Calgary’s first pioneer Welshman arrived at his 10-dollar homestead with his team and wagon in 1884. Thomas was born in Glamorganshire, South Wales, in 1862. After articling for five years with an import-export firm in Liverpool, England, he inherited some money and decided to try the pioneering life in the North West Territories.
Thomas farmed his homestead without machinery. He was very isolated – seventeen miles south of Calgary where the Pine Creek meets the Bow River. He assisted the government troops during the Riel Rebellion in 1885 by sending two horse teams for transport, and after the Rebellion, he returned to England. On his way back to the West, he bought livestock and building supplies for his farm, improvements that were difficult to come by on the isolated prairie.
On his return in 1886, Thomas improved his farm and continued his previous way of life until 1897, when he moved to Calgary proper. Also upon his return, he married Agnes Shaw, and together they had four children. Once his family had moved to Calgary, Thomas bought a livery (feed and storage) stable, and prospered. By 1911, horses were becoming a rarity, and therefore unprofitable, so Thomas had his building demolished to make room for the Codogan black, where many of Calgary’s business establishment rented office space. Thomas continued to buy and develop property, developing a reputation as a risk-taker by concentrating his land interests in the undeveloped western part of the downtown core. He always proved his critics wrong, however, as all of his business prospered. In a novel and creative venture, Thomas formed the Alberta Ice Company in 1911; he had created ice ponds specifically designed for producing relatively easy-access ice, which he then sold to the railway, hotels, homes and businesses.
He served the community in a number of ways: sat on city council from 1904 and 1927, was on the executive council of the Calgary Board of Trade, and was a member of the Kiwanis Club.. Agnes died in 1947, and Thomas followed in 1950.