John & Mary Thomas

John W. Thomas came to North Dakota in 1902 from Wisconsin, and  homesteaded on land south of the town of Riga, in Riga Township, McHenry County, North Dakota. His wife, the former Mary Hazle, and his son, Garth, followed shortly afterward, to occupy the claim shack.

Soon a daughter, Zelda, was born to the family. That first winter, Mary took the children back to Wisconsin during the cold months, afraid that the frigid temperatures would be too much for the baby.

By working for others, and raising much of their own food, the family got by. In the fall of 1909, they bought a farm six miles north of Granville from Elmer Palmer and Sarah Nettsley, the original homesteaders. It is unclear whether they abandoned their claim in Riga or whether they sold or traded for it, but they moved to the new property near Granville, which was in Egg Creek Township.

The first winter in their new home, their seven year-old daughter, Zelda, passed away.

The Thomas family was thrifty, and were able to survive some tough times. John earned a reputation by the early potatoes he always raised. He always planted part of his crop on Good Friday, if at all possible.

He served as township supervisor of Egg Creek Township for several years.

In 1919, their son, Garth, married Pearl Riley, who had come to North Dakota to live with an older sister in 1914. Garth and Pearl established their own home, but Garth and his father continued to work together, especially in the fall, as they owned and operated a threshing machine, and did most of the threshing for the neighborhood.

Garth and Pearl had three children: Vane, Maurice, and John.

John Thomas always kept a few cows for milking, and a flock of chickens. The income from the chickens provided the table fare while the checks from the sale of cream supplied other necessities. Mary would hatch her own chicks, getting up at night to tend to the kerosene heated incubator.

They were a hard-working family, but the costs of machinery was high, while the prices for produce were sometimes far too low. They came very close to losing the farm in foreclosure more than once, and were saved only by the "Bill Langer' moratorium on foreclosures.

In January of 1942, their nineteen-old grandson lost his life from paronitis after an appendectomy. Sulfa was not available to the public, as the army had it all, due to World War II. That same year, Mary Thomas went into the hospital with pernicious anemia, and died on May 28. 1942, at the age of sixty-eight.

At this time, their son, Garth and his wife were both working in Granville. Vane was married, and John Jr. was working at Hanks Meat Market and Store. Wanting someone to be with their father, the younger couple moved to the farm, and Garth took over the land debt and most of the work.

In September, the elder John suffered a severe stroke while at the Martin Aamoth hardware store, and was taken to the hospital. After several weeks, he was discharged to the farm, where he was bedfast for one hundred and one days before the doctor suggested a nursing home at Minot, where he could see him every day. John died there on May 23, 1943, never regaining the ability to speak or move about.

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