Missouri's Little Dixie
The John C. Thompson House, "Thompson Villa"
Arrow Rock, Saline County, Missouri
By Gary Gene Fuenfhausen
The Judge John C. Thompson House is a two-story Italianate town “Villa” embellished with the customary details, such as a widely over hanging eaves supported by decorative bracketed cornice, and a low-pitched hipped roof. Two large brick central chimney shafts, with a varying corbel course and table, crown the roof.
The main block, which was built c. 1858, is dominated by a central two-story projecting paneled entry with triangular gable. The first and second-story doors have a plain door surround with transom and sidelights, more often found on Greek Revival house in the area. Three sides of the main block are sided with a rusticated wood board and corner quoins resembling faux stone.
Built in a T-shape with central hall, this “I” house variation has the traditional Italianate three-ranked openings. Windows on the front façade are rectangular shaped, two-paned sashes, typical of Italianate structures from the period. On the opposite sides, 6 over 6 paned two sash windows were used. Windows on the first floor level are larger than the windows on the second floor, adding height to the structure’s overall appearance.
Although the Thompson House is a rural vernacular interpretation, it does show some strong similarities to several published architectural plans of the period. In particular those by Architect Samuel Sloan. The house’s basic exterior form and interior first and second floor plan, with its 3 bedroom chamber, resemble the central block of Sloan’s Italianate “Thirty-first” design. Called “The Villa,” the plan appeared in his 1852 publication of “The Model Architect.“ In this publication, Sloan attributes the original design to Mr. L. A. Godey, of Godey’s “Lady’s Book” fame.
It is not possible to determine the exact date of first construction, but the rear kitchen and dining room, which formed the original “T,” were built prior to Thompson’s ownership. Now enclosed in newer construction, the kitchen and dining area were built some time after Daniel Watts purchased the property in 1853.
Examination of the interior walls and foundation construction provide clues to the preexistence of these two rooms. For example, the main block’s interior walls, both first and second-story, are five inches thick while the central shared wall between the two adjoining structures varies between eleven and three-fourths to thirteen and three-fourths inches. The shared dining room wall and kitchen is five and a half inches thick. Additional clues which support the joining of these two structures is found in the fire place boxes. The main block fire boxes have brick liners while the older dining area is built with cut stone. In addition to these historic facts is the presence of painted lap siding located between the two historic structures and on the interior wall of the original dinning area. Local history does coincide with these findings, because legend states that the back two rooms were originally a slave cabin moved and attached to the main block of the house. Regardless of this legend, it is clear that the two structures were combined when the new front main block was put up in 1858.
Judge John C. Thompson, Sr., local merchant and lumber dealer, purchased the 13 acre estate in March of 1858, at a considerable profit for Watts. It is clear from deed records that Daniel and his wife were developing the original 89 acres into small town estates. Adjoining properties were sold from 1853 to 1860, at which time many of the original homes in this area were built. Similar to Thompson’s purchase, for example, is that of William Lamb. Mr. Lamb purchased eleven and one half acres just south of the Thompson property and built a two story “I” house in 1856.
Several supporting discoveries point to 1858 as the date of construction, such as the discovery of original patented door hardware, a small section of elaborate faux graining, and rusticated siding. The bedroom closet where both the lock and faux graining were found, received very little use or remodeling during the structure’s existence and years as a working restaurant. The side mounted cast lock that was used on this closet door has a patent date of December 1856, supporting the date of construction.
Although architectural carpenter books of the time spoke against graining, the use of hardwoods and real stained wood did not receive acceptance Nationally until after the Civil War. The Thompson House faux graining is in keeping with the period and certainly within bounds of other structures built during the 1850s in and around Saline County. For example, both the historic Talbot House and Prior Jackson House near Fayette exhibit rich faux grained woodwork. Both of these houses were built between 1852 and 1859.
Thompson’s successful 1850s lumber business and connections may help to explain why the house was erected using elaborate rusticated siding and unusual 2 paned sash windows. Examples of similar rusticated siding has not been found to have been used in the area. However, it was used by successful Alabama planter Dr. Hardy Vickers Wooten while building his new home during the same period. Wooten, a successful cotton farmer and physician, kept a detailed diary of his finances and the building of his new home. Having the means to purchase high end siding in remote southern Alabama, Wooten’s new home “Rosewood” was finished in November 1855.
