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The Thomas Family

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By Bobbye C. Winston

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(Information on the early Thomas family was taken from The Thomas Family by D. D. McColl, My Folk, The First Three Hundred Years 1670-1970 published in 1972 by Eleanor Pratt Covington McSwain, and History of Pickens County , AL by Nelson F. Smith as well as numerous family genealogist. This Thomas family was a politically active family and their lives have been well documented. 


The Thomas family of Marlboro County and the adjoining counties in North Carolina seems undoubtedly to be descended from Christopher Thomas, who emigrated from Caermarthen, Wales , about the year 1640 and settled in Talbot County , Maryland . In 1638 he was elected as one of the two members of the House of Burgesses for Kent County , which was a high honor when it is considered that it was not only the first legislative assembly, but also that Kent County comprised the entire Eastern Shore of Maryland at that time. Christopher Thomas married a widow named Elizabeth Higgins. Their only child was a son, Tristram Thomas, who also seems to have been a man of local prominence for he was appointed a commissioner to improve trade in Talbot County in 1685. 

First Generation 

Rev. Tristram Thomas, born ca. 1522 in Sundridge , Kent , England was Rector of Alford Parish, Surry , England . They were parents of: John Thomas, born ca. 1548 of Chevening, Kent Co., England ; Edmond Thomas, born about 1550; Richard Thomas, born ca. 1552 at Sevenoaks, Kent Co., England . 

Second Generation 


Edmond Thomas. 

Third Generation 

Tristram Thomas II. Born ca. 1579 in Sundridge , Kent , England and buried Jan. 20, 1640 at Sundridge. He married Elizabeth Marsh of Westerham, Kent Co., England , a town a few miles south of Sundridge and Sevenoaks. In his Will, he mentioned “land bought of Mr. Martin Barnham, who has just been knighted", and land leased from Mr. Christopher Emerson, “Dryhill Farm”. His estate, “Pollard” at Sevenoaks was already in the hands of his son, Edmond-landland at Alford, and Shoreham-all nearby, and near London and Gravesend , England , from which Christopher Thomas sailed in 1635 to VA. Tristram mentioned that his son, Christopher Thomas had already been given his inheritance. He requested that he be buried at the Parish Church at Sundridge.
Fourth Generation 

Christopher Thomas, son of Rev. Tristram Thomas II, was born in Kent , England Feb. 10, 1609 and died March 25, 1670 in Caermarthen Wales. His wife was named Elizabeth Marsh and they had a son, Tristram Thomas (date of birth or death unknown). Christopher and Elizabeth Thomas came to America in 1635.

Christopher Thomas was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1637. 

For 24 years nothing more is known of Christopher Thomas until he appears in 1664 in Maryland with his second wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Higgins, and demands land. He received a warrant for 350 acres, called Barbados Hall. This famous estate owned in 1679 by Tristram Thomas III and by Edmond Thomas in 1723 still stands.

In 1679 Mrs. Elizabeth Higgins Thomas, widow of Christopher Thomas, who had died March 25, 1670, she then the wife of Matthew Smith, conveyed to Tristram Thomas III, her step-son, all her interest in the landed estate left by his father, Christopher Thomas. 

Fifth Generation 


Tristram Thomas III, born 1633 in Kent Co., England , inherited “Barbados Hall”, married Anne Coursey, sister of William and Henry Coursey. John and William Coursey are of the noted Decoursey family of Ireland . The family holds the ancient barony of Kingsale in the peerage of Ireland , created by King John, and is the most ancient of Ireland . Close by the Coursey grant on the Wye, was the grant laid out for William Hemsley, by William Coursey, Deputy Surveyor in 1660. Tristram Thomas III made his Will which was proved May 22, 1686 . His widow, Anne Coursey Thomas, married again to William Turloe.

Vincent Lowe’s widow, nee Elizabeth Hawkins, married William Coursey. William Coursey gave 400 acres called “Tristram’s Gift” to Tristram Thomas III. The estate “Cheston” 800 acres, was surveyed in 1659 for John and William Coursey. (from History of Queen Ann County by Emory.) 

Sixth Generation


Tristram Thomas IV, the third son of Tristram III and Anne Coursey Thomas, was born 1666, died Feb. 1745-46, married 1698 Judith Clayland, born Dec. 26, 1674, daughter of Rev. James Clayland and Elizabeth Hemsley Clayland. (Some books say Judith’s last name was Clothier and not Clayland.) Tristram Thomas IV’s second wife was Mrs. Jane Smith, widow of John Smith who died 1733. Tristram Thomas IV’s Will is dated 1746 in Queen Ann’s County, MD naming his children. 

