Thomson #360

Samuel Thomson (1691-1753)

Born in Scotland.  Arrived in Virginia in 1727 and

Molly McDonald?

Born in Scotland.

Thomson #360

Many familes who descend from Samuel Thomson (1691-1753) use the “Thompson” spelling, and in the colonial records, spelling is not consistent, even for members of the same family.  I have decided to use the more unusual “Thomson” spelling since it seems to be the version favored by Samuel and the generations immediately following.

The following information regarding the ancestry of the immigrant, Samuel Thomson, is found in History of Fayette County, Kentucky, with an outline sketch of the BlueGrass Region by Robert Peter, MD; edited by William Henry Perrin, 1882:

“The Thomson family trace their descent from Samuel Thomson, who was born in 
Avondale, Scotland on 5 May 1613.  He had three sons and two daughters: John, William, Samuel, Jane and Annie.  William was born 5 Apr 1635 and he
married and had three children: Samuel, John and Jane, the former of whom 
was born 7 Nov 1667.  This son Samuel also married and had two children: Samuel
 and William.  The former [our immigrant ancestor Samuel Thomson] was born 13 Dec 1691.  In the spring of
 1717 he emigrated to Virginia from Scotland (by way of Wales).  He belonged to a sect called
 Anabaptists[1], and emigrated on account of persecution.  In 1726, he married 
Mary McDonal[d?][2], a Scotch woman, who bore him a son, William Thomson, on 13 Aug 1727,
in Spottsylvania, Virginia, and [William] married a lady named Rodes, and by her had twelve 
children: Annie, Rodes, Mary, William, Clifton, Asa, John, Eunice,
Elizabeth, Lydia, David and Sarah.”

Additional information was obtained from a volume of family history apparently prepared in the 1920s entitled Biography of General David Thomson by Laura J. Yeater (no publisher or publication date indicated).

To my knowledge, no one has found documented proof beyond Samuel Thomson
 (1691-1753).  The Peter book also may have gotten a few details wrong, including the name of Willam Thomson’s mother, which has not been definitely established (see note below).  These history books can be a wealth of knowledge, but they are also prone to
 errors, usually submitted by family members, which may include family
 legends (which may change from generation to generation) or facts, and further research is required to learn more of our immigrant ancestor’s family history in Scotland.

William Thomson (1727-1778) is known to have served as a Captain of a Virginia state regiment in the War for Independence, although a Sons of the American Revolution application[3] states, apparently incorrectly, that he lived until 1781.

Gen. David Thomson, 1775-1861

Gen. David Thomson, 1775-1861

David Thomson (1775-1861) is the youngest son of William Thomson.  The following is adapted from an article in Centennial History of Missouri (The Center State): One Hundred Years in the Union by Walter Barlow Stevens (published 1921, multiple volumes):

