Some Recent History
This family descended from a line of colonial pioneers who landed in
Virginia and moved successively to North Carolina and then westward.
The earliest ancestor with the Thompson name so far
identified in this particular family's direct line was Moses
Thompson, who took a Cherokee woman as his wife in
the early 1800s. Although the wife's name has been lost
to history, she bore Moses four children.
The first child, John M. Thompson, was born in
Fleming County, Kentucky, in 1810. He grew up in that
part of Kentucky some 70 miles (a journey of several
days) southeast of the growing "Queen City of the
West", Cincinnati, Ohio. When John was old enough to
strike out on his own, he married his Fleming County
sweetheart, Sarah (Sally) Pattison. John was 18 and
Sally 17 at the time of the marriage.
John and Sally moved north, crossing the Ohio
River into the young state of Indiana, and eventually
settled in Orange Township, Rush County. They had 10
children (eight of whom survived to adulthood) over a
span of 20 years as a hard-working farm family known
for its generosity to neighbors.
John and Sally's ninth child, William Melvin (Mel)
Thompson (b. 1847) moved to Grant County, Indiana,
after the Civil War and homesteaded some 240 acres
there in Liberty Township southwest of Marion. It was
from Mel and his wife, the former Sarah Whitinger (who
grew up in Rush County as one of the Thompsons' neighbors) that the
northern branch of the clan descended. Mel and Sarah Thompson
raised three children to adulthood – Jimmy (James Estes), Day (Claud
Day) and Sid (Leota Elizabeth).
The Thompson family which sprang from Rush County roots has
gathered for an annual reunion 109 times in an unbroken sequence
beginning when Teddy Roosevelt was president of the 45 United
States. The first get-together of Thompson parents, grandparents,
brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins was held on New Year's
Day, 1902, at the Rush County home of Hester Thompson Ross, the
fourth child of John and Sally Thompson. Sadly, Hester had less than
two months to live after hosting that first reunion. She died in mid-
February, 1902, at the age of 67.
From 1902 through 1916, the reunion was held on a winter
holiday, when farming chores were at a slower pace. In 1917 the
Thompson conclave was switched to an end-of-summer schedule, and
its timing remained fixed on the second Sunday of every September for
Horse-powered transportation was the mode in the early 20th
Century, and it was an arduous journey for the Grant County
Thompsons to make their way south for family visits in the early years.
By the time of World War I, automobiles were easing travel for the well-
to-do and adventurous, but the Grant County Thompsons had no such
fancy and costly contraptions in those years. The annual reunions
remained in Rush County, where most of the Thompson cousins lived,
until 1941. In that year the northern branch of the family finally enjoyed
the get-together without a long road trip as the gathering took place at
the home of Bill and Gladys Thompson in Converse, Indiana, at the
eastern edge of Miami County.
The reunion returned to Rush County for nine years. During the
years of World War II, gasoline rationing curtailed the ability of the
northern branch of the family to visit their Rush County cousins. And
even though the 1951 gathering was at the home of Carl and Carma
Thompson Smith near Sims in southwestern Grant County, it was not
until the 1960s that the Thompsons began to hold their annual
gatherings more and more frequently in Grant, Miami and Wabash
The venue in recent years has been exclusively in this more
northern neighborhood. The last Rush County gathering was in 1978
at the home of Richard and Jalna Kellam. Richard is the great-
grandson of Hester Ross, the hostess of that first Thompson reunion
so long ago.
Eighteen of the last 19 reunions have been held in Wabash
County. Oddly enough, even though the annual reunion has stayed in
Indiana, the only descendants with the Thompson surname from this
bloodline reside in Illinois.
In recent years it has been traditional that the oldest descendant
named Thompson serves as president of the reunion. The current
president is Jerry A. Thompson of Geneva, Illinois.
The 107th annual Thompson Reunion is scheduled for 24 August
2008 in Wabash, Indiana.