Thomas William Thomas (1881-1923)

Thomas William Thomas (1881-1923)

The American Dream that ended in Tragedy

14 FEBRUARY 2021

Part 7: Altoona, 1923 and 1997 and Pennsylvania 2007


The only information about the death of Thomas William Thomas was retained in a bureau/writing desk in New Malden, Surrey by his son, Rowland in the form of the original death certificate. Fortunately, the content is much more detailed than that of a UK certificate, so that when we made our family visit (Nigel, Alexander, Dominick Thomas and myself) to Altoona in 1995, it was the death certificate that helped us to walk in the steps of my husband's grandfather and children's great grandfather!

Again, in 2007, it was this certificate that informed our research at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh and enabled us to find the original death records for Thomas William as well as details of the trust fund established for his son, Rowland in Wales. Now, rather fragile, it is the copy that is shown below (1).

Certificate of Death: Ref- 907/1538: 71048/172
Place of Death: Citizen's General Hospital, New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
Personal and Statistical Particulars: Male; White; Widower; Date of Birth: August 3rd, 1881; Age; 41yrs 9months & 7days; Occupation: Coal-miner, Valley Camp Coal Company; Place of Birth: Wales, Name of Father: William H Thomas; Maiden Name of Mother: Unknown (Fry); Birthplace of Mother: Wales (Brinkworth, Wiltshire, England) Informant: J C Hatch, 1008-21st Avenue, Altoona, Pa.
Medical Certificate of Death: Date of Death: June 7th
Cause of Death: Shock; broken neck, fracture of spine at 7th cervical vertebrae; caused by being caught between wagon and ribs at mine 3 of Valley Camp Coal Company; Signed James Watkins, Manager Deputy, June 7th, 1923, Greensburg, Pa
Place of Burial or Removal: Altoona, Pa, June 8th, 1923
Undertaker: A A Hemer, New Kensington

Death Notice-Altoona Tribune

This notification I received in late 2020

. It provides details of Thomas William's funeral arrangements with the inextricable link between Thomas William and the Hatch family (2).

Fairview Cemetery, Altoona

According to the Altoona Tribune, this is the cemetery where Thomas William was buried. It is likely that there would have been a memorial plaque in stone or wood marking the location of the grave, but sadly, there is no evidence of such (3).

Altoona 1997

'I visited Altoona with my wife Heather and sons in 1997. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any information about the Hatch family although we did find 9th & 10th Avenues where Thomas William Thomas had lived in 1910. At that time, the only documents I had was the card and letter from your father and my grandfather's death certificate' (Nigel Thomas, 2014, 4).

As we walked in the area where Thomas William and Elizabeth Ann (Rowlands) Thomas lived, we caused some curiosity from residents, so I tried to explain our search. As a friendly lady looked at the death certificate, she said that 1923 was before she was born, I explained that this was also well-before mine too. I can still recall my younger son squeezing my hand incredibly tightly as a man wearing vest and shorts aged thirty or so emerged from a house with tattoos including that of a Tasmanian Devil.

The family story was that Elizabeth Ann's health had been adversely affected by the polluted environment of Altoona. We soon dispelled this myth, as the avenues were situated high above the town centre and the wide expanse of the Citizen's Graveyard, which ran parallel provided an airy space. This contrasts favourably with Glynneath (Wales), her hometown in a valley surrounded by coalmines and therefore, inevitably a polluted environment. We had assumed that Thomas William was buried in the nearby graveyard, which some twenty years later, proved not to be the case.

Finally, we visited Altoona library hoping to find addresses for some of the Hatch family. None was forthcoming and the only information we could find was in a trade directory; Thomas William was listed as living in 9th Avenue in 1913 (5).

Altoona 2007

We have not visited Altoona since. However, on a circular driving holiday between Chicago and Pittsburgh in 2007 Heather and I visited the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh with Heather where I obtained the relevant details associated with the area where my grandfather had resided at Parnassus, his employer and location of his accident and subsequent death, the inquest, funeral and his burial as well as the information about the trust fund established for my father. So much for my father to have been grateful to your family (Hatch/Lewis) for the loving care and attention they gave to Thomas William, his father. To obtain this information we travelled to New Kensington, Greensburg, the Valley Camp mine etc. It was poignant seeing the original documents which had not been opened since 1923. Esther and James Hatch had arranged the transportation of the body of Thomas as well as a well-attended funeral with 6 cars according to the records I obtained' (Nigel Thomas, 2014,4).

Copies of Some of the Documents

We spent several days in July 2007 staying in Pittsburgh, researching at the Carnegie Library then, using the information we found, we travelled to state depositories to obtain records relating to the death of Thomas William (as Nigel said) and the trust fund established for Rowland aka William Rowland and Thomas Roland Thomas. Preparing for writing 'Part 7', I have filed some twenty photocopies in chronological order, where possible, purchased in Pennsylvania July 2007. It was the brown string used for wrapping some of the documents that has made the most lasting impression; untouched for almost ninety years.