“General David Thomson, one of the pioneers of Missouri and one of the founders of Georgetown, which place he named in honor of his old home in Kentucky, was born 21 Aug 1775, in Richmond, Louisa County, Virginia.  The ancestral line is traced back to William Thomson, gentleman, of Blair Manor, Ayreshire, Scotland.  His son, Samuel Thomson, by reason of his religious faith, being an Anabaptist, was obliged to leave the Presbyterian district in which he lived and went to Wales in 1715.  Two years later he crossed the Atlantic to Virginia and became a merchant of Richmond.  In 1726 he married Molly McDonald, a member of Clan MacDonald of Glencoe, Balmawhaple, Scotland.  Their son, William Thomson, probably an only child, was born in 1727 and in 1752 married Anne Rodes, also of Scotch parentage, who was born in 1734.  They had a family of twelve children, of whom David Thomson was the eleventh.  A younger daughter, Sarah, lived but three months, and the father, William Thomson, died about two weeks after the birth of this child.   He was a man of liberal education, living in the stirring times that preceded the Revolutionary war and was a contemporary of three great Virginians: George Washington, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.  David Thomson, being but three years of age at the time of his father’s death, was reared by his mother  In 1789 she migrated to Scott County, Kentucky, remaining a resident of that state until her death in 1802.  The record concerning General David Thomson is largely compiled from entries in his diary, which is still in possession of his great grandson and namesake, David Thomson, of Pettis County [Missouri].  According to this diary he served as a volunteer under General Scott in an Indian campaign in 1793 when eighteen years of age and in 1797 made a trip to New Orleans, probably with a cargo of freight shipped on flatboats.  For several years he devoted his time to general farming and also acquired during that period considerable experience in the operation and management of mills, so necessary in the development of pioneer localities.  In the fall of 1805 he marketed a drove of five hundred and fifteen hogs in Richmond, Virginia, driving them over the mountains, and later he took a drove of horses to Norfolk, Virginia.  With part of the proceeds of his sales he purchased negroes in Hampton.  Only live stock could be taken to the markets across the mountains, and all produce had to be shipped by way of the rivers to New Orleans.  It was therefore a natural consequence that David Thomson became a supporter of the Whig party when that party advocated the establishment of highways and other public internal improvements, which would enable the farmers of the Midwest to compete with those east of the Alleghanies.  Being the youngest son David Thomson resided upon the plantation of his mother who passed away in 1802, the year after the marriage of David Thomson to Elizabeth “Betsey” Suggett, also of Scott County, Kentucky.  She was born 14 Jun 1782, a daughter of John Suggett and Mildred Davis.  Her father was born in 1749 and died 12 Dec 1834, and his wife was born in 1756 and died 11 Jul 1834, both being buried in Scott County [Kentucky].  John Suggett served in the Revolutionary war.  It was in 1807 that David Thomson made his first land purchase in partnership with his brother-in-law, William Suggett, securing 160 acres of land on North Elkhorn, Scott County, Kentucky.  Their land was particularly desirable as a mill site and the following summer they built a paper mill, being quick to see the cultural needs of their rapidly developing community and the growing demand for books and newspapers.  A few years later this paper mill was sold and in Jan 1812, Mr. Thomson purchased 200 acres of land from another brother-in-law, John Suggett, and immediately began the improvement of the place by planting an orchard of five hundred trees.  In 1817 he removed his family to a tract of land comprising 120 acres on North Elkhorn for which he paid eleven thousand dollars, a goodly sum of money for that day.  On this land stood a paper mill and a merchant or gristmill. Industrial, executive and speculative activities rather than general farming appealed to David Thomson.  His biography, compiled under the direction of his granddaughter, contains the following quote:

His family lived in a manner proportionate to his means. Before moving to this place he built a new brick house. Up to this time be must have lived in the more primitive log houses that marked the pioneer communities. Two years later he built a much more pretentious house for his family and turned over the old one to his negroes. The contract for the new house called for brick work by one man, woodwork by another and plastering by a third, showing that skilled labor was employed and a degree of elegance insured in the family residence. This was his home so long as he lived in Kentucky.

Gen. David Thomson always had a large number of slaves, owning during his life thirty-three male negroes and twenty-nine female negroes.  He regarded them as a part of his family, to whom he was responsible for their care, well-being and support.  Aside from the management of his farming and milling interests, in 1817 David Thomson became one of a group of men associated in financing the Kentucky Insurance Company, one of the early day stock companies, which served the financial interests of the community, much as the banks do today.  General Thomson was also prominent in the military affairs of Kentucky.  In addition to serving under General Scott, he was elected captain of a militia company 1 Mar 1800, and on 17 Feb 1807, he was commissioned major and later colonel of the Twelfth Regiment.   During the War of 1812, he was in the campaign with the sharpshooters of the west, which was extended into Canada. His diary briefly describes the Battle of the Thames as follows:

On the 20th of May 1813, started on a campaign in a mounted regiment commanded by Richard M. Johnson and on the 5th of October we fought the British and Indians on the bank of the River Thames in Canada[4], near the Moravian towns, where I commanded the second battalion. The engagement lasted one hour and forty minutes when the enemy, who were three to one in number, were completely routed and between five and six hundred of the British taken prisoners with a large quantity of stores, etc.

This print from the Library of Congress is a speculative depiction of Tecumseh’s death at the Battle of the Thames. Tecumseh rose to prominence fighting against American westward expansion after the Revolutionary War. Born in 1768 at a Shawnee Indian village, probably near the modern city of Xenia, Ohio, he fought passionately for an Indian confederacy, but his efforts were unsuccessful.

This print from the Library of Congress is a speculative depiction of Tecumseh’s death at the Battle of the Thames. Tecumseh rose to prominence fighting against American westward expansion after the Revolutionary War. Born in 1768 at a Shawnee Indian village, probably near the modern city of Xenia, Ohio, he fought passionately for an Indian confederacy, but his efforts were unsuccessful.

