Monday, November 27, 2006

Mike Thomas' Family

Mike Thomas and two brothers, Charlie and Lewis, came to this country from Syria around 1900.1 Mike and Lis found their way to West Virginia where they made their living doing many kinds of work. Early on, like many of their countrymen, they were pack peddlers. They sold their wares from the packs on their backs throughout central West Virginia in the hollows and rural areas inaccessible to country stores.

In Orlando Mike met a young widow, Esta (Henline) Godfrey with two small children2 whom he wed. Mike and Esta lived in Orlando in a small cottage above the Henline homeplace for a few years. We know Mike operated a restaurant in Elkins for a while but he is remembered for the pool room he opened in Copen. Mike and Esta had five children, shown above: Mike holding Kate, then Tom, Owen, Arden, Marie and Billie.

Charlie and Lewis both married and settled near Elkins. Lewis' marriage didn't last.

To the left is a photo of Kate and Arden Thomas with their cousins Jessie, Ruth and Bud Henline, children of Pid and Minnie Henline.

Mike and Estie's boys, Tom, Owen, Arden and Billie, all worked for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad until retirement. Marie operated a store and was postmistress of Copen.

Kate became a teacher and taught school at Burnsville and in northern Virginia. To the right is a high school photo of Virginia "Kate" Thomas and below that is a more recent photo of Kate with her husband.

Tom Thomas, the oldest son of Mike and Esta, was a foreman of track maintenance for the B & O Railroad for many years.

Tom’s son Sam graduated from Burnsville High School in 1960 and obtained a degree in Chemical Engineering from West Virginia University. Sam later became President of Gulf Oil, Asia, and as the oil companies merged eventually became an expert in planning for the Chevron Oil Company in refinery operations. Sam lives in Mobile, Alabama.

To the left, Tom, the little barefoot boy next to his dad in the photo at the top of this entry, is posing with his Model T and cousin Coleman Jeffries. on an obviously very special occassion.

1. The web page The Syrian Peddler tells the story of the forced migration of Christian Syrians around the turn of the century, and goes on to tell about tradition they established as peddlers throughout North America's isolated communities.

2. Pricilla Esta was a daughter of Beham and Semantha (Skinner) Henline. She first married Melitis Godfrey and they had two children, Harry and Sophia.


  1. My Grandmother was Sophia Godfrey, the daughter of Mike's wife by her first husband M. Godfrey. For the record her name wasn't Pricilla Esta but Estella Pricilla, but was usually called 'Estie.' If you have anything else on my Grandmother or her parents please write me at


  2. According to my Grandfathers Bible, his mother was indeed, Priscilla E. Thomas.