A chisel used in the construction of the house was also discovered in 2005 hidden in the eaves of the projecting front gable and covered in decades of dirt and debris. It is certain that the heavy duty 17 and 1/2 inch chisel was used in the building of the home, since the 2 and 1/16 inch blade matches cuts in the house’s mortise and tenon construction. The chisel is marked “W. Butcher“ and dates from the 1820s to 1830s.
William and Samuel Butcher manufactured chisels and other tools from the early 1800s under the name “W. Butcher,” until various name changes occurred beginning in the 1830s. William first partnered with his brother Samuel in 1819, and he is listed in local records as a manufacturer from 1821 thru 1825 and again in 1845. Early Butcher tools are marked with “W. Butcher” and “Cast Steel,“ and have hand forged tangs and holding rings like the Thompson House chisel.
The 1830s were the boom years for the brothers as manufacturing increased and American trade expanded. It was after this time that the company stamped its tools “Wade and Butcher,” when Robert Wade took control of the American operations and located his office in New York city. Middle and late Victorian models sport a cleaner finished blade and a brass ring and tang, unlike the Thompson House chisel. William Butcher died in 1870 and the name “Wade and Butcher” was used until c. 1947.
In 1961, an addition was built and attached to the rear “T.” The 24 x 24 room was put up on the west wall and to the rear and adjoining main block. This room is quite large and was used for guest dining in the restaurant. More recent construction includes several extensions behind main block, which include cooking and preparation areas and bathrooms. A second-story addition, c. 1990, was built over the original “T” and new kitchen and bathroom additions.
Sometime after 1960, while the residence was used as a restaurant, the main façade was historically weakened by the removal of the original one-story Italianate portico. In replacement of the original porch, an elaborate steel balcony was used on the second story and a wooden deck was built nearly the full length of the house’s front.
During the 1990s, the balcony was removed. It is also the intent of the present owners to remove the modern decking, and by using historic photos recreate the original one story Italianate porch (finished in 2008). The present owners also wish to remove the 1961 addition and remodel the newer additions so as to be in keeping with the historic architecture of the house (1961 room removed in 2007).
Photographed by Marsha Miller Photographed by Gary Gene Fuenfhausen Photographed by Marsha Miller
The 1850s restored Thompson formal guest parlor, or reception parlor, now used as a dining room. All baseboards, doors, and the fireplace mantel are finished in their original faux finishes. Period wallpapers, floor coverings, and window treatments have also been used.
During the restoration process, paint analysis revealed faux finishes were originally used by Thompson, which is in keeping with popular interior tastes prior to the Civil War. During this period, baseboards and mantels were often painted black or dark gray, or marbleized, to mimic stone surfaces, while faux wood graining was a method painters used to produce the appearance of more expensive woods. Analysis has confirmed that the first floor window and door trim was painted an off white, the doors and window sashes faux grained mahogany, walnut, and oak, and the baseboards and fireplace mantels were painted black. The 2nd floor analysis has also shown that the rooms on that level were all faux grained oak, which includes all of the doors, window and door trim, and baseboards.
In 1853, Daniel Watts and his wife, Julia Ann Bingham, purchased 89 acres of land on the southwestern edge of Arrow Rock. This land was acquired from Jacob Bingham, Julia Ann’s brother. Jacob had purchased the land in 1850 from John and Jones Barbery. The Binghams were among the first settlers of Arrow Rock and donated land for the establishment of the town. The Binghams were also relatives of the famous Missouri artist, George Caleb Bingham.
Daniel Watts, born in Ohio, moved to Covington, Kentucky at age 19 and learned the plasterer’s trade. From 1836 thru 1842, Daniel worked in Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana at his trade. In 1842 he migrated to Marshall, Missouri, and then to Arrow Rock in 1843. He married Miss Julia Bingham, daughter of John and Mary Bingham, in 1848. In the next year he left for the California gold fields, where it is said he remained for two years. Watts does appear in the 1850 census working as a “Plasterer.“ By 1860, his profession is shown as a “Mason,” owning considerable real-estate valued at $3,750 and $1,500 in personal property. In 1866, Watts and his wife purchased a 170 acre farm in Clay Township, Saline County.
