Events in the Life of Hopkin Thomas


Wales (1793 – 1834)

The dates in parentheses indicate when Hopkin Thomas was in residence


12/19/1793     Hopkin Thomas is born in the village of Bryn Coch, Glamorganshire, Wales


1800               Developments in steam engine design, iron-making, and mining power the Industrial Revolution in Wales


1809 – 18xx   Hopkin Thomas apprentices at the Neath Abbey Iron Works


18xx – 1834   The pursuit of a career and family life in Merthyr Tydfil


1834             Emigration to America



Philadelphia (1834 – 1836)


1834               Hopkin Thomas is employed by the newly formed Baldwin Locomotive Works which in later years  becomes America’s premier locomotive manufacturer.


1835               Hopkin joins Garrett & Eastwick, a second early Philadelphia locomotive works, that has contracted to build anthracite-fired locomotives.


1872             Joseph Harrison, of the firm Eastwick and Harrison (Garrett & Eastwick when Hopkin Thomas was there) presents his treatise on Philadelphian’s contributions to steam locomotive design. Pointedly, Hopkin Thomas is not mentioned.




Beaver Meadow  (1836 – 1845)


4/7/1830         The Beaver Meadow Railroad Company is granted a charter. (Poor’s 1860 Account)


1/12/1835       The first reference to the purchase of steam locomotives for the B. M. R. R.(Minutes Books of the BMRR)


1836               The Beaver Meadow R. R. completes twelve miles of track from their mines at Beaver Meadows  to the Lehigh River. The remaining fourteen miles to Weissport were under contract. (Heydinger, v. 109, p. 18)


10/1836          Hopkin Thomas and Andrew Eastwick deliver the first Beaver Meadows engines. (Source: Longshore, Annals of the Sugarloaf Historical Society Volume II, Hazleton, Penna., 1935)


11/5/1836       The Beaver Meadow R. R. opens operations. (Heydinger, v. 109, p. 18)


4/4/1837         The first reference to Hopkin Thomas' employment at the B. M. R. R.(Minutes Books of the BMRR)


5/15/1837       Hopkin Thomas appointed principal machinist of the B. M. R. R. (Minutes Books of the BMRR)


5/1837            The Hazleton R. R. ships its first anthracite over its 10-mile line to Weatherly where it joins the Beaver Meadow. It uses Garrett & Eastwick engines burning anthracite. (Archer, p. 25)


1/1838            The Beaver Meadow shops are given the go-ahead to build a locomotive - the Beaver (Minutes Books of the BMRR)


10/13/1838     Hopkin Thomas is awarded a patent for a process used in the Casting of Rail Car Wheels.


1/9/1839         The contributions of Hopkin Thomas to the design of the Company's locomotives, including the erection of the Nonpariel, is given prominence in the Annual Report prepared by S. D. Ingham.


1/21/1839       Hopkin Thomas requested to travel to Philadelphia to evaluate locomotives:  Resolved: That Hopkin Thomas come to Philadelphia to examine W. Wynans Engine on the Columbia road, offered for Sale. Resolved  That Hopkin Thomas be requested to come to Philadelphia as early as possible to examine the Locomotive Engine factories with a view to the purchase of a large Locomotive Engine for the use of the Company and to report the result of his 'engineering ' to the board.


4/5/1839         Hopkin Thomas again requested to go to Philadelphia. Resolved  That the President write to Mr. Van Cleve requesting the presence of H. Thomas in this city without delay for the purpose of conferring with the builders regarding the stationary engine.


1839               The Sugar Loaf Coal Co. connects to the Hazleton R. R. with a 2-mile long track. First locomotive is the Ajax, from Garrett & Eastwick. (Archer, p. 25)


1839               The Beaver Meadow R. R.  reduced its labor forces at its mines, landing, and on the railroad from 225 to 117 men. On the railroad alone, the reduction was from 35 to 24. (Heydinger, v. 109, p. 19)


1839               The Beaver Meadow moves a railroad foundry as well as the machine shops  to Weatherly in 1849. Water power was a factor in the move as much as was the difficulty of crossing the planes with locomotives needing repairs. (Heydinger, v. 109, p. 19)  Tweedle's version: In 1839 it was decided by the Beaver Meadow Railroad and Coal Company to move their shops to Black Creek (now Weatherly), and in 1840 the first car-shops were built at the foot of the inclined plane. M. S. Henry in his 1860 history states the shops “owing to reasons which were deemed of sufficient importance to justify their removal, were, some time in the summer of 1839, removed to Weatherly, a distance of some five miles down the road.”


