History of Medad and Phoebe Thompson
by CLEM J. THOMPSON
Before beginning this history a word of explanation about Medad Thompson's name. His name has come down from past years as "James Medad Thompson." In researching the family history and attempting to complete and verify the family records, I have never once found the name "James Medad Thompson" given in any civil record, census record, or public record. On the contrary I have found the name "Medad Thompson" used in civil records, census records, his obituary, death certificate, his headstone, newspaper articles and letters from his children and grandchildren. Unless someone has public records or documents to substantiate the name of "James Medad Thompson," I must assume his correct name to be MEDAD THOMPSON.
Medad Thompson was born on the 22nd of March 1800 in Herkimer County, New York. He is believed to be the second son, in a family of 9 children, of David Thompson and Betsey Tyler, although Tyler records indicate they only had 8 children. Medad and his parents remained in the Herkimer area for several years along with other Thompsons, Tylers and Wheelers. Sometime before 1806 they moved to Sempronius, Cayuga county along with other members of the family and friends, where they lived until about 1822-23. At that time they moved to Springfield, Erie county Pennsylvania.
Sometime in 1824 he married a young woman who's family had moved to the area with them. Her first name was Phoebe, her last name is not certain. Four different last names are recorded from four different sources. Lucy Keller, who compiled a Rudd history about 1918, gives her name as HOBART. Phoebe’s mother's third husband was a Rudd, hence the reason for Phoebe’s name being mentioned in the Rudd history. In one of the Church records, Phoebe's last name is listed as HULBERT. In a Patriarchal blessing of Edmund's son, both Edmund H. Sr. and Edmund H. Jr. are recorded as having the middle name HOBERT, which some believe to be the maiden name of Phoebe. Another researcher by the name of Byron O. Smith, who researched the Thompson line in the 1950's and 60's, gives her name as HUBBARD. Phoebe's mother was Experience Wheeler and is reported to have married an Edmund Hobart. A granddaughter relates that Phoebe told her that her husband went away to the war and never came back. I think most Thompsons lean toward HOBART OR HOBERT but more documentation is needed to verify her surname birth certificates and civil records do not mention her maiden name.
Medad and Phoebe's reported first child, Cynthia, was born in Springfield on the 4th of December, 1825 and apparently died as a child. Eliza Jane was also born in Erie on the 31st of October, 1827. Their first son, Edmund Hobert Thompson, was born on the 17th of July, 1829. It is believed that two daughters followed, Angeline, on the 28th of December, 1831, and another daughter on the 15th of October, 1833. These two either died at birth or as a child, we cannot prove either one.
Another son, Calvin William, was born on the 12th of July 1835. His service records indicates he was also born in Pennsylvania. This is in conflict with Medad's obituary which states that Medad moved to Missouri in 1834. Medad did sell some land in Erie county in 1834 but it is not known whether he moved to Missouri at that time or after the passing of his father in 1836.
Census records indicate that Hiram Almanza born on the 9th of February, 1838, was the first and only child born in Missouri.
While living in Springfield the family became acquainted with the Mormon Church. Missionaries passed through the area quite often and John M. Green records in his journal that in 1833 William Thompson, a brother to Medad, was baptized as well as others of the surname, Hall, Hartshorn, Tyler and DeWolf. All have connections with the Thompson family. In 1835 Bishop Edward Partridge and his companion, Jared Carter, visited brother Hartshorn and DeWolf and other members of the family were baptized, including Randall Wheeler, Phoebe's grandfather, Experience Wheeler, her grandmother, several Rudds as well as Phoebe Thompson, Medads Wife. There is no mention of Medad but from other sources it is believed that he was also baptized.