Robert E. [B.?] McAfee, an eyewitness of the engagement, gives a detailed account of this battle in his History of Kentucky[5].  From this it appears that Major Thomson was the commanding officer who led the charge against the Indians after Colonel Richard Mentor Johnson[6], his superior officer, had been wounded and removed from the field[7]. There was fierce hand-to-hand fighting in the swamps where the American troops were obliged to dismount.  Here Tecumseh[8] was killed[9] and the Indians routed.  While there is no positive evidence to prove the statement there is a family tradition that Major David Thomson killed the Indian Chief Tecumseh[10].  At any rate, he led the charge against the Indians, who stubbornly held their ground after the British had fled or surrendered.  David Thomson was spirited in action and fearless in command. To these qualities he owed his military promotion to Brigadier General on 21 Jan 1814 and received command of the Sixth Brigade of the militia.  On 31 Jan of the same year he was made commander of the Third Division of the Kentucky militia with the title of General.  He continued in this command more than six years, when he resigned.

David Thomson was also prominent in political life during the period of his residence in Kentucky.  In August 1811, he was elected to fill out an unexpired term in the state senate and was twice reelected by large majorities, serving in all from 1811 until 1820.  He was again a candidate in 1828 but was defeated.  In 1820 he was appointed assistant marshal of Kentucky for taking the census of the United States, and in 1824 he was principal sheriff of Scott County, which was the last public office he held, his time thereafter being largely devoted to business investments.

Pettis County, Missouri map

In 1824 he and his brother-in-law, Asa Smith, secured a government contract for furnishing supplies to federal troops stationed at Fort Smith, Arkansas, to which point General Thomson took the second consignment in the fall of that year. From that time on David Thomson became a large investor in land.  In 1825 he went to Vandalia, Illinois, where he purchased 78 quarter sections of land in partnership with his son Manlius.  He also made investments in Ohio and in 1830 again visited Illinois, where he made other large purchases of acreage property.  At the same time he was using advantageous opportunities for acquiring property in Kentucky.  He made his first visit to Missouri in the fall of 1825 but at that time regarded investment in Illinois land more attractive than in Missouri.  He again came to Missouri in October 1831 with his son-in-law, Lewis Redd Major, and each purchased 600 acres in Saline County.  In the spring of 1833, they again visited Missouri and entered land in Pettis County.  In the fall of the same year David Thomson, with his two sons-in-law, Lewis Redd Major and George R. Smith and their respective families, removed from Scott County, Kentucky, to Pettis County, Missouri.  Before leaving Kentucky, David Thomson made arrangements by which slave families might be left intact, this making it necessary sometimes to buy and sometimes to sell.  On 6 October 1833, they left their old home, and on 13 Nov 1833 reached their destination.  Pettis county was organized in the same year and in 1835 David Thomson was largely instrumental in making Georgetown the county seat.  He also named the new county seat in honor of Georgetown, the county seat of Scott County, Kentucky. His biographer has said[11]:

Although advanced in years General Thomson entered cheerily into developing his lands in Missouri. In 1840 he built a handsome brick house for his family near Elm Spring, three and one-half miles northwest of Georgetown, in which he lived for twenty years.  He planted orchards as he had done in Kentucky.  In 1844 pecan trees were planted in the corners of the fence on the west side of the orchard.  These pecan trees are standing there today.  He built a sawmill and a gristmill on Big Muddy.  His last entry in his diary is in late October 1860, when he whitewashed the roof of his house to protect it from falling sparks and from the weather.

In 1840, David Thomson received of the General Land Office, a certificate (#14087) of the Register of the Land Office at Fayette, the East half of the North East quarter of Section eleven in Township forty six of Range twenty two in the District of Lands subject to sale at Fayette Missouri Containing eighty acres.  It was signed by Martin Van Buren, Jr. on the tenth day of January in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty.

The Gen. David Thomson House (1840) – listed on the National Register of Historic Places

The house that David Thomson built in Hughsville, Pettis County, Missouri is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The following link will take you to the nomination form, dated 7 Jan 1982, which contains much background on both Gen. David Thomson and the home, including interior and exterior photos.  It is located at GPS coordinates N 38° 46.856 W 093° 16.388.  A brief excerpt follows:

“The General David Thomson House is significant for its age and the quality of its architecture, for the fact that a diary entry detailing the building of the house survives, and for the fact that the house was built and lived in by General David Thomson, a figure prominent in the pioneer histories of both Missouri and Kentucky.