In March of 1858, a 13 acre tract was purchased by John C. Thompson (Senior) from the original Watts/Bingham parcel. Judge John C. Thompson, Sr., was a farmer, land speculator, and merchant in and around Arrow Rock. Born in 1815 in Georgetown, near Washington D. C., John arrived in Missouri just prior to 1850. It was also at this time that Thompson married his first wife, Elenor Jones, who was the daughter of prominent Howard County Attorney, John L. Jones.
The Jones family were early Boonslick and Howard County pioneers, migrating from Tennessee and settling at Fort Cooper in in 1819. Jones moved to the eastern part of Howard County to set up his new practice at Fayette in 1851. A slave owner before the Civil War, Mr. Jones acquired over 700 acres near Rocheport by 1876. The 1850s antebellum Jones home is still standing today only a few miles from Jones family burial plot at the historic Walnut Grove Cemetery, where Elenor is buried.
The 1850s plantation house of John L. Jones, near Rocheport, Howard County, MO. This plantation was the site of a skirmish fought on June 1, 1863, between Union and Confederate forces. At sunrise, Captain Samuel Steinmetz, of Glasgow, attacked Confederate Colonel Sidney D. Jackman and 32 of his men with a small force of 15 or 16 Federal militia. Jackman and his men had made camp on the Jones estate the previous day. After being repulsed, the Confederates pursued the Captain and his militia towards Fayette. Later that day, a 50 man force under Union Captain Reeves Leonard attacked Jackman's Confederates at the Jones plantation. Jackman and his men escaped. Sidney Jackman and his family were natives of the Howard County, Missouri. Captain Samuel Steinmetz, who was later killed during the Battle of Glasgow, Missouri, in 1864, was the son of Samuel Steinmetz of Glasgow. His father purchased the 1840s Hazel Ridge Plantation, owned by the Swinney/Morrison family of Glasgow, after the Civil War in 1868. Part of this plantation later became the village of "Steinmetz," an important railroad station near Glasgow in Howard County, Missouri.
(For more information see: )
The John L. Jones plantation is also the site of the War of 1812 "Head's Fort," named in honor of Captain William Head, a small stockade built for the protection of local Kentucky pioneer families.
From the Howard County Missouri Biographies for Moniteau Township:
JOHN L. JONES,
By 1850, Thompson had acquired 350 acres and was engaged in the business of farming, raising corn and livestock. Thompson’s farm was valued at $700, where he had horses, mules, cows, oxen, 20 head of cattle and 40 hogs. Thompson and his wife made their home at Saline City, where John owned land.
In 1853, Thompson’s nephew, John C. Thompson, Jr., arrived from Washington, D. C. to live with his uncle and aunt. John junior soon made a profession of religion and entered the church as a Methodist minister. His religious duties first took him to St. Louis, but at his request he was transferred to California, Missouri. During the Civil War in 1862, John Jr. learned the law, but was refused practice because he would not take the “iron-clad” oath. After working for the burgeoning railroad at California, he returned with his young family to Arrow Rock in 1869 and went into the lumber business, like his uncle.
John C. Thompson Jr., nephew of John C. Thompson.
Under the name of “Huston and Thompson,” John C. Thompson, Sr., went into Dry goods business in a partnership with Joseph Huston, Jr., in 1851. The Thompson and Huston’s mercantile was located in the historic “Huston Tavern.” By early 1858, Thompson and his partner’s business was thriving and they had two locations. During that year, Huston and Thompson sold a variety of goods, including groceries, hardware, hats and shoes, wines and liquors, paints and oils, and farm implements. Thompson and Huston were also dealers in hemp, advertising that they sold hemp products and would bale, store, and ship raw hemp. In conjunction with their hemp trade, the partners owned a hemp warehouse, which they claimed was the largest in town, and a Bullock’s Patented Hemp Press. A perceptive business man, Thompson was said to be “presiding over the establishment with a great deal of care and decorum … showing his customers and friends every attention possible.”
