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George W. Thompson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Western Thompson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 15th district
In office
March 4, 1851 – July 30, 1852
Preceded byThomas Haymond
Succeeded bySherrard Clemens
Personal details
Born(1806-05-14)May 14, 1806
St. Clairsville, Ohio, US
DiedFebruary 24, 1888(1888-02-24) (aged 81)
Wheeling, West Virginia, US
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Steenrod
ProfessionPolitician, Lawyer, Judge

George Western Thompson (May 14, 1806 – February 24, 1888) was a nineteenth-century Virginia politician, lawyer and judge. He served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives, resigning to become a state judge. During the American Civil War Judge Thompson resigned that position as because he believed the creation of West Virginia illegal.[1]

Early and family life

Born in St. Clairsville, Ohio, Thompson graduated from Jefferson College in 1824, then studied law in Richmond, Virginia.

He married Elizabeth Steenrod (1817-1897). They had four sons, none of whom survived their mother, and two daughters. Their sons included Confederate Col. William P. Thompson (1837-1896, who became a vice president of Standard Oil as well as president of the Lead Trust); Lewis Thompson (1833-1918); George Western Thompson (1846-1895, who served a president of the Ohio River Railroad, and was married to Frances Belle Jackson, daughter of General John Jay Jackson); and Daniel Steenrod Thompson (1853-1893). His daughter Anna Gaither Thompson married Johnson Newlon Camden who became a prominent industrialist, banker and railroad organizer in West Virginia and U.S. Senator, although both his gubernatorial runs failed.[2][3]


After admission to the Ohio bar in 1826, Thompson began his legal practice in St. Clairsville in 1828.

He moved across the Ohio River to what was Virginia in 1837 and became deputy postmaster of Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1838. He was later appointed to a commission to settle jurisdiction of the Ohio River between Virginia and Ohio.

President James K. Polk appointed Thompson United States Attorney for the western district of Virginia, and he served as from 1848 to 1850.

A Democrat, Thompson won election to the United States House of Representatives in 1850, serving from 1851 until his resignation in 1852 when the Virginia General Assembly elected him judge of the circuit court. As both Congressman and state judge, he was involved in cases involving the Wheeling Suspension Bridge (completed in 1849) and a nearby railroad bridge which helped Wheeling become an important gateway city between the Ohio River valley and Eastern and international markets. As Congressman, Thompson introduced documents supporting the bridge (including resolutions of the Ohio and Virginia state legislatures), which impeded large steamboats to Pittsburgh. Congress passed a law declaring it a post road, so it was not torn down despite the United States Supreme Court finding it impeded Ohio River navigation.[4] Virginia's General Assembly reelected Thompson as circuit judge in 1860.

However, after Virginia voters in May 1861 approved the ordinance of secession which had bee passed by the Virginia Secession Convention of 1861 despite the Unionist stance of most delegates from northwestern Virginia (including near Wheeling), Unionists attended the Wheeling Convention which established the Restored Government of Virginia. Thompson left office in 1861, refusing to take the oath of office to support what he believed was an unconstitutional action to set up the present State of West Virginia.[5] Ralph Lazier Berkshire, whom he had defeated in the judicial contest and who supported West Virginia's statehood, would be elected his successor and later first Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

His son William P. Thompson, who had become a lawyer in Virginia in 1857, recruited the "Marion Greys" and became a colonel of the 19th Virginia Infantry. Another son, George Western Thompson (1846-1895), became involved with the Ohio River Railroad and served as president until his death in 1895. After the war, William Thompson joined with his brother-in-law and another man and became president of the Camden Consolidated Oil Company, which in 1881 merged into Standard Oil Company, of which Thompson became vice-president and moved to Cleveland, Ohio.[6]

Death and legacy

Meanwhile, Judge Thompson retired to his estate near Wheeling, West Virginia where he eventually died on February 24, 1888. He was interred there in Stone Church cemetery in Elm Grove.[7]


  1. ^ CongBio no. T000201
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Elizabeth Brand Monroe, The Wheeling Bridge Case (Northeastern University Press 1992) pp. 133, 139-140.
  5. ^ Although the surname is common, no-one named Thompson appears to have owned slaves in northwestern Virginia in the 1869 U.S. Federal census, which is indexed online, although slaveholders with different first names did own slaves in Russell County, Virginia, and in Kentucky and other states
  6. ^
  7. ^ Find a Grave no. 7617808
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Thomas Haymond
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 15th congressional district

March 4, 1851 – July 30, 1852 (obsolete district)
Succeeded by
Sherrard Clemens
This page was last edited on 15 March 2020, at 00:30
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