William "Napoleon" Thomas, Rumford Center, ca. 1870

Contributed by Greater Rumford Area Historical Society

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William "Napoleon" Thomas arrived in Rumford with Captain Elisha F. Goddard on November 1865. Stuart Martin, a Rumford historian reported that the 16 year-old former slave, “strayed into the quarters of Company A, of the 12th Maine Regiment while on duty in New Orleans …and became the Captain’s house boy."

William "Napoleon" Thomas married Angie Ellen Washburn Taylor, a widow with two children, on November 29, 1887 at Hanover, Maine. They had three sons: Sylvester born in 1888, who died at age 11 after another child accidentally hit him in the head with a rock while playing at school in Rumford Center; George born about 1890; and Clarence born in 1892.

Thomas’ wife later left him and his young sons, and never returned. Several years afterward, George ran away, reportedly to Magalloway Plantation, and also never returned.

William "Napoleon" Thomas and his son, Clarence ran a market garden, selling produce from their farm to neighbors and friends in Rumford. They also supported themselves as handymen. Clarence Thomas married Maude Jenkins Maxwell on November 4, 1931.

William "Napoleon" Thomas died of cancer on October 19, 1923, at age 72, according to the death certificate signed by physician Henry Howard of Rumford. He is buried in East Ellis-Goddard Cemetery with his sons Sylvester (1888-1899) and Clarence (1892-1956) and Clarence’s wife, Maude (1894-1986). It is interesting to note that he is buried near Civil War veteran Dr. Hiram Abbott, who was his friend and mentor.

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About This Item

  • Title: William "Napoleon" Thomas, Rumford Center, ca. 1870
  • Creation Date: circa 1870
  • Subject Date: circa 1870
  • Location: Rumford, Oxford County, ME
  • Media: Photographic print
  • Dimensions: 8.8 cm x 6.7 cm
  • Object Type: Image

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For more information about this item, contact:

Greater Rumford Area Historical Society
145 Congress Street, Rumford, ME 04276
(207) 364-2540

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