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John H. Thompson

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John H. Thompson

Posted: 7 Oct 2002 6:37PM GMT
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Thompson, Howard, Elliott, Blair, Keyser, Shafer, Richards, Jonrd, Estr, Rogers, Lynn, Reedy, Bonafield, Siferd
From Biographical Memoirs of Huntington County, 1901, pages 417-420

Kentucky has contributed to Indiana many prominent families of the class of pioneers who followed Boone into that region and were specially suited to the needs of the new country north of the Ohio river. Many of the men who crossed the river to found new homes for themselves were determined largely by the absence of that curse of any country--slavery.

Bracken county, Kentucky, was filled with a peculiarly rugged class of citizens, their hardihood and perseverance making them well qualified to take up the responsibilities of felling the forests that covered all this region. Probably the state at the south never contributed a family whose members have done more to develop Indiana than has the Thompson family, whose earlier representatives were as hardy and vigorous a race of men as ever crossed the river, and whose numerous representatives of to-day are counted among the most active and progressive men of the county. While the space that can be devoted to a single article precludes an expansive treatment of all the prominent members of this family, several distinct reviews of its various representatives will be found in this volume. In dwelling somewhat upon the life of the man whose name introduces this article, we will also speak at some length of his father, Ebenezer Thompson, and in doing so will carry the reader back two generations further into the family genealogy, directing attention for a moment to another Ebenezer Thompson whose birth is traced to Virginia, where the distinctness of the line becomes obscured, though it is almost certain that the origin of the family in this country dates back to a time considerably anterior to the revolutionary period, and that the family was ably represented on the side of the colonists in the struggle. It is known that his wife, a Virginia lady, was Elizabeth Howard, a name that has been faithfully handed down through the succeeding generations, no less than a half-dozen of the family bearing that designation at the present time. This man was of the adventurous race of men who delighted in the life of the frontier, and who were as necessary to the future settlement and making of a new country as were those who succeeded them in taking up the work they had begun.

Many of this class of brave frontiersmen followed Boone into the country west of the Mississippi, but Ebenezer Thompson had his attention directed northward toward the close of the eighteenth century; he had gone into the Kentucky country when it was well named "the dark and bloody ground," being found there previous to the opening of the nineteenth century, residing there until that section of the state became somewhat settled up, and, feeling himself somewhat crowded, looked about "to find new worlds to conquer." His gaze rested upon the valley of the Salamonie, and in 1839, but six years after the first cabin was built on its banks, he is here found at a time in life when most men are content to let well enough alone and drop into the "sere and yellow leaf." Seeing what he deemed a more promising country in the valley of Little river, he finally settled near where Huntington now stands, making that his permanent home, and where he died, rich in years and experience.

His first wife, Elizabeth Howard, was the mother of three sons: George, John Howard and William, the latter remaining in Kentucky, while the other two came to this county. George was the father of Senator George Howard Thompson, of whom further mention will be made; and John Howard became one of the most prominent men of Salamonie township, and who was the grandfather of the one whose name heads this review. He was born in Bracken county, Kentucky, November 12, 1802, and died at the age of eighty-five. A more detailed record of his life will be found in another relation, our attention being directed at present to his eldest son, Ebenezer, whose mother was Dorcas Elliott, and who was born in Bracken county, Kentucky, June 22, 1824, being sixteen years old upon accompanying his father to Huntington county in the fall of 1840, the journey being made during the most heated political campaign this country has ever known, that of "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too." He was accustomed to the hardest manual labor from his tenderest years, and it seemed no hardship for him to devote his energies to assisting his father in clearing, burning brush, ditching and all the heavy work incident to the opening of a new home in the midst of a heavily timbered country. When still a young man he was married to Miss Permelia Blair, whose parents, George and Jane (Keyser) Blair, had brought her as a child from Ohio about the same time of the coming of his parents. Her father died quite young, and her mother then became the wife of Ezra C. Thompson, who came from another line of the widely distributed Thompson family, and survived until some twenty years since. Permelia was not, however, allowed to remain the companion and comfort of her husband and family for long, as her death occurred September 25, 1849, and her body was the first deposited in what became known as the "Thompson" cemetery, in the eastern part of the township, and many of the name have been laid there since. She was the mother of two children, of whom our subject, who was born January 28, 1846, was one; the other was Mary Jane, who became the wife of Philip Shafer, and died at thirty years of age.

