Thomas Gaines was born about 1825 in Virginia, perhaps in Fredericks Hall, VA in Louisa County. He was probably brought to Henderson, Kentucky in 1832 by his owner, William Beverly, originally of Carolina County Virginia. Thomas Gaines along with his sister Agnes and mother Marie was willed to Beverley’s son Robert Gaines Beverly in January 1837. According to oral history, Thomas changed his last name to Gaines when he bought his freedom. He also tried to buy his wife’s freedom, but emancipation came and he used the money to buy property.
Thomas Gaines was a prominent African American citizen of Henderson, KY. He was on the original building committee of the Colored Baptist Church. He was eventually kicked out of the church because his wife was involved in an Episcopal Sunday school conducted in their home. The Sunday school eventually became St. Clements Episcopal Mission.
Beginning in 1866, Thomas Gaines began buying real estate. Many acquisitions were made either alone or with his son William Thomas Gaines through the year 1895. Gaines also ran a grocery store on Main Street. On the 1870 U S Census of Henderson, KY, Thomas Gaines was listed as a plasterer with real estate valued at $1000 and personal property at $150.
Thomas married Mary Jane Barrett and had two children, Catherine Gaines (1847-1940) and William Thomas Gaines (1850-1926).
Gaines died April 5, 1898 and was buried in the Colored Mt Zion Cemetery in Henderson, KY.
1870 U S Census, Henderson, Kentucky
Register of Indentures, 1/1886 – 2/1868. Vol. 113, Henderson, KY, Chief Asst. Commissioner, Freedmen's’ Bureau Records
Deed Book B, January 1837, Henderson County, KY