Born in Montgomery County, Maryland on February 21, 1758. Son of Richard Thomas Sr. (ca. 1728-1806) and Sarah Coale Thomas. Ten siblings: Samuel Thomas III (1753-ca. 1797); Elizabeth Thomas Johnson (b. 1755); John Thomas (b. 1760); Mary Thomas Robertson (b. 1762); Sarah Thomas Gilpin (b. 1764); Henrietta Thomas (b. 1767); Margaret Thomas Brooke (b. 1769); William Thomas (b.1771); Ann Thomas (b. 1774); Henrietta Thomas (b. 1777). Married Deborah Brooke (1764-1814) on February 27, 1783. Seven children: Eliza P. Thomas (1784-1855); Frederick Augustus Thomas (1788-1794); Mary Thomas (1791-1794); Sarah B. Thomas (b. 1794); Deborah Thomas (1796-1797); Margaret E. Thomas Garrigues (b. 1798); Roger Brooke Thomas (b. 1803). Died in Brookeville, Maryland, November 6, 1821.
Richard Thomas Jr. was a planter, miller, and the founder of Brookeville, a town in Montgomery County, Maryland. His father, Richard Thomas Sr., was a wealthy planter and prominent landowner.1 The Thomas family was one of several early Quaker families that played a significant role in the Sandy Spring community, and Thomas was a Quaker himself. He and his family attended the Quaker meeting at Sandy Spring.2 The Thomas family operated two plantations in the Sandy Spring environs and lived at Cherry Grove, a major Georgian-style mansion in Montgomery County.3
Along with his father and brother Samuel, Thomas supported the movement for American independence and joined the Maryland Militia during the Revolutionary War. In September 1777, he enlisted as a Private in the 1st Company, Lower Battalion, Maryland Militia. On March 10, 1778, he took the Oath of Allegiance, pledging his support to the Colonies. Thomas eventually transferred to the 7th Company, Lower Battalion, Militia in 1780.4 Because no major battles took place in Maryland, Thomas likely never fought during the Revolution. Though he may never have seen battle, his support for the independence movement violated the Society of Friends' testimony of pacifism. In August, 1778, Thomas's Quaker meeting chose to remove him (and seven other men) from full membership in the Society for affirming the Oath of Allegiance to the Colonies.5 Thomas eventually apologized for his actions and was re-admitted to the Quaker meeting in 1792.6
Thomas married Deborah Brooke on February 27, 1783.7 She was the granddaughter of James Brooke the Elder, one of the original land patent holders in eastern Montgomery County and one of the largest landowners in the county. Because Richard had not yet been re-admitted to the Sandy Spring Meeting, he and Deborah were married by a Priest, a serious violation of Quaker values.8 For this infraction, the meeting also disowned Deborah and removed her from full membership. She re-applied with her husband and three minor children in 1792, at which time the meeting invited the entire family back into membership with the Sandy Spring Quaker meeting.9
When Deborah's father, Roger Brooke IV, died in 1792, she and Richard inherited a 248-acre parcel of land known as "Addition to Brooke Grove."10 It was on this land that Thomas built a grist mill along the Reedy Branch of the Hawlings River sometime between 1791 and 1794.11 Thomas founded the town of Brookeville around 1800 when he subdivided the remaining land west of his mill into fifty-six quarter-acre lots, which he sold primarily to his relatives and neighbors.12 By 1807, about fifteen houses had been built in addition to another mill which produced castor and linseed oil, constructed by David Newlin.13 By 1813, these establishments had been joined by a tannery, two stores, a post office, a blacksmith shop, and a private boy's school.14 Thus, Brookeville became one of several key outposts of commerce and manufacturing in a largely rural area of Maryland during the early National Period.15
Like many of his wealthy Brookeville neighbors, Thomas kept slaves. In 1790, he owned at least sixteen enslaved people.16 The Society of Friends had declared slavery morally wrong as early as 1768, but because Thomas had been removed from membership, he could continue owning slaves. Less than three months before re-applying for membership in the Sandy Spring meeting in 1792, Thomas manumitted all seventeen of his slaves, likely in order to comply with meeting's strict rules regarding slave-holding by its members.17 After he had manumitted his own slaves, Thomas inherited additional slaves from his father, Richard Thomas Sr. When their father died in 1806, Thomas Jr. and his brother William became administers of his large estate.18 Thomas Sr., also a slaveholder, manumitted all of his female slaves over the age of eighteen and all of his male slaves over the age of twenty-one.19 Forty-four slaves were too young or too old to be immediately manumitted by Thomas Sr.'s will and were instead set to be manumitted after coming of age. These remaining slaves were divided equally among the residuary heirs, and Thomas Jr. took a lot of seven individuals, five of whom were under the age of seven.20 The whereabouts of these slaves in the following years are unclear, but one who had not yet reached the age of majority was still residing with Thomas up until Thomas's death in 1821, when a "Negro boy named Isaac" appears in the estate sale as having been purchased by Thomas's eldest daughter, Eliza. As a Quaker, Thomas was morally required to care for the under-aged Isaac, who continued working for Thomas up until the latter's death.21
From 1804 until his death in 1821, Thomas intermittently served as one of four Commissioners of the Tax in Montgomery County, responsible for conducting tax assessments on property-holdings.22 When he died, on November 6, 1821, his personal property was valued at the substantial amount of $1,325.80. His real estate holdings, including his lots in Brookeville and his grist mill, were split among his four living children.23
Jackson Gilman-Forlini, DAR Research Fellow, 2012; Megan O'Hern, 2013.
to Richard Thomas Jr.'s Introductory Page
|| Search the Archives || Education & Outreach || Archives of Maryland Online ] Governor General Assembly Judiciary Maryland.Gov