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Thomas Truebody Thomason 1774-1829

Thomas Truebody Thomason
Born: 1774 Plymouth, Devon
Died: 1829 Mauritius
Thomas Thomason
Esther Eleanor (surname unknown) 1754-1835
Elizabeth Jane Fawcett 1775-1826
Dorothy Dickenson 1775-
Esther Thomason 1798-1880
James Thomason 1804-1853
Elizabeth Harrington Thomason 1811-1894
Frances Mary Thomason 1816-1842

Thomas Truebody Thomason was born on 7 June 1774 at Plymouth in Devon, the son of Thomas and Esther Eleanor Thomason. Her maiden surname is unknown (1).

He was educated at Greenwich and Magdalen College in Cambridge where he came under the influence of the evangelical Charles Simeon (2). Thomason graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1796, transferred to Queens' College in 1797 and was elected a Fellow there in that year. He graduated Master of Arts in 1799. He was ordained deacon in 1796 and served as curate to Simeon at Holy Trinity church in Cambridge (3). He also served at Shelford near Cambridge.

During his last year in college he was "offered the care of the mission church at Calcutta, which he resolved to accept; but some events in his family obliged him to decline the appointment". When he finished his college course in 1797 he became a private tutor at Baldock in Hertfordshire to earn money so that he could be ordained. He married in 1799. In 1805 he "determined to seek an opportunity of going to the heathen; but upon advising with Mr. Simeon and a friend who had the chief direction of the appointment of missionaries to India, they judged it proper, probably on account of the unwillingness of his wife, that he should give up his design." In 1808 Thomason was appointed a chaplain to the East India Company in Bengal, nominated by Simeon. On 4 March in that year he wrote to his mother that "The same person (Mrs. Thomason) who was once decidedly adverse, so as not to hear of it without tears, is now happy in the thought of it". They sailed for India with their two eldest children, a journey of five months and were shipwrecked on the way (3a).

He served his chaplaincy at the Mission Church in Calcutta. He was a founder of the Calcutta Bible Society and became involved in the work of the Church Missionary Society despite opposition by his bishop. Thomason set up the first Church Missionary Society schools in Bengal. He also founded a Schoolbook Society and a female orphan society for the illegitimate children of Europeans (4). He was a gifted linguist, and translated the Old Testament into Hindustani (5).

By 1825 the health of his wife had seriously declined, and they left Calcutta for England in 1826. Elizabeth Jane Thomason died during the voyage and was buried at sea (6). On arrival in England Thomas Truebody Thomason took charge of Holy Trinity church in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. All his children were with him, his son having also returned ill from India. While in England he remarried. He and his wife returned to Calcutta in 1828. However he became so ill that he was obliged to make a voyage to try to recover his strength. With his wife he took a nine-week passage to Mauritius which had recently been captured from the French during the Napoleonic War, landing on 7 June 1829. He died there on 21 June 1829 (7).

Thomas Truebody Thomason had married Elizabeth Jane Fawcett on 21 January 1799 at Scaleby in Cumberland. Her family lived at Scaleby Castle.

They had the following children:

Esther Thomason. She was born at Shelford in 1798, and was married to Major William George Stephen 1792-1823 on 26 August 1817 at St John's church in Calcutta. She died on 4 June 1880 at Cheltenham.

James Thomason. He was born on 3 May 1804 at Shelford, and died in 1853.

Elizabeth Harrington Thomason 1811-1894. She was married to George Hutchinson 1793-1852.

Frances Mary Thomason. She was born on 1 February 1816 (8), and was married to Sir Robert Montgomery 1809-1887. She died in 1842.

Their mother died in 1826, and on 21 April 1828 their father married Dorothy Dickenson at St Michael's church in Liverpool.


(1) The maiden surname of his mother is unknown, but may have been Tate.
(2) The Life of the Reverend T.T. Thomason M.A. J. Sargent (1833). This is an account of his spiritual life, and contains little genealogical information. Thomas Truebody Thomason was evidently a very charismatic person, driven by religious fervour, bravely enduring physical hardships, and inspiring admiration and devotion to his cause among those sharing his beliefs. To a reader outside that circle, however, he might appear quixotic and impulsive. He would not have been an easy man to live with, and perhaps would not have wished to be otherwise.
(3) Alumni Cantabrigienses Part II 1752-1900 volume VI (1954) page 157.
(3a) The Life of Thomas T. Thomason, Missionary in Calcutta: Compiled for the American Sunday-School Union, and Revised by the Committee of Publication (1833) pages 18, 21, 29, 33 and 38 to 49.
(4) Dictionary of Evangelical Biography edited by D.Lewis (1995).
(5) Memorials of Cambridge by C.H. Cooper (1861) volume 2 page 178.
(6) James Thomason by Sir Richard Temple (1893) page 48.
(7) The Life of Thomas T. Thomason, Missionary in Calcutta: Compiled for the American Sunday-School Union, and Revised by the Committee of Publication (1833) pages 117,128, 131 and 134 to 135.
(8) East India Register and Directory : Birth Announcements taken from East India Register 1818: Families in British India Society Database