Clarissa Thompson's Notes

Immediately after the smoke of though conflict which transformed three millions of slaves into citizens of the mightiest country on the face of the earth had cleared away, many of the former bondmen came to the front in their respective localities. Among these was Samuel B. Thompson. He was a man of much natural ability, and, for a time, his people " delighted to honor him." During the Republican ivy hue ho held many positions of trust and emolument. For eight years he filled the office of justice of the peace in the capital city, . and for six years he represented his native county in the State legislature. A newspaper, edited by men of Caucasian lineage, said of him, several years afterward : "He is a colored gentleman, in every essential." His wife, Eliza Henrietta, one of the most amiable of women, was a worthy helpmeet, and to this happy couple were born nine children, one of whom is the, subject of our sketch.

Clarissa Thompson's opportunities have always been of the most excellent character. Those Northern societies who have done so much for the amelioration of the condition of the freedmen sent some of their noblest and best to labor in the Palmetto State; and Columbia, with her usual good fortune, secured some of the choicest spirits among these. Howard school, named in honor of the philanthropic General O. O. Howard, boasted of a fine corps of thirteen teachers. Miss Carrie II. Loom is, of Hartford, Conn., had charge of the most advanced grade. She was a born teacher, and manifested the deepest interest in her pupils. Clarissa had just completed her ninth year when she entered this lady's department, and she has always regarded Miss Loomis as the teacher to whom she is most indebted. A few years in Howard school, and then she is enrolled as a member of the South Carolina State Normal school, of which Prof. Mortimer A. Warren, of Connellsville, Conn, was principal, and Miss Loomis chief assistant. Professor Warren was one of the best educators on this continent. An enthusiastic believer in the inductive system of teaching, he founded his methods on those advocated by Pestalozzi, Froebel and Horace Mann. While here, Miss Thompson had the privilege of attending lectures given by members of the faculty of the South Carolina University. The standard of this university was high. The board of regents had spared no pains to secure the services of the best talent in the country. Its library has always been famous; its laboratory has always been considered one of the best in the United States, and its reputation, with such intellectual giants as McDuffie and Hayne, claiming it as their Alma Mater, has always been enviable. It was the aim of the board to put it on a level with what it was in ante bellum times, and, judging from the graduates it turned out— such scholars as T. McCants Stewart and the lamented. William M. Dart — their efforts did not lack much of being crowned with success. The normal school was, de facto, a part of the university; and during the last year of their course the class of which Miss Thompson was a member pursued some of their studies in conjunction with the junior class of this institution.

Immediately after graduation Miss Thompson began her career as first assistant in Howard school. Having been elected principal of Poplar Grove School in Abbeville, S. C., she resigned her position in Howard, and for fifteen months taught with gratifying success in Abbeville. Bishop Dickerson was at this time making Herculean efforts to build up the school he loved so well — Allen University and, at his request, Miss Thompson accepted a position there. For fifteen months she was preceptress in Latin, algebra, physical geography, and ancient and modern History. The work at Allen was very congenial. But there has always been latent in her heart something of the missionary spirit, and, despite the entreaties of her friends, she resigned her position, and, in February, 1886, left her native home for Texas. For three years she labored in Jefferson, the former metropolis of the lone Star State. The people of Jefferson were as kind to me as those of Abbeville, and that is saying a great deal," she writes concerning her stay there. From Jefferson Miss Thompson came to Fort "Worth, the busy, enterprising, rapidly-growing railroad center of Texas. The school here has the reputation of being one of the best in the State, and she fills at present the position of first assistant.

Miss Thompson began at an early ago to write for the press. While a school-girl, she wrote several essays, which were published in the Christian Recorder. Professor Warren spoke to her once : " I think you will be a good writer some day, Clarissa, but you must not make the mistake of rushing into print too early." But the " fury " was on her. There were some things in the social life of her people that filled her mind with forebodings. Knowing the salutary effect of a good novel, she determined to attempt one herself, to show up this "crying weakness." With this end in view, she wrote "Treading the Winepress," a serial of forty chapters which ran for several months in the columns of the Boston, Advocate.*

A brief extract from this novel may not be out of place here.

