New info on Henry!


Henry was a busy guy and it’s no wonder there was more out there for me to find about him. Now that I have started the blog, I constantly get new thoughts in my head on how to research family members. Now I know that Henry was “Superintendent Thompson” (because of his position with the railway), so that’s a search I never did before while perusing the archived newspapers at I hit paydirt with 218 articles for me to scour through. Not all 218 were about him as there was also a Superintendent Thompson of schools, but I did discover a plethora of information about my Henry’s day to day life. Who knew that being a Superintendent of the railway basically meant you were also in charge of the destinations to which your railway transported people? I found that Henry was a man whom many in the Onondaga Valley were grateful for. It meant they could visit the Barnum circus (as it was not B&B at the time), attend the local baseball games (Oswego always brought the rain with them) and go on company outings. He became the Danforth Park manager in effect and anyone who wanted to schedule the park for their event went directly to Henry. Nuns from the local children’s asylum bestowed a gold cross on him for all of the gracious gestures he provided and local veterans who wanted to decorate graves of the fallen all got a free ride on Henry’s railway.

I have also had recent contact with Sister Catherine of the Catherdral of the Immaculate Conception. I decided to reach out to see if they had info on Henry’s death and I am still following up on other family members. Sister Catherine has been especially helpful during a time of thousands of people who must be searching for family history now that “Who Do You Think You Are” is so popular. I don’t know this woman, but I hope she understands the quest and is being very gracious with her research time. I have been very lucky so far. She’s provided me the wedding date of Henry and second wife Mary and the witnesses to the marriage which include Mary’s brother Michael and sister Kate. Unfortunately Henry died of arteriosclerosis which was also in her records.

One unsolved piece of the puzzle stems from Henry most likely living in Buffalo before finishing his life in Syracuse. I know this because of the 1860 census where he and Sarah and their son James were living in the 5th ward in Buffalo. I also found an article on Henry visiting relatives in Buffalo. He was a cartman at the time, but doing more research on railroad activity I have found there was a Henry Thompson named to the Board of Directors of the Fort Erie Railroad. There are a lot of articles online about a significant time in history when Jay Gould who owned the railroad (and several others) inflated the value of the stocks in the railroad to make it financially impossible for Cornelius Vanderbilt (yep, of thee Vanderbilts) to purchase the railroad. He took the profits for himself, bribed a few lawmakers in Albany and ultimately a Henry Thompson was called for testimony about what went down. From what I gather this Henry did not know much about Jay Gould’s underhanded ways and provided his sincere knowledge of the case. I have a strong feeling this is my Henry but I need to dig a bit deeper to be sure. What I have gathered thus far is this was a man of principle, ethics and someone you call when you are in need of a ride.

More to come as this further unravels. One thing I have discovered is that research has no end.

Henry F. Thompson


Henry Thompson is the patriarch of my line of the Thompson family tree from Syracuse, NY. He is the furthest back relative that I have found in my research on the Thompson line of my tree and is my 3rd great grandfather. Henry was quite a guy and well known. Articles I have found portray him as a hard-working Superintendent of the first rail car system in Syracuse. He was known to plow the snow-filled streets around Salina Street with his four horses, long before people woke up for the day. Henry and his wife Sarah (both from Ireland) settled in Syracuse and raised 3 children, Ellen (Ella), Henry F., and James (of whom I am a descendant). At this point, I don’t know much about James’ siblings but I do have colorful stories about James, my great, great grandfather. Henry’s wife Sarah passed away in 1880. On one of the census reports, Sarah was listed as an invalid. It appears she passed away at about the age of 40. There was a published obituary, which was not clear enough to attach. There was a lot of focus on the floral arrangements vs. her life. This may say some interesting things as perhaps the family was prominent and the abundance of flowers demonstrated this. Perhaps because she was an invalid, there may have been little to report on her life and in those times people didn’t really talk about what went on behind closed doors.

Henry wasted no time in getting remarried the following year to a woman roughly 20 years his junior, Mary O’Neill. I was quite surprised to discover that Henry had an additional family with this wife. These children were Willis Augustin “Booker” Thompson (I have yet to understand the nickname), and Margaret. I actually found out about them in Henry’s obituary. Now there’s no mention of the first 3 children with Sarah. My assumption was Ellen got married or passed away, James was no longer alive then and I don’t know what happened to Henry. Mary’s sister Catherine “Kitty” lived with them for a time as a spinster.

This is the top of the Thompson tree, and in future posts I will provide amusing information on Henry’s son James or as I like to refer to him: the apple that DID fall far from the tree.