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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


CHARLES F. THOMS was a man who was in the most significant sense one of the world's productive workers, and it was entirely through his own ability and efforts that he made a success of his life and incidentally contributed to the wellbeing of the communities in which he lived. He was a pioneer in the development of the orange-growing industry in the Fontana district of San Bernardino County where he planted one of the first orange groves, and here he continued his residence, an upright, useful and honored citizen, until his death, March 5, 1918.

Mr. Thoms was born in the state of Pennsylvania, in 1835, and was five years old when the family removed to Michigan, where his father obtained wild land and began the development of a pioneer farm in the midst of the forest. It was under such primitive conditions that Charles F. Thoms was reared, and by virtue of such conditions, his educational opportunities were in inverse ratio to the arduous work which he performed in his youth. In the passing years he profited much from the lessons gained in the school of experience and through self-application to study and reading, so that his early educational handicap was not of enduring influence. Living in the little log house and working zealously in the reclaiming of the pioneer Michigan farm, he early gained the self-reliance that was a sustaining force throughout the remainder of his life. This sturdy young man naturally was moved by a spirit of utmost patriotism when the Civil war was precipitated, and he promptly tendered his services in defense of the Union. He enlisted in Company D. Nineteenth Michigan Volunteer Infantry, and proceeded with his command to the front, where he participated in various heavy engagements. He was finally captured by the enemy and was incarcerated in historic old Libby Prison until his exchange was effected and he was able to leave that odious Confederate bastile. He rejoined his regiment and continued in active service until the close of the war, with a record of having taken part in many important battles, besides innumerable skirmishes and other minor engagements. He was with Sherman in the Atlanta campaign, participated in the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, and thereafter was with the forces of General Sherman on the ever memorable march from Atlanta to the sea. In later years he vitalized his interest in his old comrades by maintaining affiliation with the Grand Army of the Republic.

After the war Mr. Thoms continued his association with farm enterprise in Michigan until 1874, when he removed with his wife and their one child, a daughter, to Kansas, where he became a pioneer farmer near Salina and where he endured his full share of the hardships that fell to the lot of the early settlers in the Sunflower state. He eventually was prospered in his farm enterprise in Kansas, and there he continued his residence until 1891, when he came with his family to San Bernardino County, California, and became a pioneer in the Rialto district, where he purchased the east ten acres of Lot No. 429, on the present Locust Street and Foothill Boulevard. This barren land was a part of the tract that has been placed on the market by the old Semi-tropic Land Company, and the rude shack that had been built on the place was repaired by him and made available as a home for the family. He later erected a commodious and well equipped house and made other improvements of the best order, the water right which he originally secured having proved of no value, so that for two years he was compelled to haul water to supply the needed moisture to the orange trees which he had planted. The surrounding land in the early days was virtually a desert, with naught but sage brush and other rank vegetation. He eventually developed one of the model orange groves of this locality, and obstacles and unpropitious conditions were overcome by him with characteristic courage and determination. He aided in the splendid advancement of this section and the old wagon road that originally was the only highway through the sagebrush and cacti of the district has now been made into a fine cement boulevard. Mr. Thoms was a republican in politics, was at one time actively affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and he was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 1873 was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Thoms to Miss Hannah Hoats, who was born in Michigan, March 30, 1838, the year following the admission of that state to the Union, her parents having been very early settlers in Michigan. Of the three children of Mr. and Mrs. Thoms only the first was born in Michigan, the other two having been born in Saline County, Kansas. Cora, the eldest child, now resides in Ohio. Clifford is a resident of Taft, Kern County, California. F. Claude, youngest of the children, has management of the old home place and he is recognized as one of the progressive orange-growers of San Bernardino County, and is one of the original stock-holders of the Citizens National Bank of Rialto. He was registered in connection with the second draft when the nation entered the World war, but was not called into service.


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