THE REV. MILTON IVON THOMAS
Born on September 23, 1904 on the "Thomas Farm" in Rockdale Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania; Milton was named after his great-grandfather "Milton H." and "Ivan The Terrible" of Russia. Apparently his mother had been reading a story about Ivan and decided on this for his middle name. His name was recorded as "Ivon" and not "Ivan", however. Milton spent his youth in and around Crawford County in northwestern PA and in 1905 moved with his parents to the "Pollock Farm" north of Mill Village. From 1910 until 1913 he attended elementary school in Mill Village but only receiving credit for two years since he did not complete the third grade. Subsequently, however, Milton reentered and completed the third grade at the Willis Grove Consolidated School in Rockdale Township. His fourth and fifth grades were completed at a small one room country school called Home School, which was located on Meadville Road (the road between Mill Village and Union City.) He returned to Mill Village to attend the sixth, seventh and eight grades; an epidemic, however, closed the school and he had to return to Home School to complete his eighth year. In 1919, Milton entered the ninth grade at Willis Grove Consolidated School and spent the year with his grandparents. In 1920 he returned to Mill Village where he completed the ninth and tenth grade and graduating from that school. The year 1921 found Milton back at Willis Grove Consolidated School where he attended the eleventh grade and graduating from that school also. It was during his eleventh grade at Willis Grove that Milton met his future wife Maude Hazel Bunting. Milton wrote a Christmas Play for the school and wanted Maude to play Mary in the play. The play was not presented, however, because the principal did not believe in using an image of Christ in the play. It was also during 1921, while he was seventeen, that he preached his first sermon in the Methodist Church at Millers Station and wrote his first newspaper article.
In 1913, Milton was converted to Christianity by a traveling evangelist by the name of Rev. Crockett. Milton was a very religious lad and at the age of twelve he felt the call to the ministry. When he was fourteen, The Rev. & Mrs. P.C. Gates of Mill Village, took him to the Conneautville Holiness Camp in Conneautville, PA. The train trip from Mill Village to Meadville and then on to Conneautville, after a short layover, was the first real trip he had ever taken and he was very excited. Mrs. Gates played an important part in his youth and helped him develop spiritually. Milton attended the camp at Conneautville during many of his summers as a teenager and it was here that he met The Dr. Henry Clay Morrison (President of Asbury College in Wilmore, KY). Milton had intended to attend Taylor University in Indiana but decided to go to Asbury College instead after meeting Dr. Morrison. The President of The Conneautville Holiness Camp agreed to pay half of his expenses to attend Bethel Academy which was the prep-school for Asbury College. Milton entered Bethel Academy in the fall, of 1922 completing the twelfth grade and received his High School diploma in the spring of 1923. Thoroughly prepared for college now Milton traveled to Wilmore, Kentucky where he entered the 1923 fall Freshman Class. After finishing the first two years of college with more credits than needed and being short of finances, he returned to his home in PA. His grandfather secured him a teaching position at Rockdale Consolidated School, with the understanding that he would attend Edinboro College during the summer of 1925 and secure a Provisional Teaching Certificate. Maude Bunting was also attending Edinboro College during that summer and eventually she and Milton began dating and on July 4th, 1925 he proposed marriage and she accepted. Milton and Maude both went on and completed their requirements for a Provisional Teaching Certificate. That fall they both secured teaching positions with Milton at Rockdale Consolidated School and Maude at Taylor Stand School in Athens Township. At the completion of their first year of teaching they decided to get married and the ceremony was conducted by Maude's uncle The Rev Forrest Amy on June 12, 1926 at Maude's home in Little Cooley. That fall they both traveled to Wilmore, KY where Milton entered his Junior year at Asbury College. In the spring of 1927 Milton graduated "provisionally" from Asbury College, but he had to attend Allegheny College in Meadville to secure some additional credits before he could officially graduate.
In 1930, Milton was ordained as a Deacon in Dubois, PA . Two years later he was ordained as an Elder and appointed to Clymer, NY. For years he was the Methodist Minister at Sligo, Parkers Landing, Big Run, Rimersburg, Emelton, Putneyville, Falls Creek, Wattsburg, Saegertown, Hazen, and Clintonville; all in Pennsylvania. He also ministered to churches at Clymer, Ripley, Perrysburg, Frewsburg, Delevan and Springwater; all in New York state. Milton was an avid reader and writer and wrote many book reviews and articles for newspapers and magazines. In fact, he had the reputation for being the best read minister in the Erie Methodist Conference. He was well known for his weekly newspaper article entitled "The Country Pastor" which was published in several newspapers in western PA. He was also interested in and did some religious work in radio. In 1944, Milton received his Masters Degree from Winona Lake School of Theology in Indiana. He was very interested in young people and for many years he lectured at Transylvania Bible School in Freeport, PA and taught counseling etc. at summer camps. Milton and Maude had eight children (two girls and six boys) David, Virginia, Paul, John, James, Joseph, Vivian and Stanley. Most of his sons graduated from college with some going on for PH D and Masters Degrees. Milton retired from the active ministry at Springwater, NY in 1973 after 46 years of service.
Milton and Maude celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary on June 12th, 1976 in Cambridge Springs, PA, a town chosen for their retirement since it was near where they had grown up as children and young people. All of their children and their families, plus a large crowd of other family members and friends that they had known for years joined in their "Golden Wedding" celebration. They spent their final years at the Methodist Retirement Home in Meadville, PA. It was here that Milton died on November 18, 1984 followed fifteen months later by Maude on February 18, 1986.
Submitted by Joe Thomas,
son of the Rev. Milton I. Thomas