Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Ishmael Theodore Thomas – Preservationist of the Year 2005
Some of you, as
I, may wonder what has happened recently to Ted Thomas who lived in
While he was in
He was also quite interested in the Old Souther Mill at Choestoe, a landmark of his forebears. He uncovered a portion of the old mill in the debris where the old mill pond once provided the water power to turn the turbine that ground wheat, rye and corn for the community. That retrieved mechanism now stands proudly on display at the Butt House Annex in Blairsville, a testament to this humble man who appreciates and wants to save for posterity remnants of the past. He worked with his cousin, the late John Paul Souther, to erect a marker at the old mill place on Highway 180 to tell the history of the mill and to mark the spot where the mill once operated.
Tahlequah Daily Press had a feature article by Betty Smith entitled
"Coming home." It was about this great, great grandson of the famed
Adam Poole Vandiver, "Hunter of Tallulah"
Theodore Thomas was born
Many of us may
not know of the life and career of Ishmael Theodore Thomas, lovingly
known as Ted. Born nine years before the Great Depression struck, his
education was cut short. But what he did with his six years of
schooling received at the old
He and his brother farmed to help the family make a living. They bought a hay baler and drove it around the countryside, hiring out to bale neighbors' hay in season. Ted Thomas remembers the first Model A Ford that came into Tahlequah. He also remembers his father going into the First National Bank and borrowing $500 to see his family through a hard depression time. The banker, Mr. Upton, required no signature, but only a handshake from Ted's father. The money was summarily paid back.
Then came World War II. By then, Ted Thomas's father
had died and he was helping to care for his ailing mother. He got a
temporary deferment, but realized he was going to be drafted so he
volunteered for the Navy and entered service
Thomas was on
an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific when news came that the
war was over. He said he would never forget the lights coming on in
various vessels that had been running dark to avoid enemy attack.
"Suddenly it looked like a galaxy across the water," he said.
Proceeding on to
Upon his honorable discharge from the Navy, he married his sweetheart, Bonnie Lee Watkins. Their lives read like a storybook, rearing a family, being a peppermint farmer in the Columbia River Valley of Oregon; then to Kansas City, Kansas where he was a carpenter and a feed mill maintenance man and builder; and then with Koppers Sprout Waldron, a Fortune 500 Company, where he spent the next eighteen years of his life, until his retirement, traveling the world and troubleshooting in equipment maintenance and plant development.
In his travels,
he grew to have an appreciation for old things. He once collected wood
cook stoves and had over 200 of them that he had repaired and restored.
After his wife
Bonnie Lee died in 1996, Theodore came to
At age 87, still active and alert, Ted Thomas, the great, great grandson of Adam Poole Vandiver (1788-1877), has this to say: "I've always enjoyed life. I'd like to push a button and do it all over again!"
c2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail
Updated December 23, 2008