HABS, Library of Congress
For Arrow Rock and The State Historic Site "Huston Tavern" see
Missouri State Parks
Town of Arrow Rock
Friends of Arrow Rock
As his business position continued to grow in the thriving town of Arrow Rock, Thompson looked to build a new home that would reflect his new found status in the community. In the early Spring of 1858, he purchases 13 acres from Daniel Watts and began to build a new home. During that same summer, Thompson and his partner entered into the lumber trade. As with his mercantile business, Thompson competed heavily with other lumber merchants in town, like Ancell and Sappington. Huston and Thompson offered a variety of building goods, including pine lumber, flooring, siding, shingles, and laths, doors, window sashes, nails, and plasterers’ hair and lime. It is probable that Thompson’s new business venture developed from his home building experience, as he made connections while acquiring lumber and the elaborate siding and windows for his new home.
With the coming of the new year, Thompson and Huston dissolved their partnership in January of 1859. Huston entered into business with William Wood and Thompson with John C. and A. H. Jones. For the next ten years, Wood and Huston maintained ownership of the hemp business, controlling half of Saline County’s grain, livestock and hemp transactions from Huston and Thompson’s old warehouse at Arrow Rock. The new partnership of Thompson and Jones continued the grocery and dry goods business, as well as the lucrative trade in lumber and building products. In the summer of 1859, the new partners boasted that their yard was full and contained all of the necessary products for building. By 1860, Thompson and Jones & Company were offering both wholesale and retail goods.
In 1860, John C. Thompson and his wife Elenor were doing quite well. With a new Italianate villa on their small estate on the outskirts of flourishing Arrow Rock, the Federal Census for that year shows Thompsons as owning $3,700 in real-estate and $10,000 in personal property. Thompsons also owned a slave, a female age 7, which most likely assisted his wife with domestic chores. In that same year, County records indicate John owning his home on the 13 acres near Arrow Rock, 44 acres near Saline City, their slave, and one town lot near the Huston Tavern. His new town lot, which he purchased in 1860, was next to where he conducted business. Thompson kept his land holdings and business throughout the turmoil of the Civil War, but dissolved his partnership with the Jones family in 1861 and enter into a joint venture with a Mr. Ivans.
In January 1865, John’s wife Elenor died. Thompson remarried in June of 1866 to Miss Sarah Minerva (Abney) Grill. During his marriages with both Elenor and Sarah, Thompson never had any children.
After the war’s end, Thompson continued his business ventures and acquired additional adjoining lots next to his business in 1865 and 1866. By 1870, the census indicates John C. Thompson as a “Lumber Dealer” and owning $8,000 in real-estate and $4000 in personal property. He and his new wife were living at the Thompson estate with two female “Mulatto” house servants, Verga Jackson, age 20, and Bulah Jackson, age 10. By 1876, John had sold his farm acreage near Saline City, but had purchased an additional 9 acres lying just a quarter of a mile from his home residence as well as several town lots.
This house was built by John C. Thompson for his nephew, John C. Thompson, Jr., c. 1850s. John Jr. managed the Thompson lumberyard at this location and also inherited the property after John Senior's death. Today, the house is located at the corner of T Highway and 41 Highway, in Arrow Rock, Missouri.
Two years later in February 1878, John died of typhoid fever. A preamble, by J. B. Perkins of Howard County, was read in the Missouri State Legislature morning the community’s great loss. John Thompson was buried within view of his beloved home in the Arrow Rock Cemetery. In 1918, his body was reinterned by Samuel and Susan Thompson in an unmarked grave at the Thompson family plot in Ridge Park Cemetery, Marshall, Saline County, Missouri.
In 1866, Adair Wilson married Bettie Edwards at Thompson Villa. Bettie was a resident of Thompson Villa, and daughter of an early Arrow Rock pioneer. Several young people lived with the Thompsons between the 1850s and 1870s, John Jr. and Bettie were among them.
