LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA
ORIGINAL RECORDS - LETTERS
JAMES PHILEMON "JIMMIE" THOMPSON
ROBERT H. "BOB" THOMPSON
Contributed 7 Aug 2006
by Chris Hanlin
James P. Thompson Letters
James Philemon “Jimmie” Thompson was born in Lauderdale County, Alabama on 5 January 1864, the son of John Andrew Thompson and Mary Jane (Gresham) Thompson. At age seven, Jimmie began attending school at the Mars Hill Academy, a school founded (with the assistance of his father) by his uncle T. B. Larimore (husband of his aunt Esther Gresham).
James P. Thompson became an early partner in the dry goods store “Thompson and Ott” in Hartselle, along with his brother Robert and their uncle John Christian Ott (husband of their aunt Belle Gresham). But James left the firm and moved to Texas sometime prior to October of 1888, where he worked as a painter in Bonham and Dallas.
Jimmie married Sallie Henry, daughter of Dr. Ausburn Henry, probably in the spring or summer of 1890, and by fall of 1890 the couple was living in Bonham, Texas. They had one child, whom they named "Florence Bell" after Jimmie's sister, who had died a few months earlier; but the new baby died in infancy. They returned to Alabama in August of 1891. But Jimmie fell sick and he died 26 October 1891 “at the home of his aunt, Mrs. Lettie Gresham, at Mars Hill,” and was buried in the Mars Hill Cemetery. Jimmie had been married, according to his obituary, for only a little over a year. He was twenty-seven.
1. Letter from James P. Thompson to his brother Robert H. Thompson, then living in Hartselle, Alabama. Some background: by this time the firm of Thompson and Ott was in serious financial trouble. “Mandus” is Jim’s future brother-in-law, Amandus Henry. Jim’s brother Miller Thompson had recently opened a livery stable in Florence, in partnership with C.D. Smith. “The old Dr.” is, I think, Dr. Ausburn Henry, Jim’s future father-in-law. “Gusta” is Robert’s wife Erin Augusta (Owen) Thompson, and “Avery” is their son. “Uncle L–” is T. B. Larimore, Jim’s uncle by marriage. “Bill and Viney” are Gusta’s parents, William and Lavina Owen. “Romie” is Jim’s sister Romelia (Thompson) Jones.
July 21, 1889
Your most welcome letter of the 16th to hand a few days ago and was read with great interest.
You are holding on with a terrible grip indeed. I expected to hear that you had been closed out long ago. I wish they would give you a chance - maybe you could pay out in spite of all your bad luck. I guess you must be a blamed sight more honest than I am, for I'll tell you right now that when I saw the crash was inevitable I would "feather my own nest" as much as I could out of it, and all the old stock lacked of paying it out might go to thunder for me, I would never throw "good money after bad" by trying to pay off old debts, even if they were honest ones, - but if they would let me run on I would then try to pay off everything of course.
But that is your own business and I suppose you do not need any of my advice. I am only sorry that I ever had anything to do with the old business at all, as I am sorry to crawfish out of it and leave you the bag to hold, and I am powerless to help you in any way, - and I know you credit me with part of the financial ruin in which the firm is involved, - I mean with being partly the cause of the disaster.
I to hope Miller will be more successful than we have been, and I think that if he is ever successful at anything it will be the Livery business as he is so fond of horses.
Mandus wrote me the first of last week about Miller’s new venture. Miller wrote me that he and Jim White were thinking of going into the Grocery business this fall, - but I think he will do better where he is, - although Jim would be a verry good man to go in with, as he has had considerable experience in that line.
Well I have plenty of work whenever it gets ready, but that will be a good while yet I suppose and so at the present time I am just loafing, and have been for some time. I have not worked any to amount to anything for three weeks, and am afraid I will spend all the money I have saved before I get to work again. I think I can make some money out of those jobs when I get to work on them and expect I will come back to “God’s country” as soon as I get through with them. I am almost sorry I took them at all as I believe I could have gone to Dallas or Dennison and done better than I can here. I am not at all afraid that Cloud will get to be boss – for I will give him verry plainly to understand that I occupy that position from the start. Yes, he has a considerable sprinkling of the old Dr. in that respect, - but otherwise he is not worth his room in the “hot country.” I just know he is the sorriest excuse for a man I ever saw, - he does not try to get work but just looks around home, and complains of the “blues,” hard times, and hot weather and “cusses” Texas, and wishes he had the “where with” to get back to Ala. on, - but I do not know what he would do if he was back there as he is to infernally lazy to work and he would not have “Papa” there to “sponge” on. I went over to Greenville last Sat. and stayed until Tuesday morning, - I don’t go often but I make it up by staying when I do go, - I had a verry pleasant time, but “Papa” looks mighty sour at me when I go so when I go again I think I shall put up at an hotel and will not go there to stay. I do not think I will go again while Cloud is there as he is a confounded nuisance, - he thinks evidently, that my visits there are to him as he bores me continualy while there.
Glad to hear that Bud Wilhite’s injuries were not so bad as at fisrt reported.
I am sorry to hear of Bill Calloway’s sickness. Hope he will be all right again soon. Health through this country is verry good I believe. At least I do not hear of much sickness. Crops are verry good indeed here I believe. We have been having a terriable lot of rain this year, but have had about ten days now of dry weather so that the farmers are getting pretty well up with their crops. I saw some of the [gassy est?] cotton along the road the other day when I went to Greenville I have seen in a long time. It looked about like Ott’s crop did the year he worked the “Moore field.” Corn crops along the road looked verry fine indeed and so did the cotton where it was clean. I went driving last Monday and all the crops I saw looked verry well. Wheat and oats are turning out splendidly every where they have threshed them, (so the pickers say).
