As mayor of Willisville and general superintendent of the Willis Coal and Mining Company, Thomas Jeremiah is one of the prominent men of his community. A follower of the coal mines since he was a lad of nine years, he is well qualified to hold the responsible position he now fills, and is an acknowledged authority on many subjects pertaining to coal mining. Mr: Jeremiah has also given his attention to various other matters beyond the province of coal mining, and is actively concerned in a number of industrial organizations of varied natures, while his connection with the organization of the National Mine Workers of America has brought him no little prominence in surrounding communities.
Born at Steeleville, Illinois, on June 10, 1868, Thomas Jeremiah is the son of the venerable pioneer mine developer, John Jeremiah, now a retired resident of DuQuoin, Illinois. He was born at Ponter Pool, South Wales, in 1830, and came to the United States in 1852. He stopped for a time in Schuylkill county, Pennsylvania, and reached Southern Illinois just at the close of the Civil war, after having served a term in the Federal army as a member of the One Hundred and Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania troops, and seeing much active service during the term of his enlistment.
He was among the first to engage in coal mining in Randolph and Perry counties, and was prominently identified with that industry for many years. He married Miss Margaret Bridgewaters, a daughter of Andrew Bridgewaters, who was a pioneer of Illinois and who settled in Perry county, where Mrs. Jeremiah was born in 1837. The issue of their union is: Thomas, the subject; Alfred of Percy, Illinois; Solomon of DuQuoin, Illinois, an electrician with the Brilliant Coal and Coke Company, and Emma, the wife of Fred Kennedy, of DuQuoin. By an earlier marriage with Sarah Edmund he was the parent of five children: Rachel, who died in infancy; Edmund, of DuQuoin; William, who died in 1908, as a miner; Mattie, who became the wife of Charles Voice; and John, of Percy, Illinois. Margaret Bridgewaters, the second wife of John Jeremiah and the mother of Thomas Jeremiah, of this review, was twice married. Her first husband was John Yancy, and of their union four children were born. They are: Rebecca, who married Walter Staudhouse, now deceased, the widow residing in DuQuoin; Rachael became the wife of George Popham, of Herrin, Illinois, and Amos and Josephine passed away as children.
The chief characteristic as displayed by Thomas Jeremiah in his boyhood was industry. At the age of nine he left off his studies and followed his father into the mines as a student of mining methods and as a helper when required. He passed several years thus in mastering the details of the subject, and, becoming interested in the labor organization, was advanced to a leadership in it at an early age. He secured additional experience as a miner in other coal fields, as in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and he was made master workman of the Knights of Labor at Jenny Lind, Arkansas, in 1887. Returning to Illinois in 1892, Mr. Jeremiah was later made superintendent of the Excelsior Coal Mining Company, and held that position until 1894, then going west and working in the mines. In 1896 he returned to Illinois and began taking an active part in organizing the miners of Southern Illinois and was elected a member of the central sub-district No. 7. In 1897 he was chosen a member of the state executive
board and later was appointed national organizer for the United Mine Workers of America. In his work in the latter named capacity he covered many of the coal producing states of the Mississippi Valley and the east, and secured a varied experience in a general way that has been of utmost importance to him in later years. He resigned from that office in 1902 to accept service with the Willis Coal and Mining Company, with whom he has since been employed.
Mr. Jeremiah is now serving his third term as mayor of Willisville. He is a member of the Mine Investigators Committee of the State of Illinois by appointment of Governor Deneen; he is a member of the Perry County Fair Association and of the Democratic Senatorial Committee. He has acted in the capacity of operators commissioner for the Fifth and Ninth districts, and is a member of the operators board for the same district. In addition to his numerous connections of a more public character, Mr. Jeremiah is a member of the Willisville Breeding Association, and is superintendent of the Mid-Valley Oil Company, now prospecting for oil in and about Willisville and Pinckneyville. He is a director of the First National Bank of Percy, a director of the Willis Coal and Mining Company, of which he is also general superintendent, and is a. member of the mercantile firm of Schmitt & Jeremiah, of Willisville. From all of which it will be seen that he has a multiplicity of interests demanding time and attention, in addition to his regular duties. Fraternally he is an Elk and a Knight of Pythias.
On February 11, 1892, Mr. Jeremiah was married in DuQuoin to Miss Elizabeth Davis, a daughter of Pat J. Davis, a mine manager and a native of Illinois. Mrs. Jeremiah was born in Perry county, and is the mother of six children: Otis, Guernzie, Lyle, Loren, Cleo and Garnie, but the latter died at the age of six years.