Theodore Arthur Thompson was born the youngest of three children on the 12th of March 1890 on a farm 3 miles south of St. Thomas, Pembina County, North Dakota. His father was Torvale Thompson who was born in Norway. His father changed his name to Thomas Christopher when the family moved to Canada to homestead. He was usually known as T.C. Thompson. His mother was Signid Peterson but when she came to the United States she changed her name to Sarrah. She came from Norway in 1870 as a child of 7.
Arthur, as he was called throughout his life, was christened in the Lutheran Church on May 18, 1890. He had an older sister, Alma and an older brother, Ed.
The first house that he can remember was a big rambling house with a big porch and a railing. There was a road in front of the house and a railroad at the side of the property. There was a special barn for the cows and horses and trees were all around. One time, when he was still a little boy, during a blizzard, he went to check on the animals and he was lost in the storm.
His father was a business man and in 1895 he built a flour mill and put down a flowing well and got salt water, The mill put out 300 barrels of flour every 24 hours! He also had the first steam traction tractor in North Dakota, built in the Stillwater Penitentiary.
As a child of 9, an old farmer near his home invited Arthur to try to discover water with the crook of a willow tree. His success led him to develop his own techniques and he is said to have "witched" more than 180 wells over a period of 40 years!
In 1900 the family moved to Edinburg, Walsh County, North Dakota and traded the farm for a hotel. Art was aged 10. His father owned and operated the Merchant's Hotel, a lumber yard and a delivery service. Art would be sent to Fargo, North Dakota for supplies with a team of horses. It was a trip of 40 miles and had to be made in one day because he had no money for meals or to spend on over-night lodging. When Art was 12 years old most of the town burned down. A high wind spread the fire through the town. His family always fed the bachelors!
In 1902 at the age of 12 Art got sunstroke. He lost all memory and could not go to school after that time. The doctors said that he would not live past the age of 16! He had serious headaches from that time onward. His eyes were bad and there was no one to fit glasses. The temperature got up to 110 degrees F. and people and animals were dying from the heat.
One time, as a teenager he went to a masquerade dance dressed in a Japanese costume. He asked his sister to dance, It was the only dance that he ever went to! He met Amanda Elizabeth Soder when he was 18. The young people of the area would sit on the church steps and sing. He was a good singer when he was young. One time when he was not feeling well he was given some horse medicine by mistake and he was poisoned. He went into convulsions and broke some teeth before he lost consciousness.
He was 18 years old when the family moved to Alberta, Canada to homestead. He was very thin and weighed less than 130 pounds at this time. The land was well settled around Edinburg, N.D. and T.C. could see no future for his boys. Free land was a big attraction in Canada! The Thompson's brought one steam engine out-fit as well as cattle and horses with them on the seven day train trip to Alberta. The steam outfit was the first between Medicine Hat and Taber. The equipment was unloaded at Grassy Lake which was the end of the rail line at that time. With only a general map of the area as a guide the family set out for the Pakowki Lake district. They imagined the area to be richly wooded with a beautiful setting for their new home. Instead they found a six-inch deep alkali slough. The Thompson's moved on. They camped for the night along the Fourty-Mile Coulee and T.C. went into the town of Bow Island. He found that the surveyors were there. They became squatters and built a shack.
Art was sent to Grassy Lake with a team and wagon to get lumber. It was March and on the way home it began to snow and blow. For miles and miles the horses led the way and finally he could feel the horses going down a steep coulee. When they reached the bottom the horses and Art were cold, hungry and exhausted. He sat down beside the wagon and fell asleep. When he awoke at day break his coat collar was frozen to his head. He got on a horse and rode for the camp. When he arrived he fell into the door and fainted. His brothers and father found the wagon load of lumber near Stroms in the coulee near where the town of Burdett is now located.
Art worked with his brother, Ed and his dad and his cousin Charlie on the first steam threshing outfit in the Bow Island area. Many homesteaders and travelers, lost or otherwise, stopped at the Thompson house for food and rest. They had a cookcar used for the threshing outfit and this was used to accommodate the travelers.
One day about noon Art could see a covered wagon drawn by four oxen approaching. Then he saw a big roan range bull running full speed toward the travelers. He grabbed a pitchfork, jumped on a horse and chased the bull away. When he went back to the wagon the people were scared and the woman was crying. They wanted to cross the coulee where they had a homestead. There were no brakes on the wagon and they didn't even have a chain. He found out they didn't know a thing about farming or oxen! He helped them lock the wheels on the wagon and slid it down the coulee. They camped by a spring on his homestead but he told them that they must always be wary of range cattle.
