Francis "Wolferstan" THOMAS
1834-1900

From: Representative Canadians - A Cyclopedia of Canadian Biography being chiefly men of the Time 1886
Ed. Geo MacLean Rose, Rose Publishing Company, Toronto, 1886


Thomas, Francis Wolferstan, Montreal, General Manager of Molsons Bank, was born on the 9th January, 1834, at Moorwenstow, Cornwall, and is a son of the late Rev. Francis Wolferstan Thomas, rector of Parkham, North Devon, and rural dean. The father of the Rev. Francis Wolferston Thomas, was the Rev. Thomas Thomas; a fellow of Oxford and vicar of Tidenham, in Gloucestershire, in which county he was a leading magistrate. Both these clergymen (the elder of whom married Elizabeth Wolferstan, of Hartland, Devon, members of whose family still reside at Statfield Hall, Staffordshire), were in their day scholars and authors of repute. The family, as the name implies, is one of the oldest in Wales, and formerly possessed large estates in Glamorganshire.

The Rev. Francis Wolferstan Thomas married a lady of the ancient and important family of Shearme, whose seat is Woodlands, Cornwall. The subject of this sketch was educated at King Edward VI school, Sherborne, Dorsetshire, and as his parents desired him to take holy orders, he had a thorough classical -training. But although his succession to the family living of Parkham would have assured him a good position in the church, he had no inclination for pastoral duties, his ambition being rather to enter the army. Before a commission could be procured for him, however, he had resolved to come to Canada, and engage in farming.

Accordingly, in October, 1851, he left England, his destination being Rice Lake, in Upper Canada, where a person who professed to be qualified had undertaken to instruct him in practical agriculture. The promised lessons proving worthless, he turned his attention to engineering, and secured temporary employment on the Grand Trunk Railway. As winter set in, the young adventurer (he was at that time only eighteen years old), found himself idle and adrift in a world of strangers. But youth is proverbially the season of hope, and Mr. Thomas was never one of those who give way to despondency. Not-withstanding more than one failure, he persevered in his quest, and fortune at last favoured him. The Bank of Upper Canada was at that time at the head of such institutions in the country, and with it he began a career which was destined to be exceptionally successful. After a year's service, Mr. James Stevenson, the present cashier of the Quebec Bank, who was then managing the Toronto branch of the Bank of Montreal, offered Mr. Thomas a position, the acceptance of which was justified by a series of promotions culminating, in 1865, in his appointment to the managership of the London branch. How thoroughly he satisfied those who entrusted him with such high responsibilities, the financial and business circles of Western Ontario need not be told. Nor were his abilities and character held in less esteem by the officials of other establishments.

In 1870, after he had been manager at London for five years, Mr. (now Sir) D. L. Macpherson, moved by the cordial recommendations of E. H. King, ex-president of the Bank of Montreal, placed the office of cashier of Molsons Bank at Mr. Thomas's disposal. Though naturally reluctant to sever his connection with an institution in which he had so. long held a foremost position, and to which he was bound by ties, both of business and friendship, Mr. Thomas finally decided to accept Mr. Macpherson's offer.

Since July, 1870, when he assumed the supervision of its affairs, the status of the Molsons Bank has steadily and materially improved. The capital has been augmented from one to two millions ; and it has been found necessary to establish fifteen branches in Ontario, and another branch at Sorel, in the province of Quebec. A reserve of $675,000 has been provided, and the business of the bank has increased sevenfold. Nor is it only in his relations to the banking business that Mr. Thomas has found scope for his abilities. He was formerly a director of the Huron and Erie Savings and Loan Company of London, and is now a director of the Canada Life Assurance Company. He was D. D. G. M. of the London Masonic district. He is vice-president of the Mackay lnstitution for Protestant Deaf-mutes ; a member of the managing committee of of the Montreal General Hospital ; a director of the Art Association of Montreal, and of the Mount Royal Cemetery Company. When the British Association for the Advancement of Science visited Montreal in 1884, he was appointed chairman of the finance committee.

Mr. Thomas's entire career has been marked by rare business capacity, combined with strict integrity and enlightened patriotism. Though his engagement have not permitted him to enter what is called public life, he has in the faithful discharge of his duties as a citizen, found ample opportunity for serving his country and benefiting the community in which his lot was cast. He knows how to be philanthrophic without ostentation. A true son of the Church of England, his hand is never closed when she needs his help, though at the same time he does not refuse his aid to any meritorious object, because its promoters differ from him in creed.

