Thomas was born on April 21, 1831, in Pittsylvania County, the son of Philip Thomas and his second wife, Edith Meade Thomas. He had two half brothers. Little is known of Thomas's early years or education. In 1851, he married Mary Ann Dickenson and the couple had four sons and three daughters. Mary Dickenson Thomas died in 1866, in Cherokee County, Georgia, probably as a result of childbirth.
Infrastructure projects in Virginia aided business. The Franklin Turnpike, built in 1842, and the Danville and Richmond Railroad, built in 1856, connected county slave markets to other parts of the state. The telegraph also helped Thomas and Finney keep track of fluctuating markets in the cotton states. Illness, meanwhile, could hurt profits. An epidemic in Richmond led Thomas to write Finney on January 30, 1859, that slaves "die daily and I suppose there are at least 60 or 100 sick at this time. Some has actually died on the cars going south. Five or six has died out of Lumpkin's jail, and the worst of it is they die in some 24 hours of being taken." In the same letter, Thomas reassured his partner that he had protected their investment with insurance. "One of our children is very sick this morning," he wrote. "I have sent for the doctor, but all the grown ones I have had insured as soon as I bought them."
The 1860 census lists Thomas as a farmer with $9,000 of real estate and $25,000 of personal estate. He owned 375 acres of improved land, 178 acres of unimproved land, and thirty-four slaves to work it. The year's output included 15,000 pounds of tobacco and 415 bushels of wheat. Most of his wealth, however, was tied to his slave trade business.
On March 1, 1862, Thomas enlisted in the Confederate army in Danville. He served as first sergeant in the 5th Virginia Cavalry Regiment, which saw action at the Second Battle of Manassas (1862), the Battle of Fredericksburg (1862), the Battle of Gettysburg (1863), and the Overland and Petersburg campaigns (1864). He left the service in 1865, still a first sergeant but having lost his land and—with the abolition of slavery—his business. He moved to Georgia, and the 1870 census lists him as a carpenter in Fulton County. He died in Cherokee County in 1888.
April 21, 1831 - Philip Thomas is born in Pittsylvania County.
1851 - Philip Thomas and Mary Ann Dickenson marry in Pittsylvania County.
Late 1850s - Philip Thomas and William A. J. Finney are partners in a slave trading business in Pittsylvania County.
1860 - The federal census lists Philip Thomas as a farmer with 553 acres of land and thirty-four slaves.
March 1, 1862 - Philip Thomas enlists as a first sergeant in the 5th Virginia Cavalry Regiment.
1865 - Philip Thomas leaves Confederate service a first sergeant and moves to Georgia shortly after.
1870 - The federal census lists Philip Thomas as a carpenter in Fulton County, Georgia.
1888 - Philip Thomas dies in Cherokee County, Georgia.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Wolfe, B. Philip Thomas (1831–1888). (2018, February 6). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Thomas_Philip_1831-1888.
- MLA Citation:
Wolfe, Brendan. "Philip Thomas (1831–1888)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 6 Feb. 2018. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: January 12, 2018 | Last modified: February 6, 2018
Contributed by Brendan Wolfe, editor of Encyclopedia Virginia from 2008 to 2019.