“Elm Spring (as the Thomson house was called) was the second significant mansion erected by General Thomson; Longview, his first house, was built around 1819 in Scott Co., Ky. and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Both are five bay brick I houses, but the Kentucky house with its graceful two story pedimented portico, and perhaps added later, and entrance doors on both stories of the central bay appears to be much more stylish than its somewhat traditional Missouri counterpart built twenty-one years later. This fact alone demonstrates the persistence of Upland South building traditions (in this instance, the I House) manifested over time and space. Indeed, one of the aspects that makes this such an interesting ante bellum Missouri house is its conservative “federal” quality appearing at such a late date (1840) west of the Boonslick region, which was Missouri’s earliest interior settlement. In this trans-Boonslick section of the state, it is one of the earliest surviving houses, and dates from the period of initial occupation of Pettis County.”

David Thomson’s Kentucky house, Longview, is located about 4 miles west of Georgetown off US 460, and was added to the National Historic Register in 1973 (#73000839 – known as Richard M. Johnson-David Thomson House).

This marl marks the location of "Longview" (GPS: +38.21960, -84.65115)

This map marks the location of “Longview” (GPS: +38.21960, -84.65115)

In 1857 David Thomson lost his wife, who passed away on 11 April of that year.  His own death occurred in October 1861, when he was eighty-six years of age, his last years having been saddened by the loss of his life companion and by the national distress of the great Civil war.  His remains were laid by the side of his wife in the family burying ground a few yards south of his residence at Elm Spring, Georgetown, and in Nov 1915, the chapter of the “United States Daughters of 1812” changed its name to that of the “General David Thomson Chapter” in his honor, for he was one of only two ancestors represented in the membership of the chapter who lived and died in this vicinity.

David Thomson and Betsey Suggett were the parents of ten children: (1) Manlius Valerius (see below); (2) Mildred Elvira was born in Scott County, Kentucky on 14 Apr 1804, was married about 1820, near Georgetown, Kentucky, to Lewis Redd Major and died in Pettis County, Missouri on 11 Sep 1873; (3) Melita Ann became the wife of General George R. Smith; (4) Martha Vienna, born 23 Jan 1809, in Scott County, Kentucky, became the wife of Cave Kirtley; (5) Mentor, born 9 Mar 1811 in Scott County, Kentucky, was married 25 Oct 1833 to Cora Virginia Wooldridge and died at Sedalia, Missouri on 31 Oct 1892; (6) Milton T. was born in Scott County, Kentucky on 25 Mar 1813, came with his parents to Missouri in 1833, was married in September 1837 to Amelia Ann Scroggin and died in Pettis County, Missouri on 12 Aug 1885; (7) Morton Thomson, born in Scott County, Kentucky on 27 Jan 1816, was married 15 Dec 1839 in Pettis County, Missouri to Sarah Ann Powell and died 18 Nov 1871; (8) Monroe, born in Scott County, Kentucky on 18 May 1818, was married to Charlotte Lester, of Pettis County, Missouri and died at Ritzville, Washington on 1 Dec 1899; (9) Marion Wallace Thomson, born 26 July 1821 in Scott County, Kentucky, became the wife of Thomas Allen Gunnell in Pettis County, Missouri on 4 May 1847 and died in Buena Vista, Colorado on 13 March 1896; (10) Melcena Elizabeth was born in Scott County, Kentucky on 25 May 1824, became the wife of Robert Rush Spedden on 13 Dec 1842 in Pettis County, Missouri, and died in San Jose, California in June 1900.

