Today’s post is a reprint from Mrs. N.D. Deupree’s “Some Historic Homes of Mississippi,” from Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VI (1902).
Jacob Thompson’s Home
Among the historic homes of Mississippi in ante-bellum days there were none more deserving of a place in the State’s historical notes than that of the Honorable Jacob Thompson, at Oxford, Miss. It was a commodious frame structure of twenty rooms with halls, verandas, galleries, and every thing that the architect’s skill could suggest to enhance its beauty and comfort. It had every convenience then known to the expert builder. It was finished throughout the interior in native woods carved and polished to the highest degree. The furnishing was handsome and costly; an art gallery of rare and costly paintings was an especial feature of the home. A few of these handsome pictures are now the property of Mrs. Coleman, of Oxford. This home was widely known for its hospitality. It was a delightful resort for friends; and guests from almost every State of the Union have been entertained within its portals. For many years it was the headquarters of the political party of which Mr. Thompson was the acknowledged leader; his wisdom and political sagacity being unquestioned.
In the year of 1855, the Whig party having passed out of existence, upon its ruins with reinforcements from disappointed Democrats arose a new organization called the American or Know-nothing party. They held secret meetings in every county of every State in the Union. Their followers were enthusiastic and confident of success. All over our State the brainiest men of the party were selected for legislative and judicial honors; James L. Alcorn, of Coahoma county, a brilliant orator and the most aggressive and magnetic politician in the State, was the new party candidate for Congress. The Democrats were alarmed, they felt that there was not a man in Alcorn’s district that could cope with him in the area of politics. In this crisis the prominent leaders of the Democratic party were invited to a banquet at the Thompson mansion. The table was spread with all the munificence the occasion demanded, yet a cloud seemed to hang over the company that neither the presence of lovely women nor good cheer could dispel. When Mrs. Thompson arose and led the ladies from the dining-room, leaving the gentlemen to the discussion of wines and cigars, the question in every man’s mind there present and which was voiced at once was, “where shall we find a man to run against Alcorn ?“ A name was mentioned, the leader shook his head. Name after name was proposed and discussed but still the leader shook his head and the gloom grew deeper over the assembled guests.
Finally one gentleman asked if there was no man in the Democratic party who was fitted to enter the contest. Mr. Thompson said that we must have a man endowed by genius and culture with the qualities that make a politician and a statesman, he must be gifted with eloquence, and of scholarly attainments, he must have no political or moral sins to answer for, he must be ready to meet any question that may arise in an exciting campaign, and be able to win the masses over such an adversary as Alcorn. Judge Howty asked if we had such a man. To which Mr. Thompson replied “Yes, fill your glasses gentlemen and drink to his success when I name him.” The glasses were filled; on every face were gleams of hope shaded with lines of anxiety. Mr. Thompson lifted his glass and threw back his head as he said, “Here’s to L. Q. C. Lamar, our next congressman.” For a moment there was a hush as if every heart had ceased to beat, then, as with one voice arose the cry, “Lamar! Lamar !“ When the dreamy-eyed scholar arose and tossed back his long hair the dreamer awoke, his eyes flashed with the lightning of his genius and there fell from his lips the grandest flow of eloquence ever heard in those stately halls. He seemed inspired. The conquest was complete and when he took his seat cheer after cheer arose for our next congressman. He was elected.
There could be told many tales of love and pleasure enacted in this old home in its palmy days which would read like romance. Alas, those happy days are passed; the magnificent home is in ashes; and the courteous master and lovely mistress have passed over the river.
Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Vol. VI (1902), pp. 261-263.
For more information about the Jacob Thompson House, including its location before it was burned in 1864, see the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Foundation website.