Register of the Elmer Gwyn Thomas Papers,

Table of Contents

Collection Overview

Collection Inventory+/-

Biographical Note/Historical Note

Content Description

Collection Use

Administrative Information

Collection Overview +/-

Title: Elmer Gwyn Thomas Papers, 1914-1955
Dates: 1914-1955. (inclusive)
Collection Number: Mss B 10
Summary: Army officer, Assistant to the Quartermaster General, responsible for construction of military facilities in Utah during WWII, member of the Utah legislature. Correspondence and miscellaneous material. Personal and military correspondence relating to his career.
Repository: Utah State Historical Society

Collection Inventory +/-

Box Folder Contents
box , folder : Family Correspondence
box 1, folder 1 : Biographical data
box 1, folder 2 : Father, Mother, and Jack
box 1, folder 3 : Family
box 1, folder 4-7 : Laura
box 1, folder 8-9 : Elizabeth
box , folder : Correspondence
box 2, folder 1 : 1914-1919
box 2, folder 2 : 1920-1924
box 2, folder 3 : 1925-1929
box 2, folder 4 : 1930-1935
box 2, folder 5 : 1936-1937
box 2, folder 6 : 1938-1939
box 2, folder 7 : 1940
box 2, folder 8 : 1941
box 2, folder 9 : 1942
box 3, folder 1 : 1943
box 3, folder 2 : January-June 1944
box 3, folder 3 : July-December 1944
box 3, folder 4 : January-May 1945
box 3, folder 5 : June-September 1945
box 3, folder 6 : October-December 1945
box 3, folder 7 : 1946-1947
box , folder : Miscellaneous
box 4, folder 1 : Speeches and lectures
box 4, folder 2 : Diary and article on trip to Philippine Islands, 1933
box 4, folder 3 : 75th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg, 1938
box 4, folder 4 : LDS Church
box 4, folder 5 : Poetry and Prose of the Army
box 4, folder 6 : Construction projects
box 4, folder 7 : Miscellaneous
box 4, folder 8 : Oral history interview with Eric Redd, 4 October 1976
box 5, folder : Scrapbook (Oversize)

Biographical Note/Historical Note +/-

The parents of Elmer Gwyn Thomas (1880-1977), David Palmer and Margaret Davies Thomas, were Welsh converts to the Mormon Church who came to Utah in 1878. Their family eventually consisted of ten children, and Thomas's papers contain at least some information on seven, though the three daughters are poorly documented. Of the sons, there is less information on Alfred, a druggist in Salt Lake City and Richmond, than the other sons, probably because he died in 1919. Two of the other brothers exhibited their Welsh heritage in a lifelong love for vocal music: Warren John "Jack" Thomas, who was a railroad passenger agent, was business manager for several well-known musical groups in Salt Lake City, including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Moyer Delwyn "Dell" Thomas, a Rhodes scholar with no fewer than four degrees from Oxford University, who was employed as an agricultural chemist with American Smelting and Refining, was Vice President of the National Gymanfa Ganu Association of Welsh singers.

Elmer Thomas received an extremely limited formal education, yet enjoyed a distinguished career as a military officer in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps and the Corps of Engineers. He completed the eighth grade, then was admitted to the University of Utah's preparatory program in mining engineering. When his Utah National Guard unit was called to active duty in 1898 for the Spanish-American War, Thomas dropped out of the University and never returned. Thomas served as an enlisted man, a bugler, in the Philippine Islands for a year. Instead of returning to school upon his return, he went to work for the Oregon Short Line Railroad, where he was employed for fifteen years, and for the state as Auditor of Counties.

Thomas's experience in the supply, purchasing, and mechanical departments of that railroad evidently impressed the army, for when he re-enlisted in 1917, he was given a commission. He was to serve for nearly four decades, retiring as a full colonel well after the end of World War II (see chronology).

