Lewis, Thomas

Born: 1808-07-09 Basking Ridge, New Jersey

Died: 1900-02-02 Kansas City, Missouri

Flourished: 1837-1875 Springfield, Illinois

In 1832, Thomas Lewis married Margaret VanNorstrand in New Jersey and in July 1836, he took a trip west to select a future home, finally selecting Springfield, Illinois. On August 1, 1837, Lewis arrived in Springfield with his wife, their children, and other extended family members. Originally a shoemaker, Lewis opened a boot and shoe store upon settling in Springfield, but he also accumulated some money in banking and studied law. He earned admittance to the bar and practiced for a time. However, he conducted much of his legal work as a public estate administrator, handling various legal matters for the heirs of deceased persons in Sangamon County. In 1846, Lewis and Willis H. Johnson started a foundry and machine shop in Springfield and Lewis engaged in a series of partnerships in relation to this enterprise, including Lewis & Johnson, Lewis, Johnson & Company, and Lewis, Adams & Company. He encountered Abraham Lincoln numerous times in the Sangamon County Circuit Court. Lewis was also instrumental in moving Hillsboro College to Springfield, where it became known as the Illinois State University and was a member of the first Board of Trustees for that university. He engaged in land speculation in Sangamon County and by 1850, owned over $20,000 worth of real estate. In August 1852, Lewis was elected president of the Mechanics and Farmers Bank, a position he held until the bank closed in November 1854.

Harry Evjen, “Illinois State University, 1852-1868,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 31 (March 1938), 54, 71; History of Sangamon County, Illinois (Chicago: Inter-State, 1881), 108; Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 4 August 1838, 2:7; 6 August 1846, 2:2; 22 October 1846, 3:5; Illinois Journal (Springfield), 8 June 1848, 1:5; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 29 August 1849, 1:4; 15 July 1850, 3:1; 25 August 1852, 3:2; 30 October 1852, 3:2; 22 November 1854, 2:1; Springfield Sunday Journal (IL), 4 February 1900, 6:4; John Carroll Power and S. A. Power, History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois (Springfield, IL: Edwin A. Wilson, 1876), 455; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States, (1850) Sangamon County, IL, 79; For cases, search Participant, “Lewis, Thomas,” Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org; Gravestone, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, IL.