by Cliff Huntington
Three and a half years had elapsed since Maurice's surrender to Union forces
in May of 1865. Even with restored health, an education in Engineering and Law
and a half dozen published poems and essays in Scott's Monthly Magazine,
he had exhausted all avenues of earning a reasonable living. Sometime in early
1868 Maurice gathered his notes and sketches accumulated during months of archery
and nature study among the swamps and pine savannahs of the south lands, packed
a few remaining belongings and struck out for Indiana, where the Thompsons had
friends and distant relatives. How he traveled to Crawfordsville, Indiana is
unknown. One biographer suggested he walked the distance, but the how isn't
important, the where is.
He came to the home of John Lee, a family sharing a distant relationship.
Maurice boarded with Lee and searched for work, but found little
to do. Conditions in North Georgia hadn't improved and soon the
remainder of Maurice's family followed to Crawfordsville, including
his boon companion Will. It appears that Maurice's father, Pastor
Grigg Thompson, arrived just in time. Maurice had been showing
one of John Lee's daughters some attention and evidently it was
returned. On the 16th day of June, 1868 Pastor Thompson united
Maurice and Alice Lee in marriage, a union that would last until
death parted them.
John Lee became a section contractor for the railroad soon after
the marriage of Maurice to his daughter Alice. He needed engineers,
hired his son-in-law Maurice and within three months Maurice
was promoted to Chief Engineer. Must have been a package deal
as brother Will came aboard as an engineer also.
Maurice continued his writing and archery pursuits while employed
by the railroad. He and Will formed a law partnership in 1873
and were admitted to the Bar the same year. Maurice began to
encounter small successes with his nature and archery essays
published in Appleton's Journal. In 1876 Maurice resigned
as Chief Engineer of the railroad, now relying solely on his
law practice and writing. During July of 1877 Maurice had published
simultaneously, "Hunting with the Long-Bow" in Harper's
Monthly and "Bow-Shooting" in Scribner's Monthly.
The articles were immensely popular and a year later to the month,
on July 17, 1878, Maurice's classic "The Witchery of Archery"
was offered to the public and quickly sold out. The brothers
were gaining national prominence as America's leading archers
and Will was honored as Archery Editor for Forest and Stream.
With the rising popularity of archery fueled by Maurice and Will,
a convention of archers was held at Crawfordsville, Indiana,
January 23, 1879 where the National Archery Association was chartered
with the Hon. Maurice Thompson installed as its first Chairman.
It was agreed at this meeting to hold the First Grand National
Archery Meeting of the National Archery Association at Chicago,
Illinois during August.
In May the second edition of "The Witchery of Archery"
was published with an added chapter on target archery. A month
later in June, Maurice and Will published a manual on long-range
bow shooting titled "How to Train in Archery." With
only two months remaining to the First Grand National Archery
Meeting, their timing was impeccable resulting in brisk sales.
The First Grand National Archery Meeting was held on August 12th,
13th and the 14th of 1879. Both Will and Maurice shot the meet
with Will coming away the Champion. Will would go on to win the
Championship 4 more times and hold the office of President of
the NAA on three different occasions. Maurice also shot, but
only to lend his presence to the affair, having injured his shoulder
earlier in the year.
Will would move to Seattle and establish fame and fortune in
the far west and Maurice was soon able to discard the shackles
of ordinary employment and provide live's needs by the skill
of his pen. He would develop a routine spending the warmer months
at Sherwood Place, his home in Crawfordsville, Indiana with occasional
jaunts into Michigan and the winter months secluded at his "Winter
Garden" in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Bay St. Louis provided
easy access to the southern swamps similar to those frequented
by he and Will during their early years.
The year 1900 found Maurice plagued by health problems dating
back to the Civil War. With fall approaching, he no longer had
the strength to venture south, but stubbornly held out against
his final adversary until the end. James Maurice Thompson left
us on February 15, 1901 and was called "The Father of Archery
in America" by his peers.
"Spirits that guard
the woodland paths,
And lie in wait beside the streams,
Lead him where he shall find anew
Green meadows, and his morning dreams!"