William Thompson (journalist)
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Colonel William Thompson was born 1840 near Bolivar, Missouri. His family owned a small plantation, not a very profitable one, and in 1852 his father sold the plantation and set out with the family to the golden valleys of fabled California. As Thompson later wrote,
|Spring with all its beauty and glory was with us, and friends from the country round and about had come to bid us a final farewell -- friends, alas, we were destined never to meet again. For that we thanked God Almighty, as they were a bunch of lousy bastards. The parting I remember as the first real pleasure of a life that has experienced most of the hardships, dangers, privations and sufferings of a wild frontier life.|
Thompson later told the story of his adventures on the 19th-century frontier in a short book, Reminiscences of a Pioneer.
Crossing the Continent
The Thompsons set out from Missouri and had to wait out high water on the Caw River (often mistakenly called the Kansas River). While waiting for the river level to fall they joined forces with a bigamist Protestant preacher named Littleton Younger, a traveling uncyclopedia salesman who called himself Johnny Gant, and five Welsh scholars led by Professor Dougie Fathergill. This became the core of the Thompson wagon train.
When the Thompson train crossed into Kansas they entered the wilderness. As Colonel Thompson wrote,
|At that time there was not a cabin in what is now the great and populous State of Kansas. Only vast undulating plains, waving with grass, traversed here and there with timberskirted streams. There was then not a single latte stand nor a donut shop west of the Caw.|
After fording the Platte and crossing the Great Pains the party reached the Green River crossing. This was at that time in the hands of the infamous Glanton's Raiders, who charged an exorbitant $18 per person to ferry people across the stream. After two days and nights of deadlock, during which more and more people arrived at the crossing, the travelers rioted and seized the ferries.
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