JOHN W. THOMPSON
Among the residents of Plumas County, none is more entitled to specific mention in the permanent record of the community than was John W. Thompson, whose death, on March 11, 1905, was deeply regretted throughout the wide range of his acquaintance, for he was not only a man of marked business ability, successful to an unusual degree in his individual affairs, but was public-spirited, neighborly, honorable in all of his relations with his fellowmen and genuine in his friendships. He was numbered among the pioneers of this section of the state and none more than he contributed to the development and upbuilding of the locality in which he lived. Mr. Thompson was born at Bethel, Clermont County, Ohio, on the 1st of July, 1829, and was a son of McKendre and Mary (McLain) Thompson, both of whom died when their son was but two years of age. He was taken to the home of an uncle, Lee Thompson, a merchant to Point Pleasant, Ohio, who reared him to manhood and gave him such educational opportunities as were afforded in the public schools of that locality. In 1850 the young man, lured by the prospect of wealth to be found on the Pacific coast, came to California, by way of the isthmus of Panama and reached San Francisco in March. In the fall of that year he came to Plumas county and, wisely deciding that a steady business was more desirable than the uncertain fortunes of mining, he opened a store and boarding house at Nelson Point. These he conducted with very satisfactory results until 1858, when he sold out to advantage. Prior to this he had bought the twelve hundred acres of land which has always been known as the Illinois ranch and on leaving the store he gave his attention to stockraising on this ranch. A short time later, however, he disposed of his livestock and returned to the east on a visit. On coming back to California he located in Sutter county, where he again became interested in livestock. He was unfortunate, however, for the floods of 1861-2 overtook him and caused him a loss of thirty thousand dollars in stock. He then came to Plumas County and located on the home place, where he engaged in farming and stockraising. He made a specialty of breeding and raising fine trotting horses, one of which he sold for four thousand five hundred dollars at San Francisco. He also became the owner of a sawmill and a grist mill, which he operated very successfully for many years, finally disposing of them a few years prior to this death. He put about five hundred acres of his ranch under cultivation, raising large crops of diversified nature, and the remaining seven hundred acres were mainly in timber, some of which was very valuable. He was a progressive and enterprising man, using the best machinery available in his farming operations and keeping abreast of the times in his ideas and methods with the result that he realized handsomely on his operations.
On September 4, 1862, in Marysville, Mr. Thompson was united in marriage to Mrs. Rhoda (Cunningham) Graham. She was born in Fairfield County, Ohio, a daughter of Francis and Rhoda (Post) Cunningham, both of whom were born in Pennsylvania in 1799. The father, who was born and reared in Washington County, moved to Ohio in 1832 and later became a contractor on the construction of the Scioto Canal in that state. He also owned a flour mill, which he conducted successfully until selling out his interests in Ohio in 1852. Coming then to California, he became interested in mining, but later turned his attention to the milling business, establishing at Marysville the first flour mill in that locality. This was widely known as the Cunningham mill but in 1861 it was completely destroyed by the great flood with devastated this section of the state. This disaster hastened his death, which occurred the following year, his wife having passed away in 1861. Though Mr. Cunningham came to this state in 1852, his wife did not join him here until 1856, at which time she was accompanied by her daughter Rhoda, then the widow of William D. R. Graham, who had died in 1854. By that marriage she became the mother of a son, also named William D. R. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson became the parents of three children, namely: Carrie M., the wife of W. J. Miller of Quincy; Rhoda A., mentioned elsewhere in this work; and John W., a mining engineer who graduated from the University of Nevada and is now in Spain doing expert work on oil flotation in gold mining. He has held important positions with the Silver King and other corporations in Utah and Nevada. Mrs. Thompson passed away in 1913, at the age of seventy-eight years, and in 1920 their daughter Rhoda, who had remained on the ranch, sold the property and moved to Quincy, where she now resides.
In 1854 Plumas county was set off from Butte county and Mr. Thompson was appointed one of the commissioners to perfect the new county organization. In 1854 he was rewarded for his efforts and was given the honor of raising the flag over the newly organized county at Nelson Creek. He was a staunch Democrat but never sought public office of any nature. He was a member of the State Agricultural Association and maintained a warm interest in the county and state affairs, all of which he attended. He was one of the organizers of the District Fair Association and was a director of that organization during its existence. He possessed the qualities which were so essential to success during the early history of this section of the state, and he so impressed his personality on the community in which he lived that his death was regarded as a distinct public loss.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.