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California Genealogy and History Archives

Biographies
of
San Bernardino County and Riverside County

 

GEORGE W. THOMAS is one of the oldest living residents of Riverside. He came here in October, 1870, with his foster mother. That was two months prior to the arrival of L. C. Waite, another pioneer whose career is sketched in this publication. George Thomas was a boy of ten. and then and afterwards he endured poverty and hardships to an unusual degree but at the age of sixty-two he is in perfect physical condition and enjoys every minute of the freedom and independence he has won by years of work and application. The sound philosophy that grew out of his experience is one that will permit him "to carry on" to the end of the course and realize in generous measure the satisfaction that comes from doing well for himself and others.

George W. Thomas in his early years was not only his own support, but the support of his foster mother largely devolved upon him. He walked five miles daily to work that paid him a monthly wage of fifteen dollars. In confab with those limited circumstances Mr. Thomas is the owner of 320 acres of valuable land, has a large herd of registered Jersey stock, is represented as a director in a number of business organizations, but best of all is the father of four sons and two daughters, all born in California, and is proud of the fact that he is five times a grandfather.

He was born in Omaha, Nebraska, August 13, 1860. His father was Lycurgus Grice. The mother died when her son was only two weeks of age, and subsequently he was adopted and reared by a widow, a Mrs. Thomas, and he took her family name. His father, Lycurgus Grice was attracted to California during the gold rush of 1850, traveling from Joplin, Missouri to Marysville, California with ox teams. Spent four years in that neighborhood, seeking his fortune in gold, and then returned to Joplin. He was a soldier in the Union army from 1861 until the close of the war.

Mrs. Thomas and her adopted son George W., came west on a visit to her daughter in October, 1870, when all it possessed beyond its name of Riverside was three little houses on the plains. One of these houses was owned by Mr. and Mrs. A. R. Smith, another by her brother-in-law and wife, Sidney Morton, and the third was the office of the Southern California Colony Association. The other houses were in course of construction, being those of Judge North, J. T. Wood and Judge Broadhurst. The house of Mrs. M. M. Smith was on Main Street between Seventh and Eighth on property now owned by Evans Brothers. Mrs. Thomas came west from Omaha over the newly constructed Union Pacific Railroad to San Francisco and came south to Los Angeles by boat. It was a fifteen day trip.

Mrs. Thomas bought a squatter's right to 120 acres of land on West Arlington Avenue, and she lived there with her foster son for thirty-five years. Mr. Thomas still has the patent to this land signed by President R. B. Hayes. George Thomas finished his education after coming to California, attending the Riverside School then conducted in a little building where the Sixth Street School now stands. He walked a distance of five miles daily to and from his studies. His first teacher was Mrs. Meacham and later L. C. Waite. But application to his studies in school was of brief duration, since there were more serious things to think about and do. Mr. Thomas claims the distinction of having been part of the original water system service of Riverside. From the fall of 1870 when he arrived until July, 1871, all the water for all purposes in the community was hauled in barrels on a spring wagon by himself and A. R. Smith. They would go down to the river, driving the wagon into the stream, and George rolling up his pants would fill the buckets and pass them up to Smith. This water was then peddled and distributed over town, and besides being used for domestic purposes it served in starting some of the original seedling orange trees on the K. D. Shugart place.

While he was growing up at Riverside the only vocation that presented a real opportunity to an ambitious boy was farming. He accordingly adopted it, but has given less attention than most Riverside colonists to the fruit growing side of farming. His own particular sort has been live stock. Years ago he tinned his face in blooded stock, and has worked consistently to the end that his herd should be registered Jersey stock. In 1912 he purchased 315 acres of rich land four and a half miles south of the town of Arlington, and while it had been partly under cultivation to oranges he has converted it into alfalfa and dairy ranch. It was in the home of her daughter, Mrs. M. M. Smith, that his foster mother Mrs. Thomas passed away at the age of ninety-eight.

Of his ranch land Mr. Thomas has used ten acres for deciduous fruits and one acre in oranges. The department in which he took greatest pride, however, is his herd of sixty-five registered Jersey cows, about thirty of which are regularly milked, the milk being sold wholesale in Los Angeles. He is primarily a cattle man, though he also raises hogs and chickens.

Outside of his ranch Mr. Thomas is a director and vice president of the Milk Producers Association of California; director of the Riverside County Mutual Fire Insurance Company; director of the Riverside County Farm Bureau; director of the Southern California Fair Association; director and vice president of the California Pure Bred Livestock Association; director of the Federal Farm Loan Association of Riverside. Fraternally he is a Past Chancellor Commander of the Knights of Pythias, a member of the Woodmen of the World and the Yeomen of America. He is a member of the Universalist Church, is a republican, has served on the Republican County Central Committee, but has never sought official responsibilities. His ranch is known as the "Golden Glen Stock Farm, G. W. Thomas and Sons, Proprietors."

George W. Thomas and Miss Margaret St. Marie, were married in Riverside by Rev. M. V. Wright on August 15, 1880. Mrs. Thomas is a native of San Bernardino, her father Alexander St. Marie having come from Illinois and identified himself with the "Gate City," at the time of the first Mormon settlement. Seven children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas.

Frank A. Thomas the oldest son is a graduate of the Riverside High School, a carpenter by trade, assists his father on the ranch, and when America entered the World war though above draft age, he went to Los Angeles and volunteered for service in the tank corps in August, 1917. He was with the forces at the front in France until the signing of the armistice. Before the war he had a long experience in the National Guard, serving as a non-commissioned officer, and First Lieutenant.

The second son Roy Thomas, also in partnership with his father, married Sadie Lincoln of Pomona, and they have a son Randolph Grice Thomas.

The third son, Myron M. Thomas, graduated from the Polytechnic School of San Luis Obispo, took post graduate work in the Iowa Agricultural College at Ames, and was called for service in the great war, but did not report for duty before the armistice.

Of the three daughters the oldest, Grace May, died at the age of sixteen. Anna L. is the wife of E. E. Stevens who was captain of the Pomona Company which went overseas, is now Assistant Superintendent of the Pomona Consolidated Water Company, and Mr. and Mrs. Stevens have one daughter, Maurine Dee Stevens. Eva A., the youngest daughter is the wife of Paul E. Pierce, Superintendent of the Romie C. Jacks farm in Riverside County, and they have three sons, George Nathan, Robert Eugene and Kenneth Crawford.

The youngest member of the Thomas family is Leo. E. Thomas, who graduated at the Corona High School, spent one year in the Riverside Business College, and prior to the war kept books for a local firm, but being a natural born mechanic, he turned his attention to that vocation after his discharge from military service. He went overseas as a mechanic in the Hydroplane Department of the Navy.

 

Source:
History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011