This was built upon what is now the public park, by Fred Burt, in 1868, and the following year was burned to the ground. Mr. Burt immediately rebuilt it, and operated it until 1874, when it was purchased by W. O. Thomas. Up to this time the machinery was of a very inferior quality, and he immediately put in new and improved kinds. The building was 32x80 feet on the ground. Mr. Thomas continued to run this until March, 1885, when, to make room for the improvements in the park, he removed to its present location, near the gasworks. The building was in two parts: one 32x48 feet in size, built of wood, and one 32x32 feet, of brick. The latter is used as the engine room, and is 16 feet high. This is said to be the only mill of the kind in the county, and the only one between Galesburg and Quincy.
William O. Thomas, proprietor of the planing mill, at Macomb, was born in Urbana, Champaign county, Ohio, October 26, 1828, and is a son of Ross and Elizabeth (Gray) Thomas, the former of Welsh, and the latter of English origin. Both died in Ohio, where William lived until 1855. He was brought up on a farm, and at the age of 16 years, began learning the carpenter’s trade, which he followed in that state until the above date, when he came to McDonough county. After coming here he continued to follow his trade, building many of the principal buildings in the city of Macomb. In 1875 he went to Knoxville, and there built the Swedish college and a public school building. He is still engaged in contracting and building. He is a first-class workman, and a thoroughly honest and reliable contractor. Mr. Thomas was married in Ohio, August 10, 1851, to Elizabeth Doak, a native of Ohio. They have six children – John A., who is now living in Chicago, Illinois; Arabella, wife of B. F. Frank, of Chicago; William B., living in Kansas; Eva, who is engaged in teaching music in Chicago; Beryl and Charles, at home with their parents.