Thomas, John (of St. Clair Co., IL)

Born: 1800-01-11 Virginia

Died: 1894-12-15 Belleville, Illinois

Flourished: Saint Clair County, Illinois

When John Thomas was a young man, his father moved his family from Virginia, to Illinois, in 1818, to escape the influence of slavery. In 1822, he married Isabella Kinney, the daughter of Illinois Lieutenant Governor William Kinney, who was also owned enslaved people. He and his wife had ten children. Thomas worked as a blacksmith under his father until he bought land in 1828 and became a farmer. Thomas attended Shurtleff College in Alton, Illinois, in 1831. In 1832, Thomas was a colonel during the Black Hawk War. Upon returning from the war, Thomas became a contractor in 1836, after Illinois adopted the internal improvement system. Thomas served alongside Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois House of Representatives as an independent candidate, 1838-1840, representing St. Clair County. In 1856, Thomas, who greatly opposed slavery, was very active in helping create the Republican Party and was one of its first members. He was named the leader of the Republican Party in his Congressional District and was nominated for Congress on the ticket in 1856. He however lost the election to Democrat nominee, James L. D. Morrison. In 1860, Thomas owned $300,000 in real estate and $25,000 in personal estate. Thomas was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, as a Republican, 1863-1864, representing St. Clair County, and was re-elected in 1865-1866.

Gravestone, Green Mount Protestant Cemetery, St. Clair County, IL; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, St. Clair County, 6 December 1822, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Portrait and Biographical Record of St. Clair County, Illinois (Chicago: Chapman Bros., 1892), 387-390; Green B. Raum, History of Illinois Republicanism (Chicago: Rollins, 1900), 630; History of St. Clair County, Illinois (Philadelphia: Brink, McDonough, 1881), 111, 201; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 208, 225,226; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), St. Clair County, IL, 449.