Manlius Valerius Thomson grave marker, on the campus of Georgetown College in Kentucky

David’s eldest son, Manlius Valerius Thomson (my 3rd g-grand uncle), was a man of distinction in his own right.  He was born 13 Aug 1802, in Scott County, Kentucky, married Mary Ann Thomson at Georgetown and there passed away 22 Jul 1850.  He was president of Georgetown College in Kentucky and was also lieutenant governor of the state.  A few additional facts regarding Manlius Valerius were gleaned from the Encyclopedia of the history of Missouri: A Compendium of History and Biography for Ready Reference edited by Howard Louis Conard (published 1901): He was educated at Transylvania University[12] in Lexington, Kentucky, where he graduated with first honors. After his graduation from college he studied law, was admitted to the bar and opened a law office at Georgetown, Kentucky. His ripe scholarship and executive ability caused him to be made president of the Baptist College at Georgetown, and he held that position for a number of years. He took much interest in politics, and for many years was in close touch with the great leaders of the Whig party in Kentucky, including Henry Clay.  A letter written him by Clay 29 Aug 1849, concerning the Mississippi debt, advised him to go to London to look after this matter, and closed with these words:

I authorize you to make any reference to my name in support of your views which may be calculated to secure their success.  This is due to the high opinion I entertain of your honor, probity and established character.  I am, your friend and obedient servant, Henry Clay. 

Zachary Taylor at the Battle of Buena Vista

In 1840 Manlius was elected Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, with Governor Letcher, and filled that office until the close of his term of four years. At the outbreak of the war with Mexico he was commissioned colonel of the Third Regiment of Kentucky Volunteers and served in that capacity until the close of the war, participating in the battle of Buena Vista and other engagements which preceded the fall of the City of Mexico.  While campaigning in that country his health became seriously impaired and he died shortly after his return to the United States.  He was buried in the college campus at Georgetown, where a monument, suitably inscribed, has been erected to his memory.  The inscription on the east side of the monument is as follows: Col. Manlius Valerius, son of Gen. David  Thomson: Born in Scott county, Kentucky , August 13, 1802. Died in Georgetown, Ky., July 21, 1850.  On the north side of the monument is the inscription: A graduate of Transylvania University; a lawyer of distinguished ability; elected on two occasions a Presidential Elector and voted as such for Henry Clay and President Taylor; elected Lieutenant-Governor in 1840 by an unprecedented majority ; colonel of the Third Regiment of Kentucky Volunteers in the war with Mexico.  The west side of the monument bears this inscription: In peace and in war, in public and in private life, he was eminent for those virtues that give grace and honor to whatever station he was called to fill. Beloved in all the domestic relations, acting well his part in life, he died in the meridian of his days. The State mourned the loss of one of the most distinguished of her native sons, and society sorrowed over the departure of one of its brighest ornaments.

Elizabeth "Betsey" (Suggett) Thomson, 1782-1857

Elizabeth “Betsey” (Suggett) Thomson, 1782-1857

In the biographical record of David Thomson mention is made of his wife as follows[13]:

Betsey Suggett was in every way quite worthy of her husband.  She came of good Kentucky stock.  Her brothers were successful men in professional and in business life.  She had the ambitions of the women of her day.  Her house was famous for its comforts and its cleanliness.  Her servants were well trained. Her children in manners and morals were most creditable.  She was a very religious woman and impressed this religious attitude upon her children, all of whom, with one exception, were professing Christians[14]. The ten children of this family all grew to manhood and to womanhood.  Some reflected great honor on their parents; not one of them disgraced the name. Up to within ten days of her death, at the age of seventy-five, she was in charge of her house.  While the Thomson home was simple in its appointments, it had all the comforts of that day and was open in generous hospitality to friends and strangers.

The character of David Thomson is perhaps best told by a former biographer, who said:

