Biography of Hopkin Thomas


Roberts, C. R., J. B. Stoudt,  T. H. Krick, and W. J. Dietrich, History Of Lehigh County Pennsylvania and a Genealogical and Biographical Record af ItŐs Families, Lehigh Valley Publishing Company, LTD., Allentown, Pa., 1914, Vol 3, p. 1313



Hopkin Thomas, for many years master mechanic of the Crane Iron Company and one of the oldest residents, as also one of the most influential citizens of the Lehigh Valley in connection with its industrial interests, was born in Glamorganshire, South Wales, in 1793. He remained with his parents on the farm until his sixteen year when he was apprenticed to the Neath Abbey Works, near Neath, South Wales, to acquire the trade of a machinist. He early developed a fertile brain and on fulfilling his apprenticeship speedily attained a high position among his fellow-workmen. In 1834 he determined to emigrate with his family to America, and on landing in Philadelphia in 1834, obtained employment without difficulty in the establishment of the Baldwin Locomotive Works. He later entered the shops of Garrett & Eastwick, from where he engaged with the Beaver Meadow Railroad & Coal Company as master mechanic of their roads and miens. During this period his incentive genius was first developed, and made invaluable to his employers. In his mechanical inventions and appliances he was conceded to be the pioneer of the Lehigh Valley. Through one of these inventions anthracite coal was first made available for use in locomotive and in this application of coal as fuel he was at least twenty years in advance of all others. He invented and successfully used the chilled cast-iron-car-wheel, as also the most improved and successful mine-pumps and machinery of the day. In all mechanical matters he was far in advance of his day, and in the railroad and coal interest of the country he may with justice be regarded as filling the position of an eminent benefactor. Mr. Thomas was peculiarly modest and unassuming in his character, a fact which prevented his attaining either distinction or wealth. Content that the world should be benefited by the production of his genius, he cared little whether they brought him either fame or profit. In his business relations he was upright, in his social intercourse true-hearted and faithful and in his home, the typical head of a cheerful and happy domestic circle.


Mr. Thomas was united in marriage to Miss Catharine Richards, of Merthyr-Tydvil, South Wales. Their children are: William R., Mary (Mrs. James H. McKee); Helen (Mrs. John Thomas); James; Kate M. (Mrs. James W. Fuller)  The death of Mr. Thomas occurred on the 12th of May, 1878, at his home in Catasauqua, to which place he removed in 1853 on being appointed master mechanic of the Crane Iron Works.


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