Gen. David Thomson

To Children's Children
Descendants of
General David Thomson and his Wife,
Betsey Suggett

This Sketch is Dedicated

It is well to recall and record the honest achievements and noble

character of those who have gone before.



"A Memorial to General David Thomson was originally begun by Mrs. E. M. Smith. Ill health prevented its completion. Later at the request of Mrs. Sarah E. Cotton this sketch of General Thomson's life was prepared by Laura J. Yeater. The genealogy was compiled by Elvira Jones Hunley."

The first American ancestor of General David Thomson was Samuel (d. 1753), who married Molly McDonald, of the Clan McDonald, Glencoe, Balmawhaple. Their son, William Thomson, as far as any records show, was an only child (of this couple.)

This American, William Thomson, was born in 1727. In 1752, at the age of twenty-five, he married Anne Rodes, also of Scotch (sic) parentage. She was born in 1734, being eighteen years of age at the time of her marriage. From this union, there were twelve children. David, the eleventh child, was born August 21, 1775. Sarah, the twelfth child, was born April 5, 1778. William Thomson, the father, died hardly more than two weeks after the birth of this child, April 22, 1778. Little Sarah lived only three months, dying July 10, 1778. David was thus the youngest son and the youngest living child of his mother, who was left a widow at the close of the Revolution. The next oldest brother was nine years older than David.

Captain William Thomson, the father of Gen. David Thomson, was of pure Scotch (sic) descent, but a Virginian born and bred. While the son of a merchant, he seems to have married a planter's daughter and to have been himself a planter. His name, that of his wife and of his older son are all associated with Louisa County, Virginia. He must have been a man of such education as the time afforded. His father was a Scotsman ranking as gentleman at a period when Protestant Scotland challenged any country in Europe for educational advantages. Possibly Samuel Thomson, the emigrant, was in his youth one of the Scots school masters who were the tutors and school teachers of the early 18th century throughout the colonies and particularly in the South. William Thomson lived in the stirring times that preceded the Revolution. He was a contemporary of three great Virginians, being five years older than George Washington, nine years older than Patrick Henry and sixteen years older than Thomas Jefferson. He must have known these men well. He was of a dissenting family and dissenters are usually radical in politics. Patrick Henry lived in Hanover County, adjoining Louisa County on the east. He was in fact a member of the House of Burgesses from Louisa County when in 1765 he made his famous resistance to the stamp act closing with his all but treasonable charges against King George. Thomas Jefferson was from Albemarle County, which joined Louisa County on the west. William Thomson died at fifty-one. David at that time was a child of three. He could have had no very definite memory of his father. Like George Washington, he was the child of his mother's rearing. Anne Thomson, like Mary Washington, was a woman of excellent judgment and high ideals.

In 1789, eleven years after the death of her husband, Anne Rodes Thomson entered land in Scott County, Kentucky, and moved there with her younger children. David at this time was fourteen years of age. It is quite probable the the widow Thomson joined relatives in Kentucky as the name Rodes appears among Scott County people. She lived in Kentucky and remained a widow up to the time of her death in 1802.

(Missouri Daughters of the American Revolution - "...David Thomson, one of the great men of that day, was educated at Transylvania University, and a monument erected to his memory in the campus pays this glowing tribute to his memory, ""He was a lawyer of ability, twice Presidential Elector, casting his vote for Henry Clay and Zachary Taylor; was elected Lieutenant Governor 1840, and was Colonel in the 3rd Reg. of Volunteers in the Mexican War. In Peace, in war, in public and in private life, he was eminent for those virtues that give grace and honor to what ever station in life he was called to fill."" is part of the tribute in stone to his memory.")

The following facts about Gen. David Thomson are based on his diary, which today is in the possession of Mr. David Thomson, of Pettis County, Missouri, a great grand-son, and on various incidents in life contributed by different relatives.

