A Clarkson Mosaic - page 14

vacant for years, it finally was demolished. In 1886, he helped install Potsdam's original sewerage system. He
also served on the Village Board several times as a trustee.
In 1885, he purchased the Swan Sash, Door, and Blind Company on Fall Island which he operated
until it burned three years later. In the following year, he organized the Clarkson Manufacturing Company to
manufacture butter tubs and firkins. Further, in 1888, he helped organize and became president of the first
electric light plant in Potsdam, and served as the president in the early nineties. It was housed in the present
White Hardware Store building. When the Thatcher Manufacturing Company was organized on Raymond
Street in 1889, Thomas became its president. It was one of the few companies making milk bottle caps
for the sanitary milk bottle invented by Dr. Thatcher in Potsdam in 1884. In 1893, Thomas was made
president of the newly opened Potsdam Milk-Sugar Company.
A firm believer in the philosophy that work was a better gift to the poor than charity, Thomas was
keenly interested not only in the many commercial enterprises of his own creation, but also in giving to as
many other residents of the village as possible the chance to help themselves. He devoted practically all of his
time to his many local interests, some of which were uneconomical, in order to furnish local employment.
His strong support of the village and his firm belief that nothing should be given away but that things had to
be earned, can be seen in the following anecdote.
Thomas responded to a request by Potsdam Volunteer Firemen for a donation for new uniforms by
saying that he never gave away anything. However, the next morning, when the whistle on Clarkson's Grist
Mill blew as if for a fire, the firemen raced across the bridges to the mill to find no fire, but only Thomas
standing in the doorway. When asked why he had blown the whistle to summon them, he responded that a
man had the right to blow his own horn, and then he gave them half the price of the new uniforms. He felt
that they had earned that much, but they would have to obtain the remainder of the cost somewhere else.
Early in the 1890s, in a building on the corner of Market and Depot Streets (currently Jreck Subs),
Thomas founded and supported a library as a night school and a reading room. Earlier, Thomas had
maintained this reading room in the Albion Hotel. There people used to exchange books with each other. He
hired two men, John Taney and Boyd Carpenter, to stay in the library and read books and newspapers aloud
to the people who worked for him who could neither read nor write. Interestingly, this library had a rule that
no one who lived outside the Corporation [of Potsdam] and under 16 years of age could take a book out of
Thomas died from an accident in his quarry when, on August 14, 1894, a 4,600-pound pump was
being moved from its foundation with a derrick. As its boom swung, the pump began to sway, and
endangered one of the workmen. In attempting to prevent the accident, Thomas was crushed against the
quarry wall by the swinging pump and badly injured, breaking his left leg and suffering severe internal
injuries. Lingering for five days, he died at 5:00 a.m. on August 19, 1894. Excerpts from the diary of a local
resident, Josiah Brown, reveal the high regard in which the people of Potsdam held him.
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