The coal-mining interests of Randolph county, Illinois, are substantially represented by Thomas Moffat, president of the Moffat Coal Company of Sparta. His connection with the coal industry in Southern Illinois dates almost from the close of the Civil war and his relation to it as an owner and an employer of men dates from 1870. The Moffats of this section are distinctly Scotch and Thomas is the founder of his branch of the family in America. He was born at Donaldson's Lodge, near Coldstream, Scotland, the date of his nativity being the 14th of January 1836, and he is a son of Andrew Moffat, who died in 1891, at the age of ninety years. Andrew Moffat was a man of liberal education and he was employed as foreman on the government highways for a third of a century or more. He had some military history as a soldier in her majesty's troops and maintained the honor of the family name as a loyal subject of the British queen. Andrew's father was Robert Moffat, a nurseryman and fruit gardener at Twissel,— “Twissel's Nursery” being widely known during its palmy days. Robert Moffat lived to the patriarchal age of one hundred and four years. He represented a long line of Moffats, whose home was established in the vicinity of Coldstream, Scotland, as far back as fifteen hundred. Industrious and studious habits seemed to prevail among the members of the family, for many of the sons were men of learning and possessed scholarly attainments. Andrew Moffat married Ellen Donaldson, a daughter of Andrew Donaldson, of Donaldson's Lodge. Mr. Donaldson was in the service of Sir Francis Blake as a contractor upon his estate for many years. Mrs. Andrew Moffat died in 1895, at the age of eighty years. She and her husband were the parents of nine children, concerning whom the following brief data are here incorporated: John is a gardener at Middlesboro, England; Margaret married Thomas Johnson and resides at Corn Hill, England; Robert and Andrew are both deceased; Thomas is the subject of this sketch; Roger has passed away; Jane is the wife of Richard Trumble and lives at Hurst, England; William lives at Corn Hill, England; and James is yet with the community of Donaldson's Lodge, Scotland.
Thomas Moffat was reared to maturity in his home place, where he received a good common-school education. Leaving the old home at the age of eighteen years, he went to the iron mines at Estes Hill, Middlesboro, England, where he rapidly familiarized himself with the iron industry and where he was made foreman of the Roseland & Ferry Hill Iron Company. In 1864 he made his first trip to the United States, and while he passed most of his time at Pittston, Pennsylvania., he managed to explore the mineral belt west of the Alleghenies before returning to his native heath in 1865. There was so much of promise in the conditions in the United States that Mr. Moffat returned to this country in 1869 and established his home at DuQuoin, Illinois. There he entered the employ of Holliday Brothers and later assumed charge of a mine belonging to Henry Horn. In 1873 he came to Sparta as “boss” for R. H. Rosborough and subsequently became the latter's partner in the Rosborough's Coal Company. In 1902 he severed his connections with all other concerns and purchased and leased lands to the extent of one thousand acres, on which he began sinking a shaft for the Moffat Coal Company. This company consisted of Mr. Moffat and his three sons and Mr. Rosborough and the latter's two sons, but the Resboroughs sold all their interests in the Moffat Coal Company to the Moffats in May 1910. Mr. Moffat is president of the company, and it is largely to his
ingenuity and splendid executive ability that the concern is achieving such marked success. In politics Mr. Moffat is aligned as a stalwart in the ranks of the Republican party. From personal observation he has discovered that the principle of protection to American industries has tended to better conditions for the man who works with his hands and in lieu of this discovery he became a Republican.
Mr. Moffat has been twice married. At Rosedale Abbey, England, in 1867, he wedded Miss Alice Fell, who died at Sparta, Illinois. This union was prolific of four sons,—Andrew, deceased; and Robert, Thomas, Jr., and James, all of whom are members of the Moffat Coal Company. In 1896 was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Moffat to Mrs. Hattie Brown, a daughter of James Snodgrass, of Randolph county. There have been no children born to the latter union. In religious matters Mr. and Mrs. Moffat are members of the Presbyterian church and they command the esteem of their fellow citizens at Sparta, where they have so long resided.