Medad's father, David Thompson, passed away on the 21st of February, 1836 at the age of 63. Shortly thereafter Betsey, is wife, sold their property. It was not long before members of the family began moving away from Erie County, Betsey included. Medad's bothers, William, Hiram, and Joab stayed in the Erie area. His sisters, Polly, Marinda, and Esther and their husbands also stayed, most of them residing in the Ashtabula County Ohio area. His brother Edmund moved to Armada County Michigan and Medad went to Missouri, possibly taking his mother, Betsey, with him. Genealogist Byron Smith relates that Betsey died in Iowa about 1850 and Medad and his family were the only ones that ended up in Iowa at that time period.
Medad probably joined the movement of the Latter Day Saints toward Nauvoo. He settled somewhere on the border between Iowa and Missouri, in Van Buren County Iowa or Scotland County Missouri. Records indicate his son Hiram A. was born in Missouri in 1838 and the 1940 census records show Medad living in Van Buren County Iowa.
In November of 1838 a petition was filed by many members of the Church, against the state of Missouri, for loss of property as the Saints were forced or driven from their homes. Medad filed a claim for one thousand dollars. Others filing claims were other Thompsons Solomon Hancock, Eliza Janes husband, and some of the Tylers.
It is believed that Medad continued to follow the Saints toward Council Bluffs. I am not sure where Medad and his family lived during the next few years. The birth places of his other children, Elvira, Harriet Asenith, Louisa Ann, James Melvin, George B. and Sephrone, are uncertain but I believe they were all born in Iowa. Locations that appear as possible birthplaces are Shelby county, Galland Grove, Dow City, and Marshalltown. We do know that his family was living in Pottawattamie County, next to his newly married son, Edmund Hobert, the Rudds and Hancocks. Edmund was married to Frances Rachel Welborn in Scotland County,
Missouri on the 4th of May, 1950.
During this period of time the Church was in much turmoil. Persecuted, driven from their homes, the Saints sought protection in Iowa prior to leaving for the Rocky Mountains. Medad and his family were among those Saints.
In 1844, the tragic death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, by a mob at Carthage, Illinois, caused a great deal of concern among members of the Church. Their Prophet had been killed and they wondered who was now going to succeed Joseph as Prophet and lead them West. Many of the Saints did not understand that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles became the governing body of the Church upon the death of the Prophet. Confused by the sequence of events that had transpired and being accustomed to receiving instructions from their Prophet, many Saints began to follow men who rose up and claimed to be the successor to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Among those claiming to succeed him was a man by the name of James J. Strang. He had personally met the Prophet, was converted and baptized about four months prior to the Prophets death. Shortly thereafter he wrote requesting permission to establish a branch of the Church in Burlington, Wisconsin. Reluctantly the Prophet consented and just a few days later the Prophet was murdered by the mob at Carthage.
James Strang claimed the letter authorizing a branch at Burlington was also the letter appointing him to be the successor of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He also claimed that at the moment of the Prophet's death an angel appeared and ordained him to be the Prophet of the Church. He also claimed to have discovered an ancient set of records, buried at the base of an old oak tree, which he translated and called "The Book of The Law of The Lord." He claimed it was the records given to Moses and carried about in the Ark of The Covenant. Because of the similarities in being led to a set of ancient records, the translation of the records, and visitations from an angel, it is no wonder that confused Saints began to follow James Strang.
Strang had previously explored Beaver Island, just thirty miles off the coast of upper Michigan, and decided to set up a Kingdom for Saints on that Island. It was to be a utopia, a refuge for the saints, the Kingdom of God upon the earth. A few saints arrived in 1847 but the majority arrived the following spring. It was in this setting that Medad and Phoebe, with their family, made the choice to move to Beaver Island with James Strang and his followers. The time was probably 1848-1849.
It was also about this time that gold was discovered in California and the dream of striking it rich became an obsession with many men. I suppose Medad was no exception. His granddaughter, Julia Newman Einwachter, relates that as they were making preparations to move to Beaver Island Medad met a man who wanted to sell his goods and return home. Medad bought the man's goods and equipment and left for California to seek his fortune. Phoebe and the children remained in Pottawattamie county until his return.
