Title: Liquor retailer, home builder
Birthdate: March 15, 1845
Death Date: March 26, 1906
Plot Location: Section 125, Lot A
In his Last Will and Testament, Thomas directed that $22,000 be used “for the purchase of a desirable burial lot at Mount Moriah Cemetery and for the erection of a suitable monument thereon.” To spend that amount of money, a mausoleum would be the appropriate choice. Since that amount is the equivalent of nearly $750,000 in today’s dollars, one wonders if they could have actually spent all of it, aside from the bronze doors and stained-glass window in the back.
The story of how Thomas made that kind of money is not as clear as how he disposed of it. Information from some distant descendants has surfaced along with a few documented facts, both of which leave some unanswered questions. He was the youngest of either eight or nine children, born just as the great Irish famine began. The family lived in Antrim, Northern Ireland. Sources indicate that only he and his sister Margaret emigrated. Everyone else spent the rest of their lives in their native land.
He found his way to Maine where he married a woman who was either Jane McGeown or Jenny Gilmore. She was a dozen years older and probably had been married before. The next known fact is that he married Nancy Gilmore Johnson in Philadelphia on June 27, 1866. This was six months before he won a certificate of divorce by the state of Maine from his first wife in January of 1867.
Adding to that scenario, descendants have said that Nancy was Jane’s (or Jenny’s) aunt. According to the Will that Thomas left, Nancy had a daughter from a previous marriage, Eliza Jane Johnson, but she was never on any census with Nancy and the Hoys never had any children together. Two census reports say Nancy was eight years older than her husband, but other records confirm she was more than twice that.
Family issues aside, how did Thomas Hoy become so financially secure? The 1880 census lists his occupation as a hotel keeper, but there’s no documentation of that anywhere else. What has been confirmed by the city directories is that he was in the liquor trade from 1868 through 1895. Then, having invested his profits wisely, he bought some property and had homes built. There was at least two references to Thomas Hoy in the newspaper real estate columns similar to the one shown here in 1890.
He even paid tribute to this country’s system of free enterprise when he listed his occupation in the 1900 census as a “Capitalist.” Buying and selling in a free market economy and making wise financial decisions is what enabled the Hoys to live the rest of their lives off their investments. They also moved to the suburbs in 1898. His executors referred to where they lived as “the mansion” on Chester Pike in suburban Sharon Hill (although it’s no longer there), about three miles southwest of Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Unfortunately, they only had a few years to enjoy their home there, since Thomas died of chronic kidney disease in 1906 and Nancy died less than ten years later. The Will allotted $64,000 in cash from the sale of stocks to be given to various relatives. Nancy willed that the remaining properties be sold and the proceeds distributed in the same proportions to the same people.
This early photograph may show how the stately Hoy Mausoleum looked after Nancy’s death. Vandalism took its toll: Once there was a break-in and a skull was stolen in a plastic bucket. The thief was eventually caught and the skull was returned.
The window and doorway had to be bricked up and an attempt to cover the graffiti on the walls left visible scars. This color photo from 2012 shows the encroaching forest was about to swallow the entire hillside before it was cut back.
It was an appalling chapter in the cemetery’s history. Meanwhile, the Hoy name inscribed above the front columns will be less remembered for the liquor he sold or the homes he built and more for the imposing edifice that was left behind.
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