Thomas A. RHEA Bio

The worthy pioneer and successful business man whose name heads this article, has long been a leading figure in this section, while his capabilities and tireless energy have been fully manifested both in striving for the advancement of the county and in his prosperous enterprises, which have demonstrated his ability to solve intricate financial problems and make himself master of the situation in the many perplexing situations concomitant to a life of activity in business operations.

He is the son of E. W. and Catherine (Milliorn), being born in Greene county, Missouri, whence his parents came to Oregon when he was yet a babe. They crossed the plains and settled in Powells valley until the following spring, 1853, when they removed to the forks of the Willamette river and took up donation claims. Here the subject of this sketch received his education in the public schools. Here also his mother died in 1858. In 1866 they moved near Eugene and two years later Mr. Rhea started out for himself, coming first to this county and hiring out to drive cattle. The following year he went to Nevada, following the same business and returned after one year and purchased twenty-five head of cattle for himself. From this small beginning, all of which was gained by his labor, he has increased until now he is one of the leading stockmen and financial operators in this region. In addition to his own he rented other cattle, continuing in that business until he had over four hundred head. In 1879 he sold his cattle and bought sheep, first starting in with fifteen hundred. In 1884 he took a band of eight thousand head to Montana, selling them there. Since that time he has been buying and selling stock, also giving some attention to banking affairs. He is now vice-president of the First National Bank, of Heppner, having been in that capacity for five years. He owns stock in that bank, also a fine residence in this city and some property in Lexington and land below Cecils, which he took from the government in an early day and stock in some good mining companies. Rhea creek was named after him and his brother and in an early day they were very friendly with the Indians, running horse races with them and were not disturbed by them.

On April 1, 1872, he was married to Henrietta Cecil, daughter of William and Mary Ellen (Robertson) Cecil, who were pioneers to this county in 1863 and settled where Cecil now stands. To this union have been born four children: Ionia, wife of J. P. Friend, of Bridgeport, California; William T., married and living in Culbertson, Montana; Cora M., wife of H. T. Bagley, of Hillsboro, this state; E. Walter, who died in 1892, at the age of thirteen years. Mr. Rhea is affiliated with the K. of P., Doric Lodge, No. 20; the Red Men, Columbia Tribe, No. 10; and the B. P. O. E., Heppner Lodge, No. 358, in all of which he is highly esteemed, having gained the confidence and respect of all of his fellows. (end)

Source: An Illustrated History of Umatilla County by Colonel William Parsons and of Morrow County by W. S. Shiach with a brief outline of the early history of the State of Oregon, W.H. Lever, Publisher, 1902; Morrow County Biographical pages 507-508. transcribed by Laura.