Adair Wilson was the son of a prominent Saline County Lawyer and from an old and distinguished Virginia family that had migrated to Saline County. His father owned many slaves on their plantation near Marshall. Before his marriage, Adair traveled west and became a personal friend and confidant of Samuel Clemens. While living in Virginia City, Nevada, Adair was the Editor of the Virginia City Union. Samuel Clemens, later known as Mark Twain, often wrote about his and Adair's travels, such as in the publication "How to Cure a Cold." Both Adair and Clemens battled each other in rival print during friendly completive editorials.
After Thompson’s death, the two story house, personal property, and surrounding 13 acreage went to his wife Sarah. A 3 and 1/2 acre tract near the corner of the old Marshall and Georgetown Roads was given by John to his nephew. John Junior also inherited the 9 acres of land just west of Thompson’s house, which adjoined the neighboring Daniel Urick’s farm and his 1850s Greek Revival brick house. One town lot stayed with his wife Sarah, including the “yet (to be) finished” store house to be occupied by Kibbler and Wood. Two lots that he had a shared interest in, next to the historic Huston Tavern, went to Sarah. Upon her death, his will did state that her share would transfer to John, Jr..
Sarah Abney, c. 1860.
After John’s death, Sarah continued to live in the Thompson house. Sarah remarried in 1879 to Oak Grove plantation owner George A. Murrell. Murrell, who acquired his wealth as a mule dealer in the deep South, was also president for nearly 25 years of the Wood & Huston Bank in Marshall. Both George and Sarah are buried together at Ridge Park Cemetery.
In 1881, Sarah sold the Thompson House property to Eleanor J. Collins. Collins divided the acreage and sold the house and 6 acres to Dr. Francis M. Hickerson. Hickerson, a dentist, lived in the house with his family, which they owned for several more decades until 1926. After a succession of owners from 1926 to 1960, the residence was turned into a restaurant by the Turley family. Over the next forty years, the restaurant and residence was known by various names, such as Black Sheep Inn, Savannah Hall, and The Evergreen. The residence and remaining 2 acres were purchased in 2004, at which time it was turned back into a private home.
Thompson Villa, c. 1940s, HABS, Library of Congress.
Information Sources (Bibliography)
1820’s -30s “W. Butcher” Chisel
Cast Iron Lock, “Pat Dec 17 1841 Ext Dec 15 1856,” 2nd floor west bedroom closet (of the three original door locks, only this one is marked with patent dates)
Original Faux Grain, 2nd floor, interior west bedroom closet
Original Faux Grain samples taken from 2nd floor east bedroom
Rusticated Siding (See Books: Silent in the Land, by Cooper)
Adams, Sherry Raleigh, Genealogical Abstracts Form Howard Co., MO Newspapers, Volume 1, January 1, 1885-December 20, 1894. Gone West Publications, 2004.
Bucher, Ward, Edited by. Dictionary of Building Preservation . New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996.
Cooper, Knopke, Gamble, and Woelfel-Madison. Silent in the Land, Tuscaloosa, Alabama: CKM Press, 1993, “Rosewood,“ page 30 and 188. (Rose wood was built 1855-1856 using the same rusticated siding on the main block front façade).
Dickey, Michael. Arrow Rock, Crossroads of the Missouri Frontier. Arrow Rock, Missouri: The Friends of Arrow Rock, Inc, 2004.
Downing, A. J.. The Architecture of Country Houses, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1969. (Reprint of 1850 publication by D. Appleton & Company.)
Hamilton, Jean Tyree. Arrow Rock, Where Wheels Started West. 1963.
History of Howard and Chariton Counties, Missouri. St. Louis, Missouri: National Historical Company, 1883.
History of Saline County, Missouri. Marshall, Missouri: Saline County Historical Society, 1983.
History of Saline County, Missouri. St. Louis, Missouri: Missouri Historical Company, 1881.
Illustrated Atlas Map of Howard County, MO. St. Louis, Missouri: Missouri Publishing Company, 1876.
Kennedy, Catherine Waters. Arrow Rock, Missouri, and Thereabouts. (excerpts from The Saline County Progress, January 3, 1868 through December 30, 1870). January 26, 2001.
