“among the early settlers of Amherstburg” – The Thomas Family – Part 3
George and Maria’s third son, Daniel Wallace Thomas was a mariner and on December 27, 1893 in Amherstburg, he married Anna Permelia Stevens, the daughter of M.J. and Mary Stevens. According to the 1910 Census they had three children: Viola (or Viva), Granville and Burrel/Burl. Graville was born on December 6, 1895, while Viola (or Viva) was born the year before on December 27, 1894, and later worked as a housewife and married Edwin Gray Cowan. Daniel and Anna’s third child, Burrel (Burl) Buckner Thomas, was born on January 18, 1898 and later married Helen L. Divelle, who was born in South Carolina and the daughter of George Divelle and a mother with the last name Cummings. They married on June 27, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. By 1920, the census for Ashtabula, Ohio, states that Daniel was no longer a mariner, but now a machinist in a factory. It also lists Granville and Burl still living at home at this point (before their marriages) and the census lists Granville working as an “oiler” at a steel mill, while Burl worked as a chauffeur for a private family. Interestingly, in the 1910 Census, the Thomas family is listed as “white,” but in the next Census for 1920, they are listed as “mulatto.” It is certainly possible that the census taker assumed that the family was white if they had a lighter complexion or the family may have passed for white during that time considering the racial climate.
George and Maria’s fourth son was Robert W. Thomas and he was a cook. On December 20, 1901, he married Lulu Adams in Amherstburg at the age of 22; Lulu was 23 and her parents are listed as William Adams and Laura Holton. Lulu was also active in the community, joining several organizations in Amherstburg. As a young girl, she was a member of the Buisy [sic] Glenors which was an educational group for young people. She was also a member of the Frederic [sic] Douglass Self-Improvement Club, which focused on education and etiquette, in addition to joining the Oxford Club which hosted socials and other entertainment at the A.M.E. Church. Robert and Lulu had three daughters and one son: Roberta, who married a musician, Harold W. Coleman (son of Stephen and Mamie Duger Coleman), in July 1926; Fern (Georges); Lola, who married Elmer Hamlin and on the 1940 census for Lorain, Ohio, is listed as a maid at Oberlin College. Their last child, Orville was born on February 2, 1911 and is listed as an undertaker’s assistant in the 1940 Ohio census and he married a woman named Ethel. See you next week for another installment of the Thomas Family History.
“among the early settlers of Amherstburg” – The Thomas Family- Part 4
George and Maria’s only daughter was Mary Almede Thomas who was born in November 1863 in Anderdon Township and lived there for 75 years. She married twice: first to George Douglas McCurdy, son of Nasa McCurdy and Permelia Bailey, in 1884 and then to Fred H.A. Davis, son of Nancy Jane Mitchell and Delos Davis, in April 1913. Mary was a member of the BME Church in Amherstburg and the Ruth Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. She had two sons named Leroy McCurdy of White Plains, New York (b. December 12, 1885 and m. Evelyn Foster) and George D. McCurdy (b. September 7, 1890) of Amherstburg who married Laura Adams, the daughter of William H. Adams and Laura Holten, in December 1910. Mary also had a daughter, Mabel Edith, who was born on March 24, 1888. Mabel married Jerome Simpson in June 1905 in Amherstburg and they were the parents of Melvin Mac Simpson, who founded the Amherstburg Freedom Museum, formerly the North American Black Historical Museum, with his wife Betty. Jerome and Mabel had several children in addition to Melvin, including Dorothy (b. August 19, 1905 and m. John Dwelle); Wilfred (b. November 27, 1906 and m. Odessa Campbell); Everett (b. January 26, 1910 and m. Dorothy Williams); Corinne (b. February 12, 1912 and m. Vincent Bryant); Sheldon, and Kathleen (b. May 10, 1914) who married Burton H. Clemens, an electrical engineer from California and the son of Isaiah Clemens, on June 10, 1948. At the ceremony, Kathleen’s brother, Melvin, sang the song “Because” and Kathleen wore a pastel pink silk jersey gown. Her veil had pink rosebuds on it and she also wore a corsage with pink tea roses. Kathleen and Burton married under a white canopy with ferns and roses in the background. Stay tuned for next week!
“among the early settlers of Amherstburg” – The Thomas Family – Part 5
Interestingly, it is through Mabel McCurdy Simpson that we find a connection to one of Windsor’s most celebrated basketball players, Fred Thomas. Mabel’s husband Jerome is the son of Matilda Brooks (born c. 1840 in Colchester North to Edmund and Susan Brooks) and James Simpson (born in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio and came to Amherstburg in 1855), who is Fred’s great uncle. James’ sister Mahala Simpson was married to George Thomas (a different George Thomas than discussed above) and they were Fred’s grandparents. Fred was the son of Charles Fred Thomas and Edith Mae Jones (daughter of Fred and Jane), who were residents of Windsor, where Charles worked for the City of Windsor for 40 years before retiring. In addition to Fred, they had five daughters and another son: Helen, Freida, Dorothy, Edith, Hazel and George. Of their children, Fred is the most well-known. Born in Windsor on 26 December 1923, Fred was a fifth generation Canadian who could trace his history back to both freedom seekers in North Carolina and immigrants from Barbados. Fred Thomas became known as “one of Canada’s finest ever basketball players,” and was able to deliver the perfect hook shot with either hand. Fred attended Patterson Collegiate, playing a big role in the school winning the All-Ontario Basketball championship during his senior year. Following graduation, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as a pilot in 1943, earning his wings and serving until 1945. It was then that he enrolled at Assumption College. He first played for Assumption College and is responsible for leading them to the Canadian Senior Men’s Finals in 1949. In fact, during the 1948-49 season, he set a record by scoring 639 points in a single season. Thomas also scored 2,059 points throughout his four-year basketball career at Assumption and remains the only player to score 2,000 points for Assumption or the University of Windsor. On February 23, 1945, Fred led Assumption to a victory over the Harlem Globetrotters with a score of 49-45, which must have impressed the Globetrotter organization because they invited him to join their organization. Following his time with Assumption, Thomas played professional basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters for two seasons and, later, played for the Toronto Tri-Bells. His biggest disappointment was not being chosen for Canada’s Olympic basketball team in 1952 but, over and over again, Thomas proved himself to be a multi-talented athlete, expanding into baseball and football. Thomas became the first Black player to compete in the professional Eastern League (baseball). Not only did he make his debut on July 4, 1948 for the Wilkes-Barre Barons, which was a minor-league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, he also played for the Kitchener Panthers, where he was the League Batting Champion with an average of .383. If that was not enough, Thomas also had a brief career as a football player with the Toronto Argonauts in 1949, but a knee injury ended his football career. Fred Thomas was such a well-rounded athlete, who could achieve success in many sports. Among his numerous acknowledgements, Thomas was also inducted into the Windsor/Essex County Sports Hall of Fame in 1981; the University of Windsor Alumni Sports Hall of Fame in 1986; the Afro-American Hall of Fame in 1994, and the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995. Following his sports career, Fred transferred his athletic skills to teaching where he became a physical education teacher in Toronto, where he taught for over 20 years. Fred Thomas passed away on May 20, 1981. Thank you for joining us for the Thomas Family History. Stay tuned for next month where we will feature another amazing family.