Thomas's papers are full of high praise from others for his expertise as a Quartermaster, and he served in a number of important and far-flung posts in this country and in the Territory of Hawaii. Most prestigious, no doubt, were two periods of service with the Quartermaster General's office in Washington, D.C., where he traveled extensively to inspect and report upon construction and supply operations. He also served two periods of duty in Utah, one at Fort Douglas from 1929-1931, then in Ogden and Salt Lake City from 1940-1943. During the latter period, Thomas built virtually all of the military installations in Utah that were created as a result of World War II, spending some $165,000,000. After his retirement in 1946, Thomas managed the LDS Church's Eagle Gate properties for a time, and served two terms in the Utah State Legislature (1953-1957).

His personal life was not without its share of frustration and tragedy. For one thing, he felt that army life, which kept him on the road and separated from his family much of the time, compromised his effectiveness as a husband and father. Writing to his wayward daughter Bernice in 1945, he said, "I regret very much that I stayed in the Regular Army because we would have made our home in Salt Lake and would have grown up with the community and been a respected part of it. Instead of going around the country as we did. However at the time I thought I was doing everything for the best but I have long since realized my mistake." (EGT to Bernice Thomas, 7 September 1945) Another daughter, Elizabeth, died of cancer at age 38. Finally, Thomas outlived two wives: Laura Newton, the mother of his three daughters, died in 1951, and he married Ada J. Davies in 1952, she died in 1972. Thomas himself died at age 97 in 1977.

21 September 1880 Born in Salt Lake City 1897-1898 Attended University of Utah 1898-1899 Bugler with Battery "A" Utah Volunteer Artillery 1902-1917 Employed by Oregon Short Line Railroad 1917 Quartermaster Corps at Camp Grant, Illinois 1917-1918 Assistant to QMG, Washington, D.C. 1918 Assistant to Constructing QM, Nitrate Plant #4, Anchor, Ohio 1918-1919 Assistant to CQM, Fort Bragg, North Carolina 1919-1925 Fort Sam Houston, Texas 1925-1926 QMC School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1927-1929 Fort Bragg, North Carolina 1929-1931 CQM, Fort Douglas, Utah 1931-1934 Fort Shafter, Hawaii 1934-1936 Fort Knox, Kentucky 1936-1939 Assistant to QMG, Washington, D.C. 1940-1943 CQM, Ogden and Salt Lake City 1943 San Francisco District 1944 Price Adjustment Section, Corps of Engineers 1946 Retired from Army 1953-1957 Utah State Legislature 8 October 1977 Died in Salt Lake City

Content Description +/-

The Elmer G. Thomas papers consist of two linear feet of material, mostly correspondence, from 1914 to 1953. The papers for the most part are as filed by Thomas, though some rearranging has been necessary to reestablish strict chronological order, and some important papers relating to specific subjects have been grouped together to facilitate research.

All of the Thomas family correspondence has been kept together in Box 1, filed as Thomas himself had it. Researchers may want to refer to the genealogical chart for identification of individual family members. That box also contains a folder of material relating to Thomas's military record and biography.

Some of the material in Box 4 deserves special comment. Thomas was evidently a student of the American Civil War, and one of his lectures in Folder 1 deals at length with the Peninsular Campaign. While serving as Assistant to the Quartermaster General in Washington, D.C. in 1938, Thomas was given the responsibility of arranging the 75th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Gettysburg at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. An entire file on that event has been allowed to remain intact. As a devoted and active member of the Mormon Church, Thomas had frequent opportunity to work in the church's behalf and to stay in touch with various church officials. All of the correspondence and records of his church activity has been placed in Folder 4. Records of some of Thomas's construction projects are to be found in Folder 6, and other references are scattered throughout his correspondence in previous boxes. Researchers interested in specific military installations should consult this folder, then the chronology chart as a key to the years in which correspondence relating to that specific project will be found.

Collection Use +/-

Restrictions on Access:

Restrictions on Access

Administrative Information +/-



Thomas, Elmer Gwyn, 1880-1977.




Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008


5 boxes (2.5 linear ft.)

Language of the Finding Aid:

Finding aid written in Englishin Latin script

EAD Creation Date:


Related Material:

Elmer Gwyn Thomas autobiography, Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah