Biography of William E. Thompson

WILLIAM E. THOMPSON. Since the pioneer days of Madison County this section of Indiana has known and has been influenced by four generations of the Thompson family, and representatives of three generations are now living and are active workers in the business enterprises of Anderson, The four generations of the family have alike been distinguished for exceptional business talent, enterprise and large public spirit, and as individuals they have contributed many important services to the life and activities of the County. William E. Thompson & Son are prominent in Anderson as contractors and builders, and many of the fine business structures and other works are credited to their industry and skill.

William E. Thompson, the head of the firm of William E. Thompson & Son, of Anderson, was born in Madison County, in the village known as Prosperity, five miles north of Anderson, March 19, 1858. His father, James A. Thompson, was born October 12, 1834, at Milton, Wayne County, Indiana. The grandfather was the Rev. William A. I Thompson, one of the remarkable characters in the early history of Indiana, His regular occupation was farming, but for many years he was devoted to the ministry of the Baptist church, one of the old-time preachers who performed his work without salary, ministering for the good of the souls and the welfare of his community.

An interesting sketch of Rev. William A. Thompson, the pioneer minister, is found in a work previously published of the history of Madison County, and for its intrinsic value it is reproduced almost verbatim in this sketch, “William A. Thompson was born in the state of Virginia, October 12, 1803, He was married on September 26, 1819, to Mary E. Berger; by which union a family of thirteen children were born, eight sons and five daughters, of whom eleven grew to be men and women and eight were living in 1874, He removed from the state of Virginia to Henry County, Indiana, in the spring .of 1832, and lived there until the spring of 1839, He then moved to Madison County, which continued to be his home until 1866, He then went to Sullivan County, on the western border of Indiana, and spent his final years in that vicinity, His early trade was that of shoemaking, but when he came to Madison County he abandoned that vocation and chose farming as his occupation, a vocation more congenial to him and one in which he prospered, In 1828 he joined the Methodist Episcopal church, and continued a member until 1830, He then allied himself with the old- school Baptist denomination. On the first Saturday in August, 1830, he preached his first sermon, and continued to preach without intermission until the end of his life, He seldom passed a Saturday or Sunday without delivering a religious discourse, He was always remarkable for his good health and fine physical constitution, and, above all, for his good temper, During his long life he was scarcely ever known to be angry, especially with any member of his family, He stood five feet, eight inches high, was heavy set and had a full, ruddy complexion, blue eyes, black hair, He was a very fluent speaker, and his eloquence was forceful and impressive, as well as fluent, In politics he was a Democrat. His wife died on May 3, 1864, and he later married Mrs. Sarah Richards, widow of John Richards, who had been a Baptist minister in Grant County, Indiana, Rev. Thompson was elected a member of the Indiana legislature in 1856, and in that capacity served one term with great honor to himself and the people, He was one of the committee who voted against the state paying the Wabash & Erie canal bonds, In 1863 he was elected a County commissioner for Madison County, and during his one term in that office was mainly instrumental in having Madison County issue bonds to pay bounties to the soldiers who had volunteered for the cause of the Union.”

James A. Thompson, the father of William E., was reared in Madison County from the age of five years, and has had a successful career as a contractor and builder. He has contributed a brief and somewhat original sketch of himself, which is here reproduced: “I came to Madison County in the spring of 1839, and have lived in the County ever since (written in 1913). Was married February 12, 1858, in this County, I am a house carpenter and have worked at the trade for fifty-three years, I joined the Masonic order November 22, 1860, and have been an active worker ever since, The night has never been too hot, too wet or cold for me to attend a Masonic Lodge, and in late years when the family have prevailed on me to remain at home and not expose myself to the cold and disagreeable weather, I have always answered them that ‘No man ever suffered by attending the Masonic Lodge,’ I am a Thirty-second degree member at Indianapolis. I belong to no church but attend the service of all denominations,-James A. Thompson,” He married Miss Tabitha Mustard, a first cousin of Daniel Mustard, a banker of Anderson. She was born in Madison County, August 30, 1838, and her father, Enos Mustard, was formerly from Ohio.

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William E. Thompson, a son of James A. Thompson and wife, acquired his early education in the public schools at Anderson, and after leaving the high school he went to Ottawa, Illinois, where he was employed as a clerk in the retail shoe store of Phipps & Company. He was subsequently put in charge of a shoe store at Streator, Illinois, and from there went to Chicago, where he spent a little more than a year as a clerk in a shoe store, With that experience he returned to Anderson and followed the same line of work for four years, At the end of that time he went to work at the carpenter trade under his father’s supervision, and worked with him in the contracting and building business for two years, at the end of which time he took up contracting on his own account, He was later again engaged with his father for three years, and then joined P. B. Millspaugh in the firm of Thompson & Millspaugh, the partnership continuing for three years, During that time the firm built some of the large residences, school houses and churches in Anderson, They erected the city library building here and at Hartford City and Carthage, Indiana, After the dissolution of the above firm William E. Thompson continued alone until 1913, at which time his son was taken into partnership, and the firm is now known as William E. Thompson & Son, During the busy season Mr. Thompson employs quite a force of men, and his services have been utilized in much of the building construction not only in the city and County but elsewhere in the state, His strict rules of business are well known, and he is a contractor whose undertakings are carried out with most scrupulous pains and with the utmost reliability, both as to workmanship and as to time.

On the 18th of January, 1881, Mr. Thompson was married to Miss Mary C. Laffan, of Chicago. She died in 1890, leaving the following children: Rome H., Fred E. and Joe F. For his second wife Mr. Thompson married Mrs. Ida Beall McDowell, of Marion, a member of one of the old families of Grant County. Her father, George W. Beall is a well known citizen, Mr. Thompson is prominent in Masonry, having taken all the degrees in the York Rite, and his affiliations are with Mt, Moriah Lodge, No, 77, A. F. & A. M.; Anderson Chapter, No. 52, R. A. M.; Anderson Commandery, No, 32, K. T.; and Murat Temple, N. M. S., at Indianapolis. He also has affiliations with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks in Lodge No, 209 at Anderson, The Thompson home in Anderson is at 120 West Seventh street.



Forkner, John. History of Madison County, Indiana: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people and its principal interests. Chicago: The Lewis publishing company, 1914.

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