Medad was not alone in his search for gold. In 1850 he was in Eldorado County, California near Pacerville, working as a
laborer earning seventy five cents a day. Others with him at that time were, John Newman, George Thompson, Daniel Tyler and at least one of the Rudd boys. I am sure it was a disappointed and discouraged Medad who returned home to his wife and children in Iowa. They remained there for a while, probably trying to earn enough money to continue their trip to Beaver Island. It is believed their last child, Sephrone, was born on the 29th of March 1853, but did not live long enough to make the journey with family.
Mjdad and his family arrived at Beaver Island in early 1854. That they did spend some time on Beaver Island is substantiated by the fact that two letters were addressed to them at Beaver Island. One from their son Edmund Hobert living in Utah, and a step brother, Lorenzo Rudd.
Members of the family who had remained faithful to the main body of the Mormons, and who went west to Utah, found it difficult to understand how Medad and Phoebe could make the choice' to break away from the Church and follow Strang. Her step brother, Lorenzo Rudd, was serving on a mission in England and wrote a letter chastising her for leaving the "true church."
"Speaking of your removal to Beaver Island, when I learned of this I can assure you it struck me with force because I had supposed you had been in this church long enough to know better than that. I could preach to you if I thought it would be of any use, as comparing the order of Christ's church, but the spirit says refrain. You have had your own agency to judge between truth and error. I will accept your strange behavior that you may believe a lie and be damned. I pain on the ignorance of some people, in fact I am astonished. I am sorry dear sister that you should be so blind. I have spent much time praying in your behalf."
Medad and Phoebe's stay on Beaver Island was apparently very short lived. They were probably disillusioned with what they found. Instead of the utopia they had expected, they found a "King" who ruled with threats of the whipping post rather than love and tolerance.
Just thirty miles away on the mainland was a settlement of fishermen living at a place called Pine River. In 1853 a skirmish between several "Mormons" of Beaver Island and the fishermen of Pine river took place in a battle called the Battle of Pine River. Phoebe at one time told her granddaughter that her son Calvin may have been involved in that skirmish. As a result of the battle, and the fear that the "Mormons" might attack again, the fishermen abandoned their settlement. It was probably that episode, along with others, that prompted Medad and Phoebe to move from Beaver Island to the mainland. They arrived in the fall of 1854 with several others, who apparently decide to separate from Strang's group, and occupied the dwellings left by the fisherman who had vacated them.
Medad and Phoebe lived at pine Lake until 1856 when "King Strang" was killed by a two of his followers who felt they had been treated unjustly. As a result of this act civil authorities forced Strang's followers to leave Beaver Island. They were loaded aboard a ship and taken to Milwaukee and Chicago. Most of the people who had moved to the mainland feared they might be removed also, and left for other parts of the country. Only those who were peaceful and respected remained. Consequently in the fall of 1856 Medad and Phoebe were the only inhabitants of Pine River. They were not alone long for on August 1st 1856 a ship unloaded two young men John Newman and Archie Buttars. John Newman eventually married Medad's daughter I Harriet Asenith. Others gradually began to return to the area and in the winter of 1856 there were only four families at Pine River. These included Medad Thompson, J.S. Dixon, Samuel Horton, John Miller, and the two young men who arrived on the ship in the fall. The winter was severe and supplies hard to come by. Men had to travel many miles to the nearest town.
In 1856 the village of Charlevoix was platted by Mr. Dixon and in May of 1857 the first town election was held with 10 votes cast by those present. The town was named after a Jesuit Priest, Father Piere Francis Xavier De Charlevoix, who explored the area in 1721. People gradually began to move back into the area around Charlevoix, homesteading and clearing the land.
In 1862 a small log school house was commenced and when completed provided schooling for the children of the settlement. Among the twenty two to twenty five children attending school that winter were seven of Medads family. These included Hiram Almanza, James Melvin, George B., Louisa Ann and three of Eliza Jane Thompson Hancock's children, Wilson, Solomon and Melvina. Medad's daughter, Eliza Jane, married Solomon Hancock and moved to Charlevoix sometime after Medad's arrival. Eliza Jane's husband died shortly after arriving and Eliza Jane remarried Louis Gebeau, one of the fishermen wounded in the leg in the Battle of Pine River.
