Among the historic homes of Mississippi
in ante-bellum days there were none more deserving of a place in the State’s
historical notes than that of the Honorable Jacob Thompson, at Oxford,
Miss. It was a commodious frame structure of twenty rooms with halls,
verandas, galleries, and every thing that the architect's skill could suggest
to enhance its beauty and comfort. It had every convenience then
known to the expert builder. It was finished throughout the interior
in native woods carved and polished to the highest degree. The furnishing
was handsome and costly; an art gallery of rare and costly paintings was
an especial feature of the home. A few of these handsome pictures
are now the property of Mrs. Coleman, of Oxford.
This home was widely known for its hospitality.
It was a delightful resort for friends; and guests from almost every
State of the Union have been entertained within its portals. For
many years it was the headquarters of the political party of which Mr.
Thompson was the acknowledged leader; his wisdom and political sagacity
In the year of 1855, the Whig party having
passed out of existence, upon its ruins with reinforcements from disappointed
Democrats arose a new organization called the American or Know-nothing
party. They held secret meetings in every county of every State in
the Union. Their followers were enthusiastic and confident of success.
All over our State the brainiest men of the party were selected for legislative
and judicial honors; James L. Alcorn, of Coahoma county, a brilliant orator
and the most aggressive and magnetic politician in the State, was the new
party candidate for Congress. The Democrats were alarmed, they felt
that there was not a man in Alcorn’s district that could cope with him
in the area of politics. In this crisis the prominent leaders of
the Democratic party were invited to a banquet at the Thompson mansion.
The table was spread with all the munificence the occasion demanded, yet
a cloud seemed to hang over the company that neither the presence of lovely
women nor good cheer could dispel. When Mrs. Thompson arose and led the
ladies from the dining-room, leaving the gentlemen to the discussion of
wines and cigars, the question in every man’s mind there present and which
was voiced at once was, “where shall we find a man to run against Alcorn
?“ A name was mentioned, the leader shook his head. Name after
name was proposed and discussed but still the leader shook his head and
the gloom grew deeper over the assembled guests.
Finally one gentleman asked if there was
no man in the Democratic party who was fitted to enter the contest. Mr.
Thompson said that we must have a man endowed by genius and culture with
the qualities that make a politician and a statesman, he must be gifted
with eloquence, and of scholarly attainments, he must have no political
or moral sins to answer for, he must be ready to meet any question that
may arise in an exciting campaign, and be able to win the masses over such
an adversary as Alcorn. Judge Howty asked if we had such a man.
To which Mr. Thompson replied “Yes, fill your glasses gentlemen and drink
to his success when I name him.” The glasses were filled; on every
face were gleams of hope shaded with lines of anxiety. Mr. Thompson
lifted his glass and threw back his head as he said, “Here’s to L. Q. C.
Lamar, our next congressman.” For a moment there was a hush as if every
heart had ceased to beat, then, as with one voice arose the cry, “Lamar!
Lamar !“ When the dreamy-eyed scholar arose and tossed back his long hair
the dreamer awoke, his eyes flashed with the lightning of his genius and
there fell from his lips the grandest flow of eloquence ever heard in those
stately halls. He seemed inspired. The conquest was complete and
when he took his seat cheer after cheer arose for our next congressman.
He was elected.
There could be told many tales of love
and pleasure enacted in this old home in its palmy days which would read
like romance. Alas, those happy days are passed; the magnificent
home is in ashes; and the courteous master and lovely mistress have passed
over the river.