Monday, May 2, 2016

Helmus Wells Thompson (1867-1918)

Portrait from the March 4, 1908 Oregon Morning Post.

   From the city of Yakima and Reidar Dare Rovig we journey to Washington's neighbor to the south to profile Helmus Wells Thompson, who made his name (politically speaking) in Oregon. Removing to Oregon from Wisconsin in the late 1890s, Thompson practiced law in Eugene for many years and was later appointed as Judge of Lane County, Oregon. Born in New York City on December 14, 1867 (or 1868, depending on the source), Helmus Wells Thompson was the second of five children born to Col. Clark W. and Rebecca Wells Thompson.
  A former member of both the Minnesota and Wisconsin legislatures, Clark W. Thompson moved his family to La Crosse, Wisconsin around 1870 and it was in that city that his son Helmus would attend school. He graduated from the La Crosse High School and in the mid-1880s entered upon the study of law at the University of Minnesota, graduating with his B.A. degree in 1888. Following his graduation, Thompson continued study in the St. Paul-based law of office of Clark, Ellar and Howe and later enrolled at the Harvard Law School, from which he would graduate in 1892.
   Helmus W. Thompson returned to La Crosse after leaving Harvard and for several years practiced law in that city. During his Wisconsin residency, Thompson became a primary organizer of the Waukon Electric Light Company located in Waukon, Iowa. He was joined in that venture by his brothers Clark and Mackay and following the construction of this municipal lighting company served as its Secretary.
   In 1897 Helmus Thompson removed to Eugene, Oregon, being admitted to practice law in that state that same year. Soon after his arrival, he joined Charles Hardy in the law firm of Thompson and Hardy, a partnership that would extend seventeen years. In the years following his resettlement in Eugene Thompson's name grew to be one of the most prominent in the vicinity, being both a "leader in patriotic and public movements" as well as a distinguished club-man. Thompson held memberships in a number of local fraternal groups, including the Knights Templar, the Elks, the Knights of Pythias and the University Club of Portland.

Portrait from the Bench and Bar of Oregon, 1911.

  In 1909 Helmus Thompson received the appointment as Judge of Lane County, Oregon. He later won a four-year term on the bench and during his five years of service saw "the first macadam roads" built in the county. Thompson left the bench in 1914 and towards the end of his life took part in the ongoing war effort by serving as chairman of a Red Cross civilian relief committee for Lane County.
   Ill health marred Thompson's last year of life, and a trip to the South Sea Islands in the months before his death did little to improve his condition. Thompson died in Eugene on August 10, 1918 at age 50. A lifelong bachelor, he was survived by two brothers and was interred at the Masonic Cemetery in Eugene.

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