Medad had apparently kept in touch with his some of his brothers. His brother Edmund, who had located in Armada, Michigan after the death of his father, had a son, Warren Delos Thompson. Warren became interested in homesteading some of the "free" land near Charlevoix. He and his family traveled by boat to Charlevoix, arriving there in the middle of October 1864. They stayed with Medad and Phoebe that winter. It must have been very crowded, Medad with his six children and Warren with three. I'm sure the house must have been very small but they survived.
There was much to do. The land had to be cleared of the timber before any crops could be planted. Wood had to be stored for the winter, food had to be obtained and stored for use during the winter and money had to be earned for necessities. Fishing was one way to provide food for the family.
Medad often worked for other people. He and Warren dug an eighteen foot well for a neighbor. It took them two and one half days to complete the job and were paid a dollar a foot for digging and another dollar a foot for lining the well with rock.
By 1865 Medad had cleared five acres of land and Warren had started a home of his own. Maple trees grew abundantly in the area and Medad would tap the trees for the syrup and boil it down to make molasses or maple sugar. What they didn't use they would sell. Most families had a cow to provide milk and butter. Warren and Medad were no exception. An incident was told of the early days, having to do with "Uncle Medad" as he was called.
"A stranger landed on the beach at pine River, looking for supplies. All he could see was woods up and down the shore, with no signs of human habitation. In the distance he could hear the sound of a cow bell. Following the sound, he came upon a cow quietly browsing. Thinking where there was a cow there must be people he caught hold of the cow's tail. The cow startled, made for home as he was sure it would. Soon he carne to a clearing and Uncle Medad, with the pioneer's hospitality, welcomed the stranger to his little home.”
A grandson, Sidney Thompson, relates that Grandfather Medad brought the first white faced cattle that carne to this part of the country. In 1867 when Medad was 67 years old, Warren states:
"Aunt Phoebe and Uncle Medad are both getting old and none of the boys like to stay home so they have a good deal to do. He let go a good deal of his land to work on shares last season."
Warren also related that Medad had quite a time with boils on his face and that they had troubled him for two or three winters.
During this period of time the country was embroiled in the Civil War. Several of Medad's sons served in the war, Hiram A., Calvin W., James Melvin, and George B.. Other relatives that served were Louis Gebeau, Eliza Janes's husband, Louisa Ann's first husband, Ben or Elijah Furman and her second husband William Atchinson. Three of his grandsons from Harriet and John Newman also served. Phoebe expressed herself about the war:
"Hell would be too good for the leaders of the rebellion and I would like to stand there with a pitchfork and stir them while the devil throws them in.”
Several of Medad's brothers boys also served and many never returned.
To Sustain themselves during the winter, they would grow potatoes, turnips, beans, squash, corn and other vegetables during the summer. What they couldn't raise they had to buy. Butter was forty cents a pound, buckskin gloves two dollars and fifty cents a pair, two dollars and sixty cents a yard for cloth. Children's shoes were one dollar seventy five cents a pair and white sugar twenty cents a pound.
In 1869 Warren said:
"Uncle Medad has finished of his house, he grows old quite fast.”
Medad saw Charlevoix grow from the two or three houses when he first settled at Pine Lake, to a thriving community in 1870. After sixteen years there were nineteen dwelling houses, five stores, two grocers, one jewelry, one shoemaker shop, two or three cooper shops, and one school house. Medad must have had quite an apple orchard. An article in the Charlevoix Sentinel in 1871 indicates that Medad's orchard of 13 trees produced over eighty bushel of apples.
In 1880, when Medad was 80 years old, his nephew Warren wrote:
"I saw Medad a few days ago. He looks pretty old. Aunt Phoebe and him was out to our house a few days ago but I was not home. I was talking with Medad last fall and he told me, that he did not think he would live two years, and perhaps one."
