Hopedale History
    June 1, 2005
    No. 39
    Gilbert Thompson

    I’ve put the wording and names from the Veterans’ War Memorial at the Hopedale Village Cemetery on
    the website. It’s at:  http://www.hope1842.com/warmem.html   

    After a delay of six decades, William Wood was presented the bronze star at this year’s Memorial Day
    exercises at the Hopedale Village Cemetery.

    What would it take to get 10,000 people out on Main Street in Milford on a Thursday night? In 1904, a
    parade of seventeen cars was enough to do it. Now you’re more likely to see 10,000 cars and
    seventeen pedestrians while going through Milford. The parade toured several Milford streets,
    continued into Hopedale, and returned to Milford. Five of the cars were from Hopedale. You can read
    the news article, which includes the parade route, make and horsepower of each car, and the names
    of drivers and passengers, at     http://www.hope1842.com/autoparade.html   

    I’ve added a chronological listing of major events in the history of Hopedale to the website. It’s at

    “It’s All Over – Last Worker Leaves Drapers,” was the title of this Milford News story from August 1980.
    If you threw out the paper, you can still read it at  http://www.hope1842.com/draperlastworkerleaves.


                                                         Gilbert Thompson

    A week ago, I received the following email:


    I was so excited when the computer isolated Gilbert Thompson's name on your website. I have been
    studying parts of his history for many years. To get directly to the point: In 1883 he and a mule skinner
    named Tom Watson managed to coax two mules to the 14,162 ft. summit of Mt. Shasta, California. As
    a local historian and member of the Board of Directors of our local Sisson Museum I've been trying to
    develop the story of Dynamite and Croppy (the mules) and of the men who did this.  Specifically, I've
    been searching for a photograph of Thompson for twenty years.  

    Is there still any family link in your community?  Is there someone to whom you could refer me who
    might feed me a lead?  Thompson is a tough name to search in genealogy.

    You probably know that Thompson, even though he made a notable career as a topographer, is best
    known as the first American to use fingerprints for personal identification.

    I'm anxious to hear if someone in your community has studied your famous pioneer and perhaps has
    information to warm an old historian's heart!

    Perry Sims
    The Sisson History Project

    I didn’t recognize the name at all, and had to do a web search to find where Gilbert was on my website.
    He turned up in Ellen Patrick’s story from Hopedale Reminiscences. She referred to him as a famous
    topographer. There was a bit of information on him in Adin Ballou’s History of Milford. From that, I
    found that he had been born in South Mendon (now Blackstone), came to the Hopedale Community
    when his mother joined in 1849, worked as an apprentice in the Community print shop for four years
    and joined the army topographical division in 1861. Paul Curran found another paragraph about him
    for me in Who Was Who.  He is considered to be the first person in the United States to make use of
    fingerprints for identification. In 1888, he was one of the thirty-three founding members of the National
    Geographic Society.

    I’ve sent what I found on to Perry Sims. He was quite happy to get it, and hopes that some of the
    information may lead him to more. As Perry indicated in the email, finding a picture of Gilbert isn’t
    easy. There is a picture of the founding of the National Geographic Society, but Perry spoke with the
    wife of the artist who painted it, and she told him that her husband never saw Gilbert and didn’t have a
    picture to go by either. Paul donated a book for the museum titled, The National Geographic Society:
    100 Years of Adventure and Discovery, which includes the picture. The way the artist handled the
    problem was to have Gilbert looking to the side, turned so far that he could be almost anyone. Perry
    has heard that there’s a picture of him in the 1936 Boy Scout fingerprinting merit badge pamphlet, but
    so far he hasn’t come across one.

    For much more about Gilbert Thompson, go to http://www.hope1842.com/thompsongilbert.html    

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