Category Archives: Mercer


Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
“John “Bill” Wheeler”
December 7, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.
Chicago and New York, Volume ll.
pg. 113

The White family was of English origin, coming to America in the early days
of the Colonies and settling on the James River in Virginia, William White, who
married a Miss Workman was the progenitor of the family in Tazewell County,
Virginia, and Mercer County, West Virginia. He came to this region from Campbell
County, Virginia. Benjamine White, his son, was sheriff of the County of Mercer
and represented this County in the general assembly of Virginia before the
states were separated and was prominent in the business and political affairs of
the county for more than half a century. He married Elizabeth Pearis and
enjoyed a long and happy married life, having been married sixty-one years
before the death of his wife at the age of eighty-six and his wife at the age of
eighty-three. He was a man of very strong mind and sterling character. To them
were born the following children: George W., who married Alice Bailey; John H.
who married Julia Cunningham; Charles, who was never married; Sarah Louisa, who
married Andrew J. Hearn; Elizabeth Pearis, who married Richard C. Christie; and
three daughters, Bell, Mary and Minnie, who died at the ages of fifteen,
sixteen, and seventeen, all within two weeks from diphtheria.

William H. Thomas

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
December 14, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume II

pg 190

William H. Thomas. While there is probably no city in the state of the size
that has a larger number of men with distinctive and important achievements
to their credit in the domain of commerce and industry than Bluefield, there
is manifest a disposition to recognize and confer by consensus of opinion if
not formally a degree of special leadership upon Mr. William Henry Thomas,
whose name in that community really suggests all the best elements of power
and influence involved in constructive citizenship and commercial enterprise.

Mr. Thomas represents an old family of Roanoke County, Virginia, and he was
reared and educated and had his early commercial training there. Though his
home has been in Bluefield for a number of years, he still feels in touch
with the vicinity where he was born and reared. His birth occurred November
13, 1865, at what was then known as Big Lick, now Roanoke City. He is a son
of Charles M. and Jane (Crawford) Thomas, natives of Roanoke County.

Giles Thomas, Sr., came to this country from England about 1745, settling
near Havre de Grace, Maryland. His son, Giles Thomas, Jr., who was born in
1763 and died in 1842, moved to Virginia in 1796, settling in the county of
Botetourt, now Roanoke. He was only twelve years of age when the
Revolutionary war broke out, and in his sixteenth year he joined the Maryland
Regiment and served until the close. He was under General Thomas in the
great campaign of the Carolinas, and witnessed the surrender of Lord
Cornwallis at Yorktown. For these services as a soldier he received a land
grant, which was located west of Cumberland in Washington County, Maryland.

On June 4, 1786, Giles Thomas, Jr., married Ann Wheeler. He was a cousin of
Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Maryland, a venerable signer of the
Declaration of Independence. They were married at Carrollton.

Charles M. Thomas, a son of Giles Thomas, Jr., was born July 15, 1790, and
died May 30, 1869. He was about six years of age when the family settled in
Botetourt County, Virginia. He married Elizabeth Barnett, who was born April
1 1792, and died in November, 1875. They were the parents of Charles
Marigold Thomas.

Charles M. Thomas was born in 1825 and died in 1866. He was a farmer in
Roanoke County and in 1861 moved his family to Big Lick. During the war
between the states he was with a Virginia regiment, and on account of
physical disability was chiefly employed in the Quartermaster’s Department
and the Home Guard. Charles M. Thomas was one of ten brothers who were in
the Confederate army, and this approaches if it does not establish a record
for participation of one family that or any other war of the nation. In 1852
he married Jane Crawford, who was born July 24, 1831, and died in 1914. She
was a descendant of James Crawford, Sr., who was of Scotch-Irish birth and
came from Northern Ireland in 1770. His wife was a Miss Wallace a descendant
of Sir John Wallace of Scotland. Hames Crawford, Jr., their son, was five
years of age when the family came to this country. He married Eliza Poague,
whose family came in 1765 from Scotland and settled in Augusta County,
Virginia. This James Crawford, Jr., by his wife, Eliza was the father of
James Crawford, father of Jane Crawford Thomas. The mother of Jane Crawford
was Jane Deyerle.

