Pioneering Families
... with Roots in Madison County

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SETH W. THOMPSON--In a review of his own life and family written by himself and finished under date of Jan. 5, 1914, he thus concludes:

This simple tale I dedicate to my posterity on January 5, 1914, my seventyeight birthday, and my wife who is now here by me joins with me. She is now seventyfive years old and we are enjoying life and our faculties to a good degree for people of our age.

May the good Father who gives us our life and all manifold blessings bless and keep you always. My abiding faith and trust is that in the great and eternal future we shall all in some mysterious and wonderful way which we cannot comprehend be united in another existence.

Four years after writing the above, Mr. Thompson was able to comprehend that "mysterious and wonderful way," and but a year later husband and wife were united in another sphere. Three of their children are as follows: John F. and Charles C. Thompson, of New York City, and Mrs. Carrie T. West, of Jamestown. In this review of the life of Mr. Thompson his own account will be relied upon for the facts.

Seth W. Thompson was a son of John and Pamelia (Bush) Thompson, who about 1833 settled on a farm of fifty acres within half a mile of Ellington Center, Chautauqua county, N.Y. The parents of John Thompson were born in Maine, but later lived in Madison County, N.Y., where his father worked at the carpenter's trade. Later he went West to work upon the Erie canal, and never returned to his family, being stricken by a fever which proved fatal. John Thompson, a boy of eighteen when his father died, and his youngest brother Seth aided their mother, and they were able to keep the family together, John remaining single until thirty years of age, then taking his mother and two unmarried sisters into his home. He married Pamelia Bush about 1827, and began married life on a little farm of forty acres in Madison county, N.Y., where they lived until about 1834, when he sold his farm, and with his mother, wife and three little daughters, $500 in cash, with his household possessions loaded in a heavy wagon drawn by a two-horse team, started West. Their journey of perhaps 200 miles ended in the town of Ellington, Chautauqua county, N.Y., where John Thompson bought a farm of fifty acres on which was a log house and stable. The pine timber had been almost entirely taken from the tract, but by hard work he removed the stumps and pine tops from a small amount of land, and the following fall was rewarded by a good crop. His wife, a tailoress, aided with her needle, and in course of time a certain degree of prosperity was attained. In speaking of his boyhood and his parents, Mr. Thompson writes:

We always had comfortable clothing and an extra suit for Sunday and church, which was always attended, although we lived on a farm four and a half miles from the church. They were always generous to the poor, and no one over went from their door hungry, friend or stranger.

About 1840 the little farm was sold, and another of 150 acres was bought. Until 1851 the family, then consisting of seven children, lived in the old log house, but for several years had been getting lumber together, and in 1851 a new frame house was finished. With this house completed the hardships of pioneer days may be said to have ended for the Thompson family, and the fortunes of Seth W. Thompson will alone be followed.

Seth W. Thompson was born in the log cabin on the home farm in Ellington, Chautauqua county, N.Y., in 1836, the fifth child of his parents. He was educated in the district school, and in the winter of 1853-54 he taught school in Ohio, four miles south of Madison, his married sister, Frances Turney, engaging the school for him. The next winter he taught the district school west of the old farm in the town of Ellington, the same school which be had attended when a small boy. He taught in Chautauqua county each winter until that of 1860-61, which was his last. His salary was from $16 monthly the first winter to $26 the last winter, and at all the schools except the last in the village of Ellington, he boarded around. He was a successful teacher, ever looking back upon the winters he taught with great pleasure.

During my school days in the winter of 1855-56, I made the acquaintance of Miss Emma L. Pratt, a sprightly, black-eyed girl. with whom I fell in love. She also taught several terms of school, her last term being in the Union School at Dunkirk, New York. On October 2, 1859, after nearly four years of pleasant courtship, we were married. Our life has been a very pleasant one and we have been unusually favored in many ways. We have now passed our forty-first anniversary (they were married fifty-nine years ere death dissolved this happy marriage). We have been fairly successful in business ventures, and wonderfully blessed in our children who have always been and are still to us a blessing which we cannot express, measure or weigh.

In May, 1861, John M. Farnham, the hardware merchant of Ellington, offered Mr. Thompson a partnership, which was accepted. In the fall of 1861 he bought out a tin and stove shop in Cattaraugus, N.Y., Mr. Thompson taking charge of that branch, Oct 28, 1861, and two weeks later his wife, and son John, then fifteen months ofd, arrived with their household goods. The next year his father and mother joined their son in Cattaraugus, and in 1866 they all moved into a fine house. In 1869 that house was sold, and in December, 1869, a new house was occupied for the first time. In 1870, through a combination of circumstances, the firm, S. W. Thompson Company, sold out and a new partnership was entered into with Henry Chaffee, Mr. Thompson remaining in charge of the Cattaraugus store. Mr. Chaffee taking charge of the firm's business in Randolph. About 1872 the Cattaraugus store was sold, Thompson & Chaffee then concentrating in their energy on the larger, better store in Randolph. which later they sold to Knapp & Son. Shortly afterward Mr. Thomson sold his interest in a patent milk pan business in which he had been engaged for some time, and he entered into partnership with J. M. Farnham, who had been his first partner in the tin shop in Cattaraugus. Mr. Farnham was head of a large hardware business in Jamestown, and after settling up his affairs in Randolph, Mr. Thompson joined him, his department being the management of the office. Before removing his family and irrevocably committing himself to the partnership, he found that the business was not as he expected to find it, and by mutual consent the partnership was not consummated. He returned to Randolph and some time afterward he became partner in a hardware store that had been started after Thompson & Chaffee had sold out. He conducted a prosperous business for six years, then sold out and took a partnership in a tannery at East Randolph. which he retained for about three years. He was next interested with Amos Dow in a private banking business in East Randolph, the business being conducted under the first name, Dow & Thompson, bankers. They continued a quiet, prosperous banking business for four years, and in 1878 he exchanged his interest in the bank for a general country store in East Randolph owned by his partner, Amos Dow. Mr. Dow and he had previously lost some money in the oil fields of Pennsylvania through fire, but this loss Mr. Thompson recouped, and during the eight years that he operated the general store he added $15,000 to his capital through the profits from the store. In 1880 Mr. Thompson toured California, where his only brother and a sister were living, and became enamored of the great West. In December, 1885, his mother passed away, and in June, 1886, his father passed away in his eighty-eighth year. The lad promised his parents not to remove West so long as they lived, and having ministered to them and provided for their every need during their old age he could consider a western removal with a clear conscience.

Anonymous. History of Chautauqua County, New York, and its people. Boston: American Historical Society, 1921, p. 348349.



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