Meredosia, in common with so many of the early river towns of the country, east as well as west, north as well as south, attracted many enterprising and capable men to it in the early days. Many of these men came to Jacksonville, went to St. Louis or Chicago or to the further west, made more or less a name for themselves and money for their children. the history of Morgan county could not be told without reference to Meredosia, albeit the town is located in the township furthest west and northwest of any in the county and almost cut off from the other townships. The town is twenty-four miles from Jacksonville, at the point where the Keokuk branch of the Wabash railway crosses the Illinois river. Waverly is in the extreme southeastern part of the county, nineteen miles by rail from Jacksonville, so it is a journey of forty-three miles from Meredosia to Waverly and yet Morgan county extends a little further northwest and southeast than either of the towns named.
Thomas T. January, once a well known citizen of Jacksonville and last of St. Louis, had the town of Meredosia laid out in 1932.
One of the earliest settlers was Joseph C. Thompson, a native of New Hampshire - Holderness being his birthplace. He must have been born about 1810 or 1815. His earliest employment was in a shoe factory in Holderness, being an expert in the business. he first went to Boston after staring out into the world on his own account. His next stopping place, about fifteen hundred miles away, as then traveled, was St. Louis, Mo. there he met George C. Robinson, then a merchant in Meredosia.
Mr. Robinson was a native of New Hampshire and he invited Mr. Thompson to go home with him, evidently knowing how to "boom" his town. Mr. Thompson accepted the invitation and from that time, 1834, Meredosia was his home.
Dr. John M. Peck described the town in his Gazeteer of 1834 in part as follows: "A town site, landing and place of considerable business on the Illinois river in Morgan county, six miles above Naples. * * * Here are two steam mills, several stores and thirty or forty families. * * * Much of the mercantile business of Jacksonville passes through this place. Above the town is a singular bayou, from whence its name, which in French orthography would be Marais o' Ogee."
there was more business in Meredosia after Mr. Thompson came, for he was an active, efficient and able man. he engaged in merchandising, farming and pork packing, probably also in the grain business. What was the pork house in winter usually became a grain warehouse in summer. The store, a large one, with the adjoining pork house right on the river bank, was on the north side of the main street of the town, at its west end. The storehouse was there till lately and probably still stands. It is said of the pork side of his business that it was "immense". Great droves of porkers came to Meredosia from way beyond Springfield. Sausage met and tenderloin was 3 cents a pound. Pigsfeet and spareribs given away about as often as sold."
Mr. Thompson continued in this business - pork, farming, merchandising, etc., very successfully until his death, July 17, 1855. Meantime he had associated with him his brother, Samuel P. Thompson, who survived him for ten or fifteen years. These brothers were tall, erect, handsome men. Anyone in these parts who had not seen or known Joseph C. Thompson had missed one of the pleasures of life. Mr. Thompson was not only of splendid figure and of handsome countenance, but his face was beaming with kindly gentleness and his eye was a delight to see. but he was a man among men, of distinguished bearing.
After coming to Illinois, Mr. Thompson made his home for a time in Mr. Robinson's family, where he met Miss Wilson, a sister of Mrs. Robinson. The latter, who lived to old age, was a very handsome woman.
Mr. Thompson married Miss Wilson, who lived but a short time. He afterwards married Sarah Wilson, sister of his first wife. By this second wife he had a son, Joseph Wilson Thompson, born Sept. 10, 1840, at Mt. Sterling, Brown county, to which place Mr. Robinson had gone to reside. This was the family home of the Robinsons thereafter and they were prominently known there. Mrs. Thompson died there in about the year 1844 and Mrs. Robinson cared for her nephew until Mr. Thompson married again, this time Miss Sarah Porter McMackin, of Jacksonville. She survived him, and in 1866 married Mr. John Hockenhull of Jacksonville. She was a fond and affectionate mother to her stepson until her death in October, 1894.
Mrs. Thompson was a sister of Mrs. Stafford Smith of Meredosia, of Mrs. Joshua Moore and the first Mrs. Robert Hockenhull and Miss Eliza McMackin of Jacksonville; of Mrs. Ensley T. Goudy, of Springfield, Ill., and of Mrs. Wm. Divine, Jr. of Philadelphia, Pa.
Mr. Thompson was greatly interested in the project of building the Northern Cross railroad and was one of those fortunate enough to ride on the road, at the time of the initial trial trip of its locomotive - Nov. 8, 1838, from Meredosia out about to Bluffs (now). This being the first railroad train ever run in the great Northwest.
In politics, Mr. Thompson was a member of the Democratic party.
J. Wilson Thompson, son of the above, was engaged in the employ of the Wabash for many years. He married Miss Maria L. Reed daughter of Dr. M. M. L. Reed, of Jacksonville, in Oct. 1866. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson were the parents of one son, Maro, and two daughters, reference to whom has been made in these sket6ches, in the history of Dr. Reed.
Mr. Thompson attended Illinois college through the junior year, and was a member of the Sigma Pi society. he had a farm at Meredosia, where he resided for a time after his marriage - living in the town; then the family came to Jacksonville and bought the house now occupied by Mr. George S. Rogerson, at the northwest corner of Mound avenue and Lockwood Place. For some years past the Thompsons have lived in Berkeley, California.
J. Wilson Thompson was an enthusiastic Republican and Union man, and stood for his sentiments through the war. Both Mr. and Mrs. Thompson were musicians and players upon the piano. She being an especially fine performer on that instrument.
Joseph C. Thompson's brother, Samuel P. Thompson, as stated above, was a man of notable appearance and carried on a store after the former's death.
Mr. Thompson had three daughters by his first wife. the latter dying in a small pox epidemic, about 1848.
Helen married Wm. Alexander, brother of John t. Alexander, the great cattle man. They had two daughters. Mrs. Alexander was a handsome woman, dying early.
Mary Thompson became the wife of Capt. Charles Carpenter of the 10th Illinois Regiment of Volunteers.
Louis, the youngest of the Thompsons was a girl of unusual beauty, and of much attractiveness, of manner. She married and went to St. Louis to live.
Samuel P. Thompson was one of the finest players upon the snare drum ever known in this state. In the great political campaign of 1860, Mr. Thompson with Benj. H. Grierson and Eugene E. L. Reyland, all then of Meredosia, went about this region playing for the Republicans in processions with the "Wide Awakes", and as occasion required. it would seem to "fond recollection" that no other men ever made such fine and inspiring music. Grierson played on the fife or post-horn and Reyland on the bass drum. the echoes of the strains of the trio will never die out of the ears of those who heard them, as long as conscious remembrance lasts.
Mr. Thompson married again, some years after the death of his first wife; but the name of the second wife, who survived him, is not recalled. He died some time in the ‘60s, as remembered now. His residence was in the house directly east of the Thompson store.
As is well known, Benj. H. Grierson became the great cavalry general and raider, returned to Jacksonville to live, and died here in September, 1911.
Mr. Reyland is still living in California. his wife was a daughter of Daniel Waldo, who turned the first spade of earth beginning the Northern Cross Railroad.