William H. Thomas, who therefore descends from very substantial American
stock on both sides, never had any better school advantages than those
supplied by the common schools of Roanoke County, and at the age of seventeen
he was earning his living as clerk in a retail general store at Big Lick, and
the year represented a valuable training to him. He then went on the road as
a traveling salesman, and for eight years sold groceries and general
merchandise throughout the South and Coast states. In 1889, at the age of
twenty-four, Mr. Thomas became associated with three other men, one of whom
was his brother-in-law, B. P. Huff, in the firm of Huff, Andrews & Thomas,
wholesale grocers. The personnel of this firm has remained the same for over
thirty years, though their greatly extended business is conducted under a
number of corporate names. The partnership has been maintained as a firm at
Roanoke, where they had their first headquarters as wholesale grocers. Mr.
Thomas was the man who acquired the business for this early firm as traveling
salesman, and for several years he covered the states of Virginia and West
Virginia. The first important step in expanding the business came in 1895,
when a branch was located at Bluefield, and this is now the main house of
Huff, Andrews & Thomas Company. The business at Bluefield has from the first
been conducted as a corporation, with Mr. Thomas as president and general
manager. In the meantime the partners in 1892 had organized a wholesale dry
goods and notion business under the title F. B. Thomas & Company, the active
head of which was F. B. Thomas, a brother of William H. and one of the origina
l partners in the Huff, Andrews & Thomas Company. F. B. Thomas & Company is
still doing business.

There are now seven wholesale grocery houses representing the expanded
interests of the original concern at Roanoke, and Mr. Thomas of Bluefield is
connected with all of them as a director. The six houses outside of
Bluefield are: Thomas-Andrews Company at Norton, the Bristol Grocery Company
at Bristol, Abingdon Grocery Company at Abingdon, National Grocery Company at
Roanoke, these all being in old Virginia; and Williamson Grocery Company at
Williamson, and Mullins Grocery Company at Mullins, West Virginia.

Mr. Thomas has organized and has participated in the management of a large
number of successful business undertakings, including the Roanoke Candy
Company, of which he is a director, the Bristol Candy Company at Bristol,
Virginia, the Bluefield Ice and Cold Storage Company, which he with others
organized in 1904 and of which he is president; the Citizens Underwriters
Insurance Agency; the Flat Top National Bank of Bluefield, which he and
others organized in 1903 and of which he is vice president; the Bluefield Gas
& Power Company, of which he is a director; the Southern Investment and Real
Estate Company of Roanoke, of which he is a director; the Bailey Lumber
Company of Bluefield probably the largest lumber company in the state; the
Montvale and Company and the Big Clear Creek Coal Company in Greenbrier

When his associates speak of his civic record they usually begin and end with
unqualified praise of what Mr. Thomas did as member and for many years
president of the School Board of Bluefield City. He first went on the board
as a member in 1902, and altogether served twelve years, most of the time as
president of the board. While he was president practically all of the modern
school buildings in the city now in use were erected, both for the white and
colored people. Mr. Thomas has some sound ideas on education, but his
particular service was due to his great faculty of getting things done,
whether it comes to the promotion of a strictly business enterprise or the
financing and construction of a group of school buildings.

On November 17, 1891, Mr. Thomas married at Elizabethon, Tennessee, Miss
Minnie Folsom, daughter of Maj. H. M. and Elizabeth (Berry) Folsom. Major
Folsom, who was a relative of Francis (Folsom) Cleveland, widow of President
Cleveland, was one of the able lawyers of Tennessee and had a distinguished
war record, going into the Confederate army at the age of seventeen and being
promoted to major before he was twenty. He died in 1909. Mrs. Thomas is a
member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and for many years has
been president of Bluefield Chapter of the United Daughters of the
Confederacy. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas have three children: Paul C., who was born
in Tennessee in 1892 and finished his education in Washington and Lee
University, Florence F. and Grace Elizabeth.

Mr. Thomas is of Scotch Irish ancestry, and his people were among the early
settlers of the Valley of Virginia and also identified with the pioneering of
Roanoke County. Some of his ancestors were soldiers in the Revolution and
one of them was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Mr. Thomas assisted in organizing the Bluefield Country Club and is one of
its Board of Governors. His favorite sport is hunting and fishing, and he
particularly enjoys the pursuit of big game in the Maine woods. He is a
democrat in politics, is affiliated with the Royal Arch, Knight Templar, and
Scottish Rite Masons and Mystic Shrine, the Knights of Pythias, the
Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Lions, and he and Mrs. Thomas are
members of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Thomas in 1904 was a delegate from
West Virginia to the World’s Sunday School Convention at Jerusalem, and
during that trip abroad he made an extensive tour all through the Holy Land,
Egypt and other Mediterranean countries.

