An American Family History

Edward George Thomas Biography and Obituaries

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Edward G. Thomas founded the Thomas Organ Co. in 1875 in Woodstock, Ont. The company was managed later, however, by James Dunlop, who acquired a part interest in 1891 (on Thomas' death) and full interest in 1895 (when the firm became the Thomas Organ and Piano Co; incorporation followed in 1919).

A prosperous export trade with Britain was begun in 1893, and orders for organs came later from Australia, New Zealand, Holland, and Germany. At the turn of the century the firm produced an estimated 150 reed organs and 1000 piano stools and benches a month. In 1916 it began to manufacture record cabinets. In the 1920s it introduced the Thomas Orchestral and Symphony models of reed organ. Late in the decade the firm enjoyed a slight surge in the sales of its portable organs. By the mid-1940s, however, when James Dunlop's son, John G., was president, it had turned to furniture building, and later it became a subsidiary of the Whirlpool Company of the USA and relinquished the Thomas name.
Florence Hayes
Encyclopedia of Music in Canada


The city of York was incorporated as Toronto on March 6, 1834. The city grew and developed significantly during the the 19th century. The Irish famine brought a large number of Irish immigrants to the city and they became the largest ethnic group.

Toronto 1856
Toronto 1856

Thomas, Edward George, Woodstock, the subject of this sketch, was born in the City of Toronto on the 2nd of October, 1853. His father and mother were natives of England and came to Canada in 1832. Mr. Thomas was first sent to the public schools and afterwards attended the Model School at Toronto. 

Having completed his studies and attained his sixteenth year, he entered the Military school, 29th regiment, then commanded by Colonel Farrington; and graduated in due time, and then moved to Hamilton, where he learned the trade of organ-building, in the establishment of Thornton & Green. After he had mastered this trade, he was appointed manager for the Canada Organ & Piano Co., of Toronto. In 1874, he established what was known as the burial case factory, now one of the largest, most thorough, and popular institutions of its kind in the country. 

In 1875, he sold his interest in this business and removed to Woodstock, where he saw a field for organ-building. Here he at once began the manufacture of organs, and his exertions were soon rewarded with success. Every year saw an increase in the capacity and output of his establishment, till the business attained its present large dimension. 

In 1881, Mr. Thomas was elected alderman for the City of Woodstock and likewise for1883 in which latter year he retired. He was a painstaking and clearheaded civic legislator and during his official term was chairman of the fire, water and light committee. He has taken considerable interest in secret society affairs and is a prominent member of Odd-Fellows lodge No. 88  He is likewise a member of Grand Lodge, and has held high trusts in the Masonic order.

In religion our subject is a staunch Episcopalian. He married in 1872, Margaret Campbell, daughter of the late William Campbell of Hamilton and by this union has had four children. In politics he is a staunch Reformer; and he does not content himself with merely wishing his party well, but he is a constant and zealous worker.

 P. 261, A Cyclopedia of Canadian Biography, Rose Publishing Company, 1886, George Maclean Rose

A freemason (mason) is a member of an international fraternal and charitable organization pledged to mutual assistance and brotherly love.



 Awfully Sudden Death
Mr. E. G. Thomas , the well known Organ Manufacturer, dies suddenly this afternoon
A great loss to the town .

Our readers will be startled to hear of the death of Mr. E. G. Thomas, which occurred very suddenly this afternoon. He had been feeling unwell for a couple of weeks past, but at the worst nothing serious was apprehended and today he appeared to feel better than he had felt for some days past. At 12 o'clock he said to a friend that he was better than he had been since he was taken ill and his physician, Dr. McLay, had arranged to take him for a drive. At about 2 o'clock he went upstairs to dress for the drive but feeling somewhat exerted he lay down on a bed to rest for a minute. To his wife, who was in the room, he said, "I am feeling poorly again." Mrs. Thomas replied" "Yes, I know you are poorly, but you will be all right," and these were the last words that ever passed between them. Life passed out instantly and imperceptibly at about 2:15 p.m. The cause of death was apoplexy and failure of heart.

Edward George Thomas as born in the city of Toronto in October 2, 1853, and was therefore in his thirty-seventh year, the prime of his manhood. His parents, [John Morgan Thomas and Mary Lewis], were natives of England and came to Canada in 1832. At sixteen years of age Mr. Thomas entered the Military School, 20 regiment and graduated in due time. He learned the trade of organ building in the establishment of Thorton & Green, Hamilton and was at one time manager of the Canadian Organ and Piano company, Toronto. In 1875 he removed to Woodstock and founded the establishment which has borne his name ever since, the Thomas Organ factory. By diligence, energy and ability he made his business grow from year to year and the splendid building which is so conspicious to visitors to Woodstock arriving by the C.P.R. is today a monument to his efforts. 

Besides which his industry has contributed to the prosperity of Woodstock, Mr. Thomas has always taken an active and intelligent interest in the town's advancement. He served in the Town Council on two different occasions, as councillor in '81 and 3rd Deputy in '86. He was a prominent member of the Oddfellows and the Freemasons and occupied positions of honor and trust in both. He was also a member of the A.O.U.W., and the Order of Chosen Friends. 

His name deserves to be kindly remembered in connection with different town bands. The Thomas Organ Co.'s band, which has since become the Watters band, was the result of his efforts in this direction. He was a member of the Church of England and a Liberal in politics. Personally he was genial, generous, large hearted. He was a good man and a useful citizen and his death creates a gap to Woodstock life that will be hard to fill.   

He was married in 1872 to Miss Margaret Campbell, daughter of the late Wm. Campbell of Hamilton, who has the sincere sympathy of the people of Woodstock in the great sorrow that has come upon her. His children are two sons and two daughters.

Mr. Thomas's awfully sudden death is a startling shock to the community. It has cast a gloom over the town this afternoon which overshadows all other topics.  It will be keenly and widely deplored, not only as an irreparable loss to his family and friends, but to Woodstock and the country generally.

A freemason (mason) is a member of an international fraternal and charitable organization pledged to mutual assistance and brotherly love.

Funeral of Mr. Thomas
The funeral of Mr. E. G. Thomas this afternoon was a large and imposing one. It was under the direction of the Oddfellows, of which he was an old and prominent member. The procession left the house shortly after 2 o'clock. The two bands united, took the lead, followed by canton Woodstock, No. 15 in full uniform, to the number of thirty.  Next came Woodstock and Olive Branch Lodges, about a hundred strong, in full regalia, and bearing the usual sprig of green. The rear was brought up by the employees of the organ factory and the Fire brigade, all four bodies of men looking extremely well. 

As the cortege wended its way slowly to the church, the band played that mournful dirge, the Dead March. The procession of men and carriages extended from Dundas almost to the house. The sidewalks were crowded with people, the blinds in most places of business drawn and the upper windows crowded with onlookers. At New St. Paul's a short and impressive service was conducted by the Rector, after which the body of the deceased was viewed by hoards of sorrowing friends. At the grave the beautiful service of the Order of Oddfellows was rendered, an unusually large crowd going the whole distance to the cemetery to see a good citizen and worthy brother laid away.

A peculiar incident of the funeral was that as the head of the cortege reached Dundas Street it met another funeral procession, that of the late Mr. Rutherford of E. Oxford. Young Mr. Rutherford was also buried this afternoon, the funeral overtaking the first on Dundas St.

The pall bearers for Mr. Thomas were: brothers Jas. Sutherland, M.P., John Morrison, F. B. Schofield, Walrond, McLurg, Geo. Clarkson, John Mitchell and Mr. Milbury.