4/7/1840         Hopkin Thomas, A. H. Van Cleve, William R. McKean and Jacob Thomas, operating as a partnership under the name A. H. Van Cleve & Co., contact with the Beaver Meadow Rail Road and Coal Co. to mine and transport coal and attend to the maintenance of all equipment and roads. Yearly contracts are issued to and including the year 1845. 


1/7/1841         The destructive Lehigh flood of 1841 ended transportation on both the Beaver Meadow and the Lehigh Canal. The section of track between Mauch Chunk and Parryville is abandoned - shipping facilities are built at the new BMRR terminus in Mauch Chunk. (See BMRR Route) (BMRR History - J. Koehler)


8/21/1841       Child Catherine Maria Thomas born to Hopkin and Catharine Thomas in Beaver Meadow (Source: Roberts, History of Lehigh County, pp. 404-405.)


1843               The taxpayers of Beaver Meadow are enumerated. The entry Jacob & Thomas Hopkins is erroneous – the listing should read: Jacob Thomas and Hopkin Thomas. Partners A. H. Van Cleve and James McKean are listed. Also listed are Philip Hoffecker, who succeeded Thomas as Master Mechanic of the B.M.R.R and A. G. Brodhead..(Matthews and Hugerford, p. 711)


1845               Hopkin Thomas of Beaver Meadow is listed as a subscriber to Rupp's 1845 History.


11/1845          Van Cleve & Co. notify the Beaver Meadow Rail Road and Coal Co. that they desire to terminate their contract for operating the mines and transport facilities. Wm. Milnes & Co. is selected as the successor contactor.


9/1850            Beaver Meadow rail lines hit by a flood on the Lehigh. Bridge over Lehigh destroyed along with much of the trackage from Penn Haven to Weatherly (which followed Black Creek) Plans to extend BMRR to Easton are abandoned. Rail operations cease until spring of 1851.  (Archer, p. 28)


                       Also the shops built at the foot of the plane in 1840 were swept away and then rebuilt at the same location (Tweedle)


10/7/1851       Asa Packer, achieving wealth through interests in canal and coal operations, gains controlling interest in the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuykill & Susquehanna R. R. which in 1850 had begun to survey a rail line on the west bank of the Lehigh River from Mahoning Creek to Easton. The DLS&S becomes the L.V.R.R on 1/7/1853. (Archer, p. 28-31)


1855               The BMRR builds a car-shop (thirty by seventy feet) on the site of the present location, and the next year removed the old shops to the new one and added them to it. These shops were used from that time till they were totally destroyed by fire, which occurred on the morning of July 8, 1880. Tweedle. (The "present location" is where the 'steel company' was located in Weatherly - on Hudsondale St.)


4/25/1857. The Quakake R.R. proposes 'building' a 14-mile line from Black Creek Jct. On the BMRR to the Quakake Jct on the Catawissa, Williamsport and Erie.  (This was a re-tracking - the roadbed  already existed)  The company was sold to the BMRR and the LVRR on 11/11/1862 and eventually became the Mahoning Division of the LVRR. (Archer, p. 38)


7/8/1864         The Beaver Meadow is merged with the LVRR.


1866               The round-house was built, having tracks for sixteen locomotives. The stone machine-shops were commenced in 1867, and completed in 1869. (Tweedle)


1869               The re-built Weatherly Shops of the LVRR are completed under the direction of Phillip Hoffecker.



 Tamaqua (1846 – 1853)


5/1830.           Reading newspapers tell that the Schuylkill East Branch Navigation Co. had laid out two towns, Tamaqua (Indian for Beaver Stream) and Port Clinton on the Schuylkill Canal. Moncure Robinson, engineer of this standard gauge line became postmaster at the port. (Heydinger, v. 108, p 19)