The first entry in the diary shows that at the age of eighteen went as a volunteer with General Scott on an Indian campaign in 1793. Three years later, in 1797, at the age of twenty-one, he made a trip to New Orleans. He meagerly reports that he set out March 8, landed in New Orleans April 24, that he set out for home June 4, and arrived there July 27. He was doubtless part of a flat boat gang that was carrying interior supplies by water down to New Orleans later to be shipped to the armies of Europe at the time engaged in the Napoleonic Wars. New Orleans was then one of the great shipping ports of the United States. Its produce was brought almost exclusively down the Mississippi on flat boats. Of David's five months away from home, almost three were spent in traveling. Records like this of slow transportation and long distances are one of the urgent causes for the invention of the American steamboat. It is also why the Whig party with its demand for highways and other public improvements appealed to the farms in the Middle West. The memory of that youthful trip was in itself enough to make David Thomson a staunch Whig. Young David was pleased with his southern trip. The first taste of travel made him anxious to see the world in another direction. Probably this desire was also stimulated by an eagerness to spend the profits from his sales. At any rate, in the fall of the same year, he went back to Louisa County, Virginia, on a visit to his brother William and his family. He briefly described the visit as "taking winter quarters." In his old age as he lived over his youth in intimate conversation with his grandchildren, he spoke with evident pride of the up-to-date equipment he had for this visit, particularly of his ruffled shirts. At twenty-one young David was quite dressy. Throughout his life he was punctilious about his personal appearance.

For an interval of five years there is no entry. During this period he was going about his business as a general farmer and at the same time was acquiring considerable experience in the operation and management of mills. The milling industry was one of the first industrial ventures to develop in a pioneer farming community and young Thomson was keen to grasp the needs and opportunities of the situation. September 5, 1801, when he was twenty-six years of age David Thomson was married to Betsey Suggett, nineteen years of age, also of Scott County, Kentucky. He was intimately associated with his wife's people throughout his life. The Thomsons and the Suggetts were families of culture and refinement with high ideals of conduct and high standards of living. Of this marriage ten children were born, five boys and five girls.

Besides being a man of affairs in the business activities of his community, David Thomson was prominent in the military defense, which was so necessary in the early days of Kentucky. It has already been mentioned that when a lad of eighteen he served as a volunteer under General Scott against the Indians. Three years later, March 1, 1800, he was elected captain of a company. In 1807, February 17, he received a major's commission, later he received a colonel's commission for the 12th Regiment. During the war of 1812 David Thomson was in the campaign which the sharp shooters of the West carried into Canada. This entry in his diary briefly describes the Battle of the Thames; "On the 20th of May, 1813, started on a campaign in a mounted regiment commanded by Richard M. Johnson and on the fifth of October we fought the British and Indians on the bank of the River Thames in Canada near the Moravian towns, where I commanded a second battallion. The engagement last 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." Robert E. McAfee, an eye witness of the engagement, gives a detailed account of this battle in his History of Kentucky. From this it appears that Major Thomson was the commanding officer who led the charge against the Indians after Colonel Johnson, his superior officer, had been wounded and removed from the field. There was fierce hand to hand fighting in the swamps where the American troops were obliged to dismount. Here Tecumseh was killed 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. 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 promotions. January 21, 1814, he received command of the 6th brigade of militia with the title of brigadier general. January 31st of the same years he was made commander of the 3rd division of Kentucky militia with the title of general. He continued in the command more than six years, when he resigned.

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 leader of the savage warriors. 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. David Thomson received after the battle spoils taken from the body of Tecumseh.

It was in 1807 that David Thomson made his first land purchase in partnership with his brother-in-law, William Suggett, securing one hundred and sixty acres of land on North Elkhorn, in 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 January, 1812, Mr. Thomson purchased two hundred 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 one hundred and twenty 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 grist mill. Industrial, excutive and speculative activities rather than general farming appealed to David Thomson. His biography, compiled under the direction of his granddaughter, contains the following: "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 he 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 as long as he lived in Kentucky.

General 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 General Thomson in 1817 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 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 nvestments. 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 General Thomson became a large investor in land. In 1825 he went to Vandalia, Illinois, where he purchased seventy-eight 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, and at that time he was using advantageous opportunities for acquiring property in Kentucky. He made his first visit to Missouri in October 1831, with his son-in-law, Lewis Redd Major, and each purchased six hundred acres in Saline county. In the spring of 1832 they again visited Missouri and entered land in Pettis county. In the fall of the same year General Thomson, with his two sons-in-laws, Lewis Redd Major and George R. Smith and their respective families removed from Scott county, Kentucky, to Pettis county, Missouri. Before leaving the former state General Thomson made arrangements by which slaves families might be left intact, this making it necessary sometimes to buy and sometimes to sell. On the 6th of October they left their old home and on the 13th of November reached their destination. Pettis county was organized in the same year and in 1835 General 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: "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 Em Spring, three and one-half miles northwest of Georgetown, in which he lived for twenty years. He built a sawmill and a gristmill on Big Muddy. His last entry in his diary is in October 1860, when he whitewashed the roof of his house to protect it from falling sparks and from the weather.

