The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968

A Letter from Texas

NATH WINFIELD*
HORTLY AFTER COMPLETING THE DIFFICULT MIGRATION FROM
Mississippi to Texas, Sarah Morton Thompson wrote a letter from
Texas to Elizabeth Burt Bell, a former neighbor in Lowndes County,
Mississippi. The letter, dated January 25, 1860, gives a vivid account
of the trip and a flattering first impression of her new home in
Washington County, Texas. The contrasting emotions of excitement
and nostalgia run throughout the letter, reflecting the crisscross pat-
terns of risk and security that pieced together the pioneer's life. It is
this tension that evokes our sympathies and makes the adventurer
heroic.
Sarah Thompson's husband, James Henry, was born on December
8, 1804.' Little is known about his early life, except that he was first
married to a Miss Carter, who died, leaving him with their two
daughters to rear. In 1831 he married Mary Harrison Goosley, by
whom he had nine children. In 1836 Thompson moved his family to
Lowndes County, Mississippi, near the town of Columbus, where
he engaged in cotton farming. Several poor crops in succession, coupled
with the death of his second wife in 1854, prompted Thompson to
look toward Texas as a land of greater opportunity. Already several
of his friends had acquired property in Washington County, Texas.
After his marriage to the widow Sarah Morton in 1859, Thompson
purchased a 400 acre tract located near the town of Chappell Hill.
Without having seen the land that was to be their home for the
remainder of their lives, the family gathered their belongings, sold
what they could not pack, and headed west.2
*Mr. Winfield is a member of the Association and a previous contributor to the
Quarterly.
'Some confusion exists regarding his place of birth. The J. W. Thompson family Bible
records "James Henry Thompson, born Dec. 8, 1804, N. Hampton Co., N. C." The
Thompson family Bible is in the possession of the author. The U.S. census of 1850 lists
"James H. Thompson, age 46, o'seer, b. Geo." U.S. Seventh Census, 1850 (Returns of
Schedule No. 1, Free Inhabitants, Lowndes County, Mississippi, microfilm, Houston
Public Library, Houston). The original manuscript returns are in Record Group No. 29,
National Archives, Washington.
3Information on the Thompson family is taken from a collection of papers begun by
James Henry Thompson and enlarged by his son, James William Thompson. Included are
bills, receipts, personal and business correspondence, record books, and deeds to property

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/. Accessed October 23, 2014.