Originally from Baton Rouge, J. W .Thomas moved to Natchitoches in the early 1900s to educate black youths.
In 1912, he opened the Lincoln Institute where he served as teacher and administrator. By 1925, a seven-room school house was dedicated as the Natchitoches Parish Training School. His home remained occupied until 2009.
The Mary and J. W. Thomas House is in need of repair to stabilize and update the traditional cottage.