bullet Francis Thomas (1732-1822)

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Memoir of Francis Thomas, who died at Bethlehem April 4, 1822.
(read before the Congregations at the funeral of the deceased, in accordance with  the custom of Moravians.  Translated from the German)

Brother Francis Thomas, a widower, who departed this life on the 4th ins..[instant] was born in Würtemburg in Germany, Septebmer 8, 1732. 

When about 6 yrs. old he came to America with his parents, and lived for some time in Philadelphia.  He subsequently removed with his parents to Lancaster, where a Congregation of the Brethren was beginning to be formed, and with which his parents connected themselves.  Of the Brethren with whom he became acquainted in his youth, Bishop Spangenberg made a peculiarly strong impression of his mind.  He saw the latter for the first time while on a visit with his mother to some relatives, Br. and Sr. Beck, who were then stationed at Muddy Creek.  Br. Spangenberg asked him whether "he desired to become the property of the Saviour" to which he replied in his blunt and unsophisticated manner: "No, I don't want to ? I know nothing of a Saviour!"
His mother, greatly annoyed by his reply, said to him: "My child, don't you know the Lord Jesus?" "Yes, him I know very well" answered he, "but of a Saviour I don't know anything."  Bishop Spangenberg gently laying his hand upon the head of the child, said to him: "You are the Saviour's property, and must continue to belong to him." 

This was fulfilled in his case, he was often heard to say with a feeling of deep and  heartfelt gratitude.  As he manifested great fearlessness and total disregard of danger, he was frequently employed in the capacity of a courier, an employment at that time connected with no trifling difficulties, and in which he several times experienced a providential preservation of life.  On one occasion he was thrown from his horse, and dislocated his neck and was carried home for dead!  On another occasion he broke through thin ice with his horse, and narrowly escaped with his life.

Having learned the trade of a cabinetmaker, he was married to Sr. Anna Catherine Graeff (decd. Oct. 1815) on Jan. 12 1762, with whom he led a happy matrimonial life for 53 yrs.  They had no issue.

On Nov. 13 1763 both of them were admitted to membership in the congregation, and on June 8 1765 Br. Thomas joined the congregation in the celebration of the Holy Communion for the first time.  That holy rite he continued to help in high esteem to the day of his death.

In 1767 he removed to Litiz with his wife as an assistant in the hotel, and in the year 1772 came to Bethlehem under an engagement of like character.

He subsequently resumed his mechanical profession, in the prosecution of which his industry, honesty and faithfulness won for him the respect and confidence of all with whom he dealt.  This he acquired in a far more extended degree, after he received the opportunity of attendance on visitors.  In this employment he succeeded by his candour, obliging disposition and readiness to do any act of kindness, in securing for himself the love and regard of every one, and his name will long continue to be held in affectionate remembrance.

For some time previous to the death of his wife, he was subject to severe attacks of rheumatism, which frequently disturbed his nocturnal repose.  These returns occurred at shorter intervals during the last years of his life, when the infirmities of advanced age were added to his sufferings.  He felt the more grateful, that in the providence of God, he and his wife, being themselves childless, had educated three children of missionaries, Rachel Schneller, Ann Maria Schneller, and Marcia Elizabeth Brown, whose stay under his roof will be ever gratefully remembered by them.

The last of these was a condition to attend to the duties of his house hold and to minister to his comfort after the death of his wife, for which she, and we with him, invoked a special blessing of the Lord upon her.

Br. Thomas bore his sufferings with genuine resignation into the will of the Lord, and was never heard to complain.  On the contrary he was full of thankfulness for the loving kindness of his Redeemer, who vouchsafed to him a sense of his peace in so marked a manner that he was enabled to look forward cheerfully and joyously to the moment of his final release from suffering.

"Our dear Lord deals most graciously with me!" he was wont to say; I live at peace with all men -  I have no unkind feelings toward any; but what surpasses all, I enjoy his peach: and when I have that, I long for nothing else."

With these sentiments he awaited for a long time past the happy moment where his soul would leave its oppressed tenement, and he be permitted to behold Him face to face, in whom he believed with childlike assurance.

During the past weeks it was difficult for him to move from one spot to another, and eventually he was confined to his couch.  It soon became apparent that his end was approaching.  On Monday last, at his own request, the blessing of the Lord was pronounced over him at his bedside, after the singing of a hymn.  As the concluding phrase was uttered: "The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace." He exclaimed: "Yes, yes, his peace!  Oh! I feel it now! Without it how could I endure this agony! But his peace softens every pain!"

He uttered his grateful acknowledgements for every act of kindness shown him.  Another day and night of great distress passed, during which time he continued perfectly conscious, and knew every one about him, as well as those who called to see him.

At length on Thursday morning, early the wished for moment arrived and he ceased to breathe, and his spirit departed to the tents of the just, eternally to praise him, who had redeemed him, and to rest with him in everlasting bliss.  His age was 89 yrs. 6 mo. and 26 days.

Translation courtesy of the Moravian Archives.

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