1. Stephen Thomas. Born 1705. Married 1730 to Mary Lewis. (See Thomas Family of Talbot Co., MD by R. H. Spencer, 1914 for more on this family.) Among his children were: Rev. Robert Thomas, born 1733, died 1817, Britton Neck, SC,Gen. Tristram Thomas, born July 28, 1752, died Sept. 3, 1817, buried at Old Saw Mill Baptist Church, SC, Lewis Thomas born 1750, William Thomas of Marlboro Co., SC, who in 1812 was the highest bidder on his father’s estate in Richmond Co., NC, John Thomas born July 16, 1743, married Molly Clark, died 1814 – he was guardian for younger children. 

2. Philemon Thomas born 1720. Married (1) Sarah Scott and (2) Elizabeth (Pledger?) He had a land grant in 1773 on “Cartledge Creek” and built the old home in the 1770’s. Philemon Thomas conveyed to William Thomas part of Hawkins Pharsalia, Lee’s chance and Thomas’ Addition, in 1767, Queen Anne County, MD. On the 25th of Sept. 1769 William Thomas sold this 404 acres of land to James Hutchins, and came to NC. He made his Will that was proved 1797, Richmond County , NC . Deed book shows all living children of Philemon Thomas in 1805 – his wife, Elizabeth then had married Joseph McDowell – his daughter, Elizabeth not then married. 

3. Simon Thomas, son of Tristram IV was born July 10, 1712 , died in Maryland 1744. Married (1)Rebecca and (2) Susannah Sands. Simon, Jr. had land grant near Cartledge Creek Church in 1767, 
Bought from Thomas Jones. Simon, Jr., born 1743, wife, Priscilla, made his Will in 1815, Richmond Co., NC. 

4 .Benjamin Thomas, son of Tristram IV born March 10, 1725 . Married 1746 Rebecca Kemp.
5. Penelope Thomas born Feb. 9, 1699 . Married a Mr.Jarman who was Deputy Surveyor in NC in 1771.
6. Ann Thomas born March 10, 1708 married Joseph Jarman.
7. Nancy Thomas born 1701. Married Mr. Landman.
8. Tristram Thomas V was willed the home place, died 1746, married Anne Emory, and lived on Back Wye on tract called “Trustrams”, Queen Anne’s Co. MD. His son, Edmond Thomas VI died 1768. His son, Samuel Wright Thomas VII was a Colonel in the Rev. War.

Seventh Generation

Children of Philemon Thomas were:
1. William (Ram Billy) Thomas was born 1741 in MD and died 1800 in Richmond County , NC . He lies buried with his family two miles southeast of Blewitt’s Falls, near the Pee Dee River , where he had a fine plantation. The only inscription on any tombstone in this graveyard is that at the head of his grave, as: “William Thomas, born 1741, died 1800”. In 1816, Sheriff Nicholson of Richmond County , NC laid off 458 acres of land as the dower of Rachel Thomas, wife of William (Ram Billy) Thomas. He married Rachael Roe, daughter of John Roe who made his Will in Richmond County in 1780 and deeded to his daughter, Rachel Roe “200 acres of land west side of Hamer Creek. In deed book, Anson County , William Thomas, son of Philemon, owned 650 acres of land in Anson County , near this Hamer Creek land, but on the Anson Co. side in 1773. William Thomas, son of Philemon (so stated in deed) exchanged this 650 acres with Stephen Thomas, Jr. wife, Rachel, for 300 acres NE Pee Dee River. Adding more land from time to time, he died there in 1800, Richmond Co., near Blewitts Fall.

William Thomas (Ram Billy) in his Will, 1800, willed the above 200 acres “left by Will of John Roe to his wife, Rachel,” to his son, Stephen Thomas (born 1765), daughter, Elizabeth Ratcliffe (born 1766), and daughter Sarah Moorman of first set children. “William Thomas, son of Philemon”, witnessed William Ratcliffe’s Will, 1777. 

William (Ram Billy) Thomas was regarded as a man of note and ingenuity in his day, stated Capt. W. I. Everett. He represented the county in the Continental Congress of 1774 and 1775, invented the Orrery, a machine to illustrate the motions of the heavenly bodies (Planetarium) , and was a prominent man in affairs of the Rev. War, and the settling of the county. He received the name “Ram Billy” by being butted by a large ram. 


