Burton E. Thomas
Burton E. Thomas

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880.

BURTON E. THOMAS. A truthful representation of a worthy life is a legacy to humanity. As such we present a brief sketch of the life of our subject.

Born of sturdy Welsh patronage, of a family that early came to this country, settling first in the State of Rhode Island, and finally in the town of Berlin, in this county, he early exhibited strong traits of character, and a determination and zeal in anything that he undertook, that marked him for success.

Peleg Thomas his great-grandfather, settled at the close of the Revolutionary war in the southern part of Berlin, moving his family in in an ox-cart, and became one of the pioneers of that then rude locality.

Peleg R. Thomas, only son of Rowland (who died young) and father of Burton A., located in the town of Stephentown at an early day, and was a blacksmith by trade; also engaging in farming. He married Freelove, daughter of George Arnold, one of the descendants of the distinguished Arnold family of Rhode Island, whose family escutcheon, though dimmed by the erratic career of Benedict Arnold, has, nevertheless, been preserved bright and untarnished by the brilliant and patriotic achievements of others of its representatives. Two members of the family have been governors of the State of Rhode Island, while others have filled various important stations in the State. The old colonial flag which belonged to Governor Arnold, and was concealed during the war of Independence, and displayed with the establishment of American liberty, is still preserved with the venerable official chair of state which he occupied. A branch of the family became among the first settlers of Stephentown.

Peleg R. Thomas had a family of ten children. In the spring of 1826, with his wife and six children then born, he removed to the town of Sand Lake, and located on the old Nicholas Fellows farm, in the western part of the town. He died Feb. 9, 1847. His wife, Freelove, passed away June 18, 1863.

Burton A. Thomas was the oldest child of Peleg R. and Freelove Thomas, and was born in the town of Stephentown on July 25, 1809. His mother's mother was Mary Hopkins, a member of the noted Hopkins family of Rhode Island. He passed his early life in working upon his father's farm, and in attendance upon the district schools of his day. At an early age he developed a taste for surveying, engineering, and landscape-gardening, a pursuit which, developing in time by practice and experience, became the leading one of his life. He is probably the oldest surveyor now living in the county, and has surveyed a large portion of the county and adjoining territory, besides laying out many public cemeteries and parks in this and other Slates. The number of the former is about twenty-five, of which those at Manchester, Vt, and at Hart's Falls, Stillwater, Schenectady, Amsterdam, and Oswego, in this State, are a few. For the past thirty-two years he has been surveyor and engineer of the Albany Rural Cemetery, and much of its graceful outline and architectural beauty is due to the taste and ingenuity of Mr. Thomas.

Amid his other duties Mr. Thomas has still found time to perform various services in behalf of the town in which he resides. He has filled the offices of commissioner and inspector of schools, town clerk, supervisor, and justice of the peace for twelve years, an office which he now holds.

In political matters Mr. Thomas was early identified with the Democratic party, and worked actively and energetically for the success of the party. He has since become prominent in the councils of the Republican party. On Sept. 17, 1831, Mr. Thomas was united in marriage to Maria, daughter of Henry Cipperly, and a representative of one of the pioneer families of Sand Lake. Two children have born to them. An estimable daughter, Alsina, married George Goewey, Esq., now a lawyer in Albany, but died greatly lamented at an early age. Jeffrey P. Thomas, the son, has followed closely in the footsteps of his father, and is a successful surveyor and rural architect. For the past ten years he has been superintendent of the Albany Rural Cemetery.

Mr. Thomas resides in a pleasant home at West Sand Lake, a view of which appears elsewhere in this work. Though nearly seventy years of age, he preserves his faculties unimpaired, and still devotes much of his time to his duties as surveyor. His hand is still able to trace with precision the outlines of his draughts, and his chirography remarkably fine for a gentleman of his age. His wife is still the esteemed helpmate in his home.

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