Mr. Thomas married the third daughter of the Hon. George Jarvis Goodhue, one of .the senators appointed by the Imperial government, and a member of a notable Massachusetts family, of that Salem, which Hawthorne has immortalized. Mrs. Goodhue was a daughter of Major Matthews, R.A., some time aide-de-camp to the Duke of Richmond, that governor-general, whose tragic fate has cast a shadow over the pages of Canadian history. After his retirement from the army, Major Matthews settled at Lobo, in Middlesex, Ontario, which county he represented in parliament. Another of his daughters was married to the late Honourable James Sullivan, attorney-general, and afterwards justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Upper Canada.


From: Canadian Men & Women of the time 1898
Ed. By Henry James Morgan, Toronto, William Briggs, Richmond Street West

THOMAS, Francis Wolferstan, bank manager, is the son of the late Rev. F. W. Thomas, R.D., and Rector of Parkham, North Devon, Eng., by his wife, Frances Shearme, of Woodlands, Cornwall, England. Born at Moorwinstow, Cornwall, Jan. 9, 1834, he was educated at King Edward VI School, Sherborne, Dorsetshire, and was intended first for the church and afterwards for the army. Before a commission was procured for him, however, he embarked for Canada, arriving here in 1851.

His banking career was commenced in the service of the Bank of Upper Canada, now defunct. After a year in its service he joined the Bank of Montreal, and, in 1865, was promoted manager of the London branch. While fulfilling the duties of that position, he was called, in 1870, on the recommendation of the "Prince of Canadian Financiers," the late E. H. King, to the office which has given him so wide a reputation in banking annals, the general managership of the Molsons Bank, Montreal.  Under his management this institution has grown to its present importance, with a paid-up capital of $2,000,000, a rest fund of $1,400,000, and with branches and agencies in all portions of the Dominion as well as in Europe and the U. S.

Outside of his profession, Mr. Thomas' name is well known throughout the country as that of a public-spirited citizen, who has never been found wanting when his time, money, services or talents were needed for works of improvement or the general good. Probably no other man in his walk of life has led so active and useful a life in this respect.  The number and variety of the public positions he has been called upon to fill from time to time is proof of this. In Montreal he has been for years a prominent member of the Good Government Association, a director of the Art Association, a member of the Council of the Board of Arts and Manufactures, a member of the Committee of Management of the Montreal General Hospital, and of the St. John Ambulance Association, a director of the Mount Royal Cemetery Company, Treasurer, of the Church Home, Treasurer of the Protestant Hospital for the Insane, V.P. of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Treasurer for the Andrew's Home, Treasurer for the Murray Bay Convalescent Home and President of the Mackay Institute for Protestant Deaf Mutes and the Blind. He is also a director of the Canadian Life Assurance Company, a member of the Council of the Montreal Board of Trade, and Chairman of the Bankers' branch of the Board of Trade. In 1894 he was elected President of the Montreal General Hospital ; in 1895, President of the St. George's Society; an, in 1896, President of the Dominion Bankers' Association. When the British Association for the Advance of Science visited Montreal, 1884, he was appointed Chairman of the local Finance Committee. One of the most successful of his efforts - the  erection of the Montreal General Hospital Jubilee Training Home for Nurses at a cost of $30,000 - was carried out in 1897, in connection with the celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

In religion, he is an  active member of the Church of England, and has been for a lengthened period a deligate to the Diocesan and Provincial synods of that body. He is also a Freemason of high degree. Politically, he belongs to the Liberal school, and enjoys the personal friendship and regard of his party leaders.

He married in 1861, Harriet Amelia Goodhue, 3rd daughter of the late Hon. G. J. Goodhue, M.L.C., by his wife, a daughter of Major Matthews, R. A., who came to this country as A.D.C. to the Duke of Richmond. Mrs. Thomas has most ably seconded her husband in his philanthropic and beneficent efforts. She was for years Treasurer of the Ladies' Benevolent Society, and is the 1st Directress of the Mackay Institute for Deaf Mutes and the Blind. After the institution of the Montreal School of Cookery, by the Princess Louise, she became President of that institution.

Residence: " Llangorse House," 730 Sherbrooke St., Montreal
Clubs: St. James's Club ; Forest and Stream Club

"An untiring philanthropist."- Herald
"One of the most genial bank managers in the Dominion" - Star


See also:
His son : John Matthews Wolferstan Thomas
His son : Harold Wolferstan Thomas

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