Logan Trust Company

In effect they acted in 'loco parentis' ("in the place of a parent") until the administration of Thomas William's estate was fulfilled.

Application for Probate, Westmoreland County Courthouse, 13th June 1923 (6)
James Cromwell Hatch was in New Kensington, Pa. on the 13th June 1923, applying for probate and presumably confirming arrangements for the funeral of Thomas William Thomas.

Funeral Arrangements

1 It is this record which has affected us the most, never ceasing to stir our emotions since we purchased it from the Westmoreland Court House in 2007. This itemised invoice for the preparation for the burial of Thomas William Thomas includes the cost of transportation from New Kensington to the Fairview Cemetery in Altoona. The arrangements had been made by The Logan Trust Company, sub-contracting to:
Mr A A Hemer, Funeral Director,
1043 5th Avenue,
New Kensington, Pennsylvania (7).

What is most poignant, is the costing of specified funeral items such as the casket (8) and the embalming but more especially the dressing of the body; hose, slippers, shirt and collar, cuff-buttons and even shaving. After such a traumatic death, there is a sharp contrast in the tenderness and loving care shown in the preparation of Thomas William's body for burial.

2 On arrival in Altoona, the casket was transferred on the 10th June 1923 to the funeral parlour of:- N A Stevens, Mortician, 14-21 Eighth Avenue

Est. Thomas W Thomas, Logan Trust Co. Extras
Burial Expenses Incurred as follows:

Received Payment, in full, on 24th October 1923

Letters of Administration

1 This was granted to the Logan Trust Company represented by Philip C King, Trust Officer on the 27th June 1923.

2 Westmoreland Law Journal (Greensburg), a Publishing Administrator's Notice: Thomas W Thomas Est. 24-31 August to the 7th 14th 21st 28th September 1923 charged at $3 paid for on the 12th October 1923 by The Logan Trust Company, New Kensington, Pa.

3 Publication in ''The Daily Despatch'' on the 19th October 1923 an advertisement to establish if there were any claims to be made against Thomas William's Estate.

Magnification of the advertisement above.

Transcription: John M'Cartney Kennedy, Attorney at Law, 2102 First National Bank Building, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Estate of Thomas William Thomas, Deceased
Letters of Administration on the estate of Thomas W Thomas, late of Lower Burrell, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania have been granted to the undersigned: Notice is hereby given that all persons indebted to said estate will make immediate payment and those having claims or demands against the same will present them duly authenticated for settlement.
The Logan Trust Company, Administrator, New Kensington, Pa. (9).

4 Register's Office, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
Inventory and Appraisement of Goods, chattels, rights and credits of the said decedent, 25th October 1923 (Docket 14, page 184) Edward Curren, Registrar

5 Transfer of Inheritance
Report by Auditor General's Department, 9th November 1923

Transfer Inheritance Tax, Resident's Decedents.
Original Receipt:
Estate of Thomas W Thomas, late of Lower Burrell Township, Deceased
Auditor General's Department
Harrisburg, Pa., 9th November 1923
Charge, Sealed and Countersigned Agreement to Section 18, Act 20th June 1919.
J Reynolds for E S Lewis, Auditor General
Name, The Logan Trust Co., P.O. Address, New Kensington, Pa.

6 Orphan's Court
This is the final copy of a financial document that we purchased in 2007 and relates to the monetary value of Thomas William's estate with the deductions for costs incurred amounting to over $1,000.

Confirmation that the orphaned Rowland was the sole, beneficiary. He resided at the home of his maternal grandparents. Examined, passed, allowed and filed on the 26th day of June 1924

When 'Rowland' was aged 21, in August 1930, the monies in the fund with accrued interest, were transferred to him. See Part 8 for the information provided by Esther (Lewis) and James Cromwell Hatch in letters written from Altoona to Mountain Ash.


1. Ancestry: Copy of original death certificate
2. Death Notice-Altoona Tribune (2) 09 Jun 1923, Sat (Page 13)
3. Photo from Wikipedia
4. Letter sent by Nigel Thomas, 2014 to Hatch family in Canada
5. Street Directory for Altoona, 1913, Altoona library
6. Westmoreland County Courthouse, July 2007
7. New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Ref: 465 of 1923
8. Coffin is tapered at the shoulder with removable lid. Casket is rectangular with hinged lid.
9. John McCartney Kennedy: 'professional services rendered' $200, 25th June 1924

Thanks to the volunteer researchers at the Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh, the Registry staff in Greensboro and New Kensington and Tom Larsen in Pittsburgh for newspaper clippings.

I dedicate Part 8 to the Lewis/Hatch family