Mary Wilson Kelsey

THOMPSON, JAMES GEORGE (1802–1879). James George Thompson, a prominent merchant and the first chief justice of Grayson County, was born in South Carolina on January 12, 1802, the son of Jesse and Anna (McDonald) Thompson. Before he was seven years old his family moved to Cherokee County on the Tennessee River in what is now Alabama. Thompson grew up among Cherokees and married Margaret McNary, a quarter-breed Cherokee of the Long Hair clan. In 1829, after the Cherokee Removal Treaty of 1828, the Thompsons moved to Arkansas Territory along with hundreds of Cherokee families. Between 1832 and 1834 Thompson operated a trading post in the western Cherokee Nation on the Canadian River, near its mouth on the Arkansas River. He also operated a ferry and a keelboat on the Arkansas River. During this period Thompson became friends with Sam Houston and Jesse Chisholm, long before Chisholm developed the famous trail that bore his name. Several prominent Indian chiefs were among Thompson's customers. These included Cherokees Nelson and Lewis Riley and Thomas Chisholm, Jesse's uncle; and Delawares George Bullette and Chief Roasting Ear.

Thompson began trading on the Red River in 1833. He established himself on Little Mineral Creek in the Washita Bend of the Red River, later known as Preston Bend. By 1838 this was part of Fannin County in the Republic of Texas. Thompson received a land grant in the area, was a captain of the volunteer ranger force, and also served as postmaster for the community of Woodboro, also known as Preston's Woodbox. Thompson's wife died in January 1840, leaving him with several children. In October of that year he married Nancy Chentally Lattimer of La Grange, the now extinct seat of Red River County. Nancy and her two children died in an epidemic in 1845. In 1846 Thompson married Martha Gresham Caruthers, the widow of William Caruthers, who had come to Texas in 1836 and obtained a 1,000-acre grant that included the Indian village of Shawnee Town and the future site of Denison. When Grayson County was organized on March 17, 1846, Thompson was appointed the first chief justice and was one of the commissioners charged with locating the county seat. He was a booster of the Butterfield Overland Mail Route, which ran through Preston and Sherman. He also promoted and invested in railroads that ran to Sherman, including lines that became the Texas and Pacific and the Missouri, Kansas and Texas. Thompson was an original stockholder in the Merchants and Planters Bank of Sherman and was involved in cotton shipping and other enterprises. In 1860 he and his wife owned almost 4,000 acres of land, but the Civil War greatly depleted his wealth. Thompson was elected to the Secession Convention in Austin, where he signed the secession declaration and served on several committees. He had eighteen children, ten of whom survived to adulthood. He died at Preston Bend on the Red River on August 13, 1879.


Graham Landrum and Allen Smith, Grayson County (Fort Worth, 1960; 2d ed., Fort Worth: Historical Publishers, 1967). Mattie D. Lucas and Mita H. Hall, A History of Grayson County (Sherman, Texas, 1936).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Mary Wilson Kelsey, "THOMPSON, JAMES GEORGE," accessed February 22, 2020,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 3, 2020. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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