Hopkin Thomas Completes the Tamaqua Stay


After the disastrous flood of 1850 in which we presume Hopkin’s investment in a machine shop venture was wiped out, Hopkin continued to stay on in Tamaqua until the year 1853.


The period from 1849 to 1853 was a difficult time for the Thomas’s.


It is probable that Hopkin and his family had a comfortable house in which to live while in Tamaqua. His daughter, Mary, had married James Harper McKee who was attempting to refine his business interests and so was not in a position to settle down. So Mary was living with her parents and siblings (Helen, 17, James 13 and Catherine 8) in Tamaqua. In February of 1849, Mary gave birth to her first child, Katherine Sarah McKee. According to letters written by father James, (see Edith Duncan’s biography of James Harper McKee), baby Katherine was sickly and required medical attention. Baby Katherine died in October 1849.


Subsequent to that event, Mary’s husband did find living quarters for Mary and himself in Jersey City, NJ.  Their second child, Joseph, was born there in January, 1851.  According to James’ letters Mary and the baby went to Tamaqua for the summer “where the weather was more pleasant”. In addition, it must have been a comfortable setting.


What was Hopkin doing during this period? From the Catasauqua Dispatch testimonial to Hopkin, we learn that “he engaged with the Beaver Meadow Company to repair one of their locomotives at the Jeansville shops, after the completion of which he removed to Reading, and worked his trade for some months”. Jeansville was located a few miles west of Beaver Meadows – about 15 miles from Tamaqua. By 1850, rail lines had been completed from Tamaqua to Beaver Meadows so it is possible that Hopkin commuted while he was working at the Jeansville shops.


The Jeansville area is today considered a part of Hazleton.


Tamaqua and Reading were connected by the Little Schuylkill R. R. and the Philadelphia & Reading R. R.


Reading became a major railroad center. It was located about 40 miles south of Tamaqua. It was probably not possible to commute there on a daily basis in Hopkin’s time. There is no information whether Hopkin took up residence in Reading.


In any event, Hopkin heard from his child-hood friend, David Thomas, in early 1853.  David Thomas was formulating plans to develop a new blast furnace complex in Hokendauqua, just north of the Crane Iron Works in Catasauqua. He needed an experienced hand to take over the engineering activities at the Crane and offered Hopkin the position of Master Mechanic. So presumably one evening, Hopkin said to wife Catharine, “Dearest, our friend David has asked me to come to Catasauqua to take charge of the engineering activities at the Crane”. At which point Catharine presumably would have said, “That is very good of David. I trust this will be a permanent assignment and that this will be the last time we will have to uproot the family and move to a new location”. 


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Rev. August 2010