Part of the Indiana Biographies Project
Since he came to Richmond about seventy years ago, the gentleman of whom this sketch is penned has been a witness of very important changes in this vicinity, and his reminiscences of the early days here are most interesting and entertaining to a listener. Generous and big-hearted, jovial and kindly in disposition, he has never lacked for friends, and many of them will peruse his life record, as written here, with deep interest.
He is of English descent, his father, William Thistlethwaite, having been born near the city of Leeds, April 3, 1792, and until 1819 he worked at whatever he could find to do, whereby he might earn an honest livelihood. In the year mentioned, he determined to come to America, where he believed he might succeed. Landing in Philadelphia, he proceeded to Wilmington, Delaware, and, as he had but twenty-five cents left, he was glad to take a position in the Brandywine flouring-mills, where, however, he remained but a short time. His next step was to rent a farm, near Wilmington, where he lived for eight years, then removing to a farm in Chester county, Pennsylvania, on which place the battle of Chadd's Ford had been fought. In 1828 he went to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was engaged in the butcher's business for a few months, and the following year he came to Richmond. Here he purchased the Baxter farm (at one time owned by Senator William Baxter), now partly included within the western portion of Richmond, but at the end of five years he sold that place, and bought the one now owned by the state of Indiana, and occupied by the East Haven Insane Asylum. This place, comprising two hundred and forty acres, is one of the most fertile and beautiful farms in the county. In 1855 Mr. Thistlethwaite retired, having amassed a goodly fortune by his energy, perseverance and industry. Considering the many disadvantages under which he had commenced life in a strange country, without a dollar, and with little education to aid him, the success which he wrought for himself was remarkable. He was a faithful member of the Society of Friends, belonging to the North A street meeting. The active principles of the Friends—harmony and loving helpfulness toward mankind—were daily exemplified in his life, and all who knew him loved and revered him. He married Elizabeth Wetherald, and of their eight children, Eleanor, of Richmond, never married; John, deceased, was a successful farmer of Hamilton county, Indiana; George is a retired farmer of Boone county, Indiana; Mary (deceased) became the wife of Thomas Birdsall, and their son, William, is the president of Swarthmore College, near Pniladelphia; Thomas and William have passed to the silent land; and Henry is a farmer of Hamilton county, Indiana. The father of these children departed this life August 12, 1871, mourned by all who had known him.
Timothy Thistlethwaite was born near Wilmington, Delaware, September 16, 1821, and was consequently about eight years old when his father located in the neighborhood of Richmond. The lad attended the Richmond public schools for some years and remained on the farm with his father until he was twenty-five years of age. He then engaged in the task of building a sawmill on the west fork of White Water river (not far from this city), at a point known as Thistlethwaite's Pond. This mill he operated for some five years. In 1854, in company with J. C. Ratliff and Miles J. Shinn, he built a paper mill in Richmond, and for a period of about five years was engaged in the manufacture of paper, under the style of the Hoosier Paper Manufacturing Company. His next enterprise was the running of a flouring-mill in this city in partnership with Thomas Birdsall, which occupied his time for four years. Next he purchased a farm in the western part of Richmond, and in addition to cultivating the place manufactured brick until 1890, since which time he has given his sole attention to the management of his homestead. As a business man he has been noted for bringing to bear an energy and perseverance in an undertaking until it had been carried to a point of assured success, and strict integrity and justice have characterized all his actions. In his political opinions he places principle above party. Religiously, he follows in the footsteps of his ancestors, and is a valued member of the Friends' meeting.
On the 3d of January, 1849, Mr. Thistlethwaite married Sarah Ratliff, a daughter of Cornelius and Mary Ratliff, and their three children are William C, Edward H. and Mary E. The elder son is engaged in the brick manufacturing business in this city, and the younger son also makes his home here. The first mentioned married Miss Clarinda Hoggatt, and the latter wedded Miss Bertha L. Hoffman. Mary E. is the wife of Charles S. Owsley, an attorney-at-law in Kansas City, Missouri. Her higher education was obtained in Wilmington College, Ohio, and, possessing unusual artistic ability, she has executed a number of very fine paintings of both portrait and landscape subjects. January 3, 1899, Mr. and Mrs. Thistlethwaite celebrated their golden wedding, having been married fifty years.
Biographical and Genealogical History of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin Counties, Indiana, Volume 1, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1899