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Rees E. Thomas has for a number of years been one of those active business leaders at Burrton who carry many responsibilities having to do not only with his individual prosperity but with the welfare of the entire community.
Mr. Thomas first knew Burrton, Kansas, as a boy, but had spent his life in many different localities. He was born in Fillmore County, Minnesota, April 2, 1877. His father, William R. Thomas, who died at Burrton, Kansas, in December, 1913, was a very capable worker and business man, and his spirit of enterprise caused him to taste new experiences in many widely separated fields of endeavor. He was born in 1845 at Penmachno in North Wales, and grew up there and did work as a slate quarryman. In 1865, at the age of twenty, he immigrated to the United States, spending a short time in Pennsylvania, later was in Wisconsin, and then went to Fillmore County, Minnesota, and joined the pioneer agricultural element of that state. Returning to Wales, he married there in 1876, but soon brought his bride back to America and in 1877 again located in Fillmore County, Minnesota, where he bought a farm. About that time his oldest child, Rees E., was born. In 1882 William R. Thomas moved to Minneapolis and in 1883 went back to Wales, where he spent three and a half years and again resumed his trade as a quarryman. In 1886 he returned to the United States for the third time, and in that year located at Burrton, Kansas, where he was a farmer four and a half years. From Kansas he went to the Northwest, locating on a farm at Almira in the State of Washington. He continued farming for fifteen years and finally returned to Burrton, Kansas, where he died. He early became an American citizen, and at first followed the fortunes of the republican party and later voted as a democrat. He was reared a Congregationalist but for many years was active in the Presbyterian Church. William R. Thomas married Ann Jones, who was born in North Wales in 1855 and died in July, 1896, at Almira, Washington. Besides Rees E. they had two daughters, Jennie C. and Gwen. Jennie is now living with her brother at Burrton. The youngest child died unmarried at Almira, Washington, March 26, 1904.
Rees E. Thomas spent portions of his early childhood and youth in Minnesota, Wales, Kansas and the State of Washington. He received his first instruction in the public schools of North Wales, also attended high school at Burrton, and in the winter seasons went to school near Almira, Washington.
In the fall of 1906 he returned to Kansas and had since been a permanent resident of Burrton. In January of that year he had bought 160 acres of land here, but sold that in 1914. For one year he was in the mercantile business at Burrton with W. H. Osborne, trading his interest in the store for a farm. Mr. Thomas is now engaged in the land and loan business. He is also interested in oil property, had some leases, and some of his productive wells are now sending oil to refineries. Mr. Thomas owned real estate in Hutchinson, his residence at Burrton, and his varied interests at one time connected him actively with the newspaper business. On December 10, 1914, he bought a half interest in the Burrton Graphic and retained it until June 1, 1916, when he sold to R. G. Williams, the present editor of the paper.
At this writing Mr. Thomas is president of the City Council at Burrton, having been elected in the spring of 1917, secretary of the Burrton Commercial Club, and is vice president of the Burrton Chautauqua Association. He is one of the leading young men in the democratic party in Kansas, and is a worker for the interests of that organization both in county and state conventions. In the fall of 1912 he was candidate of his party for county clerk of Harvey County. This county is normally republican by about 1,500, but that year the republican candidate for county clerk had a majority of only 100 votes over Mr. Thomas.
In 1903 at Burrton Mr. Thomas married Miss Sophia Rowlands, daughter of J. M. and Mary Rowlands, who live on their farm a mile east of Burrton. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas have one daughter, Mary Jane, born July 26, 1913.
Mr. Thomas is active in fraternal matters, especially in the Masonic order. He is present worshipful master of Burrton Lodge No. 182, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, is a member of Hutchinson Chapter No. 34, Royal Arch Masons, Hutchinson Council No. 13, Royal and Select Masters, Reno Commandery No. 26, Knights Templar, and Burrton Chapter No. 129, Order of the Eastern Star. In the Scottish Rite he is affiliated with Wichita Consistory No. 2 and also belongs to Midian Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Wichita. He is a member and trustee of Burrton Lodge No. 251, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and belongs to Hutchinson Lodge No. 453, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and to the Anti-Horse Thief Association.