The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about James Thompson, who was an early pioneer in Lowell. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.
It’s easy to wonder whatever happened to pioneer families. Some stayed and the names are here today. Some are hidden within maiden names of current residents. Some left, never to be heard from again. Some however, left, and their descendants eventually found their way back home again to Lowell.
This is the story of the James Thompson family.
James Thompson was born in London on September 6, 1806 and made his way to Vergennes Township (which then included Grattan, Lowell and Bowne) by July of 1837. He is counted among the early settlers who included his brother John Thompson, Cyrus Bennett, George Bieber, John Fox, Phillip W. Fox, James Fox, Dr. Silas Fallas, John W. Fallas, Caleb Page, Thompson I. Daniels, George Brown, Rodney Robinson, Lucas Robinson, and Lewis Robinson. These families came as legal squatters, before the land was available for purchase.
In 1841 James Thompson was granted two land patents by President John Tyler for land in section 26 of Vergennes Township. He served his community as Treasurer from 1842-1844.
An incident included in Chapman’s 1881 ‘History of Kent County’ and later published in the Lowell Journal gives a look into the life of the Thompson brothers and all early pioneers. “An incident in the lives of John and James Thompson, who, with their families, settled on the east side of Flat River at an early day, on the land subsequently known as the Pratt farm, is worthy of record. It appears that early in the spring of the year necessity compelled those pioneers to proceed to Gull Prairie, so that they might obtain seed and supplies. They took with them their ox-teams and occupied several days in making the journey. On returning they found that the rivers had burst their ice coverings, and a fierce torrent swept by, where some days before was the ice road. What to do was the serious question of the hour, but stern necessity overcame every obstacle, and the travelers succeeded in reaching home that night. It seems that each of them procured a long pole, to which they tied their sacks of provision, and then proceeded to cross the ice encumbered river. It was a feat which desperate men alone would undertake and careful men accomplish.”
In 1855, James and Mary Thompson moved to Grand Rapids, but they returned to Vergennes Township for their final resting place, Foxes Cemetery. When descendant David Thompson’s first wife Barbara died in 1995 he purchased two graves in the resting place of his ancestors, Foxes Cemetery.
In 1996 descendant David Thompson returned to Vergennes Township, purchased the first lot on a private drive, gaining naming rights, to Thompson Road. Thompson Road is in section 24, very close to the Thompson original family settlement on section 26. David Thompson and his wife Jan built a home on the Flat River with a white pine kitchen fireplace mantle. The mantle originated from the first Thompsons who arrived in Vergennes Township in 1833 and were among the first pioneer settlers. The Thompsons are active in Lowell and have been volunteers in our community. They received the title of 2010 Lowell Persons of the Year awarded by the Lowell Chamber of Commerce.