James Thompson, a veteran Union soldier, and long identified with Champaign County as a practical farmer, has known this county through all its stages of progress and transformation for the past sixty-five years.
Mr. Thompson is still a hale and hearty man for all his seventy-five years. He cannot recall all the circumstances of his many birthday anniversaries, but one of these birthdays is lastingly impressed upon his mind. It was his tenth. On that day, sixty-five years ago, the Thompson family arrived in Champaign County and settled in Homer Township. James Thompson was born in Missouri, October 9, 1842, a son of David and Mary A. (Hechney) Thompson. The father was born in Ohio and the mother in Missouri, and in that state they were married. Of their five children James was the oldest.
When the family came to Champaign County in 1852, they located in the new and sparsely settled district of Homer Township, where James attended school and he also had some of the advantages of the public schools of Sidney Township. He had not reached his majority when the great Civil War broke out, and in that time of excitement and strenuous patriotism he determined to do what he could to guard the integrity of the Union. When he was about twenty-two years of age he enlisted in Company I of the Tenth Illinois Cavalry. This was a gallant regiment that did much effective service. He was with the regiment at Little Rock, Arkansas, where the Tenth Illinois Cavalry did a splendid service, foraging, breaking the enemy’s line of communications, reconnoitering, and making extended forays into the enemy’s country. From Little Rock they went to Camden, and then went south into Texas, later to Shreveport, Louisiana, to Mobile, Alabama, were ordered two different times to New Orleans, were sent to Memphis, were taken up and down the river three times and were almost constantly exposed to the hard work and danger of military life as scouts and aids to the infantry in holding strategical points. Mr. Thompson was with this regiment for nearly two years, and was finally mustered out at New Orleans, and returned to Springfield, Illinois, where he received his honorable discharge.
The war over, he resumed the occupations of peace, and on December 13, 1867, married Miss Ann Busey. Mrs. Thompson is a member of one of Champaign County’s most notable families. She was born in Sidney Township, September 8, 1850, a daughter of Fountain J. and Marie L. (Shepard) Busey. Her father was born in Kentucky, and her mother at Darbysville, Ohio. They came to Illinois as young people and were married at Urbana. Mrs. Thompson was one of fifteen children. She received her early education in the district school of Sidney Township.
After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Thompson remained in Sidney Township and rented a farm, and subsequently moved to Urbana Township, where Mr. Busey had given his daughter a farm, on which they lived and laid the foundation of their prosperity for twelve years. Later they went to St. Joseph Township and bought the 160 acres which they still own. This their labors have converted into a splendid farm and country place. They built a commodious home, many other buildings, planted fruit and shade trees, and the entire estate now stands as a monument to their long continued industry.
Mr. and Mrs. Thompson may well take pride in their material achievements, but even more in the splendid family of children who have grown up in their home. They are nine in number, named Fred, Burt, Clint, Daisy, Millie, Winnie, Charles, Burley F. and Guy. These children did not lack for educational opportunities and advantages. They attended the public schools of St. Joseph Township and have had other advantages both at home’ ” and abroad. The son Fred is now a practical farmer in Somer Township and by his marriage to Hattie Corey has three daughters, Ruth, Helen and Carrie. Burt, who lives at Weston, Ohio, retired, married Florence Caily Clint, whose home is in Fort Wayne, Indiana, married Lillian Treese, their five children are Jennie, Dorothy, James, Herbert and Dean Busey. The daughter Daisy is the wife of Burt Tompkins, and their three children are Rhuel, Marie and Leon. Winnie is the wife of Sanford White, of Urbana Township. Charles, a farmer in Stanton Township, married Marie Andre, and has a daughter, Marjorie. Three of the children are still at home assisting in the labors of the farm and the management of the household. They are Burley and Guy and Millie.
In matters of politics Mr. Thompson is staunchly aligned with the Democratic party. He believes that President Wilson is the man of the hour and has faith in his steady hand and calm judgment as the great resource for bringing the country out of its present time of trial and stress. Mr. Thompson filled many of those positions indicative of public esteem and has been school director fifteen years, road commissioner and in other local posts of responsibility. The six sons are all members of the Masonic order and the Knights of Pythias, while Fred is also an Odd Fellow and Woodman. Fred Thompson has served two terms as supervisor of Somer Township. The three daughters are all members of the Eastern Star. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson also have one great-grandchild, June Elizabeth Merchimer, daughter of Ruth Thompson, now Mrs. Ruth Merchimer. Mrs. Merchimer was graduated in music from the University of Illinois.
Mrs. Thompson, as member of one of Champaign County’s oldest families, has some interesting family heirlooms. One is the mirror used by her Grandfather Busey, in Kentucky, when he first went to housekeeping. Her Grandmother Shepard came from Germany, and brought with her three sets of silver spoons, and these have since been distributed among friends and relatives. Mrs. Thompson also has a quilt pieced by her Grandmother Busey, in Kentucky, from linen woven by herself.
On Friday, September 8, 1917, the entire family of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson returned home to celebrate the mother’s birthday, she being then sixty-seven years of age. This was a very great pleasure to both Mr. and Mrs. Thompson.