Historical Details

Thompson, Arthur

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 01/07/2021


by Helen Veirs

At this time it is our privilege to publish a bit of the history of     the inter­esting and productive life of Arthur Thompson­ .

His parents were Thomas L. and Torborg Thompson, both natives of Haugesund, Norway. In 1850 Thompson emigrated to the United States and settled on a farm in Iowa. After almost two decades, his fiancee also came to America and the couple were married in 1870 and remained on the farm in Iowa for more than 15 years. Several of their children were born during that period. Mr. and Mrs. Thompson came to the Wyoming Territory and homesteaded nine miles northeast of Lusk in what was known as the “Divide Country", now a part of Niobrara County. The town of Silver Cliff, which later became Lusk, was already in existence.

Arthur Thompson was born May 12, 1888, 22 months before Wyoming was admitted to the Union. He was the third of five sons and brother of five sisters. His brothers were Thomas, Olie, Lewis and Ben; his sis­ters were named Bertha, Thea, Anna, Jeanette and Ethel. Art, as is known to his many friends, and one sister Ethel (Mrs. Don Taylor of Lusk) are the only surviving children.

A one-room house was the family's first home with all the inconveniences of a pioneer homestead. A few years later, the Thompsons moved to a new ranch in the "valley" and later they moved to the third ranch near Kirtley, about 22 miles north east of Lusk. All the children attended country school in the Lind and Kirtley communities.

Arthur Thompson is a real pioneer in the true sense of the word. Not only was he born in Niobrara County, but he has resided here all his life. He endured all the hardships and privations of the early settlers. In reminiscing, he tells of the crude tools and implements used on the ranch.  In order to secure water, a well  was dug by hand 160 feet deep, and water for all purposes was carried from this well. Cattle, the main source of income, were held in a corral made of hand-hewn poles, eight feet high, held together with spikes or skipped into notches. The senior Thompson was the first rancher to plant and raise hay in the neighborhood. All the children work­ed hard assisting with the family ranching efforts.

Nellie ZumBrunnen Christian has been a lifelong friend. She attended the same School in Kirtley as did the Thompson chil­dren. Other neighboring homesteaders were the Berggrens, Eldridges, Deuels, Schroe­fels, Erdmans, Lohrs, and Thatchers, all ranchers in the valley.

Inga Paulson (Mrs. Art Thompson) was born in Minnesota, but had moved to Colorado and was educated in Denver. She came to the Kirtley community to teach school. There she met her future husband, a romance followed and in 1917 the young couple were married in Boulder, Colo.

In spite of hardships, the Thompson family had prospered and in 1917 at the age of 28, Art bought exclusive control over the family ranch and his parents retired to live their remaining years in Lusk.   Through young Thompson's efforts, the original ranch of 1 ,700 acres was expanded to 6 ,000 acres, at one time running 350 head of fine Hereford cattle. Horses were also raised on the ranch.

In the 1920's, Thompson carried the mail in the Kirtley community. At first he used a spring wagon drawn by mules to cover his route. Later he acquired a car for mail delivery but when it stormed and roads were bad he still used horse or mules to complete his "appointed rounds“.

The Thompsons continued to live on the ranch until 1938, when they moved to Lusk and Art drove back and forth to over see the operation of the ranch. Later they leased the ranch, and although he is no longer an active rancher he still is in­terested in the business.

Arthur and Inga Thompson were parents of four children, Eleanor, Camilla, Arthur Jr. and Marian.   Surviving are Eleanor, the wife of State Treasurer Ed Witzenburger, Cheyenne and Marian, who is married to Verne Browder. The Browders are presently operating the Thompson ranch.    There are five grandchildren and three great-grand­ children.

Art Thompson is one of the most out­ standing cowboys in this area. As a young man he rode in many roundups, including his last ride in 1926 in what was known as Tom Bell Roundup. He was also an excellent bronco rider and is remembered for his successful riding of 11 I-Be-Damned”, for three years a world championship  bronc at the Cheyenne rodeo. He also rode "Lightning Creek" a horse that held the State

Bucking Bronco championship for a number of years. In later years, Thompson acted as a judge in many of the Harrison and Niobrara county fairs.

Not only is Thompson an outstanding rancher and cowboy, but he is also a civic leader.  He was chairman of the Rural Electrification Authority in Niobrara for eight years.  A life-long Republican, he was a county commissioner from 1920 until 1934 and later was chairman of the County Welfare Board for six years.

About twenty years ago he received the 50-year jewels from Custer Lodge No. 21, I.O.O.F. and is still an honorary member. He is a member of the Lusk Congregational church.

One of Thompson's most prized souvenirs is a framed "Pioneer Certificate”, dated July 1965 issued to him by Governor Clifford Hansen, with the inscription "Arthur Thompson-A Pioneer of the State of Wyoming."

Since the publication of the story of longtime Niobrara resident Nellie Christian, it has been brought to the attention of The Herald that there is another, and older, native Niobraran residing in Lusk--Art Thompson. At this time, therefore, it is our privilege to publish a bit of the history of the interesting and productive life of Arthur Thompson.

Although somewhat hampered by a loss of hearing, Thompson is still active and interested in current events.His erect posture and general appearance belie his almost 89 years of living. Niobrara County may well be proud of a native son who has contributed so greatly to the posterity and welfare of the community.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Thompson, Arthur (05/12/1888 - 05/15/1984) View Record
Obituary Thompson, Inga (03/15/1895 - 10/28/1985) View Record
Historical Charley Irwin's I-Be-Dam View Record