By Jonathan K. T. Smith
Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 1996


(Page 22)

THE JACKSON SUN, July 11, 1923

"Jackson Lady is One Hundred and Five Years Old"

            One hundred and five years of age five years past the century milepost on the journey of life! A span of life that seems almost as infinite as the distance to the stars to younger persons. There lives today in Jackson Mrs. MARIA JANE THOMPSON who will celebrate her 105th birthday on September 25. In the home of her daughter, Mr. Clint Mathis, 319 North Church street, the oldest woman in the South, if not in the United States, lives and is watched over and cared for with loving tenderness.
            For 50 years Mrs. Thompson has made her home with her daughter, the last 20 of which have been spent in Jackson. Although some critics deny that one generation can inherit the traits of its predecessor, it would seem that in Mrs. Thompson's case the trait of longevity was hereditary, for her mother, Mrs. Sallie Lyons, who died 50 years ago, lived to be 104 years old and at the age of 102 walked the one mile from her home to Trenton, just to show her family that she could. Mrs. Lyons was born in West Virginia.
            From such hardy ancestry came Mrs. Maria Jane Thompson. She was born at Sparta, Tennessee on Sept. 25, 1818. When she was two years old her parents moved to Gibson county, near Trenton. Until 20 years ago she resided there. For 33 years she lived and reared her children who in turn multiplied and brought into the world other descendants. At the present time Mrs. Thompson is a great-great-great grandmother, her youngest descendant being little Jack Hunter, five years old, of Memphis.
            Mrs. Thompson's long dead husband was named Richard Thompson, a well-to-do farmer. Some of the Indians still were in Tennessee when Mrs. Thompson was in her girlhood. At the age of 22 she was married and in the same year she was married she joined the Cumberland Presbyterian church.
            In those dim, far-distant days of her childhood, Mrs. Thompson's father, owner of many slaves and much land, had his merchandise hauled many miles to him by teams of oxen for there were no railroads. The first railroad she ever saw was the Mobile & Ohio; that was 66 years ago. She rode to Memphis on the railroad which at that time was very much a curiosity to everybody.
            In her lifetime she has seen many inventions come into being. . . . What a tremendous period of human activity and achievement Mrs. Thompson has lived through! She was married about the time that James K. Polk was president of the United States, had been married five years when President Andrew Jackson died at the Hermitage and was 43 years old when the Civil War started. Throughout the trying years of the struggle between North and South she made m any a Confederate gray uniform and knitted thousands of pairs of warm socks for the soldiers. And in 1918, when the battle for world democracy surged and swayed on the gun-swept Western Front, when it seems as if the Huns might overwhelm the Allies, Mrs. Thompson, at 100 years of age kept her fingers busy knitting socks and sweaters for the American overseas troops. . . . A word about one of the centenarian's prized relics. She has a small shoulder cape which was made from a part of her grandmother's silk dress which the latter wore 155 years ago. The cape, beautifully modeled, was made by Mrs. Thompson's mother, Mrs. Lyons, when she was 103 years of age. Many of Mrs. Thompson's descendants have exquisite quilts which she made and presented to them. Her oldest living child is Mrs. Lucy Taylor, aged 70, of Tampa, Fla. Her second oldest living child is Mrs. Mathis with whom she has made her home the past halfcentury. . . . For the past year or two Mrs. Thompson has been bed-ridden, her daughter ministering constantly to her wants. Mrs. Jack Murphy, wife of a well-known Jackson business man, is the granddaughter of Mrs. Thompson.


The death_certificate of Mrs. MARIA J. THOMPSON, Sept. 25, 1818-Feb. 25, 1924

Cause of death given as "hardening arteries affecting circulation."

The death certificate mistakenly listed her husband as her father. Her mother was Sarah A. Lyons.

Richard Thompson married Maria J. Lyons, in Gibson County, January 7, 1847.


(Page 23)

THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL, Memphis, Tennessee, Feb. 27, 1924

Jackson Woman, Aged 105, Dies After Long Life of Activity

        JACKSON, Tenn., Feb. 26, - Mrs. Maria Jane Thompson, probably the oldest woman in this section and a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church since 1830, died at 5:30 o'clock this morning in the home of her daughter, Mrs. Clint Mathis, with whom she had lived for nearly a half century. Mrs. Thompson was 105 years and 5 months of age. Mrs. Thompson's husband, Richard Thompson, died 50 years ago, and since that time she has resided with her daughter.
        On Sept. 25, 1818, Mrs. Thompson first saw the light of Sparta, Tenn. Her parents moved to Tennessee from Virginia, and settled at Sparta about the year 1800.
          When she was a young girl, her parents moved to Madison County, where they lived several years. Then they moved to Gibson County. It was while the family was residing in Gibson County that Mrs. Thompson joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1830. She joined the church at Trenton.
          The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized in 1810, so it was but 20 years old when Mrs. Thompson joined it. Shortly after Mrs. Thompson joined the church at Trenton, the family moved to Madison County. She was married to Richard Thompson, a wealthy planter, a few years after the family moved to Madison County for the second time.
        To this union four children were born. Mrs. Clint Mathis of Jackson, Mrs. Mettie Hamilton of Bakersfield, Cal., Mrs. Lucy Taylor of Tampa, Fla., and Miss Bell Thompson of Memphis, all of whom survive. She has two sets of great great grandchildren and more than 100 living descendants.
        Mrs. Thompson's record of 84 years as a consistent member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church has never been equaled by any other person. She lived when Napoleon was a prisoner at St. Helena. She saw Andrew Jackson several times in Nashville, after he had returned from the presidency. Her life was ultimately bound up in the traditions of the early part of the nineteenth century. She saw all the modern inventions come into being. She remembered well the days when Indians roamed the trackless wastes of the then thinly populated Tennessee. The spinning wheel and the loom were everyday articles of household use when she was young. Mrs. Thompson prized several of these ancient mementos, and years ago was photographed at her spinning wheel.
        In the passing of Mrs. Thompson, Jackson loses one of its most devoted Christians and church members, and never again, perhaps, will the city see another citizen who was a member of the church for 84 years.
        Funeral services will be conducted tomorrow afternoon at 3 o'clock at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church by Rev. C. A. Galloway, pastor, and Dr. J. W. Blackard. Burial will be in Hollywood Cemetery.


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