Home Digital Collections Special Collections and Archives Finding Aids

Ira W. Thomas Papers

Finding Aid & Inventory

A collection of diaries, notes, and other memorabilia related to the life and work of Ira W. Thomas, a 20th century preacher in North Carolina. His diaries depict his work beginning in 1872 until his death in 1922. The collection includes sermons, notes, and accounting records from this same period. The collection also includes newspaper clippings mentioning Smith's work as well as articles announcing his death.

Biographical and Historical Note

Ira W. Thomas was a Baptist minister in northwestern North Carolina. Born in Hiddenite in Alexander County, N.C., Thomas was educated at Wake Forest College. After graduating in 1872, he began his ministerial career and his first diary. He married Julia Garvey in 1874, and with her raised nine children, all of whom survived to adulthood.

Thomas had a long career in Baptist churches and associations in western North Carolina. Beginning in 1872, he served as an itinerant minister and teacher for Sulphur Springs (Hiddenite) and other Baptist churches in Alexander and Iredell Counties. He eventually settled in Caldwell County and served as pastor of Lower Creek Baptist Church in Lenoir, N.C.; First Baptist Church of Lenoir, N.C.; and First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock, N.C., which he helped found. Thomas also served as itinerant pastor for many other Baptist churches in Caldwell County, including King's Creek, North Catawba, Fleming's Chapel, Blair's Fork, Second Baptist of Lenoir, First Baptist of Whitnel, Pisgah, and Drexel. In addition to his pastorates, Thomas served terms as Superintendent of Public Instruction for Caldwell County, and was moderator of the Caldwell County Baptist Association. His obituary in the Granite Falls News described him as "one of the best men who ever lived in the county. He was a big-hearted, broad-minded person and was a friend to all. His work has been of the very highest character and he is well know and loved throughout the entire county, as well as the State."

Collection Overview

The Ira W. Thomas papers (1872-1922) provide a glimpse into the daily life of a rural Baptist minister at the turn of the 19th century.In his diaries,Thomas describes baptisms, weddings, deathbeds, camp meetings, and Sunday Schools, and the effects of World War I on his community. He also describes the farming by which he and his family made a living, and his friendships and associations with other Baptist leaders and families. His sermons provide echoes of these same themes, referencing World War I in a discussion of peacemaking, and even providing a stance on one of the period's more controversial issues: prohibition. Additionally, the letters saved by Thomas from various Baptist conventions provide insight into the church hierarchy of that period. The collections features materials ranging from Thomas' early years as a minister up until his death in 1922. The majority of this collection consists of text in the form of diaries, sermon notes, and newspaper clippings.

Organized into four series. Series 1: Diaries; Series 2: Religious Materials, with subseries Sermon Notes, Sermons/ Lectures, Eulogies, and Letters; Series 3: Printed Materials; Series 4: Records. Arranged chronologically. When no date, arranged alphabetically.

Collection Inventory

  • Diaries
  • Religious Materials
    • Sermon Notes
      • 1881-1882 box 3 folder 1
      • 1883-1885 box 3 folder 2
      • 1887 box 3 folder 3
      • 1889 box 3 folder 4
      • 1894 box 3 folder 5
      • 1898 box 3 folder 6
      • 1908-1911 box 3 folder 7
      • Sermon Theme Book with Preacher's Register (1890-1914) box 3 folder 8
      • Sermon Notes in favor of Prohibition (ca. 1908) box 3 folder 9
    • Sermons/Lectures
      • Sermon on Sanctification with Amendment to J.E. Powell's Will (1899) box 3 folder 10
      • Sermons on Giving (some 1903) box 3 folder 11
      • "History of Lenoir Baptist Church" (ca. 1908) box 3 folder 12
      • Sermon on Paul's Vision (ca. 1917-1921) box 3 folder 13
      • "An Address to Young People" (1919) box 3 folder 14
      • Lecture to Young People on Character and Manners (ca.1922) box 3 folder 15
      • Sermon on Attending Church box 3 folder 16
      • Sermons on Baptism (Undated) box 3 folder 17
      • Sermon on Christ's Death and Resurrection box 3 folder 18
      • Sermon on "Christ's Present Work for his People" box 3 folder 19
      • Sermons on Faith box 3 folder 20
      • Sermon on John the Baptist box 4 folder 1
      • Sermon on Luke 14:16-22, The Young Ruler box 4 folder 2
      • Sermons on Obedience box 4 folder 3
      • Sermon on the Resurrection of the Dead box 4 folder 4
      • Sermons on Sin box 4 folder 5
      • Sermons on Suffering box 4 folder 6
      • Sermon on "Terms of Discipleship and its Blessed Reward" box 4 folder 7
      • Miscellaneous Sermons box 4 folder 8
    • Eulogies
      • Eulogy for Joseph Boyle Clarke (1910) box 4 folder 9
      • Eulogy for Samuel Madison McCall (1911) box 4 folder 10
      • "Christ's Eulogy for a Good Woman" box 4 folder 11
    • Letters
      • Letter from Robert Johnson (1891) box 4 folder 12
      • Letter from E.L. Middleton, Sunday School Committee, Board of Missions, Baptist State Convention with Sermon Notes (1915) box 4 folder 13
      • Letter from E.L. Middleton, Sunday School Committee, Board of Missions, Baptist State Convention (1918) box 4 folder 14
      • Letter from E.L. Middleton, Sunday School Committee, Board of Missions, Baptist State Convention with Undated Sermon on Reconciliation (1919) box 4 folder 15
      • Letter from L.B.Warren, Home Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention with Undated Sermon to Young People (1919) box 4 folder 16
      • Letter from J.F. Love, Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention with Notes (1920) box 4 folder 17
      • Letter from American Baptist Publication Society to Caldwell County Baptist Association endorsing Thomas (undated) box 4 folder 18
      • Correspondence regarding 75 Million Campaign (1919-1920) box 4 folder 29
  • Printed Materials
    • Religious Pamphlets box 4 folder 19
    • "Mrs. Thomas Dies Suddenly at Home," Lenoir News-Topic (1919) box 4 folder 20
    • "Rev. I.W. Thomas is Claimed by Death," Granite Falls News box 4 folder 21
    • "Rev. I.W. Thomas is Claimed by Death," Lenior News-Topic box 4 folder 22
    • Newspaper Clippings saved by Thomas box 4 folder 23
  • Records
    • Accounts (1883-1885) box 4 folder 24
    • Accounts (1913) box 4 folder 25
    • Minutes for State Normal School, Boone, NC (1885-1887) box 4 folder 26
    • Record of Formation of a Baptist Church, Blowing Rock, NC (1903) box 4 folder 27
    • "Contributions" (1916) box 4 folder 28
    • Lenoir Baptist Church history (circa 1910s) box 4 folder 30

Summary Information

Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives
Ira W. Thomas Papers
Date [inclusive]
1.68 Linear Feet  4 legal letter boxes

Administrative Information

Publication Information
Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives
Revision Description
 Revised by Stephanie Bennett March 2016
Conditions Governing Access note
This collection is open for use. 
Copyright Notice
The nature of the WFU Z.Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Archives and Special Collections of ZSR Library claims only physical ownership of most materials. The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to the U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. 
Preferred Citation
Ira W. Thomas Papers, MS 660, Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA. 

For digitized materials, please see our Ira W. Thomas Collection.

‹ Staff view ›