Kennedy, Catherine Waters. Arrow Rock News, Commerce & Comments. (excerpts from the Weekly Democrat, Marshall, Missouri, January 15, 1858 - July 31, 1860)
McAllester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide To American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knoff, Inc., 1984.
Merrill, Rev. J Wayne, and Haynes, Shirley, and Conley, Avly. Ridge Park Cemetery. Gilliam, Missouri: Saline Sentiments.
Moss, Roger W., and Caskey Winkler, Gail . Victorian Interior Decoration, American Interiors 1830-1900 . New York: Henry Hold and Company, 1986.
Sloan, Samuel. Sloan’s Victorian Buildings, Illustration and Floor Plans for 56 Residences and Other Structures. Volume I and II, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1980, reprint of 1852 publication “The Model Architect.“
Standard Atlas of Saline County, 1916. Chicago: Geo. A. Ogle & Co., 1916.
Tombstone Inscriptions From Cemeteries In Saline County, Volume V.
1850 Agricultural Census, Saline County, Missouri
1850 Federal Census, Howard County, Missouri
1850 Federal Census, Saline County, Missouri
1860 Federal Census, Saline County, Missouri
1860 Federal Census, Howard County, Missouri
1860 Slave Census, Saline County, Missouri
1870 Federal Census, Saline County, Missouri
Deed Record, Book P, Marshall, Saline County, Missouri
Deed Record, Book T, Marshall, Saline County, Missouri
Deed Record, Book U, Marshall, Saline County, Missouri
Deed Record, Book 33, Marshall, Saline County, Missouri
Deed Record, Book 43, Marshall, Saline County, Missouri
Deed Record, Book P, Marshall, Saline County, Missouri
“John L. Jones,” Howard County Missouri Biographies, Moniteau Township, http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/mo/howrd/bios/moniteau.txt
“The Founding of Boone County, Missouri,” (John L. Jones), http://www.bocomo.org/FOUNDING.HTM
“The “Mother of Counties,”” (John L. Jones), http://www.rootsweb.com/~mohoward/history.html
“The Walnut Grove Cemetery,” Boone County, Missouri, http://www.bocomo.org/cemetery/walnutgr/wg10000.htm
“Died.” Saline County Progress, Marshall, Missouri, February 22, 1876.
Special Collections - Library, Historical Society, Funeral Home
1861 Saline County Tax Book
1864 Saline County Tax Book
“Bingham,“ Family Files, Marshall Public Library, Marshall, Missouri.
House, State Route 41, Arrow Rock vicinity, Saline County, MO,” 1933, Historic American Building Survey, Library of Congress.
“Huston Tavern,” Land Records, Vertical Files, Arrow Rock State Historic Site.
“Huston Tavern,” Photographs, Vertical Files, Arrow Rock State Historic Site.
“Murrell,“ Family Files, Marshall Public Library, Marshall, Missouri.
“Obituary Memorandum: Miss Mary Eleanor Thompson, Cambell-Lewis Funeral Home, Inc., Marshall, Missouri
“Thompson House,” Photographs, Vertical Files, Arrow Rock State Historic Site.
Personal Files on the Talbot House, Howard County, MO.
Historic Prior Jackson House, near Fayette, Howard County, Missouri, 2005.
Historic Jones House, near Rocheport, Howard County, Missouri, 2006.
Historic Talbot House, near Fayette, Howard County, Missouri, 2005.
Park Ridge Cemetery, Marshall, Saline County, Missouri, 2005.
Walnut Grove Cemetery, Boone County, Missouri, 2006.
“J. C. Thompson,“ Historic Inventory (Form), Office of Historic Preservation, Jefferson City, Missouri, 1987
“Hickerson #18”, Saline County Township Survey, Office of Historic Preservation, Jefferson City, Missouri, 1981
“Jackson, Prior, Homeplace; Cedar Lawn; Fern Valley,” Office of Historic Preservation, Jefferson City, Missouri, 1979. (I also visited this site personally and photographed the interior and exterior of building.)
Research and Photographs by Gary Gene
Fuenfhausen . All published materials on this site are fully
copy written and may not be used in any manner without the written
consent of its owner.
. All published materials on this site are fully copy written and may not be used in any manner without the written consent of its owner.
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