Proposed Removal to Britain—Death Intervenes
Influenced by the comparative success of his tour through Great Britain, and finding the general atmosphere of that country more congenial than that of the United States, where everything seemed to be subordinated to ensuring the recovery of the country after the ravages of war, Dr. Thomas decided to settle in Great Britain with his wife and daughter. A house was secured in the neighbourhood of Birmingham, and on May 4th, 1870, the Doctor and his daughter embarked on the S.S. Idaho in order that he might wind up his affairs in America before removing to Britain.
While the necessary arrangements were being made the Doctor undertook a tour to various places in America, calling first at Baltimore, where he gave some addresses, and then moving on to Washington. The situation there was not encouraging, for he records that where there had been a church, it had sprung up “like Jonah’s gourd in a very short time” and had perished quickly. There were then only about a dozen members.
From Washington a journey of over 350 miles brought him to Richmond. There a strange practice had arisen. At the meeting for the Breaking of Bread each member approached the table on which the bread and wine had been placed, and helped himself to the emblems. The practice had originated from a desire that no one should be responsible if any who were unworthy of partaking the emblems should be handed them by a member of the meeting. A similar practice appears to have been adopted at two or three other meetings in the States.
From Richmond the journey was continued to King William County and then to Philadelphia. Of the latter he said: “The singing is better than in any ecclesia except Birmingham.” He arrived home after a tour lasting five weeks. In the autumn of the same year, while on another tour intended to include several places in the States and Canada, he only got as far as Worcester, Mass.; there he was seized with a severe attack of peritonitis, an intensified form of the trouble he had experienced while in Britain. In the circumstances the tour had to be abandoned, and he returned home.
There he continued to write occasional articles for The Christadelphian, though the illness proved to be the precursor of the end, which came on March 5th, 1871. The course of his illness may be gathered from some extracts from his daughter’s letter conveying the news of his death to believers in Britain: “His illness lasted eight days; days of excruciating agony, night and day. During the first day and night he walked the floor incessantly, being unable from excessive pain to lie down or sit down. The attack was similar to the one he had at Worcester last fall only more aggravated . . . We sent for a doctor, but he gave us no hope unless a very unexpected change took place. Soon afterwards, the fever rising rapidly, father became speechless . . . Drowsiness came over him, consciousness gradually diminished, and he sank into a state of coma . . . All we could do then was to watch and wait and weep, while we looked on the heartrending struggle between life and death. Most heroically father struggled with the grim monster, only yielding inch by inch as the silent subtle foe made a sure conquest . . . At last at half-an-hour past midnight he quietly sank to rest, without a struggle at the last, just as quietly as a child. Oh, how peaceful and calm was that venerable countenance in the embrace of death! Even a shade of his former smile seemed to gleam through the cloud of sorrow which death had left on his countenance. He looked as though he might have said, ‘I am satisfied with the result!’ Father was in the midst of writing an article for The Christadelphian when he was taken sick. I enclose it with this.”
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