“David Thomson was never a confessed believer in the Christian faith or doctrine.  He was always an earnest member of the Masonic order.  A number of Masonic poems and a letter of Benjamin Franklin copied into his diary well express his humanitarian interpretation of religion.  He had firm convictions in regard to an overruling providence and the immortality of the soul.  In some verses addressed to Betsey, his wife, he plainly shows his belief in a reunion hereafter.  His attitude toward religion was always respectful.  He was never a profane man.  He always said grace at his table.  It was his custom to attend church with his wife, and in his later years he spent much time in Bible reading.  He was always courteous, always considerate of the feelings of others.  His reproofs were always gentle.  He was a very humane man.  Strangely enough there is nothing among his papers to betray the political views of a man who for ten years was officially engaged in the political activities of his state. He was a contemporary of Henry Clay[15], of Andrew Jackson and of Thomas H. Benton.  He certainly knew Henry Clay personally and was naturally interested in the issues that made Jackson and Benton, men of the new west, leaders in our national political life.  But he makes no mention of them in his diary, nor is there any allusion to them in his selections.  The political poems in his diary hark back to an earlier day.  There are a number in honor of Washington and some written at the time of La Fayette’s visit to this country in 1824.  There is one about Bunker Hill and one about Commodore Perry.  His heroes are rather military than political.  The quality of sacrifice that was called out by war appealed to him.  He was a reader of the current literature of the day and had a large library for those times.  The parlor (as it was called then) of his home at Elm Spring in Pettis County had the south wall on either side of the fireplace well lined with books.  His interest in paper mills was to him a vital as well as a commercial interest.  He keenly appreciated the advantages of education.  His children were all well schooled.  Manlius, his oldest son, was a college president in Kentucky.  His other sons were all sent to college.  Milton and Morton were both early day teachers in Pettis County.  His daughters were sent to the best girls’ schools of the day.  As a public official in Kentucky he made some study of the problem of public education and heartily endorsed the educational movement, which was then beginning to interest the new western states.  Education in his own family was of the traditionally aristocratic type so prevalent in the south, where tutors or teachers were privately employed.  The manner of living, the social customs, the habits of thinking in the Thomson family were all distinctly southern.  As we view General Thomson’s long life of eighty-six years through the perspective of a century and a half[16] and more we can appreciate this high type of man that has passed away.  He was one of the modest empire builders who rapidly developed our middle west from Indian haunted prairies to cultivated farmlands and town centers.  In the history of two states of Kentucky and Missouri, David Thomson was a gentleman pioneer, a planter and a promoter, a man of business and of public affairs.  In the social life of any community where he made his home, he was respected and beloved.  In his family he was peculiarly sympathetic.  Through four generations, he lent himself in turn to the needs of a widowed mother, to the plans and enterprises of his own generation, to the hopes and welfare of his sons and sons-in-law, and in his old age his home was a delightful retreat for the grandchildren, even for the great-grandchildren.  That particular type of life has passed from among us.  Men and women of the Thomson blood are today living in various parts of the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific, some in our island possessions in the Orient.  The memory of General David Thomson may well be a proud memory for these many scattered descendants.  His was a life of able efforts and of generous impulses.  His old age was crowned with love, respect and honor.  His memory is dear to all who knew him well.”

Marion Wallace Thomson (1821-1896)

Marion Wallace Thomson (1821-1896)

With the marriage of David’s daughter Marion Wallace Thomson and Thomas Allen Gunnell, the Thomson lineage merges with the lineage of William Gunnell (1676-1742), and this lineage is continued under his own heading, as he was an immigrant to Virginia and is the first in his line.


[1] Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, and their direct descendants, particularly the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites and Mennonites.  Anabaptists rejected conventional Christian practices such as wearing wedding rings, taking oaths, and participating in civil government. They adhered to a literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount and believer’s baptism.  The name “Anabaptist” is derived from the Latin term indicating “one who baptizes over again”, in reference to practicing adult baptism, because, as a new faith, they baptized converts who already had been baptized (as infants) in the older Christian churches.  Anabaptists required that candidates be able to make their own confessions of faith and so refused baptism to infants. As a result, Anabaptists were heavily persecuted during the 16th century and into the  17th century, both by other Protestants and Roman Catholics.  It is unusual for a Scottish Protestant to be referred to as an “Anabaptist”, as these sects are generally associated with The Netherlands, Germany or Switzerland.  The term may not be historically accurate as applied to Samuel Thomson in this context, although it is reasonable to suppose that he was persecuted in Europe for his religious views.

[2] This information is in conflict with information obtained from other reliable sources, which name various other wives: Ester Davidson, Temperance Yancey and Hannah Glass.  Which of these he was married to and when, and which may be the mother of our ancestor William, is a matter for further research.

[3] SAR #35935 (Application of Lester Gardner accepted 4 Nov 1921, Empire State Society)

[4] Refer to Appendix VI for background information on the Battle of the Thames.

[5] I was unable to locate a book by this title.  The correct reference may be History of the Late War in the Western Country by Robert B. McAfee, manuscript of 1816 was not transcribed and published until 1919 by C. S. Van Tassei.

[6] Johnson was the 1st cousin of Thomson’s wife, and is my 1st cousin 6x removed. After the war, Johnson was elected Senator from Kentucky and Vice President of the United States under the administration of Martin Van Buren. Refer to the article under “Notable Kin” for details of his life.

