Thomas W.Thompson was born to become a miner, or so it seemed. A native of Shankhouse, Cramlington, that’s just what he became, in fact, like countless others of his generation, born, as he was, in 1884. But he dreamed of better things. Learning that a family friend had emigrated to America in the late 1800s, he set his dream into motion and decided to do likewise. So in 1910 he set sail.
He must have had some drive, though, for by the early 1920s he was the owner of a coal mine in East Peoria, Illinois, called the Manhattan Coal Co. In 1926, he married Hazel Appleby, who was 17 years Tommy’s junior. It seems that in Hazel’s father, John, Tommy had found a useful ally in his rise to the top.
His business was a strong one, and he was able to ride the Great Depression, it seems, with some ease. Such was his standing, that he was even able to co-found the First National Bank in East Peoria in 1934. Additionally, he became a director of a major savings & loan company, and ran a real estate business, the Manhattan Realty Co. – all of which helped him keep going after his coal company ceased operating in around 1940.
There is no doubt that Tommy was a major figure in the business life of his town. However, he and Hazel had no children, and she committed suicide in 1951, aged only 50. Tommy himself passed away in August 1965, aged 81, and was buried next to his wife – a very, very long way away from the Great Northern coalface of his youth, and a self-made man if ever there was one.
The great working class hero even has his own Facebook page here!