Henry Hanson Thompson

by Patricia Renait, NCHS volunteer

Henry Hanson Thompson was born on January 16, 1866, in San Francisco. His father died that same year leaving his mother with four young sons. She remarried, had two more sons and they moved to a ranch in Napa in 1873. It was there that Henry lost his hand and part of his left arm in a hunting accident. From then on he wore a false arm with a gloved hand, but he didn’t let his injury interfere with his ability to play the cornet. He played in the Napa City Band, marched in local parades, and traveled to San Francisco to play on returning ships when the fleet was in.

The 1890 Great Register of Napa County identifies H. H. Thompson as a railroad clerk. He married in 1900 at the age of 34, settled down and became a proper gentleman. Those who knew him described him as proud and vain, 5’ 9-1/2” tall with dark hair, gray eyes, and a dark complexion. He was always well dressed with a bowler hat, a dickey (also known as a celluloid collar), and a flower in his coat lapel. He walked ramrod straight at exactly the same time every day on his way to his office.

1911 postcard: "“Dear Mother, Please send me the gift Uncle Henry gave me as soon as you can for we are badly in need of them. Will write tomorrow. Annie"
“Dear Mother, Please send me the gift Uncle Henry gave me as soon as you can for we are badly in need of them. Will write tomorrow. Annie” – 1911

Henry wed Maude Zylpha Scribner, a 19-year-old beauty from a wealthy Berryessa family who had little interest in being proper. She bought an Overland Automobile, decorated it with flowers, and shocked the local citizens by leading parades in her car at a time when few women drove. Henry and Maude had three children: Lenore, Thomas, and Henry. In 1915 Henry took them by electric train, boat, and cable car to the World’s Fair in San Francisco. When her mother died Maude used her inheritance to buy a hog farm in Dixon. Henry, who abhorred hogs, took the train from Napa to Dixon on weekends.

Maude said Henry had “black rages” and would become silent for weeks. When he quit his job as City Clerk to run for the office of County Treasurer, Maude campaigned for her brother David who won the election. In time she became romantically involved with a “friend” and the Thompsons divorced. Henry returned to his position as City Clerk.

At the age of 64 he married Anne Kvislen, his caregiver and companion. He died later the same year on October 19, 1932, and is buried at Tulocay Cemetery along with his mother and step-father.