James A. Thompson, who during his lifetime was a conspicuous figure in the industrial development of Marshall county and vicinity and for fifteen years numbered among the most substantial citizens of that section, was a native of the Keystone State, born at Chester, November 10, 1833, a son of Andrew and Eliza (Burford) Thompson, both natives of Ireland. The parents immigrated to America in early life and settled in eastern Pennsylvania, where they were married. In 1852 they came west, settling in Grundy county, Illinois. James A. Thompson remained with his parents, working on the farm, until he was married, October 2, 1861, to Miss Sarah Leach, daughter of Henry and Sarah (Bagshaw) Leach, natives of England. The Leach family numbered among the earliest pioneers of Illinois. They came to America from England in 1841 and settled about sixty miles southwest of the present city of Chicago. There was nothing upon the site of that great city of today except Fort Dearborn, which was their nearest trading point, and where the father was compelled to drive with a yoke of oxen for supplies. At that time hostile Indians were so numerous that the settlers did not dare make this hazardous trip except in parties, carrying with them arms for defense. He was the first man to plant, within the borders of what is now the State of Illinois, seed corn of the commercial variety raised today. This was in the nature of an experiment, as it was generally supposed that the plains of the West were unsuited for any cereal but wheat. He was also a pioneer horticulturist in this section, carrying on his experiments with seeds, shrubs and plants sent him from England. He had the advantages of a good education, thorough business training, and became associated with his father, who was an English merchant. Ill health necessitated a change of climate and upon the advice of his physicians he came to America. He devoted some time to literary work, writing articles descriptive of pioneer life for various magazines and newspapers. He died at his Illinois home in 1832.
James A. Thompson engaged in farming in Grundy county, Illinois, after his marriage, and followed this occupation until he engaged in the grain business at Morris, Ill., but later was forced to retire on account of poor health. In 1876 he came to Kansas, locating at Waterville, at that time the terminal of the Central Branch railroad. Mr. Thompson had been in Kansas as early as 1868 and at that time had invested in Marshall county land. He bought his first land at $1.25 per acre, the same land today is worth $125.00 per acre. After locating in Watervilie he engaged in the real estate and loan business. His investments proved profitable, making many loans, which were of material value in assisting in the development of this section of the state. He became one of the extensive land owners of Marshall and Morris counties, leaving at his death a comfortable fortune. He was a public spirited citizen, always ready to support both with time and money any measure which had for its object the advancement and betterment of the community. His standard of life was high, and within the limits of his activities it is probable that he was one of the most useful citizens of his county. His fraternal affiliations were with the Masonic order.
He is survived by his widow and one daughter, the only child born to this union, Miss Olive A. Thompson, who acquired her early education in the public schools of Morris, Ill., later a student in St. Angelus Academy at Morris, and who was graduated from Kansas University a member of the class of 1887 with the degree of Bachelor of Science. She is an accomplished musician and studied under Prof. Frederick Boscovitz, of the Hershey School of Musical Art, conducted by Clarence Eddy, the noted pipe organist. She is also an artist of ability and studied under D. F. Biglow, the noted landscape painter, of Chicago. She is a member of the Eastern Star. Mrs. Thompson is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, an active worker in the cause of Christianity and charity, and is also a member of the Eastern Star. The family have long been prominent in the social circles of their section and the Thompson residence is known for its gracious hospitality.Pages 455-456 from a supplemental volume of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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