Historical Details

Thomas, Samuel E. and Clara N.

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 12/17/2020


by Marguerite Thomas Davies

Samuel W. Thomas

Samuel E. Thomas was born in Iroquois County, Illinois May 27, 1884 the youngest of the five children of Samuel M. and Adeline Burroughs Thomas. The family lived in Illinois and Iowa until 1888 when they began another move further west. They traveled in a covered wagon drawn by a span of mules. One event on the trip that re­mained vivid in Sam's memory was crossing the Missouri River on a ferry boat. To a four year old this seemed extremely hazardous and he said that he and his shepherd dog stayed as near the center of the ferry as they could.

The family settled 20 miles northwest of Harrison, Nebr. They arrived in western Nebraska late in the season and there was insufficient time to build a substantial home before winter, so the family spent the first few months in a tent partially embank­ed near a creek.

Sam spent his early boyhood at the Thomas ranch in Nebraska. When he  was 16 he started working as a cowboy on ranches that were still using "open range" in north­ eastern Wyoming.  One of the ranches he worked on was the "Fiddle Back Ranch" and another was the "T 7" owned and operated by the Matthews family. The primary busi­ness of the "T 7" was raising horses al­ though they did have some cattle.   He also worked for several ranchmen in the eastern Wyoming area. Among them were Jacob Mill, Charles (Charley) McGinnis and the Johnson Brothers.

In the early 1900's Sam and his brother Henry spent several winters living in and working out of a "line camp" on Cottonwood Creek near the Wyoming-South Dakota border some 35 miles northeast of Lusk. Life in a "line camp" was lonesome and monotonous with little day to day variation.   It was an event that Sam remembers well when in April of 1903 they rode to Edgemont, S.D. to attend the celebration, " Roosevelt Day", which was held on April 25.  Theodore Roosevelt, then President, was in Edgemont that day.

In about 1905 Sam filed on and in due time obtained a patent on homestead land located about 30 miles northeast of Lusk. It was north of the east end of the Seaman Hills. In the mid 1920's he traded the section of land to Richard "Dick" Pfister, Sr. for a number of Texas cows and about 10 young mules.

On June 11, 1911 Sam married Clara N. Larson at her parent's home seven miles east of Lusk.

Clara was the oldest child of Walter and Martha Lohr Larson. She was born on the family farm near Columbus, Nebr. Oct. 29, 1888. In February of 1889, when Clara was three months old, the family came by train to what is now Niobrara County and built their home about seven miles east of Lusk.

Clara's formal education began when she was eight years old and for two years she rode a horse three miles to attend school in the vicinity of Node.  At the end of that time a school was built just a short distance from her home and she finished her elementary education there, starting to school each year in April and going for a six month term.

 When she was 15 she started high school in Manville, Wyo. and was able to get home for only a few holidays during the nine­ month school term.  At the end of two years she passed the examination required to certify her as a rural teacher and at 17 started teaching at Box Elder, Wyo. She attended a teachers' normal school in Alliance, Nebr. for one summer and continu­ed teaching in eastern Wyoming until her marriage.

For several years following their mar­ marriage, Sam and Clara lived on Clara's home­stead on East Plum Creek about 20 miles northeast of Lusk. For two years after they were married, Clara taught the Updike School on Sand Draw about two miles west of their home.  Among her pupils were Charles, Richard and Walter Updike, Albert and Adeline Thomas and Garth Percival.

Sam and Clara are the parents of three children. Samuel Walter, born June 4, 1916 (married Ruth Johns); Lawrence Milton, born Dec. 31, 1920 (married Marcella Grace Gorley); and Marguerite , born Nov. 19, 1923 (married Marvin J. Davies.)

From 1937 to 1945 the family lived on the Sam Thomas, Sr. Ranch in western Nebraska. Sam moved his family there to help his aged father and mother and to manage the ranch for them.

In 1945 Sam and Clara moved to Lusk.

For a time Sam was yard foreman at the Lusk Livestock Sale Barn, then owned by Jim Christian. Later he served as deputy sheriff under Sheriff Ben Brown He served on the Lusk police force and was Police Chief at the time of his retirement in 1959. After moving to Lusk, Clara joined a home extension club of which she was a member and officer for many years. Sam and Clara joined the Congregational Church and Clara was active in Church Circle.

Sam had a sister and three brothers. Most of them spent much of their lives in the Lusk-Harrison are Theresa (married Corwin Lewis), Charles (married Mary Turner), Ira (married Christine Peterson) and Henry (married Esther Hamlin.)

Clara's brothers spent their lives in the Lusk area. They were Ralph Larson (married Ina Jewett), Raymond Larson (married Grace Zine), and Warren Larson (mar­ried Charles Magoon.)  Her sister Irene (married Ed Leeling), Cecil (married Frank Holderman) and Geneva (married Ted Mc­ McConaughey).

Thomas Sr., resident of ponderosa  Nursing home passed away in Crawford, Nebr. hospital July 15, 1975. Sam Thomas, Jr. passed away in Veteran's hospital at Cheyenne Wyo. on Feb. 15, 1978. Clara Larson Thomas was a resident of Niobrara County Nursing Home.  She died Aug 13, 1978.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Thomas, Samuel (05/27/1884 - 07/15/1975) View Record
Obituary Thomas, Clara (10/29/1888 - 08/13/1978) View Record