By D. F. Wheaton, of Barre
Daniel Pierce Thompson, son of Daniel and Rebeckah Thompson, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, Oct. 1, 1795, and emigrated with his father to Berlin in 1800; and here he passed his boyhood days, on his father’s farm, following the routine of a farmer boy’s life. But his desire was for books, the fishing-rod and his gun, and he left the farm in early manhood, without means, but determined to possess an education, and by his own efforts succeeded. He pursued his studies in Randolph and Danville, this State, and entered Middlebury College in 1816; graduated in 1820; went to Virginia, and engaged in teaching several years; studied law while there; was admitted to the bar of that State, and returning to Vermont, commenced to practice at Montpelier, where he resided till his death. He married Miss Eunice Robinson of Troy, Vermont, had 5 children, three of whom and his widow are still living. He engaged in his profession but a short time, being soon chosen the Register of Probate for Washington County, which office, together with that of Clerk of the House of Representatives, he held for several years, and then was appointed Clerk of the County and Supreme Courts, and soon after was chosen Judge of Probate. He was elected Secretary of State, and held the office until 1855. He was editor of “The Green Mountain Freeman” from 1849 to 1856, and eminently successful in making an interesting and entertaining newspaper.
In politics, originally a Democrat, he early became identified with the old Liberty party, and after that party was banded, became a supporter of the Republican party. It was not as a public officer, however, but as a writer, that his name will be most widely known and cherished. He was the only popular novelist Vermont has ever produced. During his whole life he devoted much time to the incidents of the early history of the State. He loved to embody in his writings such reminiscences as he was able to gather from the records and the recollections of old men. A lover of stories and traditions, it was his habit to convene with the old people, and listen to the quaint narratives they loved to tell.
A devotee of the piscatorial art, he would take jaunts about the county with his fishing-rod, and was familiar with every trout brook and pond for miles around, and almost rivalled Izaak Walton of old in his passion for fishing, and in the success that attended his hook, in the long string of trout he bore home in triumph.
Often stopping at some wayside farmhouse, he would spend hours with some of the old settlers, garulous of the early scenes and times in the history of our State. The fame of many of the founders of the State is greatly indebted to his pen and the industry and enthusiasm with which he collected and placed before the people incidents that otherwise would have been forgotten long ago. Besides newspaper and magazine articles, his first work was “May Martin, or The Money Diggers“; published in book form in 1835. It was written in successful competition for a prize offered by one of the Boston journals. In 1840, “The Green Mountain Boys” appeared — a historical tale, containing some of the chief incidents of the history of the State, and introducing the leading characters of that period. Then followed “Locke Amsden, or the School-master,” written with a view to the reformation of the school system of that time; “The Rangers, or the Tory’s Daughter,” published in 1851, illustrative of the early history of the State, and gives an interesting account of the Battle of Bennington, and incidents connected with the northern campaign of 1777. In 1852, he issued “Tales of the Green Mountains“; in 1857, “Gaut Gurley, or the Trappers of the Umbago“; in 1860, “The Doomed Chief, or Two Hundred Years Ago“; which contains an interesting account of the brave, but unfortunate, King Philip, of Mount Hope; “Centeola” and a History of Montpelier close the list of his books.
Most of his works have passed through numerous editions; May Martin and the Green Mountain Boys as many as fifty, and have been re-published in England, and some of his scenes have been dramatized. His prolific pen also produced many other less pretentious stories and articles deservedly popular. His novels, rich in historical facts, are written in a graphic, natural language and entertaining style, and he has done much to familiarize our State history.
The last few years of his life he suffered ill health from partial strokes of paralysis, which were but precursors of the final attack, which proved fatal June 6, 1868. By his death a pen rich in historic incidents and scenes was laid aside forever; but his name will long be associated with the history of our State through his works.
He was frank and pleasant in his dealings with his fellow-men; lenient almost to a fault, unpretending in dress, and genial as a friend and companion.