The successor to the lady above mentioned was Mary Richards, who still resides on the old homestead, which is operated by one of her sons. She was the mother of eight children, seven arriving at maturity and six living at the present writing. Ebenezer Thompson began his farming in a small way, having but forty acres of land, but, with the ambition and energy characteristic of the family, he kept adding until his farm contained upward of three hundred acres, highly improved, and became one of the most valuable estates in the community. He was one of those advanced farmers who delight to have his business kept in fine condition, the improvements that he placed upon the farm speaking forcibly of his capacity as a shrewd, sagacious citizen. The original house is still in use, having been incorporated into the present one, his whole business life being passed on the spot where he died, in December, 1896, in his seventy-third year. The "dark messenger" gave no warning, but, as the flash of lightning from a clear sky, laid his hand upon the brow of this old and respected pioneer and called him to the last rest.

All the early years of John H. Thompson were passed on the farm with his father, his personal operations dating from his twenty-second year, when his father gave him a piece of wild land, upon which he began to hew out a farm for himself, taking about one year thereafter, as a helpmate and companion, Miss Emily Shafer, whose brother Philip had married his sister. After five or six years on this first tract he made some change, having, while he continued to cultivate the soil, owned several farms, finally settling on a desirable one in section 21, where he remained until retiring to the village, upward of twenty years since, though he has continued to retain his interests in agriculture. His farm of two hundred and forty acres lies one mile east of Warren, the principal feature of his operations being the keeping and handling of stock. Having taken a keen interest in the political history and progress of the country, his relations have been with the Republican party, and, though never striving for public preferment, was chosen as the trustee of Salamonie township, in which position he served the people most acceptably during a period of four years, and at a time when many of the public improvements were being placed, his own position regarding them being to advance the development of the country as fast as consistent with the financial conditions of the times. Not quite six years after marriage he was deprived of the assistance and co-operation of a valuable helpmeet in the death of his wife, her place being taken, the following year, by Miss Elvira E. Jones, daughter of Silas and Eliza Jones and granddaughter of the original pioneer of the township, Samuel Jones, whose efforts in settling and developing this section of the county far surpassed those of any other man. This lady was a charming companion and valued counselor, and for twenty-one years the course of life seemed to pass in a placid and undisturbed stream, when the summons to join the hosts who have gone before came to her, and she, too, passed from earth on the 13th of December, 1897. The present mistress of the home, to whom he was married December 3, 1899, was Mrs. Lydia E. Ware, the widow of Johnson W. Ware, and the daughter of Harrison and Elizabeth (Rogers) Lynn, who was born in Jefferson township, a short distance west of Warren. Her father was born in Brooke county, West Virginia, came to Franklin county as a boy and to Huntington county in 1845. He has resided in Jefferson township ever since, having cleared and improved quite a farm, and is now passing the evening of life with his daughter. One son, Alvin D., now of Seattle, was the only child by the first marriage; the second resulted in the birth of three, the eldest, Sylvia M., being the wife of W. L. Reedy, and living at Bloomington, Illinois, was graduated at the Warren high school, and is in many respects a bright and promising young woman; Silas E. is a student in the high school; and Beulah M. is the youngest, being a delightful miss of ten. Mrs. Thompson, whose former husband was a well known and successful marble dealer, has two daughters: Flora M. being the wife of Thomas Bonafield, the popular druggist of Warren; and Effie, who married one of the oil operators of Warren,--James A. Siferd. The Thompson home is one of the most pleasant in the town, its hospitality being proverbial. She holds to the Methodist, while he retains relation to the Christian church, and is also a Mason.

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