The Thomas Family

Henry K. Thomas was born a slave in Virginia in 1817. When Henry was a child, the master moved his household to Nashville, Tennessee. Henry’s mother encouraged him to escape, fearing he would be sold. In 1834, at age seventeen Henry escaped, but he was captured in Louisville, Kentucky.  Henry was locked in a guardhouse and put in leg irons. One night, he managed to work off the chains on his legs and steal a boat on the Ohio River; he drifted to the northern bank and freedom! 

Henry settled in Buffalo, New York.  In 1842, he opened a barbershop and developed a thriving business. He married a free black woman from Canada West, named Maria. During his years in Buffalo, he was active in the local anti-slavery movement. The Thomas family moved to Buxton in 1851.

Henry settled on a 100-acre lot on Concession 10 in Buxton. Henry worked to help build the community and the church. He was one of the founders of the Canada Mill & Mercantile Company that started a sawmill, a gristmill and a general store in Buxton. In 1864, Henry paid off his land and received the deed.

Henry and Maria had seven children. Sarah, Henry, and Jane were born in Buffalo, New York.  John, Maria, and Richard were born in Buxton.

Henry’s nephews, John and James Rapier lived with him and were educated in the Buxton Mission School.  John became a doctor and returned to the United States. James became a teacher and he was the first teacher in the Buxton School S.S. # 13.  After the Civil War when slavery ended, James moved to Alabama and he was elected to be State Representative in Congress.

Daughter, Sarah Thomas taught school during the Civil War and after the war, she moved to Mississippi.  Henry sold his farm in 1869. He left Buxton and settled in Mississippi, where he and Maria (wife) operated a boarding house.  Henry Thomas died in Mississippi in 1888.            

**Further details can be found on the Virtual Exhibits of the History webpage.