Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Jane Black Thomas 1720 ~ 1811

 

It is in wild and stirring times that such spirits as Jane Thomas are matured and rise in their strength. She was a native of Chester County, Pennsylvania, and the sister of the Rev. John Black of Carlisle, the first president of Dickinson College. She was married about 1740 to John Thomas, supposed to be a native of Wales, who had been brought up in the same county.

Some ten or fifteen years after their marriage Mr. Thomas removed to South Carolina. Their residence for some time was upon Fishing Creek in Chester District About the year 1762 he removed to what is now called Spartanburg District and built a home upon Fair-forest Creek, a few miles above the spot where the line dividing that district from Union crossed the stream. From being adjutant and captain of the militia, Colonel Thomas was elected to lead the regiment raised in this district. In an engagement with the British early in the Revolution he was taken prisoner and sent to Charleston, where he remained in durance until the close of the war. The district about his home was then continually robbed and pillaged by British invaders. The Whigs were robbed of their horses, cattle, clothing and every article of property of sufficient value to be taken away. In this state of things Mrs. Thomas showed herself a bright example of boldness of spirit and determination. While her husband was prisoner in a local jail before his removal to Charleston she paid a visit to him and her two sons, who were his companions in rigorous captivity.

By chance she overheard a conversation between some Tory women, the purport of which deeply interested her. One said to the others, "Tomorrow night the Loyalists intend to surprise the Rebels at Cedar Springy." The heart of Mrs. Thomas was thrilled with alarm at this intelligence, for Cedar Springs was within a few miles of her own house, and among the Whigs posted there were some of her own children.

Her resolution was taken at once for there was no time to be lost. She determined to warn them of the enemy's intention before the blow could be struck. Bidding a hurried adieu to her husband and sons she was upon the road as quickly as possible, rode the intervening distance of nearly sixty miles the next day, and arrived in time to give information of the impending danger. The moment this body of Whigs knew what was to be expected a party of consultation was held and measures were immediately taken for defense. So successful were their strategic preparations that when the foe advanced warily upon the supposed sleeping camp sudden flashes and shrill reports of rifles revealed the hidden champions of liberty and the British finding themselves assailed in the rear by the party they had expected to strike unawares gave themselves over to overwhelming defeat

The victory thus easily achieved was due to the spirit and courage of a woman. Such were the matrons of that day! Not merely upon this occasion was Mrs. Thomas active in arousing the spirit of independence among its advocates, and another instance of her intrepid energy is still remembered. Early in the war Governor Rutledge sent a quantity of arms and ammunition to the house of Colonel Thomas to be in readiness for any emergency that might arise. These arms were under a guard of twenty-five men, and the house was prepared to resist assault. When, however, word was brought to Colonel Thomas that a large party of Tories was advancing to attack him, he and his guard deemed it inexpedient to risk an encounter with a force so much superior to their own, and they retired, carrying off as much ammunition as possible.

Mrs. Thomas was left alone with only two youths and a few women to guard the considerable supply of powder and arms which was necessarily left behind. The Tories advanced and took up their station, supposing the place to be heavily guarded, and demanded the treasure. Their call for admittance was answered by a volley from the upper story which proved most effectual. The old-fashioned batten-door, strongly barricaded, resisted their efforts to demolish it Meanwhile Mrs. Thomas urged on the youths to continue their fire from the upper windows, she loading their guns as fast as they discharged them. Believing that many men were concealed in the house and apprehending a sally, the enemy retired as rapidly as their wounds would permit, little dreaming that almost the sole defender of the house had been a woman.

Mrs. Thomas was the mother of nine children and her sons and sons-in-law were active in the American service. She thus became liable to some share in the enmity exhibited by the Royalists to another matron against whom the charge, "She has seven sons in the Rebel Army' was an excuse for depredations on her property. If Jane Thomas had but five sons she saw to it that her daughters married men who were both brave and efficient patriots.

Mrs. Thomas was a woman of considerable beauty, with black eyes and hair, fair complexion and a countenance sprightly and expressive. Soon after the close of the war Colonel Thomas and she removed to the Greenville District where they resided until their death.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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