COL. JAMES KNOX POLK THOMPSON, 1845-1903
THOMPSON, BELL, CRUSE, SPAULDING, CHASE, WOODWARD, MILLER, MCCLERNAND, LARABEE, JACKSON, DRAKE, VEZY, SMITH, FORBES, PARKER, WOLD
Posted By: Bahnson
Date: 4/24/2002 at 17:54:41
COL. JAMES KNOX POLK THOMPSON.
Colonel Thompson, long a resident of Rock Rapids, but now deceased, was in his lifetime one of the more distinguished citizens of northwestern Iowa. He was a man of character and ability in every walk of life, and whether as a soldier, he well sustained the reputation for dauntless gallantry early won by the Iowa troops in the Civil war, or as a civilian, his personal standing and business efficiency were alike unquestioned. His way he won against great obstacles, and in his career well illustrated the wonderful possibilities in American society, showing how an American makes himself, and may be what he will.
Colonel Thompson was born near Carey, Ohio, August 21, 1845, a son of Matthew Thompson, and a grandson of Isaac and Sarah (Bell) Thompson, both native to the soil of Ireland, being born in Telford, Ireland, where they were married, and where their first son, Thomas Cruse Thompson, was born. The Thompson and Bell families were related to Lord Thomas Cruse, a refugee from Ireland on account of his participation in the Revolution of 1798. He came to the United States, where he soon after died. His mother Martha Spaulding Thompson, was a daughter of the Revolutionary hero, Abel Spaulding and a direct descendant of Aquilla Chase, who settled in Newberry, Massachusetts, in 1620. Thus Colonel Thompson was a blood relation of Bishop Philander Chase, who died in 1852, and also of Salmon P. Chase, who died in 1873, and was for years Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Colonel Thompson was not insensible to the obligations of this notable ancestry, and early made vows of utility and public service which were closely observed. His schooling began in a log cabin in Ohio, whither his father (who was a native of Head Elk, Cecil county, Maryland, where he was born January 8, 1781, and had seen gallant service in the war of 1812) had early brought his family.
The Colonel was accustomed to attribute his excellent practical education to the unceasing care of his mother, who was one of the best teachers of the day, and to whom he attended for several years.
In November, 1857, Matthew Thompson brought his family to Clayton county, Iowa, making a home on what was then the very verge of civilization. Some forty days were spent on the journey by covered wagon from Ohio, a trip that was replete with interesting experiences, and which brought them into close contact with an intensely wide-awake and pushing people. Colonel Thompsonís education proceeded along the usual lines, and in 1869, with S. T. Woodward, of Elkader, as preceptor, he began the study of law. In May, 1873, he was admitted to the bar, and at once opened his office for the practice of his profession in Lyon county, his being the first legal establishment in the county. Here he was actively engaged in practice until 1893, meeting with much success, and proving himself a safe counselor and a very capable practitioner. In 1876, he formed a partnership with his brother, T. C. Thompson, which continued four years. In 1877 he organized the Lyon County Bank under the name or J. K. P. Thompson & Co. This was reorganized two years later as a larger institution, with Hon. William Larrabee and others as special partners, and O. P. Miller as a general partner. Mr. Larrabee retired in 1893, the other special partners having already retired in favor of the general partners, Messrs. Miller and Thompson.
Colonel Thompson was enlisted in the Union army when a boy just past sixteen years of age, August 18, 1962, entering Company D, Twenty-first Iowa Volunteer Infantry, as a musician, and served throughout the war. He participated in many of the fiercest battles of the west, such as the fight at Hartsville, the running of the blockade at Vicksburg, and its subsequent siege and capture, where he was under fire for forty days and nights, where he was severely wounded within a few feet of his commanding officer, General McClernand. He had already been at Grand Gulf, Port Gibson, Champion Hill, and at Black River Bridge. After he recovered his health at the Jefferson Barracks Hospital he rejoined his regiment at Matagorda Bay the following February, in time to take part in the Mobile campaign, the assault on the Spanish Fort, and Fort Blakely, the surrender of Mobile and the capture of Kirby Smith, making altogether a record as a loyal and faithful hearted soldier of the Union, of which his children and friends may well be proud.
As might be expected from such a career, Colonel Thompson was actively interested in the organization and working of the Grand Army of the Republic, becoming a charter member of Dunlap Post, No. 147, Department of Iowa. In 1895 and the year following he served as Commander of the Department of Iowa, and long filled a similar position in the local post, being also on the staff of Commander-in-chief Vezy, and aid to several commanders in the state department. Governor Larrabee made Lieutenant Colonel, a position he retained with Governor Jackson, and in February, 1896, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel by Governor Drake, serving as Colonel under succeeding administrations, till he was retired in November, 1902.
In county affairs the subject of this sketch was long prominent. In 1875 he was elected county recorder, a position he held for one term, though he had been in charge of the office since 1873. At one time he had charge of all the county offices. In Masonry he had attained high standing and was quite as efficient in the ranks of the Knights of Pythias, and the Sons of the American Revolution, holding at different times official positions in these orders. In religious matters he was one of the most prominent members of the Congregational church, in the state of Iowa, and served as a trustee of Iowa College. He did much to establish the Vicksburg National Park, having been chairman of the provisional board of directors from the beginning.
The marriage of Colonel Thompson and Miss Celestia A. Forbes occurred at Elkader, Iowa, November 18, 1869. To this union were born two daughters, and one son: Lily Foster (Mrs. F. B. Parker); Leta (Mrs. A. S. Wold); and Hoyt Forbes, the last two being graduates of the Iowa College.
Colonel Thompson built a handsome edifice at Rock Rapids as a residence for his family. This he filled with curios collected during his travels throughout the United States and Mexico, and especially from the battlefields of the southland, on which long ago he had played a manís part. Here are relics of old Mexico, specimens of Aztec and Indian work, and two bed rooms full of antique mahogany furniture from the south, and many old and valuable books, making a library rich and rare beyond anything in this section of the state.
As the reader will see, Colonel Thompson had much to do with the development of the northwest, and from the earliest moment had taken a conspicuous part in the making of Lyon county. As he accumulated his savings he made from time to time large investments in local real estate, and the results richly justified his faith in the value of the soil. His death occurred on January 15, 1903.
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