2. Elizabeth Thomas, daughter of Philemon, was to get the slave “Ned” after her mother’s death.
3. Nathan Thomas of Kentucky .
4. James Thomas
5. Eli Thomas (made deeds in Richmond County after 1805).
6. Elijah Thomas (made deeds in Richmond County after 1805)
7. Polly Thomas listed in deed book 1805.

Eighth Generation


Children of William (Ram Billy) Thomas are:

1. William Thomas, Jr. (Silver Heel) born 1762 and died 1834. Served in North Carolina House 1810-1821. Married Sally Everett, daughter of Lawrence Everett, Sr. William Thomas then married (2) Sarah Tarbutton Ewing, widow of Samuel Ewing in 1791. Children of William Thomas and first wife are: Hannah Tomlinson born 1782, living in 1829; Mary Thomas born 1785. Married her cousin, Lawrence Covington Everett, born 1774, son of Thomas Everett and Elizabeth Covington Everett. Both lived and died one mile north of Northam Cemetery ; Sally Thomas married William Curtice; William Thomas born 1790 and died – his mother died also. Children of William Thomas, Jr. and second wife are: John born 1792. Married Elizabeth Covington; James Thomas born 1794. Married Charlotte Roper; George Thomas born 1797. Married Mary Adams of Adamsville , SC. He and his family moved to Lowndes County , AL about 1840; Rachel Thomas born 1800. Married Charles Haley. This family moved from the head of the “big gulley” in Wolf Pit Township, Richmond Co. to Indiana about 1840.
2. Stephen Thomas born 1765 and died May 10, 1825 . Married Mary Covington, daughter of John and Hannah Dockery Covington. Child of Stephen Thomas is: John Covington Thomas, born 1785 and died 1861. Married Sarah Terrell. 
3. Elizabeth Thomas born 1767. Married John Ratcliff of Maryland , born 1766, the son of William Ratcliff. (William Thomas, son of Philemon, listed as a witness.) 
4. Sarah Thomas, daughter of Ram Billy Thomas, married Moorman. Born about 1766.
5. Mary Thomas born about 1763 married Lawrence Everett, Sr. as his second wife.
6. Nathan Thomas born 1772.
7. George Thomas born 1774, served in the NC House 1827-35-38 died May 14, 1850 . Married (1) Jenny Flate on Aug. 29, 1795 and (2) Elizabeth Couther on Aug. 4, 1796 . Elizabeth Couther died Jan. 26, 1853 and George and Elizabeth Thomas are both buried in Pickens County , AL near Carrollton . 
8. Esther Thomas born 1778 married Henry Thomas, born 1778, son of Daniel and Sarah Covington Thomas, who lived near Grassy Island , 8 miles north of Rockingham. Their children: Daniel M.; William Henry; Elijah married Miss Williams; Joseph; Robert married and moved to Utah ; John; Rachel; Amanda; Harriet; and Catherine.
9. Jane Thomas born 1790 married Thomas Covington (Big Tommy)
10. Samuel Thomas.
11. Robert Thomas.
12. Martha Thomas.
13. Rachel Thomas born 1790/91. Married Harrison Hampton Covington, born 1789.

Ninth Generation


1. George Thomas born 1774 and died May 14, 1850 . He served in the North Carolina House 1827-35-38. He first married Jenny Flate on Aug. 29, 1795 and on Aug. 4, 1796 he married Elizabeth Couther/Colther, who died Jan. 26, 1853 . Both are buried in Pickens County , AL near Carrollton . (Unable to find grave – probably lost in the woods and/or tombstone destroyed). George and Elizabeth Thomas lived in Richmond Co. NC, Wythe Co VA, Christian Co. KY and Warren Co. TN before moving to Pickens Co. AL They were early members of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Pickens County and funerals for both George and Elizabeth were held in that church. (Notations were made regarding funerals for George and Elizabeth Thomas in the Ebenezer Church records. The family Bible states George Thomas dying on May 14, 1850 but church minutes show June 1851. Recorded in minutes “Sabbath Day a large congregation for funeral. Elder Taylor preached Bro. George Thomas funeral and T. S. Thomas followed him in preaching. Service closed.) Their son, Tristram Thomas was pastor of Ebenezer.

