Biographical and Genealogical Records of Hopkin Thomas and Acquaintances
Due to the notoriety of his achievements and those of his sons, Hopkin ThomasÕ biography appeared in the many commercially produced histories of the Lehigh Valley published in at the turn of the 19th century. All of these are brief and contain mostly the same information. They are reproduced here so that any future researchers will be aware that they have been examined.
Additionally there are two biographies that are more extensive and contain information from original sources.
Edith Duncan Field was a dedicated genealogist who was HopkinÕs great-granddaughter. Her mother passed on recollections of Hopkin that are insightful.
Newt Bugbee is a g-g-grandson of HopkinÕs who has done considerable research into HopkinÕs life. (Newt has provided much information contained in this project.) This is an unpublished biography.
Contact was made by Newt and Monica Bugbee with Alan Hayward, a noted historian in the Neath area. Hayward was not able to provide specific data on the family of Hopkin Thomas, but offers some interesting speculation.
A childhood friend, a fellow-apprentice at the Neath Abbey Ironworks, and the founder of the Crane Iron Works where Hopkin capped off his career, David Thomas was the most renowned of the Welsh iron-masters that came to America in the mid nineteenth century.
Son of a Welsh kinsman and son-in-law of Hopkin, Davies combined with HopkinÕs son James to revitalize the Davies and Thomas Company which became one of the most successful iron foundries in Pennsylvania in the late nineteenth century.
A Welshman who worked with Hopkin Thomas in Tamaqua. He later went to Alabama and was responsible for having James Thomas move to the Birmingham area and perform crucial tests involving the use of coke in blast furnaces.
John Fritz came to Catasauqua in 1853 where, with his brother and two friends, he built a machine shop and foundry. He quickly moved on to the Cambria Iron Works and then to the Bethlehem Iron Works, later Bethlehem Steel, where he had a distinguished career. He was a benefactor to Lehigh University where, today, the Fritz Laboratory, is active as a materials testing facility.
James W. Fuller partnered with his brother-in-law, James Harper McKee, to found the McKee-Fuller Company. This company evolved into The Fuller Company and was CatasuquaÕs leading industrial firm for over a century. Fuller was Hopkin ThomasÕ son-in-law.
Ingham was president of the Beaver Meadow R. R. at its inception. He had contacts at Garrett & Eastwick. The speculation is that he was instrumental in obtaining HopkinÕs services as Master Mechanic of the BMRR.
Billy Jones was a school chum of HopkinÕs son, James. At an early age both Billy and James were apprenticed at the Crane Iron Works in Catasauqua. Jones achieved fame as Andrew CarnegieÕs man at The Edgar Thompson Steel Works.
James Harper McKee was HopkinÕs son-in-law. He along with James W. Fuller founded the McKee-Fuller Co., later to become the Lehigh, Car, Wheel and Axle Co. suppliers of rolling stock to many of the U. S. railroads.
The Milson and the Hopkin Thomas families had a connection in Wales. DanielÕs father Charles was married to Rachel Thomas. Rachel may have been HopkinÕs sister, but this has not been substantiated. Daniel was at the Crane Iron Works with Hopkin and then went on to found The Catasauqua Bolier Works.
Phil Hoffecker apprenticed under Hopkin Thomas when Hopkin was Master Mechanic of the Beaver Meadow R. R, & Coal Company. He himself later became Master Mechanic and retained that position when the Lehigh Valley R. R. acquired the B.M.R.R.
Owen Leibert would have been a classmate of HopkinÕs son James, in the Catasauqua schools. Like another classmate, Billy Jones, Owen apprenticed at the Crane Iron Works under Hopkin and went on to become a leader in the iron industry.
William Weir McKee was Hopkin TomasÕs grandson. He was trained as a mining engineer. He worked first at the Eckly Coxe Coal Co. before joining the McKee –Fuller Lehigh Car wheel and Axle Works in Fullerton, PA.
James Thomas was Hopkin ThomasÕ younger son. He became a highly successful co-owner of the Davies and Thomas Company in Catasauqua and was involved in many of the community developments.
John Thomas was David ThomasÕ son who worked with Hopkin as Superintendent of the Crane Iron Works until 1867. He then became Superintendent of the Thomas Iron Works in Hokendauqua until 1893. He married HopkinÕs daughter, Helen.
Samuel Thomas was David ThomasÕ eldest son who trained at the Crane Iron Works and later became president of the Thomas Iron Works in Hokendauqua.
William Thomas was Hopkin ThomasÕ older son. He had a varied career involving the family businesses and other endeavors. He held several patents and was known for his inventive genius.
Ario Pardee surveyed the route of the Beaver Meadow R. R. and then the adjacent Hazleton Railroad, which was connected to the B. M. R. R. at the time that Hopkin was Master Mechanic. He went on to become a benefactor of the science department at Lafayette College.
After the death of James Thomas in 1906, the affairs of the Davies and Thomas Company suffered due to poor leadership. Leonard Peckitt took over the presidency and much to the delight of the heirs James Thomas and George Davies, the company revived. Peckitt also led the Empire Steel & Iron Co.
Older brother of Oliver Williams (below), John Williams was involved with the Crane Iron Works, the C&F RR., The National Bank of Catasauqua and the Catasauqua Gas Company. His children occupied residences on Fourth St across from the James Thomas residence.
The son of a Welshman who worked with David Thomas at the Crane in Catasauqua, Oliver Williams was appointed head of the newly reorganized Catasauqua Manufacturing Co. at the age of 36. He went on to head the Bryden Horseshoe Company. He and his family were good friends of the family of HopkinÕs son, James Thomas.
Other Notables Cited in This Work
Rev November 2011