Thomas, Pamela S.
Correspondence of abolitionist Pamela S. Thomas, of Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, wife of Dr. Nathan M. Thomas, whose home was an Underground Railroad Station prior to the Civil War, dated 1875-1894

25 letters, 94 manuscript pages, (22 retained mailing envelopes), 1 postcard, all dated 13 October 1875 to 7 January 1894

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Nathan M. Thomas (1803-1887) was born in Mount Pleasant, Jefferson Co., Ohio, on January 2, 1803, the son of Jesse and Avis (Stanton) Thomas, both devout Quakers. He studied medicine with local practitioners and at the Medical College of Ohio in Cincinnati. In June 1830, after practicing medicine a short time in Ohio, he moved to Prairie Ronde and what would later became the village of Schoolcraft, and began a practice which continued without interruption for about twenty five years. [1]

Although not belonging and adhering strictly to the Quakers as a sect, Thomas was staunchly opposed to slavery. In 1839, he joined a movement for the establishment of an anti-slavery paper and in 1840 he helped to form the Liberty party. In 1845, he was the Liberty party candidate for lieutenant governor of Michigan. In 1854, he was a member of the convention which organized the Republican Party in Jackson, Michigan. Prior to the abolition of slavery, Dr. Thomas's home at Schoolcraft was a haven for slaves escaping from the South to Canada.[2]

Thomas' house was one of the most active stations in Michigan. It is said that between 1840 and 1860, there were 1,000 to 1,500 fugitive slaves that came through the Thomas' station.[3] By the mid-1840s, a group of abolitionists in southwest Michigan had created an organized system for transporting fugitive slaves. Slaves were often brought to the Thomas House by Zachariah Shugart, a fellow Quaker living on Young's Prairie, Cass County. Dr. Thomas would then shuttle the runaways to Erastus Hussey, another fellow Quaker living in Battle Creek. The slaves would eventually make their way to Detroit and onto freedom in Canada.[4]

While Dr. Thomas receives the credit in the history books for being the abolitionist who ran the Underground Railroad Station, it would not have been possible without the cooperation of his wife Pamela S. Brown. Dr. Thomas married Miss Brown on March 17, 1840. She was the daughter of Thomas and Sally Brown, of Plymouth, Vermont. Four children were born to them, two sons (Malcolm P. and Stanton B.) and two daughters (Ella, and?). Pamela was an early pioneer of Schoolcraft, relocating there in 1833, at age 16. She was part of the early Vermont colony that settled the area, and she later became the first school teacher at Schoolcraft.

Dr. Nathan M. Thomas died April 7, 1887. In 1892, his wife Pamela S. Thomas wrote a pamphlet for the Schoolcraft Historical Society on the family's experience of using their home for a station on the Underground Railroad. That pamphlet is titled "A Station on the Underground Railroad." Pamela died in January 1909.

Example from the letters:

"Schoolcraft Nov. 12th 1876

My Dear Son,

I was glad to get your letter of a week ago and learn of your progress in College life. Of course the position in which you are placed in connection with its being the first of your passing from the home of your childhood is calculated to make a lasting and deep impression upon your friend. I should have written sooner if mother had not have dropt you a postal soon after the reception of your letter. My mind too has been very much absorbed in the all engrossing question. I have felt that the American people were on trial and much depended on the result of last Tuesday's election and that it would be a great calamity to the people of this nation if the Democratic Party should be successful. We supposed on Wednesday morning from the majorities given for Tilden in New York City and Brooklyn that he was elected but the news as it was received has been more and more in favor of the Republicans, and with the appearance of greater electoral vote South than I anticipated, which has so far changed the matter that I think with a fair and honest return and count of the votes in South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana, Hayes will be elected. Whether that will be secured is the question...your loving father, N. M. Thomas"

"Sunday, P.M.

My dearest son Malcolm,

Father is writing to you at last and I put in a line for as you want to know my absent children are always in my mind filling my heart with hopes and anxiety for their welfare. I had a letter from Ella last evening. She complains of you and Edward not writing. She is well and seems in good spirits. She wrote she should surely come home if Estelle stays till Thanksgiving. She is to stay. Her husband is to come for her the day before Thanksgiving and stay till the following Monday.

Of course you will come too - I have invited Joseph's folks and shall write for Stanton and Maria - Fear they may not come as the children have whooping cough. So Estelle cannot go there on account of her little girl.

If as we hope Hayes is elected we will have a true Thanksgiving - Father will write of course about your money but I should think if you need more before you come home & Edward could let you have it; it would be better to get it of him. The man who bought John Brown's farm finished paying the mortgage ($750) yesterday. We have had very exciting times since election. At first the Democrats were jubilant, fired off [xxxxx] & hurrahed themselves horse, besides getting drunk. I do hope the late news will prove true and that Hayes is elected. If so, trust we will behave better. Just give thanks in earnest for a [xxxxx] overcome.

...Hoping to see you at Thanksgiving your mother, Pamela S. Thomas"

[1] Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Nathan M. Thomas Papers, as viewed online at:

[2]  ditto

[3] The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom. By Wilbur Henry Siebert. New York: MacMillan Co., 1898. Page 88. The figure of 1,000 to 1,500 fugitive slaves coming through Dr. Thomas' station was given to the author in a letter from Pamela S. Thomas of 25 March 1896.

[4] Dr. Nathan Thomas House, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, as viewed online at: