Frank E. Thomas, chief of the Rockford fire department, was born in Greenville, the county seat of Darke county, Ohio, June 23, 1863, his parents being John and Melinda (Clapp) Thomas, also natives of Ohio. For many years the father was a contractor and builder of the Buckeye state, and in later life he removed to Chicago, where he was employed on the construction of a five-story building, from which he fell and was instantly killed in the year 1881. His wife yet survives him, and is living in Rockford with her son Frank, being now in her seventy-sixth year. The family of this worthy couple numbered six children, but only three are yet living, the surviving daughters being Mrs. A. F. Hale and Mrs. J. C. Duell, both of Rockford.
Frank E. Thomas was a lad of seven summers when he accompanied his parents on their removal to Chicago, in 1870, and in that city he completed his education as a public school student. Putting aside his text-books, he entered the employ of Field, Leiter & Company. He was first employed as messenger and cash boy was advanced from time to time, until he became inspector of good, remaining with that house as a trusted and efficient employe[e] until he attained his twenty-first year. In this way he gained a practical knowledge of the dry-goods business and at the same time it was good schooling for him in the matter of mingling with men. In 1883 he came to Rockford, and for one year was employed as watchman by the Forest City Furniture Company. In February, 1886, however, he became connected with the Rockford fire department, and, proving his efficiency, was elected company of Company No. 1. In 1901 he was appointed chief of the fire department, and is a most capable official, having the department well organized and doing effective service. He is cool and collected in times of danger, watchful of the interests of the city and of the individual in the line of his duty and his service has won with high encomiums.
In 1887 Mr. Thomas was married to Miss Ida Erickson, a daughter of John Erickson, of Rockford, and they have two children, Lillian M. and Robert E., who are high school students here. The family home is at No. 614 Whitman street, and Mr. Thomas has social relations with Rockford lodge, No. 102 A. F. & A. M., and with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Source: Charles A. Church, Past and Present of the City of Rockford and Winnebago County County, Illinois (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 361-362.