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Thomas, David Stephens - Biography

David Stephens Thomas

By Erma Thomas Yearsley (granddaughter)

David Stephens Thomas was born January 1, 1860, to Morris Thomas and Eleanor Stephens in Emlyn, New Castle, Cardigan, Wales, the oldest of five children: David Stephen, Margaret, Morris, Thomas Stephen, and Evan. He came to America with his mother when he was seven years old, and two brothers, Thomas and Evan. His sister Margaret and brother Morris had died in Wales as did his father just three years before they came. Evan died later in Willard, Utah, when just three years old. They came on the ship, "Minnesota" boarding June 22, 1869, then from the east U.S. they came on the new Transcontinental Railroad. They walked from Salt Lake City to Willard, Utah, the place the missionary to Wales had painted as so beautiful. Leaving her beautiful home in Wales to come to this was very much of a shock and disappointment. About one year later they moved to Cherry Creek, Idaho, awhile, then in 1878, they moved to St. John, where his mother took up a homestead. As one of the earliest pioneers he helped build up the community. He served as Probate Judge for the county and was chairman of the Old Folks Day for twenty-five years.

David once was sent by a friend, Dr. Morgan, to Samaria to collect a bill owed him by a patient. He was given a calf in payment. Hanging it around his neck, holding onto it by the legs, he carried it all the way back to St. John, all of ten miles. His arms were sore for weeks but when David did something, he did it up right.

Thomas, David's brother, worked for wages only one day of his life. That night when he came home tired out he said that wage earning that way was no way to live. To his mother he said, "Mother, am I worth a dollar a day to you?" Her reply was, "Why of course, son." Thomas answered, "Then I am going to stay home with you after this." That he did and David went away from home for the hard work of freighting. His good friend Doc Morgan gave him a horse and wagon so he could double the hauls. At Wood River he received word of his grandfather's death, a real blow to him. He had helped pull his grandfather out of a burning grain field, and he had been suffering for days. His route was north and west of Blackfoot to Challis, the other toward Wood River. He filled two 50 gallon barrels with water at the Snake River, one tied to each side of the wagon. He sometimes hauled silver back to American Falls. David was always helping someone and never taking payment for his deeds of kindness. They had to ford many streams, but were ferried across the Snake River. There were several toll bridges ($1.50 to $2.50) and some toll roads.

David took stock in some mining industries in California. He also went in the sheep shearing business on a large scale up here close by where the Perlite Mine is. Then he went in the Sawmill business about twenty miles west of Idaho Falls, Idaho. His next adventure was an interest in a large threshing machine with Philip Ford. But his biggest project was the leasing of a large amount of Indian Reservation at Fort Hall from the government and putting it under irrigation ready for sale for farms.

David (Dave as he was called) wooed Anne Martina Larson, eldest daughter of James Larson, a neighbor in St. John. About on his birthday they were married and he soon gave up freighting for more home and family life, going into the hay and cattle business with his brother Thomas. When their first child, Jane, was born, they decided to move to a new town, Spokane. The year before some friends had been up there and picked out some good property with plenty of water and timber on it. If Dave and Tom had gone on with their plans they would have soon been rich because the property was sold for high prices as city property. Instead, they had stop­ped and settled in Montana.

In the group that started on this trek were David, Thomas, Mary Ann (a half-sister to David and Thomas), Martina, and baby Jane. The men drove a herd of cattle and the women drove the two covered wagons. Martina told the grandchildren of the many experiences they had, one of making butter by hanging the bucket of cream under the wagon. The bouncing on the rough dirt roads did the rest. They did not get any further than the Big Hole Basin near Dillon, Montana. They were delayed there because the high water prevented their crossing the river. The country appealed to them because of the wild grasses and the timothy waist-high. My how the cattle could thrive on such feed. There they took up ranches and lived for several years. The women, because very homesick for St. John and probably other reasons, caused them to sell out to their brother-in-law (Frank Pendleton who had married Mary Ann). Frank built the place up to a very nice cattle spread.

Tom and Dave went into the sheep raising business in St. John and were the first to practice winter lambing in the area.

Dave and Martina were the parents of five children: Jane Stayner, Morris, James, Annella, and Thomas Franklin.

David passed away October 24,1939, and Martina, August 14, 1952, and were buried in the St. John Cemetery.

(From St. John, Oneida County, Idaho: A collection of personal histories from the time of the first settlers to the present day, pp. 242-244.)



Thomas, David Stephens


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