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6557 County Hwy T
Spring Green, WI, 53588
United States

Built in 1886 by, and for, the descendants of Richard and Mary Lloyd-Jones, Unity Chapel is a living testament to the simple and contemplative lives our ancestors created for themselves in the New World

Thomas

Thomas Lloyd Jones

1830-1894

Thomas was the eldest of the second generation of the immigrant Joneses. He was thirteen years old when the family left Wales for Wisconsin. Like his next brother, John, he had already been a shepherd in the sheep pastures of Wales.

In Wisconsin, he began doing man's work from the beginning, clearing the land and working the farm at Ixonia. By the time the family moved to the Spring Green area, Thomas was an aspiring builder and entrepreneur. With a neighbor he set up a carpenter shop and lumberyard, planning to share in the growing prosperity of the area. An accidental fire wiped out the uninsured business. Thomas then became a builder as well as a farmer, but never attained the prosperity for which he worked so hard.

His mother Mallie's second-sight was a gift that the whole family recognized. Once she awoke from a deep sleep to shake Richard and say, "Richard, Thomas is hurt!" Her dream showed Thomas with blood on his foot. Thomas didn't come home that night and the next morning a neighbor pulled into the yard with an injured Thomas in his wagon -- he had cut his foot with an axe.

 

Even in his childhood and youth the family regarded Thomas as a frail person. That is why it was a younger brother who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

A document written by Thomas' son, Ed, indicates Thomas was the first family member to move across the river into what we call "The Valley". He built his own farmhouse in 1861 and moved in with his new bride, Esther Margaretta Evans, from one of the more prosperous (and more cheerful) Welsh families in Spring Green. After the Chicago Fire in 1871, he packed his tools and went to the City to get a share of the rebuilding work. Like many of his plans, this did not work out well, and he was soon home again.

Later, as a builder with some elementary architectural ability as well as carpentry skills, he built barns and homes in the neighborhood, the district school building where family members Jenkin Lloyd Jones and William Cary Wright preached in the years before Unity Chapel was built, and a second, larger, home for his family. A fall from a second-floor scaffold at his new home led to two broken ribs and a punctured lung. Increasing ill-health plagued him from that time forward.

Nevertheless, he supervised the building of Unity Chapel, the original Hillside Home School, and the Assembly Hall at Tower Hill and, as his diaries show, assisted in specific manual labor.

Thomas and Esther had three children, Eve (or Evie) Jenk, a son who died before his third birthday, Thomas Edward (Ed), and Margaret Helen (Helen). They were a family steeped in literature and education. Esther was very well educated and Thomas loved to read aloud from the Bible, Shakespeare and the American poets, Longfellow and Whittier.

Perennially on the local school board, Thomas counted it one of the board's most important achievements when his school district began to supply pupils with free textbooks. He also founded and managed a circulating library of current magazines for the local farmers.

As a farmer, Thomas was innovative and successful. The land he farmed was well cared for; he rotated his crops and prevented erosion. He was a pioneer in the growth of Wisconsin dairy farming, started the first cheese factory in the neighborhood, and invented an improved method for keeping milk cold. The farm, however, ceased to be a success after his debilitating fall from the scaffold. He was no longer able to take an active part in the farming and income dropped. A plan to recoup his losses by joining with James to buy some lumber-producing land made his financial situation worse instead of better.

All the family was of a religious nature, but Thomas was perhaps the most religiously inclined. His diaries show that he was a frequent churchgoer, often twice a day. It did not seem to matter to him what the denomination was; he went where he could be edified by sermons and prayer. His library included books on the Bible and theology.

Family tradition characterizes Thomas as a great lover of picnics. He was apparently the one most likely to suggest a picnic in "The Grove" and later the Chapel grounds. Thomas' picnics ended with singing--much of it in Welsh--which he loved. He also shared his mother's fondness for flowers. Among the few thing Mallie brought from Wales were Welsh seedlings, to bring a little bit of "home" to Wisconsin.

Thomas must have had a streak of vanity in him, too; his diary records more than a few trips to Dodgeville " to have a likeness taken". He seems to have been the one Uncle to have a short, neatly trimmed beard.

In 1892, the year after Ed married Beulah Joiner, Esther died in a Chicago hospital of cancer. This was a devastating blow to Thomas. Her common-sense optimism had kept his natural gloominess in check. "The light of my life has gone out", he wrote in his diary.

In the two years that remained of his life, he was cared for in the family home by Helen, and remained beloved by the children of Hillside Home School who remembered him as their first manual training teacher. He died in l894 of an unrecorded illness of his respiratory system.

The farm and cheese factory had become so unprofitable by then, that Ed and Helen sold their land to Hillside Home School and moved away from the Valley.

Thomas Graham, great - grandson