11/18/1831     The road to Tamaqua from Port Clinton opened using horsepower. (The road becomes known as the Little Schuykill R. R. at some time during this period,) (Heydinger, v. 108, p 19)


3/11/1833       Trial trips by the  nine-ton Comet and Catawissa steam engines (delivered from Philadelphia on 16-horse, marble wagons) begin on the L.S.R.R.. . Speeds of ten miles per hour, with fifteen three-ton cars make two trips a day. (Heydinger, v. 108, p 19)


1836               Engines Tamaqua and Tuscarora built by the Baldwin Locomotive works are put in service by the Little Schuylkill R. R.(Heydinger, v. 108, p 20)


12/5/1839       Steam operations begin on the Philadelphia and Reading R. R. in Tamaqua. (Serfass)


1846                      John K. Smith erects a foundry, The Tamaqua Iron Works, later to become the successful Allen Machine Shop. In 1847 the foundry is controlled by a partnership – Hudson, Smith & Taylor, but Hudson and Taylor soon withdraw.  (Serfass)


May 1846      John Ollis establishes an iron works in Tamaqua. In 1847 it passes into the hands of Hudson & Waters. (Munsell)


9/3/1847         Hopkin Thomas acquires five building lots on Rail Road St., Tamaqua (Schuylkill County Court Records)


9/3/1847         Hopkin Thomas is identified as being a resident of the Carbon County. (Schuylkill County Court Records)


1/31/1848       Hopkin Thomas is identified as being a resident of the Borough of Tamaqua. (Schuylkill County Court Records)


1/31/1848       Hopkin Thomas transfers three building lots to the firm of Thomas & Ollis, Machinists and Iron Founders. (Schuylkill County Court Records)


1/31/1848       John Ollis transfers three building lots to the firm of Thomas & Ollis, Machinists and Iron Founders. (Schuylkill County Court Records)


1847                      The Philadelphia &Reading Shops of the Little Schuylkill R. R. are in operation in Tamaqua (Sefrass)


Undated         Giles Edwards went to work for Mr. Thomas, down into Schuylkill County, which was then known as "the southern coal field," and superintended the Thomas works at Tamaqua on the Little Schuylkill River. (Ethyl Armes, p. 175)


4/24/1848       Child Mary Thomas of Tamaqua, Pa. marries James H. McKee of Beaver Meadow: (Source: Marriage certificate)


1849               Daniel Davies leaves the employ of Hopkin Thomas in Tamaqua: (Source: Roberts, C. R., J. B. Stoudt, T. H. Krick, and W. J. Dietrich, 191 )


1850               Census of 1850: Hopkin Thomas listed as Mechanic in the town of Tamaqua.


9/1/1850         Floods destroy much of the industry and transportation on the Schuylkill and Little Schuylkill. An earlier ‘freshet’ had occurred in July, but the September flood was devastating (Munsell Excerpts, p.58) (Serfass. p.29). The 9/7/1850 edition of the Miner’s Journal contains a graphic description of the Great Flood and the loss of life and property along the two rivers .  It was at Tamaqua, on the Little Schuylkill above Port Clinton where the devastation was horrific. It is probable that the iron works that Hopkin had erected during the previous half-decade was wiped out and Thomas was financially ruined.


1851 – 1852   Hopkin Thomas starts anew. He is employed briefly by the B.M.R.R. in Jeansville, Pa and the Reading Railroad in Reading, Pa. (see the testimonial published by the Catasauqua Dispatch) before joining the Crane Iron Company in Catasauqua as Master Mechanic. The Crane was founded by his boyhood friend, David Thomas.



 Catasauqua (1853 – 1878)


Feb. 1853       Hopkin Thomas  appointed Master Mechanic of the Crane Iron Works in Catasauqua. (Matthews, Alfred and Austin N. Hungerford, 1884.)


3/1871            Hopkin Thomas retires  - at the age of 78.  


5/12/1878       Hopkin Thomas, 85, dies at home in Catasauqua. Many old time friends attend his funeral. He is buried in Fairview Cemetery where he is later united with his wife and daughter, Mary Thomas McKee and descendants of James Harper McKee.  The Catasauqua Dispatch publishes a testimonial to his career several months later.



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Rev. October 2010