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   Burtis Paul Thomas

Indiana and Indianans
A History of Aboriginal and Territorial Indiana and the Century of Statehood by Jacob Piatt Dunn
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York

   Burtus Paul Thomas, City Engineer of La Porte, has spent all his life in LaPorte County, is a practical civil engineer and surveyor, and his name and career serve to introduce a number of well known families of that part of the state.

   Mr. Thomas was born in Scipio Township, a few miles south of LaPorte, June 29, 1874. His great-grandfather was a relative of the Daniel Boone family, and was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina. He moved across the mountains and became an early settler of Kentucky, where he married. Later he established a home in Jennings County, Indiana, and was there in time to live with and be acquainted with many of the Indians and Indian chiefs. He was a real frontiersman, and was completely at home in the wild life of that section. An expert hunter, he practically supplied his table with wild meat all the year. He also improved a good farm from the wilderness, and continued his residence there until his death.

   His son, Elias C. Thomas, grandfather of the LaPorte civil engineer, was born in Jennings County and though his boyhood was spent in a time when schools were meagerly equipped, he made such good use of his opportunities that he was able to teach and conducted some of the pioneer subscription schools in the log cabins of his locality. He also became very proficient in using the old fashioned implement known as the frow in making shingles. After his marriage he moved to Jefferson County, Indiana, renting land seven miles from Madison, and lived there until 1844. That was the year when the Thomas family became established in LaPorte County. From the southern part of the state they came north by wagon and teams, since there was practically no other method of transportation. They also brought along two cows. They were on the road sixteen days, and on arriving they found LaPorte a small villiage. The head of the family used his team to haul and transport goods and various commodities for a time, and later rented land in Kankakee Township and continued the life of a farmer until his death at the age of sixty-two. He married Caroline Patton. She was a native of North Carolina. Her father Houston Patton a native of the same state, cane to Indiana as a Pioneer in Jefferson County, improved a farm there, and in 1844 he also came to LaPorte County and bought land that is now included in the Fair Grounds. Houston Patton was an active farmer until after the death of his wife, when he retired to LaPorte and lived with his son, dying at the advanced age of eighty years. He married a Miss Cunningham. Caroline Patton Thomas died when about sixty years of age. Her nine children where Frank, Davidson, Joseph A., Thomas J., Andrew, Elizabeth, Lizzie, John M., and Silas A.

   Joseph A. Thomas father of Burtis Paul, was born in Jefferson County, Indiana, October  12, 1842, and was in his second year when the family came to LaPorte County. He attended the pioneer schools here, and after reaching manhood became associated with his father and brother in farming. In May, 1864 he enllisted in Company B of the One Hundred Thirty-Eighth Indiana Infantry for the 100 days' service. He was made corporal in his company, and was with his regiment in the South until honerably discharged September 20, 1864. He then resumed his place on the farm and after his mariage bought land in Scipio Township. This he occupied several years and then moved to the farm of his mother-in-law in Wills Township of LaPorte County. This farm subsequently was inherited by his wife, and they made that their home until 1918 and now live retired in LaPorte. In 1873 Joseph A. Thomas married Mary Ingram. She was born in Wills Township of LaPorte County, August 21, 1852. Her father, William Ingram, a native of the vicinity of Hagerstown, Maryland, and the son of a planter and slave holder in that state, grew up there and after a brief residence with an uncle in Ohio came to LaPorte County and bought land in Wills Township becoming identified with the county in its pioneer area of development. A log cabin stood on the land, and in that cabin his daughter Mary was born. Later the logs were plastered inside and weather-boarded out, and with a frame addition it served as a comfortable residence until the death of William Ingram at the age of sixty-two. He married Sarah Wagner, a native of Hamilton County, Ohio. Her father, David Eagner, was one of the first settlers in LaPorte County, securing land in Wills Township, which he occupied until his death. Mrs. Sarah Ingram survived her husband many years and passed away at the age of seventy-seven. Joseph A. Thomas and wife had two sons, Burtis P. and Benjamin J.  

   Burtis Paul Thomas attended the city schools of LaPorte. He was very fond of athletics and outdoor sports and while in high school was a member of the football team, and in one of the games was seriously injured, his hearing being impared, and in consequence of this injury he did not remain to graduate and soon resumed his place on the farm. Later he took up the study of surveying and civil engineering, and has rendered a great deal of service in that capacity. In 1911 he was elected county surveyor and re-elected in 1913, serving two full terms. In January 1918, he was appointed city engineer of LaPorte and is now giving to that position all his professional time and energies.

   In 1909 he married Miss Ella C. Seidler. She was born at LaPorte, a daughter of Joseph and Mary Seidler. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas have two children, Valerie and Delos. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas are members of St. Paul Episcopal Church. He is affliated with Excelsior Lodge No. 41, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, LaPorte Chapter No. 15, Royal Arch Masons, LaPorte Council No. 32, Royal and Select Masters, and he and his wife are members of LaPorte Chapter  No. 280 of the Eastern Star. He is also affiliated with the Elks.

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