Lewis, Thomas

Early Settler, Clock Industry

Birth: March 15, 1795, Barkhamsted, Litchfield County, Connecticut
Death: November 27, 1880, Farmington, Van Buren County, Iowa
Burial: Alfrey Cemetery, Farmington, Van Buren County, Iowa
Find a Grave memorial

Early Vienna settler Thomas Lewis was likely in partnership with father-in-law Phineas Deming, was involved with the manufacturing of wooden works clocks in Vienna Township. His place of business was located on Sodom-Hutchins (now Sodom-Hutchings) Road, approximately a mile and a half north of Woodford's Corners. Lewis financed this clockmaking venture by holding a $500 mortgage against Deming. Though it is not clear whether the business was a factory or an assembly shop, the business employed six men between 1828 and 1830. Deming may have then left the business, which became Lewis's property. Lewis mortgaged the business in 1832, signing a note with Garry Lewis, Warren clock agent for $600, only to lose possession of this property through a later sheriff's sale.

Lewis also peddled clocks and worked in several other Vienna clock factories, beginning in 1817. He made clock faces on contract for other clockmakers and was known to have boarded at the Lambert W. Lewis factory in 1821 according to the diary of Sylvia Lewis Tyler.

A clock signed by Thomas Lewis will not be found. Using the language Lewis used in an 1834 court deposition; he “… made or caused to be made…” about 600 clocks and 20,000-30,000 faces during his career. This meant that he did some assembly, was proficient and even expert at clock assembly, but was not a clock-maker. When Thomas Lewis hired women to paint clock dials, he had to instruct them whose name to paint on the face. It was never his own name. We can assume that Lewis caused to-be-made many hundreds of clocks for Garry Lewis and Phineas Deming; and perhaps others.

Thomas Lewis was the son of Thomas and Abigail Hurlbut Lewis. He married Diana Deming in Vienna in 1817. Census and marriage records show that after leaving Trumbull County, the couple took their daughter and three sons (Rodman, Justus, and Abner) to Jackson County, Ohio. It was in Jackson County, between the years 1840-1845, the sons met and married daughters of neighbors George Crookham and Elihu Alderman. Thomas, Diana, their sons and their wives, and many of the wives’ relatives left Ohio circa 1842-46, settling in Fort Madison & Montrose, Iowa. Soon after arriving in Iowa, Thomas and Diana Lewis moved on to Farmington Township, Van Buren County, Iowa. [1]

Note that Thomas Lewis was not related to Abraham and Levi Lewis. He was a possible cousin of Lambert W., Wheeler, Charles, and Garry Lewis. [1]

For more information on the local wooden works clock industry, click here.

Updated 10/01/2020
Entry adapted from Rogers, Rebecca M. Trumbull County Clock Industry, 1812-1825. Dayton, OH: Sterling Graphics, 1992. Updated and original footnotes included in The Cog Counter's Journal, No. 37, Summer 2015, pp. 33-57.
[1] Information contributed by Bruce Paulson, relative of Thomas Lewis.