Even though Medad was growing old he continued farming on a limited basis, raising and milking a few cows and raising hay for them. He had built his barn against the sidehill and didn't have to throw the hay up into the top of the barn. He would just drive the load on the upper side of the hill and throw the hay down into the loft.
I am sure Medad worked hard all his life. He carved a farm from the timbered land around Charlevoix, struggled to earn enough to purchase needed goods for the long winter months, and with much heartache and sorrow he saw his children move away, some never to return during his life time. The hard work and toil of the pioneer life finally took it's toll on Medad and he passed away on the 12th of July 1886 in Charlevoix, Michigan at the age of 86. The funeral was held at the family home with a Reverend J.T. Iddings officiating. It was said at his funeral:
"Uncle Medad was always an industrious and honest man, and was universally respected."
He was buried at the Brookside Cemetery in Charlevoix where many of his relatives were buried.
When Medad passed away, his son Edmund Hobert, who was living in Garfield, Utah wrote to his mother, Phoebe:
"I just received your letter which brought the sad news of my father's death. I feel to mourn although he lived to a good old age. I would of liked to seen him before he passed off but I can not see him in this world. I hope you may live many more years yet for I want to see once more. I want to see my brothers and sisters also."
His wife Frances Rachel also wrote:
"I feel to mourn with you but we must all go sooner or later and father lived to a good old age. I wish I could have the
pleasure of taking care of you the rest of your days Mother. We are poor but the Lord said the poor would inherit the kingdom of heaven and I know this is the true Church of Jesus Christ. I would not exchange my standing in the Church for all the riches in the world."
When Medad passed away he left Phoebe with several cows to milk. His son George B. had his son, Sidney, milk the cows for a while and then George and his family moved in with Phoebe to help take care of her and the farm. Phoebe had fallen just two months before Medad's death, fractured the bone near her thigh and was probably not able to get around very well. George and his family stayed with Phoebe for about five years and then the old homestead was divided among the children. Phoebe then went to live with her daughter and her husband, Harriet and John Newman She remained with them until her death on the 4th of July 1893. She was buried by the side of her good husband in the Brookside Cemetery. Phoebe was about 83 at the time of her death. The cause of death was listed as "Dropsy".
Much has been written about the goodness of Medad and Phoebe. When Phoebe passed away, an article was written in the Charlevoix Sentinel:
"When from among the few remaining settlers one drops out, faces all come up before us again, those gone and those remaining. Aunt Phoebe Thompson was the last one to join the majority and when we think of her now, the countenance of Uncle Medad rises up, and we are carried back to the beautiful summer evenings nearly a quarter of a century ago, when we wandered down the wooded shore which is now the boundary of the resort grounds, to the always hospitable home of Uncle Medad and Aunt Phoebe.”
In July of 1935 the city of Charlevoix celebrated a Charlevoix County Homecoming and State Centennial. A pageant was presented depicting the settlement of Charlevoix with Medad Thompson as one of the first settlers of the area.
Medad and Phoebe were apparently well liked by everyone. They were the kind of people who would help anyone who needed help, giving them whatever they had. They accumulated no earthly riches but by giving of what they had to help others they exemplified the Spirit of the Master and were spiritually rich.
The children of Medad and Phoebe deserve some mention. Eliza Jane married Solomon Hancock who died shortly after arriving in Charlevoix in 1859. They had three children, Solomon, Wilson and Melvina. Melvina married Archie McNeil and had a family of 8 children. After Solomon died Eliza Jane married Louis (or Lewis) Gebeau, one of the fishermen who fought the "Mormons" in the Battle of Pine River. It is believed they had two children, Edgar and Charles. W. Bud Gebeau of Charleviox, who passed away on the 19th of October, 1986, was a great grandson of Eliza Jane and Louis Gebeau. Louis drowned in 1887 in Lake Michigan, when the passenger ship Vernon capsized. Eliza Jane continued living in the Charlevoix area taking care of
a Mrs. Elizabeth Whitney, believed to be the mother of her husband, Louis. Mrs. Whitney wrote,"A Child of the Sea."
