THOMAS EDWARD LEWIS
THOMAS EDWARD LEWIS, a self-made, enterprising and progressive citizen of Wheaton, is one of the pioneers of Illinois, having come to the State with his parents in 1839. He is a native of Swansea, Wales, born on the 2d of July, 1826. His ancestors were prominent in the military service of Great Britain, and were among the most ancient in that country. His grandfather, Joshua Lewis, was a farmer, and lived to be over ninety years old, being succeeded on retiring by his son Joseph, father of Thomas E. Lewis, all being born on the same farm. Joseph Lewis married Margaret, only daughter of Thomas Roberts, a neighboring farmer. Beside this daughter, Mr. Roberts had two sons, John and Thomas. The former was a very stalwart specimen of manhood, being six feet and six inches in height. He led the choir in the Independent Church near his home.
As above stated, in 1839 Joseph Lewis came with his family to America. Proceeding at once to West Northfield, Cook County, Ill., he preempted a quarter-section of land, on which he passed the balance of his life. His wife died in her seventy-first year, and he lived to see his eighty-eighth. Of their thirteen children, twelve grew to maturity, the third dying in Wales, and nine are now living. Following are their names: Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, Thomas, Evan, John, William, Sarah, David, Charles, EH, Maria and Margaret. The eldest mastered Hebrew, Greek, Latin, navigation and surveying before he was twenty years old, and became a Methodist Episcopal clergyman. He died at the early age of twenty-seven years, at Norwood Park, Ill., where he was buried, though his home was at Beloit, Wis., where he built the first Methodist Church of that city. David and Mary are deceased, and William is a resident of Portland, Ore. Charles is practicing medicine in Chicago.
Thomas E. Lewis attended school in his native place till he was nine years old, when he went to work. His first week's wages were eighteen cents, which he kept as a souvenir for many years. With the exception of about a quarter's attendance at night school in Chicago, the balance of his education has been supplied by contact with the world, and he has proved a most apt pupil. Nature blessed him with a sound mind and constitution, and he is considered one of the solid men whose presence in the community is a blessing, for his judgment is correct and he has the courage to carry out his convictions. With no early advantages, with no aid save his own industry and adherence to an ideal, he has amassed a modest competence, and has earned the respect and good-will of his fellows.
The old proverb says, "Where there is a will, there is a way," and one morning in the spring of 1843 young Lewis set out on foot for Chicago to find the way, his capital on starting consisting of fifty cents. His feet becoming sore from the action of a pair of new and stiff boots, he made a bargain with a teamster bound for the city to carry him thither for eighteen cents. Arriving on South Water Street, he came opposite the lumber-yard of Sylvester Lynd, the first person to whom he had spoken after alighting, and he at once engaged to work in the lumber-yard at such remuneration as Mr. Lynd found him worth after trial. This was soon fixed at $12 per month, and in addition his kind employer provided him with a new suit of clothing, complete, in order that he might attend Sabbath-school. He soon made himself familiar with the lumber business, and was promoted to the position of inspector, with a corresponding salary. He remained in the city for seven years, being for a short time in the employ of the late Deacon Philo Carpenter, a well-known pioneer of Chicago.
In the spring of 1850 Mr. Lewis took a helpmate, in the person of Miss Margaret, daughter of Edward and Elizabeth Jones, all of Bala, Wales, where the family has dwelt for many generations on the same farm, called "Nanthir,'' and which is still occupied by some of its members. Mrs. Thomas J. Evans, a pioneer of Racine, Wis., is a sister of Mrs. Lewis. Mr. Lewis immediately took his bride to a farm of his own at Arlington Heights (then called Dunton), Cook County, where he broke up and improved wild land and got a good start in the world. He remained there eighteen years, serving continuously as School Director, and then removed to Blue Island, in the same county, and continued his agricultural pursuits, being there also a school officer for six years. Beside farming, Mr. Lewis has dealt extensively in lands, and is a large owner of Chicago and Hyde Park real estate, as well as numerous farms. He dwelt two years in Englewood, and removed thence on the 1st of May, 1891, to Wheaton, where he built a handsome home on an eminence near College Avenue Station. He still occupies himself with the care of his large farms near Wheaton, though he finds time to give attention to all matters of public concern, especially education, on which his judgment is eminently sound and practical. He has striven to equip his children for the battle of life, and six of his daughters are graduates of the Cook County Normal School, and successful teachers.
