, and from him to his son Levi, who lived thereon until his death in 1886, being then the last survivor of his name as a landowner in Hilltown.  Levi THOMAS devised the old plantation for life to Oliver M. THOMAS, the subject of this sketch, he being the grandson of his mother’s brother Abiah THOMAS.

                Abiah THOMAS, second son of Job and Rebecca (BATES) THOMAS, married Sarah ASHTON.  He was a farmer for many years in Montgomery township, Montgomery county, and had two sons, Alfred and Hiram, the former of whom died in Philadelphia in 1882. 

Hiram THOMAS, second son of Abiah, was born in Hilltown, Bucks county, but was reared in Montgomery county.  He was for several years a school teacher in Hatfield and other parts of Montgomery county, and later a farmer in Montgomery township.  He died in Lower Providence township, Montgomery county.  His wife was Prudence ROBERTS, daughter of John ROBERTS, and of Welsh descent, and they were the parents of six  children, as follows: Eliza, Kate; Oliver M., Alfred, Sarah J., wife of Nathan R. WAMSHER; and Robert.

Oliver M. THOMAS, eldest son of Hiram and Prudence (ROBERTS) THOMAS, was born in Montgomery county, July 25, 1836, and was educated at the public schools of Gwynedd township.  Early in life he learned the trade of a blacksmith, which he followed for thirty-two years.  In 1886 he was devised the farm on which he now resides in Hilltown, for life, by his cousin Levi THOMAS, and has since resided thereon.  In religious matters he holds to the faith of his ancestors for many generations, and is a member of the Baptist church.  In politics he is a Democrat.  Mr. THOMAS married November 25. 1860, Elizabeth FENSTERMACHER, of Lower Providence township, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, and they have been the parents of three children: Samuel, who died at the age of three years; Hiram Brook, who died at the age of ten months; and Eliza Katherine, who died at the age of nine years.

Test taken from page 492-494 of:

Davis, William W. H., A.M., History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania [New York-Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905] Volume III

Transcribed August 2004, Joan Lollis, as part of the Bucks Co., Pa., Early Family Project, www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/bucksindex.html

Published October 2004 on the Bucks County, Pa., USGenWeb pages at www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/

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