One fact that stands out prominently in the history of the American republic, and has been illustrated again and again in the lives of her people, is that she owes much of her greatness and supremacy to the energy, indomitable will power, and commanding moral character of citizens who trace their origin to foreign lands.
John L. Thomas, a well-known resident of Mediapolis, Iowa, is a native of South Wales, born near Newcastle, and is a son of David and Mary (Lloyd) Thomas, his father being a farmer in his native country. When a boy, the subject of this sketch left the paternal home, and engaged in any kind of work that came to his hand. Being of an ingenious turn of mind, he worked at many occupations, and mastered the trade of stone-mason without serving a regular apprenticeship.
Deciding to try his fortunes in the New World, he came to America in 1854, locating first at Newark, Ohio, where he engaged in work as a stone-mason. From there he removed to Louisa county, Iowa, working at the same trade in Columbus City. In September, 1856, he removed to Des Moines county, where he worked on a farm in Section 8, Franklin township, and afterward rented a farm for a number of years.
His first purchase of land was forty acres in Section 8, Franklin township, to which he added by subsequent purchases until he had a farm of two hundred and eighteen acres. On this place he lived until 1884, when he sold out and retired from farming, removing to Mediapolis, which has ever since been his home.
He has also become the owner of valuable property in Mediapolis, and in 1890 built the first bank building, and organized the first banking institution, in this village. This is known as the State Bank of Mediapolis, and he was elected and served on its board of directors. In the fall and winter of 1895-96 he organized the Citizens' State Bank of Mediapolis, of which he has ever since been president. Both of these institutions are considered the strongest banking houses in this part of the State.
He is a Republican in politics, and a warm supporter of that party's principles. Though not an aspirant for political honors, he has taken an active interest in local affairs, and has served as township trustee. He has often been a delegate to county and State conventions, and was a delegate to the convention that nominated Governor Shaw. He has always been devoted to the cause of public improvements, and was the builder of the Dudley Hotel in 1903-04, which was named in honor of his wife. He has been a liberal supporter of religion, giving generously on all occasions, irrespective of creed and denomination.
Upon moving to Mediapolis he virtually retired from business, except that he continued to look after his own property interests, which were very extensive. He is one of the largest property owners of Mediapolis and that vicinity. The correctness and accuracy of his business foresight may be instanced in connection with the building of the Dudley Hotel, in 1903, for he executed this project against the advice of many leading citizens, and yet the investment has proved to be one of the wisest and most profitable he ever made.
In November, 1881, Mr. Thomas was married to Mary A., daughter of David and Martha (Evans) Dudley, and a native of Licking county, Ohio. David Dudley was also a native of Wales, and emigrated to this country in 1842, selecting Licking county, Ohio, as his place of settlement.
Mr. Thomas's success in life is a good illustration of what can be accomplished by industry, integrity, frugality, close attention to business, and good management. When he came to America his sole capital was good health, correct morals, and an earnest determination to succeed. Today he is enjoying the fruits of a well spent life, a life lived in accordance with the rules he early laid down for his guidance, and is in the possession of a comfortable competence.
In May, 1886, he and his wife started for a well-earned holiday, visiting various parts of Wales and England, and spending three months on the trip. When he emigrated to America he came in a sailing vessel which took five weeks and three days to make the passage across the Atlantic. On his return to his native land he crossed in eleven days, a good illustration of modern progress.
Mr. Thomas is well known and highly esteemed in Des Moines county, and wherever he is known. He has always been considered as one of the leading business lights of this part of the county.