The Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children was incorporated in 1855 as a private institution receiving State aid. The asylum was located within the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Erie County, NY and was charged to receive destitute and orphaned children from all Indian reservations in the State. It was named for Philip E. Thomas, a benefactor of New York’s Native Americans and early financial backer of the asylum.
In 1875 ownership of the asylum was transferred to the State and it was made subject to the supervision and control of the State Board of Charities. As a State institution, its purpose was to furnish resident Native American children with “care, moral training and education, and instruction in husbandry and the arts of civilization.” Boys were trained for industrial work, and girls for domestic tasks.
To reflect its emphasis on education the asylum’s name was changed in 1905 to Thomas Indian School.
Ownership of the asylum later transferred to the state of New York , and its State Board of Charities provided oversight. The state of New York closed the Thomas school in 1957.