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Cuming County Biography

Richard A. Thompson

Early Wisner Township Settler

information taken from Wisner, Strong & Steadfast, 1871 -125 years - 1996, 1996 Wisner Publishing Co., Wisner, NE and
History of the Elkhorn Valley, Nebraska, reproduction copy 1892 The National Publishing Co., Omaha, NE

One of the first homesteaders in Wisner Township, Cuming County, Nebraska was born in Norway in 1830. Richard A. Thompson was one of the six children born to Thomas and Ellen Gundersdatte Thompson and was the first of his family to migrate to the United States of America. His father having died at a young age and his mother, having difficulty supporting the family, Richard stowed away on a sailing ship headed, Richard believed, for the eastern sea coast of America. After being discovered on board ship, Richard learned he was headed to San Francisco, California, via the coast of South America then up to California. In order to pay for his passage, Richard was assigned work as a bookkeeper and cabin boy and was ordered not to leave the ship when in port. The captain felt that Richard needed to be returned to Norway as he was underage, but Richard had other plans, jumping ship one night he swam to shore and disappeared in the populace of the California gold fields. He established a claim which he later sold at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 then joined the Army as a Cavalry man. By the end of the War, Richard was in Utah protecting settlers from Indians, southern sympathizers and the Mormons.

Hearing there was land to be had in eastern Nebraska, Richard and his newly married wife headed east in a covered wagon with all of their earthly belongings. Along the way, they were robbed of their horses and other valuables, but obtaining oxen they continued on toward their goal reaching the Wisner area in 1865. They proceeded to build the first log-cabin in the area along the banks of the Elkhorn. Richard established his homestead on Section 4 in 1866 because he was the last settler going north in the valley, Richard and his wife had no neighbors within seven miles of their cabin.

Richard kept in touch with his family in Norway, it wasn’t long before his influence and help brought a brother, Mathias, and a sister, Thomasina, to the New World. Mathias homesteaded west of Wisner in 1868 and while farming also continued his trade as a watch repairer first in West Point then in Wisner. The sister, Thomasina Eline Thompson Oleson settled in Omaha.

Richard was active in the organization of the first Cuming County Agricultural Society and served on its board of managers in 1862.

During the winter of 1868-69, Richard and his wife endured a “hair-raising: experience when the Indians encamped near them entered their cabin and commenced having a pow-wow. The problem was a young chief wanted to have a white scalp as a trophy to carry with him when the tribe moved on according to the governmental orders they had received. After enduring the pow-wow, the Indians left the Thompson’s cabin leaving the Thomspsons safe. The chief still got his scalp from another settler five miles away. Richard and his wife both lived several more years and are both buried in the Norwegian Cemetery at Wisner, Nebraska. Richard 1830 – 1892 and  Ragnild 1826 – 1912. There were no children.

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