Like all true Welshmen, Mr. Lewis is proud of his native land, its people and their achievements, though this does not detract in the least from his loyal American spirit. He is a Director and Treasurer of the Cambro Printing Company, of Chicago, which publishes a Welsh and English newspaper called Columbia, the largest of its kind in the world. For a short time Mr. Lewis was President and General Manager of this company, but as soon as it was firmly established he resigned those positions, because he could not devote his time to them. When it was found necessary to provide a bond for the payment of prizes offered for competition in the International Eisteddfod, in Festival Hall, at the World's Columbian Exposition, Mr. Lewis, with true patriotic spirit, came forward and gave his personal security for $12,500, which was ultimately paid out of the receipts of the festival, thus justifying his faith in his compatriots and the Fair.
In religious matters, Mr. Lewis is liberal and progressive. He attends the Congregational Church with his entire family. In political concerns, he adheres to the Republican party, because he believes it rests on true underlying principles, but has never found the time nor had the inclination to seek preferment. He took a deep interest in the public school management, because he had a large family to educate, and gave much time to this interest, always insisting on the conduct of the schools with a sole view to the public welfare, sometimes making enemies by his course, but always triumphing in the end. He is now serving as Alderman from the Second Ward of Wheaton. He is a member of the Welsh Society, Cymrodorion, and the League of American Wheelmen, he being an expert bicycle-rider.
On the 6th of May, 1889, death entered the home of Mr. Lewis and took the kind, faithful wife and mother, leaving, beside the bereaved husband, seven of her nine children to mourn her absence. The eldest of these, Margaret J., wife of George H. Brewster, of Wheaton, died July 9, 1891. Joseph W. resides at Blue Island, where he is engaged in manufacturing; and Sarah M., who for some time held the position of Critic Teacher at the Cook County Normal School, is now her father's housekeeper. Alice U., wife of James H. Kerr, resides at Amsley, Neb., and is prominent in temperance and Sunday-school work, making frequent public addresses in their behalf. Mary A., Mrs. William H. Hoar, died a few weeks before her mother. Cora E. graduated at the Blue Island High School, at the Cook County Normal (being valedictorian of the two-years graduating class), and at Oberlin College, Ohio. She is now Principal of the Belle Plaine School in Chicago, and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Illinois State Teachers' Association. She makes frequent addresses on educational topics, and was chosen to conduct the model school which served as a World's Fair exhibit near Jackson Park, and carried it through successfully. Ada L., widow of J.W. Bannerman, with her son Tommy, resides with Mr. Lewis. Edward J. is engaged in the real-estate and fire-insurance at Wheaton, Ill. Grace May (often called Minnie) is pursuing a medical course at the Woman's College in Chicago.
Mr. Lewis is a frank, whole-souled gentleman, with refined instincts and manly self-respect, which forbid his doing a mean or low act, and his conversation is always cheerful and entertaining. Out of a ripe experience, he has gathered a large stock of general and useful knowledge. Now, in his sixty-eighth year, he is in the full vigor of a temperate and well-spent life. He has a closely knit frame, weighing one hundred and ninety pounds, and has promise of an extended continuance of an existence which has blessed himself, his family, and the community at large. When his time comes to lay down the active duties of life, which have been a perennial source of pleasure, he can safely consign the good name that he has won to the care of a worthy posterity.
Submitted by Sherri Hessick on March 11, 2007
DISCLAIMER: The submitter is not related to the subject of this biography nor is she related to anyone mentioned in the biography.