[7] This was part of the family history recounted by Thomas Allen Gunnell in his memoir Twilight to Twilight, which was written in 1902-03.  David Thomson was the father-in-law of Thomas Allen Gunnell.

[8] Tecumseh (Shooting Star), was a Shawnee warrior, born March 1768, on the Mad River near present-day Springfield, Ohio.  He took part in Indian Wars of the late 1700s, against the encroaching white settlers. He participated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794), and later refused to sign the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. With his brother The Prophet, he traveled among tribes of the region to encourage the establishment of a single Indian confederation. In 1808, he and his brother established Prophet’s Town, where they encouraged their people to return to traditional ways, to cultivate the land and to avoid liquor. During the War of 1812, he was commissioned a brigadier general by the British, and he was killed in Canada during the Battle of the Thames, 5 October 1813.

[9] In Kentucky there was some honor attached to the distinction of having killed Tecumseh.  The New Internal Encyclopedia (1917 Edition) says there is a tradition that Colonel Johnson killed the Indian Chief Tecumseh. Similarly there is a tradition in the Thomson family that David Thomson killed Tecumseh. Richard M. Johnson, Congressman from Kentucky in 1812, raised a mounted regiment for service in Canada. He was the colonel of this regiment and in command of it in the Canadian campaign. According to the statement of Robert E. McAfee, above quoted, “Colonel Johnson in charge of the second battalion, was assigned by General Harrison to attack the Indians. Colonel Johnson headed the right column, Major Thomson headed the left column. Colonel Johnson’s advance guard were nearly all cut down by the first fire from the Indians and he himself was severely wounded. Colonel Johnson ordered his column to dismount and come up in line before the enemy as the ground which they occupied was unfavorable to operating on horseback. The line was promptly formed on foot and a fierce conflict was then maintained for seven or eight minutes with considerable execution on both sides. The Indians not having sufficient fire arms to sustain very long a fire so close and warm and terribly destructive soon gave and fled through the brush into the swamps, after they had learned of the defeat of their British allies and the loss of their Chief Tecumseh.” On the withdrawal of Colonel Johnson from the field the command of the regiment fell to Major David Thomson. The chances are in favor of David Thomson’s killing Tecumseh. In the first place, he commanded one-half the troops and had an even chance at the Indian chief. In the second place, a man seriously wounded in the first fire, forced to dismount and come to fierce hand to hand fighting and later to withdraw from the field, had small chance to bring down the Indian leader. Later Richard M. Johnson held various offices in the national government. He was Congressman again, also Senator, and from 1837 to 1841 was Vice-President of the United States with Van Buren as President. In political campaigns his reputation as an Indian fighter was carried over the country in this refrain to some doggerel verses: “Rumsey! Dumsey!  Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh!”  David Thomson is reported to have said that while he killed Tecumseh himself, since prestige as an Indian figher was political capital for Colonel Johnson, a friend, a neighbor and a relative by marriage, he had no desire to contest Johnson’s claim.  The death of Tecumseh is examined in great depth in the book, Tecumseh’s Last Stand by John Sugden (University of  Oklahoma Press, 1985), where an entire chapter is devoted to the subject.  The question is, was it in the best interest of those giving testimony to credit Johnson for taking Tecumseh’s life? It seems as if this claim would have, and did, greatly enhanced his political career. Sugden, despite his exhaustive study, could not come to the conclusion that Johnson truly was the person who killed Tecumseh.

