Portrait & Biographical Record, Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties
Chapman Publishing Co., 1894
Indexed under son James Thomas. These excerpts pertain to Hopkin Thomas
Hopkin Thomas was born in Glamorganshire, South Wales in 1793. The latter remained on the home farm until about sixteen years of age, when he was apprenticed to the Neath Abbey Works near Neath, South Wales, to learn the trade of a machinist. Possessing more than ordinary ability, it was not long after the expiration of his apprenticeship before he was promoted to a high position by his employers.
While he met with fair success in Wales, Hopkin Thomas realized that America offered better opportunities than his own country, and therefore in 1834 he emigrated hither. Landing in Philadelphia, he obtained employment without difficulty in the Baldwin Locomotive Works, and later entered the shops of Garrett & Eastwick. His next position was as Master Mechanic of the roads and mines of the Beaver Meadow Railway Company, and while thus employed his inventive genius was further developed. 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 locomotives, and in the application of coal as a fuel he was at least twenty years in advance of all others. He invented and successfully used the chilled cast-iron carwheel, as also the most improved and successful mine pumps and machinery of the day. In mechanical matters, in railroad and in coal interests he may justly be regarded as a public benefactor.
Notwithstanding his unusual ability, Mr. Thomas was peculiarly modest and unassuming in his character, and it was this fact that prevented him from gaining fame and wealth. Content to elevate humanity and benefit mankind, he gave no care to realizing from his inventions. In his business relations he was upright, in his social intercourse genial, and in his home the typical head of a happy domestic circle. He married Miss Catharine Richards, of Merthyr Tydvil, South Wales. They were the parents of the following children: William R.; Mary, Mrs. James H. McKee; Helen, Mrs. John Thomas; James; and Kate M., wife of James W. Fuller. The father of this family died in Catasauqua May 12, 1878. He had been a resident of this borough since 1853, when he was appointed Master Mechanic of the Crane Iron Works.