The Final Years

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!"

Merideth Nicholson

history menu
Hunting with the Bow - Will Thompson
The Clout Shoot
Horace Ford - Britains Greatest Archer
The Glory Years
Bill Sweetland
Thoughts on...
The Three Merry Bowmen
Ben Pearson
Sasha Siemel - "Tiger Man"
The Trinity
The history of Roving
Maurice Thompson, The Early Years
Maurice Thompson - The War Years
Maurice Thompson - The Sylvan Years
Maurice Thompson, - The Final Years
Howard Hill
Dr. Saxton Pope
Art Young
Will Compton

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