Tenth Generation


Children of George and Elizabeth Couther Thomas were:

1. William Thomas, born 1797. He lived in Pickens Co. for several years and then moved to Jefferson Co., AL and died 1843 in Jefferson Co.; 
2. Tristram Shandy. Thomas was born 1800 in Wythe Co. VA, moving to KY when he was a boy. He resided in TN for one year before coming to Pickens Co. in 1818 and died 1854 in Pickens Co.. He was the first elected Judge of Probate of Pickens Co.. The people elected him in May 1849 after having been clerk in the County Court. He was also a licensed Baptist preacher, serving as minister of Ebenezer Baptist Church near Carrollton . Children of Tristram and Delila Thomas were: Malinda Thomas, born ca 1832; John Thomas, born ca. 1833; Elizabeth Thomas, born ca. 1835; Joseph Thomas, born ca. 1836; Tristram Thomas, Jr, born ca. 1838; David Thomas, born ca. 1839; and James Thomas, born ca. 1845. All children were born in AL . Tristram built the original part of the house that is now owned by the Robison family in Carrollton . The house still stands.

Home in Carrollton,AL. Center part was built by Tristram Shanty Thomas




3. Elizabeth Thomas born Nov. 11, 1810 and died Nov. 17, 1862 . She is buried at Walnut Grove Cemetery in Lamar Co., AL along with her husband John Russell Cole, Sr. They were married Nov. 16, 1826 . 

Gravesite of Elizabeth Thomas Cole in Walnut Grove Cemetery in Lamar Co AL. The grave is beside her husband's (John Russell Cole, Sr.)  unmarked grave.


Children of John Russell Cole, Sr. and Elizabeth Thomas are:
1. William Cole, born 1827 and died 1848. He married Elizabeth M. Windle.
2. Martha Cole, born 1829 and married Ben Cother.
3. Nancy Cole, born 1830 and married James A. Burgin.
4. Mary Ann Cole, born 1831 and died 1921. Married Francis Dumas Smith. Lived in Texas .
5. Elizabeth Cole, born 1833. Married William McGee.
6. Jane Cole, born 1835 and died 1836.
7 John Russell Cole, Jr. was born June 11, 1837 . Died May 5, 1862 . Joined Ebenezer Baptist Church on Tuesday evening, Aug. 28, 1855 after stating his experience. He was unanimously elected Clerk of the church the Sat. before 3rd Sabbath in Feb. 1861. He enlisted in Civil War on Sept. 11, 1861 in Huntsville , AL . Served in Co. A, 19th Alabama Infantry. He died in the War and is buried in pasture behind a house in Marvin Chapel in Pickens County (sometimes referred to as Windle Cemetery ). Married (1) Martha Jane Moris and after her death he married (2) Elizabeth Jane (Lizzie) Locke, born Feb. 16, 1841 and died March 6, 1875 , the daughter of Thomas Locke and Elizabeth Noland Locke. After John Russell Cole, Jr. died in Civil War, Lizzie remarried to John Bryant Lewis but at her death, she was buried at Bunn Cemetery in Pickens Co. with her Locke and Noland family and her family had “Cole” engraved on her tombstone.

Children of Elizabeth Jane Locke Cole and 2nd husband John Bryant Lewis are:

(See Locke for more on the family of Elizabeth Jane Locke Cole and John Bryant Lewis.)

8. Lewis T. Cole, born April 27, 1839 and died Nov. 24, 1917 . Married Elvy Locke, sister of Lizzie Locke.
9. Malinda Cole, born July 17, 1841 and died Sept. 31, 1849 .
10. George Cole, born Oct. 7, 1844 .
11. Louiza Jane Cole, born Feb. 13, 1846 . Died March 15, 1846 .
12. Reubin Cole, born Sept. 28, 1847 and died Oct. 17, 1849 .
13. Lucanda Cole, born Nov. 28, 1848 . died April 9, 1919 . Married Isiah Draper, Sr.
14. James Cole, born Sept. 18, 1850 .
15. Sarah E. (Sallie) Cole, born Dec. 10, 1852 . Died Oct. 12, 1931 . Married Nathaniel Meeken Winston. They lived in Benevola and have Winston descendants in that area.

From the History of Pickens County, Alabama written in 1856 by Nelson F. Smith states that Hon. Tristram Shandy Thomas, the present Judge of the Probate Court, was the first Judge of that Court and the first elected by the people under the new law. He was elected in May 1849 by a handsome majority over his single opponent, the last Judge of the old County Court, being himself the last Clerk of the same, a fact we may state with disparagement of his rival.

