The Crazy Thompsons of Boise, Idaho

I’ve been doing some genealogy research again – something I’ve been doing off and on for about 12 years now – and thanks to a newspaper archive I found yesterday, I’ve discovered another funny story about a crazy branch of my family.

First, some background: William Lawrence Thompson moved to the Boise area from Philadelphia in about 1863. He had a huge homestead, and he and a guy named McClellan made the first ferry across the Boise river and apparently charged a fortune for people to cross. He also practiced medicine – though I’ve checked with the medical schools in the Philadelphia area and verified that he didn’t attend medical school. Eh, no matter. In the wild West people tended to reinvent themselves, and he must’ve been somewhat skilled as he later married one of his patients, who he had treated for typhoid fever.

WL Thompson was a generally* well-respected citizen. Too bad that didn’t hold true for his kids, 5 troublesome sons and a daughter, if family stories are to be believed.

Here is a picture of the family outside their home in 1886:

Today’s funny story is that the daughter, Lillian Thompson, married a criminal named William “Dell” Wolley (or Woolley?). He was a criminal before she married him and – shockingly – continued to be one after they married. He eventually tried to forge his brothers-in-law’s signatures on some checks and went to prison for four years.

Dell tried to commit suicide in prison by drinking carbolic acid, but I think he was just an attention-getter because the prison guard heard Dell scream loudly, “Well, here goes!” just before drinking the poison. The guard intervened, Wolley wasn’t seriously injured, and he still had to do his time. What a guy.

I’m sure the story wasn’t funny for poor Lillian, but the idea of someone announcing his impending suicide with a scream strikes me as really immature. And funny. Really, really funny.

Stay tuned for more adventures of the Thompson Bad Boys. Also, if anyone out there has reliable info about who WL Thompson’s parents were, I’d love to hear from you.

* generally well-respected except for the time WL (at age 75) and his son Lafayette got arrested for killing some turkeys belonging to his old business partner, McClellan. It must not have been a big deal, though, because the newspaper filed the story under “Local Brevities”.

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