William B. Honaker

Biographical Sketches of Members of Congress, Members of the Legislature,
Officers of the State Governement and judges of the Supreme Court of Appeals,
West Virigina, 1917

West Virginia Legislative Hand Book and Manual and Official Register, 1917,
Compiled and Edited by John T. Harris, Clerk of the Senate,
The Tribune Printing Co., Charleston, West Va.
pgs. 719 – 770



HONAKER WILLIAM B. (Republican.) One of
the delegates from the county of Mercer; lives at Matoaka.
Born February 11 1870; educated in common, private and
summer normal schools; engaged in teaching in Raleigh
and Mercer counties from 1888 to 1899; was County Super-
intendent of Schools of Mercer county from 1895 to 1899;
moved to McDowell county in 1902 and engaged in the
coal business there until 1908 when he returned to Mercer;

Submitted by: Valerie Crook

William Putnam Hawley

Biographical Sketches of Members of Congress, Members of the Legislature,
Officers of the State Governement and judges of the Supreme Court of Appeals,
West Virigina, 1917

West Virginia Legislative Hand Book and Manual and Official Register, 1917,
Compiled and Edited by John T. Harris, Clerk of the Senate,
The Tribune Printing Co., Charleston, West Va.
pgs. 719 – 770


pg. 725

dress: Bluefield, West Va. Born July 22, 1868, in Raleigh
county; educated in the common schools and at the State
Normal School at Athens; occupation, merchant, banker,
manager of a telephone company, and farmer; served as
Superintendent of Schools and Sheriff of Mercer county;
also, as Chief of Police of Bluefield, and member of City
Council for ten years; member of House of Delegates in
1909-11-13; elected to the Senate from the Seventh Dis-
trict in 1914; assigned to committees as follows in 1917:
Finance (Chairman); Banks and Corporations, Penitentiary,
Medicine and Sanitation, Claims and Grievances, Public
Printing, Public Library, Virginia Debt.

Submitted by: Valerie Crook

William J. Cole

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Chris & Kerry
December 14, 1999

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.
Chicago and New York, Volume II
pg. 156

WILLIAM J. COLE has standardized, systematized and put on a commercial basis one
of the oldest arts known to mankind, that of baking bread, and in the Bluefield
Bakery, of which he is proprietor, has one of the largest plants of its kind in
West Virginia, capable of producing the staff of life for many thousands of
people every day.

Mr. Cole was born at Marion in Smith County, Virginia, November 12, 1883, son of
L. C. and Elizabeth (Wolf) Cole. The Coles have been in Virginia for a number of
generations. His grandfather, William Cole, was a Confederate soldier in the
Civil war.

William J. Cole acquired a common school education at Marion and Graham in his
native state, and at the age of seventeen began learning the baker’s trade with
the Virginia Confectionery Company at Graham. He remained there two years, and
then entered the mercantile business for himself. He conducted this business
successfully for about nine years, finally selling out in 1911.

In Was in 1912 that Mr. Cole bought the Bluefield Bakery, and since then has
given his entire time and attention to developing the plant and business. He
has installed automatic machinery throughout, and the plant now has a capacity
of producing 3,000 loaves of bread per hour or 48,000 in a full day’s run. The
Bluefield Bakery was originally started in 1900 by M. Stean, who was succeeded
by Captain Barger and from him Mr. Cole bought the business.

Mr. Cole married in 1905, at Graham, Virginia, Miss Mary Holbrook, daughter of
John and Marie Holbrook natives of Virginia. Her father was one of the leading
merchants and citizens of Graham. Mr. and Mrs. Cole had six children, William
Paul, Elizabeth, Holbrook, Carlyle, Kenneth and William J., Jr. William J., Jr.,
died in 1920. Mr. Cole and family are members of the Lutheran Church. He is a
Knight Templar and Royal Arch Mason Shriner, a member of the United Commercial
Travelers the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and the Bluefield Country Club.
He has been in business and earning his own way since he was seventeen, and all
his prosperity has been gained by hard work and close adherence to the
fundamental principles of sound business.