William Eberle Thompson (1835-1940) – 52 Ancestors #3

When I saw that the third theme for the 52 Ancestors challenge is longevity, I immediately thought of my grandpa Lyle who lived to the day before his 101st birthday.  However, before I started to write about him I decided to search my family tree database to see how many people in the tree lived to be 100 years old or more.  I discovered that there were 8 names on the list, not all of whom are direct relatives.  I was reminded, though, of William E. Thompson who lived to be 104.  He is one of the long-lived who is not a relative at all: he married a Justice cousin after his first wife died (a second cousin three times removed), late in his life.  Nonetheless, he is an interesting character and I decided to explore his life a little.

There are various pieces of biographical information about William1 including one in a compendium by the Bethel Historical Society commemorating the 200th anniversary of Bethel2.  William was born in 1835 in the village of Bethel, Ohio to C. William and Sarah Hill Thompson.  His father was a physician in Bethel.  William E. got involved in the abolitionist movement from a young age and is said to have used his rifle skills to shoot bloodhounds that the slave hunters used.  He followed his father into the medical profession and when the Civil War began he quickly volunteered as a physician for the 7th Ohio Infantry.   He apparently didn’t last long though, becoming so sick that he was ordered first to Columbus and thence home.  He seems to have applied for a invalid’s pension in 1901, I’ve seen an image of the index card that shows him but I have not seen his application.

So where does longevity apply to him?  First, he lived to be almost 105, dying 5 months shy of that birthday in 1940.  He also was said to be the oldest practicing physician in the country at the time, taking office calls almost until the last month of his life.  In all he practiced as a physician somewhere between 70 and 80 years.  He certainly also counts as one of the longest practicing physicians in the U.S. even today.

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  1.   Williams, Byron.  History of Clermont and Brown Counties, Ohio, Vol II Biographical, pp 53-55;  Rockey, J.L. and R.J. Bancroft.  History of Clermont County, Ohio, pp 140-149 on the medical profession
  2.   Bethel, Ohio History & Pictures 1798-1998, Bethel Historical Association, pp 81-82
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