Edmund Hobert never went to Michigan. He married Frances Rachel Welborn in Scotland County Missouri in 1850 and shortly thereafter left for California to hunt for gold. Their wagon train would not wait for them when their horses became lost and they were left alone on the prairie. A Mormon wagon train came along, gave them horses, and took them to Salt Lake City. He and his wife joined the Church a short time later. They lived in the Ogden area, Garfield County, and in Taylor, Arizona. Edmund went to Old Mexico in 1890, to find a place where he could live in peace but died there on the 9th of December 1891.
Calvin William married Amy Galland of Galland Grove, Iowa. I understand this is near Dow City, Iowa. He was a wanderer and moved around a great deal. His descendants are found in Missouri Valley, Iowa and in Nebraska. He served as a substitute in the Civil War and enlisted at Council Bluffs, Iowa. He became sick and died of pneumonia at the hospital in Little Rock Arkansas in May 1865.
Hiram Almanza spent his life in Michigan. He married Lydia Rice and moved to Boyne City where he held positions in the city government. He and another man went into partnerships on a lumber yard but lost everything because customers would not pay their bills. He also served in the Civil War. Many of his descendants still live in Michigan.
Harriet Asenith married John Newman, one of the first men to arrive at Charlevoix after the Battle of Pine River. She and her husband lived all their life in the Charlevoix area. They had five children, several of the boys served in the Civil War.
Louisa Ann Married Ben (or Elijah) Furman in March of 1859. They had one daughter, Elva LaVina Furman. Mr. Furman also served in the Civil War but is believed to have died shortly after his release. Louisa Ann remarried a Mr. William A. Atchinson who also served in the War. In 1868 they moved to California, leaving her first child, Elva with Medad and Phoebe. They lived near Soledad, in Kern County and finally moved to the Los Angeles area where they both passed away. Their descendants still live in Los Angeles and Sacramento, California area.
James Melvin married Sarah Jane Parish and lived most of his life in Charlevoix. He was also in the Civil War . Their only known descendants live in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
George B. was the captain of his own ship and carried passengers and cargo to ports in the area. He married Ada Nowland and lived in the Petoskey area, where some of his descendants still reside.
Those who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints might judge Medad and Phoebe harshly for leaving the main body of the Church to follow James Strang. We do not know all the circumstances leading up to their decision. Torn between the promises of several men who claimed to be the successor to the Prophet Joseph Smith, facing financial problems in outfitting and making the long journey West, persuaded by friends and people they knew, they made the best decision they could.
We cannot be too quick to judge, for we know not what we would do under similar circumstances. The fact that they left Beaver Island shortly after their arrival and discontinued their association with the Strang group, indicates they realized they had made a mistake. Without funds to move elsewhere, and with free land available for homesteading, they chose to remain in the Charlevoix area and became respected, honored and loved.
A document has been circulated among Thompson Family members, as being a legitimate Patriarchal Blessing of Phoebe. This "blessing" was given to Phoebe when they were still on Beaver Island by a Patriarch of the James Strang group. No record of this blessing exists in the Archives of the Church in Salt Lake City, nor is the man who gave the blessing listed as a Patriarch of the Church. Please do not perpetuate this document as a valid Patriarchal Blessing.
As I have read and written of the life of this good man and his faithful wife, I have been impressed with their unselfish service as they helped others in a wild and unsettled land. I have been impressed with the influence they had on their children and grandchildren, and of the great love their descendants had for them. I feel as if I know Medad and Phoebe personally and I have a deep love for them. I will rejoice on the day I shall meet them and give them thanks for being one of my noble ancestors.
Written by Clem J. Thompson, Genealogist
Completed October 28, 1987