When the surveyors came to survey southern Alberta, they surveyed two townships at a time. About 40 men camped in the coulee. They hired the Thompson boys to move their supplies.
Thompson's made the first trail from the Fourty-Mile Coulee to Bow Island. When the municipal council was put in they hired them to plow eight furrows on each side of the road as a fire-break and to mark the road because people were always getting lost. They plowed from the Fourty-Mile coulee to the rail-way tracks at Bow Island.
Arthur homesteaded south of Bow Island on the south half of section 13 in township 8 range 11 west of the 4th meridian. T.C. homesteaded just north of Arthur. Ed was to the west of T.C. and to the north of T.C. was Charlie's homestead.
When Art had been in Canada for three years his headaches stopped! At the age of 22 he returned to North Dakota and brought Amanda Elizabeth Soder back to Canada as his wife. She was beautiful and preferred to be called Alice. They were married on July 7,1912 in Great Falls, Montana. They lived with T.C. and Sarrah and the boys for the first year. Then they built their own one-roomed house at the bottom of the hill. In 1916 they built the big house. It had 4 rooms and a pantry. About this time they bought their first car. It was a model T Ford.
Art and his brothers hauled supplies to build the new house for T.C. It was the first two story house in the area and was known as the "Big House".
Art spent 40 years farming. He and Amanda had two girls. Arthur learned from his mother to tell fortunes by reading cards. Alice disapproved as she felt cards were the tools of the devil. He also learned to wish off warts. The charm could only be given to a person of the opposite sex. They had a root cellar on the farm where the milk was always kept. Butter was kept in a pail which hung down the well on the north side of the house. Arthur butchered pigs in the fall and made good sausage. Ice was kept under straw in the ice pit and ice-cream was made in the ice-cream churn. Butter was churned. Clothes were washed by hand over a wash board which hung in the coat room off the kitchen. Coffee was ground in a grinder which was attached to the wall near the dining room door. The eggs were gathered, the flowers watered by hand, and chickens were killed plucked and roasted for Sunday dinner.
The girls grew up and married. Grand children were born and they enjoyed visits to the farm. They were chased by the goose and protected by Bing, the old collie.
Grand children remember a Grandpa who was a small man about 5 foot 8 inches tall. He had beautiful blue eyes and wore glasses. He had thinning gray hair and he always wore suspenders. He often wore a silver arm band. He wore a straw hat in the summer and a brown felt hat in the winter. He liked picnics in the summer, and pictures of the family. He always ate oatmeal porridge for breakfast and loved Alice's sugar cookies and donuts. He ate a lot of cabbage, ham and fried potatoes.
In 1955 Arthur and Alice moved into the town of Bow Island. He continued to farm until 1960 when the farm was sold. During his retirement years Arthur liked to work with wood. He built chests of all sizes, swings, replicas of "Old Glory", Bow Island's first gas well, boats, covered wagons and steam engines. He worked for hours in a cluttered workshop in the backyard. He enjoyed his daily walk uptown to have coffee and visit with people. He loved to tell stories about threshing crews, life-threatening blizzards and claimed that he had a real life experience with "Billy the Kid" in his youth. He took good care of his vehicles. He had an old 1948 Ford truck that still ran in the 1980's! He sold it to his great grandson as money was important to him. He was careful but fair with his money. If he gave his daughter some money he always gave the same amount to his daughter Doris. He often loaned Harry Chuen money to run his grocery store but he was always paid back.
In 1980 he moved into the Lodge in Bow Island. The day he had the auction to sell his household effects was a sad one. Alice had been moved to the Auxiliary Wing of the Bow Island Hospital and he was no longer able to care for himself. His daughter had been preparing meals, cleaning the house and doing his laundry for a number of years before he moved into the Lodge. When he lived in the Lodge he didn't like to share his company with anyone else and he always took his visitors to his room. One of his favorite expressions was "Oh,Boy". In his later years he seemed to get frustrated over little things. We can recall him his daughter on the phone at 5:30 A.M. when he was worried about some small matter. He loved to drive to Taber almost daily for Kentucky Fried Chicken and a piece of apple pie. He loved sweets but he was limited because he was diabetic. He had a valid Alberta driver's license until he was 96 years old. He was really upset when he was no longer able to drive!
On July 7,1884 he and Alice celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary! Alice died on February 24,1985 at the age of 97. Arthur died on July 2,1988 at the age of 98. They are buried in the Bow Island Cemetery after having lived a long and useful life.
Return Pioneer Histories