I am verry sorry to hear that Gusta and poor little Avery are having such poor health, - but glad your health is improving. I have as good health as I could ask I suppose.
Bob Henry is on the puny list now. He has been grunting around for two or three days but I do not think there is much the matter with him.
I would very much like to be there to your meeting, and to help Bro. Ott lead in the singing, - you know I am a daisy on leading in singing. I would like also to be at Mars Hill to Uncle L– meeting there, but I guess it will be a long time before I have the pleasure of hearing him preach again. I guess we will not have a “big meeting” here this summer as we had one in the spring about the time I came here, and I have not heard any thing said of another one for this summer. The camp meetings will commence around in the country soon I suppose if it does not rain to much and I think I will take in some of them.
Glad to hear that Bill & Viney are getting along O.K. Tell Bill he must not snuff his nose and “swap hosses” to much.
What do you intend going at when they close you out. I suppose you have been looking around for something. I am verry much obliged to you for taking care of my things. I do not care whether you send the chair to Romie at all or not, as I had just as soon, or rather that you had it as her. The old Dr. spoke to me about buying that Winchester, but I believe he said he had written to you about it. He wanted to buy it from me, but I told him I did not have anything to do with it.
“Out of spit” so will close. Give my love to all the folks, and write soon. Tell “Shebellda” to write.
Lovingly your Bro.
J. P. Thompson
2. Letter from James P. Thompson to his brother Robert Henry Thompson.
October 1, 1889
Your verry welcome letter of the 26th to hand yesterday, and was read with great interest. I had begun to think that you was so much interested in the great and growing city and things there that you had forgotten such as “varmint” as me existed, but I am glad you have not entirely forgotten me.
Sorry to hear that you have not found a good position yet, - but I hope you will get one soon. I was in hopes you could find a good place, and one where you could work me in after Xmas, as I think I shall come home pretty soon after Xmas if not before. I am not making such great preparations to “get off” Xmas as I thought I would be doing by now, as I have at last got up courage enough to "ask Papa" and he gave his consent provided we would put it off another year so you see I am doomed to disappointment again. I believe I could persuade her to marry me anyway, but I hate to do it, after Papa's writing such a nice kind letter as he did about it. (You see I wrote him about it, & did not have "gall" enough to tackle him personly). He says he thinks I ought to try to get a little better fixed financially before burdening myself with the care of a family, and also he wishes her to go to school at least one year longer before she marrys. Well he may be right, but I am afraid if I have to wait for her until I better my finances very much, that I will have to wait a very long time, for it is just simply impossiable for me to save money, especially when I have to associate with a reckless gang of painters, whose sole aim and desire seems to be to spend every cent of their weeks wages before twelve oclock Sat. night. Besides that I loaf around at night and every Sun. Evening and spend a sight of money that I would not spend if I had a wife. I am not at all afraid but what I could make as good a living for her as she has ever been used to, but he (the Dr.) does not seem to think so, - so I suppose we will have to postpone it another year, but if he wants us to wait longer than that we will fool him a trip. If she goes off to Ky. to school, as I suppose she will, if she goes at all, I will come home Xmas, as I think I could save more money there than here even if I did not make any more, but if she stays in Texas I will stay too.
I keep at work most of the time, but since the days have become so short I only work nine hours so I only make $2.25 a day. – but I still pay $4.50 per week board.
The place where I am now is a much nicer place than where I was at first, - it is a private house and they have a verry nice crowd of boarders, and the lady of the house and her daughter are both members of the Christian Church as well as two or three of the boarders.
Cloud is up here now and is boarding here now. He followed his old trade, of loafing, last week, but is at work this week. He tries hard enough to get a job, but he seems to be unfortunate some how.
About the only topic of interest here now is the coming fair, - which opens the 15th inst. and continues until the 27th. They are making grand preparations for it and say it is to be the greatest thing of the kind they have ever had yet. ----- Well I had to stop right there and deliver a Phrenological lecture. The lady of the house has a chart, and she brought it in for me to see and explain it for her. She wants me to examine her daughters head, - and as she is a verry pretty girl of about 18, of course you know I will do it. I am almost sorry I ever commenced fooling around with Phrenology, as I have not got money enough to carry it out and learn enough to make a correct examination enough to charge for it, and some body is allways wanting me to examine them. I have a good notion to burn up my books and chart, and never let on that I know anything about it in future.
I am glad to hear that the son has improved in health so much, - hope he will continue to improve until he gets perfectly well and strong. Has he ever got so he could walk yet? – if he has I would have liked verry much to have seen Gusta the first time he walked any. I guess she was prouder of that than she was of his first tooth.
Is Miller still doing as good a buisiness as he was awhile? I guess I can hit him for a job of driving when I come home if I can’t strike any thing else. By the way, do you think I can do any good painting there? – I mean is there much building going on there now, - if there is I will just bet on getting my share. If I have to go to painting when I come home, I am going at it on my own hook, - I am tired of being another man’s slave.
I expect I will go back to Bonham after the fair as they say work always drops off verry much here then, and I am getting a little tired of Dallas any way. There is a contractor here who has the job of painting the lunatic asylum at Terrell and he has about half way promised me a job there, to commence next week. I do hope I can get in with him on that job, as it will last until about Xmas, and is mostly inside work, which will come in mighty fine in cold weather, and as they only pay off once every two weeks maybe I could save more money there.
Well I will close for this time. Love to all. Write soon.
Lovingly your Bro.
J. P. Thompson
1310 Commerce Street
Direct your answer here. If I go to Terrell will make arrangements to have my mail forwarded there.
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