Thursday, July 21, 2011

Olymphious Sigurinius Thompson (1875-1968)

From the South Dakota Historical Collections Vol. 8, published 1916.

   The political figure profiled today has a truly fascinating name, and like many of the previous people profiled on the site here, his life and accomplishments are shrouded in obscurity. That man is Olymphious Sigurinius Thompson, and he served as a South Dakota state representative for two terms during the early part of the twentieth century. Born of Norwegian stock in Sverdrup Township, South Dakota on February 18, 1875, Olymphious Thompson was the son of John and Kristi (Syverson) Thompson, who had immigrated from Norway some years previously. Their reasons for giving their son the name "Olymphious Sigurinius" have been lost to the pages of history, but it is interesting to contemplate the reasons that may have precipitated it! 
   Thompson attended local schools and for the majority of his life actively engaged in farming pursuits. In 1898 he married fellow Minnehaha County native Salina (Soline) Olsdaughter Gilseth (1875-1905), with whom he had one daughter, Cora Agnes. In 1904 he officially took over the ownership of his family's 503-acre farming complex in Sverdrup township. This large farm is listed as being home to  "purebred Shorthorn cattle and grade hogs." In addition to raising livestock, Thompson also grew "160 acres of corn, 80 acres of alfalfa, and 60 acres of sweet clover."
   Tragedy struck Olymphious Thompson in 1905 when his wife Soline died at the age of 30. Four years following her untimely death he remarried to Ms. Julia Vollen (1892-1970), also a resident of Sverdrup township. The couple is recorded as being childless through the entirety of their marriage and were wed for nearly sixty years until Olymphious' death in 1968.
   "O.S." Thompson, as most sources record him, was also affiliated with a number of business concerns local to the Minnehaha County, holding the following posts: the presidency of the Farmers Mutual Fire and Lightning Insurance Company, director of the Cooperative Lumber Company of Baltic, a founder of the Baltic Cooperative Telephone Company, vice president of the Dakota State Bank at Baltic and was director of the Dell Rapids Hospital Association. Thompson was also a prime mover in the establishment of the Sioux Falls Production Credit Association.
    Olymphious Thompson made his foray into the political arena in November 1912, when he was elected to the South Dakota State House of Representatives as a Republican. He won re-election to that body in 1914 and served another two-year term. Three years after leaving the legislature Thompson was named as an alternate delegate from South Dakota to the 1920 Republican National Convention in Chicago. He later received a Distinguished Service medal from the South Dakota State Farm Bureau Federation in 1931 and also served as the chairman of the Minnehaha County Agricultural Conservation committee. 

O.S. Thompson (and his misspelled name), from the South Dakota State University website.

   In 1937 Thompson was named as "Eminent Farmer" of the year in the Dell Rapids Tribune, which also notes that Thompson had a portrait of himself unveiled in the "Hall of Agricultural Fame" at the State college. In addition to his agricultural activities, Thompson was a longtime parishioner at the Lutheran Nidaros Church and was a congregation trustee for nearly two decades. Thompson died four days short of his 93rd birthday on February 14, 1968, at a nursing facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and was interred in the Nidaros Pioneer Cemetery in Baltic. His wife Julia survived him by two years, dying in 1970 at age 78 and was laid to rest alongside her husband.
   Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I found that a portrait of Mr. Thompson was available online, but, as with most good research, digging had to be done to find the "gold", so to speak! After an hour or so of furtive scouring on Google books, the picture above was two separate books!!! The first of these finds was in Volume 8 of the South Dakota Historical Collections, published in 1916. In this work, an "O.S. Thompson" wrote an article (accompanied by his portrait) on some reminisces of his father, under the title "John Thompson's Nerve". A short while after discovering that photograph, the same one was discovered in a 1913 edition of the South Dakota Legislative Manual, again listed under the initials "O.S." My guess is that both works were too lazy to write out his full name!!!


  1. The daughter's name is Cora. She was my great grandmother and OS Thompson was my great, great grandfather.

  2. I am also a Thompson. My grandpa was e.s. Thompson and lived in ruthton mn area. He married a sandberg. Also of Norway. They later divorced and lived in California.there is some records in pipestone mn

    1. don't know who wrote this but also related to this family . Cousins are Thompson and my grandma was Sandberg.