The venerable Vial Thomas, who was for so many years prominently and usefully identified with the public, religious and business affairs of Allegany county, was born in Scituate, R. I., Oct. 15, 1783, and died in Angelica, N. Y., March 22, 1885, "aged 101 years, 5 months and 7 days.
From an ancestral history written by himself in 1876 we take the following: In the latter part of the sixteenth century, our first parent by the name of Thomas came to America. It is said that his father died without a will, leaving a large estate which by English law his elder brother inherited, but he told his younger brother that he would give him out of the estate all the education he wanted to get, then a good nice present. The first was got, but the present was so small in comparison with the large estate left by their father, that he was disgusted, came to America, and settled in Wickford, a port town in Rhode Island, where he raised a family.
I have forgotten his given name if I ever knew it, but this man's oldest son was named James Thomas. He was my great-grandfather. He purchased in 1711 a farm in Scituate, R. I. His wife's name was Mary. Their family was one son and one daughter. This son was named Vial Thomas. He was my own grandfather. He also married, had a son and daughter and died before arriving at the middle age of man. His son was born Dec. 31, 1755, and named Nicholas. This Nicholas Thomas was my father. He was married Nov. 5, 1780, to Miss Phebe Knight, daughter of Dea. Stephen Knight of Cranston, R. I." Vial Thomas was the second child of the six sons and five daughters born to his parents, and he, after marrying Ruth Hammond, of Scituate, Jan. 1, 1806, soon began to think of the possibilities of the Genesee country for an active young man, and, Feb., 1810, they came to Angelica where Mr. Thomas articled and located on 160 acres of land which he transformed into a fine farm where they resided until 1835, when, selling this, he purchased one adjoining the homestead of Moses VanCampen, and made this his home until his death. His children were Mary A., James M., William H., Stephen W., Wilbur E., Harriet N., Charles K., and George W., of whom but two, Harriet N., wife of Rev. F. V. Warren, of Northeast, Pa., and Stephen W., of Bolivar, survive. (Mrs. Thomas died in March, 1848.)
The strong physique and vital powers that caused Mr. Thomas to round out more than a century of life was of great avail in the pioneer days of Angelica, for he could work untiringly and for many years never seemed to know fatigue. He was in public office continuously for a long term of years, keeper of the poor house six years and county superintendent of the poor one year, was supervisor, assessor. justice of the peace of Angelica when the town stretched over many times its present area, and whatever he did was done well and faithfully. His name was a synonym for integrity in both public and private place.
He was appointed by Governor Clinton one of the side judges of Allegany county and held that position six or eight years. He was one of the members of the court before which was arraigned the first convicted murderer in the county in 1824, and no member of that distinguished body possessed more dignity. Judge Thomas was a man of conscience and deep religious principles. He brought up his family in the good old-fashioned, way of strict obedience to the Decalogue, and they like himself were members of the Presbyterian church of Angelica. He was a deacon and a ruling elder for many years, chosen first in October, 1827, and among the subscriptions to build the society's first house of worship his name appears for $200. He was the superintendent of the first Sabbath school organized in Angelica (doubtless the first of the county).
This is a mere outline of an extended and fruitful life, the life of one who bore all honors meekly, preserving a simple guileless nature amid all the changing years of a wonderfully extended period of life, and who, dying, left an impress on many fields of his county's prosperity that will exist for generations.