[10] There is another account of the death of Tecumseh in A History of Kentucky by William B. Allen (Louisville, Kentucky: Bradley & Gilbert, publishers, 1872), p. 324-325. In this account, Allen mentions the opinion of Ironsides (a General in the British Army and half-brother of Tecumseh) that taking all the circumstances into consideration, it was most likely that a random shot killed Tecumseh. Allen continues, “the foregoing statement in regard to the killing of Tecumseh accords more fully with the views of the author than any other of the numerous accounts he has seen. Forty-two years ago, the author, being a member of the Legislature of Kentucky, and a boarder with Colonel James Davidson, then Treasurer of Kentucky, and who had commanded a company from Garrard County in the battle of the Thames, in the regiment of Colonel Richard Johnson, had frequent conversations with Colonel Davidson in regard to the killing of Tecumseh, who made in substance the following statement: He said it was frequently claimed in after years by the friends of Colonel Johnson, that the renowned chief was killed by him (Johnson), but that Johnson himself knew that he did not kill him, and never claimed the honor. Colonel Davidson believed that a soldier in his company by the name of John King killed the Indian who, after the battle, was pointed out and recognized as Tecumseh. King, then a young man, about eighteen years of age, was a constant attendant of Colonel W. Whitley on his scouts. Whitley was then about sixty-five years of age, and being old, and having rendered essential services in the early settlement of Kentucky, was not restrained at all in his movements with the army, but was allowed pretty much to take his own course. He seemed to have a presentiment that he would be killed in the anticipated battle, and so expressed himself to one of his companions in arms. When the battle was over, Colonel Davidson went with King to the place Whitley had fallen, and pointed to a dead Indian not distinguished by his dress from the other Indians, but who was afterward recognized as Tecumseh. King said that the Indian had killed Colonel Whitley, and that he had shot the Indian. “Our guns,” said he, “cracked together. I saw the Indian aiming at Whitley, and Whitley saw it also, and was about to shoot, but the Indian was too quick for him, and he fell without discharging his gun, the load remaining in it.” The Indian was found to be shot in the left breast with two rifle balls, and Whitley’s habit, as generally known, was to load his gun with two balls. This fact induced many to believe that Whitley had killed Tecumseh, or else that he was killed with his gun. King, being the constant associate of Whitley, had doubtless learned to load his gun with two bullets also, and the Indian killed, we are inclined to believe, was the Indian who bore so striking a resemblance to Tecumseh, and not Tecumseh himself. The foregoing statement corresponds with a statement lately made by A. K. M. McDowell, upon the authority of Mr. W. L. Floyd, a soldier of the War of 1812, still living, and who was a mess-mate with John King in Captain Davidson’s company.”

[11] I have not been able to locate this reference.

American pioneer Daniel Boone established the Wilderness Road going through the Cumberland Gap into central "Kentuckee", where he founded Boonesborough, the designated capital of the Transylvania colony.  The colony officially ceased to exist after the Virginia General Assembly invalidated the Transylvania Company's purchase in 1776.

American pioneer Daniel Boone established the Wilderness Road going through the Cumberland Gap into central “Kentuckee”, where he founded Boonesborough, the designated capital of the Transylvania colony. The colony officially ceased to exist after the Virginia General Assembly invalidated the Transylvania Company’s purchase in 1776.

[12] Everyone knows about the 13 colonies, but few know that there was an unofficial 14th.  Dubbed Transylvania (over 100 years before Bram Stoker made that name scary), the land was made up of modern-day western and southeastern Kentucky and northern Tennessee.  Purchased from Cherokee Indians by the Transylvania Company, the hope was that the British would recognize the land and allow the Transylvania Company’s owner, Richard Henderson, to rule it as an autonomous territory, like William Penn and Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately for them, the plan unraveled when it was discovered that the purchase was illegal under British law and that the lands had already been claimed by Virginia and North Carolina.  For less than a year, the land existed as an extralegal colony.  Shortly before the formation of the U.S., Virginia declared the Transylvania Purchase void and officially re-claimed the lands.

Haupt Humanities Building and front lawn on the Lexington, Kentucky, campus of Transylvania University, founded 1780

Haupt Humanities Building and front lawn on the Lexington, Kentucky, campus of Transylvania University, founded 1780

Transylvania University is a private university in Lexington, Kentucky.  It was founded in 1780, making it the first university in Kentucky and among the oldest in the United States.  It is related to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), offers 36 major programs, as well as dual-degree engineering programs, and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (as of 2014).  Transylvania’s name, meaning “across the woods” in Latin, stems from the university’s founding in the heavily forested region of western Virginia known as the Transylvania colony, which became most of Kentucky in 1792.  Transylvania has educated two U.S. vice presidents, two U.S. Supreme Court justices, fifty U.S. senators, 101 U.S. representatives, 36 U.S. governors, and 34 U.S. ambassadors, making it a large producer of U.S. statesmen.

[13] I have not been able to locate this reference.

[14] We do not know which was not a “professing Christian”.

[15] My family’s relationship to Henry Clay is distant by marriage.  He is a nephew of the husband of my 5th g-grand aunt.

[16] At the time Walter Barlow Stevens published his Centennial History of Missouri in 1921.


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