General and Mrs. Thomson were the parents of ten children: Manlius V., born August 13, 1802, in Scott county, Kentucky, married Mary Ann Thomson at Georgetown and there passed away July 22, 1850. He was president of Georgetown College in Kentucky and was also lieutenant governor of the state. Mildred Elvira Thomson, the second of the family, was born in Scott county, April 14, 1804, was married about 1820, near Georgetown, Kentucky to Lewis Redd Major and died in Pettis county, Missouri, September 11, 1873. Melita Ann Thomson, the third member of the family, became the wife of General George R. (Rapeen) Smith. Martha Vienna, the fourth child, born January 23, 1809, in Scott county, Kentucky, became the wife of Cave Kirtley. Mentor, born March 9, 1811, in Scott county, Kentucky, was married October 25, 1833, to Cora Virginia Wooldrige and died at Sedalia, Missouri, October 31, 1892. Milton T., the sixth member of the family, was born in Scott county, Kentucky, March 25, 1812, came with his parents to Missouri in 1833, was married in September 1837, to Amelia Ann Scroggin and died in Pettis county, Missouri, August 12, 1885. Morton Thomson, born in Scott county, Kentucky, January 27, 1816, was married December 15, 1839, in Pettis county, Missouri, to Sarah Ann Powell and died November 18, 1871. Monroe, born in Scott county, Kentucky, May 18, 1818, was married to Charlotte Lester, of Pettis county, and died at Rizville, Washington, December 1, 1899. Marion Wallace, born July 26, 1821, in Scott county, Kentucky, became the wife of Thomas Allen Gunnell in Pettis county, Missouri, May 4, 1847, and died in Buena Vista, Colorado, March 13, 1896. Melcena Elizabeth, the youngest child of the family, was born in Scott county, Kentucky, May 25, 1824, became the wife of Robert Rush Spedden, December 13, 1842, in Pettis county, Missouri, and died in San Jose, California, in June, 1900.

In 1857 General Thomson was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife, who passed away on the 11th of April of that year, and 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 November, 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 the vicinity.

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.

"Several years ago I went to the Kentucky Military Museum in Frankfort, KY and also to the state archives there. The military museum had several rosters of Thomsons and Thompsons, all of whom were living in the Georgetown area. The tax roles also showed taxes for Manlius Thomson, but those also reflected both spellings, and this was during a time when he was the Lt. Governor of Kentucky. I understand that until Webster there really wasn't much in the way of standard spellings for anything, so I'm sure that last names were also pretty casual in their spelling.

The worst corruption that I've seen was from the sign in Missouri that marks the site of Georgetown, the little place that Gen. David Thomson founded."

~Dr. David Thomson

GEORGE??? - Not even!

Col. Manilus Valerius
son of Gen. David Thomson
Born in Scott County
August 13, 1802
Died in Georgetown
July 22, 1850

*Suggett, Jemima (1753 - 1814)
b. 29 JUN 1753 in Orange Co., VA
d. 23 FEB 1814 in Scott Co., KY

father: Suggett, James
mother: Spence, Jemima

Virginia County Record Publications Volume 1 Westmoreland County by Crozier This family had fives sons and two daughters who all left descendants except Col. Richard Mentor Johnson Vice President to the US who never married (See Genealogy of the Johnson Family by Thomas L Johnson)
spouse: Johnson, Robert (1745 - 1815)


Richard Emmons' play, "Tecumseh, of the Battle of the Thames" became a hit the next year. Richard Emmons also wrote a poem, one line of which read, "Rumpsey, Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh." This became a Democratic slogan in the elections of 1836 and 1840.
Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice John Catron warned that Johnson was "not only positively unpopular in Tennessee, but affirmatively odious" and asked President Jackson "to assure our friends that the humblest of us do not believe that a lucky random shot, even if it did hit Tecumseh, qualifies a man for the Vice Presidency."
Johnson's "domestic relations" involved his marriage. He took Julia Chinn, a slave he inherited from his father, and made her his common law wife. He further angered polite society by trying to introduce her into society with the social rank his wife would normally hold)