Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Thomas Collection, 1771-1882

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, August 2012

Summary Information
Title: William Thomas collection
Creator: Thomas family
Inclusive dates: 1771-1882
Bulk dates: 1802-1882
Extent: 42 items
Abstract:
This collection contains correspondence, financial records, appointments, and other items related to William Thomas, a lawyer from Plymouth, Massachusetts, and to his family. The collection includes letters that Thomas wrote to his father, Joshua Thomas, about his experiences at Harvard University in the early 1800s, and documents appointing Thomas to prominent public positions in Plymouth.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1991. M-2662a22, M-2732.2.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

William Thomas Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


Biography

William Thomas was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on March 15, 1789, the son of Joshua Thomas and Isabella Stevenson. After studying privately with a local minister, he entered Harvard University in 1803, at the age of 14. Following his graduation in 1807, he studied law with his father, and then worked as a lawyer in Plymouth for the rest of his life. During the War of 1812, he served as quartermaster of the Massachusetts Militia's 1st Regiment, 5th division. He held many political positions throughout his life, including justice of the peace, master of chancery, county sheriff, and member of the Massachusetts legislature. He and his wife, Sarah Warren Sever (d. 1871) had one daughter, Ann, and cared for their grandchildren after Ann's death in 1855. At the time of his death on September 20, 1882, William Thomas was one of the oldest living graduates of Harvard University and the oldest living resident of Plymouth, Massachusetts.


Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains correspondence, financial records, appointments, and other items related to William Thomas, a lawyer from Plymouth, Massachusetts, and to his family. The collection includes letters that Thomas wrote to his father, Joshua Thomas, about his experiences at Harvard University in the early 1800s, and documents appointing Thomas to prominent public positions in Plymouth.

Early items include letters and financial documents related to members of the Thomas and Stevenson families, including a letter to Dr. John Thomas of Poughkeepsie, New York, about the death of his father (September 28, 1802). Between 1803 and 1807, William Thomas wrote around 8 letters to his father, and 1 to his brother John, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, about his experiences at Harvard University. Among other subjects, he discussed student life, the Federalist Party, elections, and conflicts between local residents and Harvard students. Also included are William Thomas's appointment as quartermaster of the Massachusetts Militia's 1st Regiment, 1st Brigade, 5th Division (April 12, 1810) and his discharge (April 20, 1815). Between 1826 and 1867, Thomas received 12 partially printed documents appointing him justice of the peace, master of chancery, and sheriff for Plymouth County, often for successive terms.

Later items are predominantly personal letters from acquaintances and cousins to William Thomas and his wife Sarah, as well as a copy of a letter that Thomas co-signed about the class of 1807's financial gift to Harvard (May 26, 1864). Other financial documents, such as those regarding the sale of land in Plymouth County and Isabella Thomas's will, are interspersed throughout the collection. The undated material includes a clipping with a biography of England native John Lloyd Thomas, additional correspondence, and copies of William Thomas's autograph.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Cambridge (Mass.)
    • Federal Party (U.S.)
    • Harvard University.
    • Lawyers--Massachusetts.
    • Massachusetts. Militia. Brigade, 1st. Regiment, 1st.
    • Plymouth (Mass.)
    • Real property--Massachusetts.
    Contributors:
    • Thomas, William, 1789-1882.
    Genre Terms:
    • Certificates.
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Indentures.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Signatures (names)
    • Wills.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   9, Small Collections  
    William Thomas collection [series]
    Folders   20-23  
     July 18, 1771-September 23, 1882, and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Bibliography

    "Seven Harvard Nonagenarians: The Seven Oldest Graduates Now Living." The Harvard Register 3.7 (July 1881): 405.