Judge Thomas had been twice an unsuccessful candidate for office, against popular and strong men, who in the race came in not more than half a length ahead. In 1844 he ran for the Clerkship of the County Court against Gen. Bostick, and he had made a previous race with Mr. Sherrod for the same office in the Circuit Court. In August 1848 he was elected Clerk of the County Court which office he held till the abolition of that Court. 

Judge Thomas is one of the earliest settlers of this county. He was born in 1800 in the county of Wythe, VA, whence he removed to Kentucky when a boy, and came from there to Pickens (while a part of Tuscaloosa) in 1818, resided subsequently, one year in the State of Tennessee, and has spent most of his life in Pickens. His father, the late George Thomas, removed to this county with his family many years ago, but sometime later than his son, the old gentleman and lady, the mother of Judge Thomas, having both deceased within the last two or three years. He was an excellent citizen, an honest man, a good patriot and an orthodox whig of the old revolutionary stripe. 

Judge Thomas has for many years been a licensed preacher of the Baptist denomination, and is at present in the constant habit of officiating as such. He is a self-made man, of a naturally strong mind and sound judgment, with such practical education as a reflecting and inquiring mind can acquire by its own resources through industry and perseverance. As a judge we believe he studies what is fair and right, and if he ever errs it is owing to his too extreme caution lest he may do wrong. The dignity of a court is sustained as much by decision as by a too prudent halting between two opinions. 

The present Judge of the Probate Court is indefatigably laborious-acting as his own clerk for the most part courteous and obliging and ever at his post. He is the last upon our County Court docket both as Judge and Clerk. 

Since the above sketch was written, the subject thereof has departed this life; Judge Thomas died the seventeenth day of June, 1854. His disease was an affection of the liver, with which he had been afflicted during his whole life. He left a large family of children and numerous relatives within this county, besides many friends to mourn their loss. Two years of the term for which he had been elected Judge, remained unexpired. He died as he had lived, a firm believer in Christianity, esteemed and deeply regretted. 

From: THE PICKENS REPUBLICAN 1854

Hon. Tristram Shandy Thomas was the first Judge of Probate of Pickens County, was elected by the people in May 1849, after having been clerk in the County Court. He was also a licensed Baptist preacher. He was born 1800 in Wythe County , Virginia , whence he removed to Kentucky , when a boy, resided one year in Tennessee , then to Pickens County in 1818. He died June 7, 1854 . 

1850 census of Pickens County , Alabama

T.S. Thomas, aged 49, born Virginia , Judge of Probate
Delila Thomas, aged 47, born Tenn.
John Thomas, aged 17, born Ala
Elizabeth Thomas, aged 15, born Ala
Joseph Thomas, aged 14, born Ala
Tristram, Jr., aged 12, born Ala
David Thomas, aged 11, born Ala
James Thomas, aged 5, born Ala

In this family was: David Thomas, born Tenn. aged 22.

From the family names, Tristram and Matthew Cother Thomas, there must be a descent from the Thomas family of Maryland , through George Thomas who married Elizabeth Cother. George Thomas said to have lived a short time in Christain County , Kentucky , then to Warren County, Tennessee. No record that he owned land in Wythe County , Virginia and the early records of Warren County, Tennessee were destroyed.

William Thomas, brother of Tristram, also lived in Pickens County for a while then moved into Jefferson County where he died. The settlement of his estate in Orphan’s Court states that he died June 24, 1843 . 


Eleventh Generation

Child of John Russell Cole, Jr. and Martha Jane Morris is:
Thomas Cole.

Children of John Russell Cole, Jr. and Elizabeth Jane Locke are:
1. George Washington Cole, born 1859 and died Sept. 17, 1928 . His mother died when he was 16 years old. After her death he lived with his uncle, Thomas Van Buren Locke, for a short while. His uncle tried to keep him at home but he ran away to Belton , TX where he became a successful businessman. He married Mary Jane Tomlinson in 1884. They had four sons.
2. Joseph Judson Cole was born Dec. 17, 1860 and died Feb. 17, 1908 . He married Sarah Isabelle Cummings of Pickens County , AL . After the death of her husband, she moved to Belton , TX . She died in Belton but was brought back to Carrollton to be buried by her husband in the Carrollton Cemetery . 
3. Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Cole, my great-grandmother, Born Jan. 10, 1862 and died Aug. 23, 1914 with typhoid fever. Her physician was Dr. W. W. Duncan. She married John Anderson Craft and they lived in Benevola. ( See CRAFT or COLE)