Bio of William Widgery Thomas
As found in REPRESENTATIVE MEN OF MAINE
A Collection of Biographical Sketches.
Prepaired under the direction of Henry Chase
Portland, ME.
The Lakeside Press, Publisher
1893

MR. THOMAS was born in Portland, November 7, 1803, and is, therefore, 90 years of age. He is a direct descendant, in the seventh generation, from George Cleeves, our first settler, including in his ancestry the Rev. George Burroughs, the first minister in Falmouth, and a graduate of Harvard College, and John Proctor, both of whom the people of Salem hung for witchcraft.

At an early age Mr. Thomas became a clerk in a dry goods storenear the site of the Cumberland Bank, on Exchange Street, and at the age of nineteen, went into the dry goods business for himself, on the northeasterly side of Exchange Street, on the site now occupied by the First National Bank. He left this business in 1835, and has been engaged in various pursuits, as merchant, banker, and real estate owner, and to him many of the substantial buildings which adorn our streets the city is indebted.

Mr. Thomas' father, Elias Thomas, was born in Portland, January 14, 1772. In early life he engaged in mercantile pursuits. was, in 1823. Treasurer of the State of Maine, which office be held for four years, Director of the Cumberland Bank, and died in Portland, after a long, useful, and honorable life, at his home, corner of State and Danforth Streets, August 3, 1872, aged one hundred years and six months. Thomas Block, on Commercial Street, was named in his honor.

Mr. Thomas' mother, Elizabeth Widgery, was the daughter of the Hon. William Widgery. She was married to Elias Thomas, in 1801, and died in Portland, in July. 1861, at the age of eighty-three years, greatly beloved and respected. Her father, the Hon. William Widgery. died in Portland at the age of seventy years, in 1822. In 1788 he was elected Delegate to the Convention of Massachusetts, which• adopted the Constitution of the United States. He was chosen, in the Representathe from New Gloucester to the General Court of Massachusetts, which office he held, by repeated elections, for eight years. In 1794 he was elected Senator to the Legislature of Massachusetts, from Cumberland. He was chosen Representative to Congress in 1810 from Cumberland District, and supported earnestly the measures of Mr. Madison's administration. He voted for the War of 1812 against the wishes of his constituents. A gentleman in writing to a friend in this city, of Mr. Widgery, says: "Mr. Widgery was, in Congress, a moral hero, proving himself a man of more moral firmness, more unbending integrity and self-sacrificing patriotism by taking on himself the unenviable position and dangerous responsibility of voting, against the express will of his constituents, for a hazardous and unequal war, with the best part of his wealth (his shipping) uninsured on the ocean, while his town property, just recovering from the desolation of the embargo, more for the infant sea-port than the war, must become unproductive, furnishing his declining years with a precarious support, while he would have to buffet the storm of popular indignation, which he did. Widgery Block, on Exchange Street, was named in honor of his memory, and is the on site of his residence.

Mr. Thomas was married March 5, 1835, to Elizabeth White Goddard, born in Portsmouth, May 25, 1812, daughter of Henry Goddard, for many years a merchant in Portland, where he died at his home, corner of Free and Centre Streets. Mrs. Thomas died in Portland. April 27, 1884, lamented by all who knew her for her many virtues. Of Mr. Thomas' children three are living - Gen. Henry G. Thomas, U. S. A., William Widgery Thomas, our Minister to Sweden and Norway, and Elias Thomas, merchant.

Mr. Thomas represented the city at Augusta as a member of the House in 1855, and the Senate in 1856. He was elected State Treasurer in 1860, but declined to serve. He has been a member of both branches of the City Government. He is, perhaps, best known as the first War Mayor in 1862 and 1863. He was very active on the patriotic side. He became a friend of Secretary of War Stanton, and subsequently named a block on Exchange Street Stanton Block," in honor of the great cabinet officer. He was, for twenty years, on the Board of Overseers of Bowdoin College, and for more than thirty years a Corporate Member of the "American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions," both of which places he resigned, on account of increasing years. He has been one of the managers of the Portland Benevolent Society for more than thirty years, and its President for more than twenty years, which place he now holds. He is a Director of the Maine State Hospital, which office he still holds. He was elected a Director of the Canal Bank, then a State Bank, in October, 1836, and its President in 1849. He has, therefore, been a Director fifty-seven years, and its President, forty-four years, and still daily attends to the duties of the offices.

Mr. Thomas, Neal Dow, W. D. Little, and others organized, in 1827, the Portland Temperance Society. This was one of the earliest Temperance Societies in the State, and he has now in his possession the Secretary's book, containing the preamble and a long list of signers. among them many prominent names. He has, from early life, been a firm supporter of the cause of temperance, never having used intoxicating drinks or tobacco in any form during his long life.

In 1876 Mr. Thomas was elected one of the Presidential Electors-at-Large, and voted in favor of the election of Mr. Hayes.

In 1827 he became a member of the Second Parish Congregational Church Doctor Payson, pastor, and is now the oldest living member; and he is also the most venerable and highly respected citizen of his city.


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