    Will DeVerne, the hero, says to his aunt :
  " What a poor opinion you have of your 'brethren after the flesh,' Aunt Madeline! One would never judge from your words that you form ' part and parcel ' of that much-abused race." 
   "Thank heaven, very few drops of that blood course through my veins,'' and Madame DeVerne gazed with much complacency on her dainty white hands and finely-moulded arms.

    The playful look left Will's eyes. 
   "And yet, Aunt Madeline," he said, with all the earnestness he was master of, " as long as those few drops remain, it would be well to recognize a fact many of our people are in danger of forgetting, viz., that just one scintilla of Negro blood, be the possessor thereof as white as the driven snow, is sufficient to fix your status forever, as far us public opinion is concerned. If some of our leaders could be made to see this, perhaps instead of isolating themselves from the race so sorely in need of their assistance they would come down from their eyrie and try to lift up the masses. We cannot hue out for ourselves a separate destiny. It may seem to benefit us, but it will avail our children nothing. "We must all rise together or fall together. There is no middle ground. .

Later on, in the same dialogue, DeVerne says: "You should have been born on European soil, Aunt Madeline. Your sentiments are entirely too aristocratic to flourish under the American eagle. In an institution like ours, we could not tolerate, for a single moment, such exclusive ideas. There we have, and can have, no aristocracy but the aristocracy of genius. The aristocracy of blood must take a back seat, for blue blood does not al ways bestow brains; the aristocracy of wealth must follow suit, for, though money is a mighty factor in human progress, fortune is too notoriously blind and fickle for us to gauge a man's worth by the size of his pocket-book ; and that peculiar aristocracy of which you and your friends are such ardent advocates — in both precept and practice — the aristocracy of color — should never be allowed to rear its serpent head among our people. The day it does, our race is doomed. We are fighting the self-same monster without; we cannot afford to let it come within and live. Our social structure must have a different foundation. Moral character should be the corner-stone; mental culture one of the main columns. A man must be respected for his worth, not for the color of his skin or the strength of his bank account."

This novel has never been, and will never be, published in book form. Miss Thompson regards it as a girlish protest against what seemed to be serious dangers threatening our race. Her object was not to gain " name and fame," but to call the attention of thinking people to these blots in our social firmament.

Since coming to Texas, Miss Thompson has written a temperance poem entitled "A Glass of Wine," which was published in the Texas Blade, and was favorably received by the cities. Texas boasts of quite a number of race papers, and under the nom de plume of " Minnie Myrtle" Miss Thompson has contributed letters, poems, and, in one instance, a novelette called " Only a Flirtation," to several of them.

But while her tastes are literary, her chief desire is to accomplish good in her profession. " "We must work out our destiny, in a great measure, in the school-room," she says, " Among most races, the mothers mould the character of the children; but so many of our women have been deprived of the opportunity to elevate themselves, and poverty compels so many of them to spend most of the time away from their families, that a large proportion of the children cannot receive the home training imperative for the production of grand men and noble women. with heart and head cultivated to the utmost. It may seem a thankless task, and even the most enthusiastic among us ofttimes get discouraged; but, if we will only persevere, ' rich will the harvest be.' The elevation of our race depends largely on the character of the work done in the school-room. The teacher can, by a few well-chosen words, touch the very chord that will inspire 'some mute, inglorious Milton,' some embryo physician, financier or mechanic to devote himself to the vocation for which Nature has designed him, instead of frittering away his talents on something to which he is entirely unsuited. A teacher's influence may make a life, or it may mar it."

Some of the members of Miss Thompson's family have attained a considerable degree of prominence in their respective localities. Among these are her paternal cousin. Dr. Alonzo C. McClennan. of Charleston, S. C., and his partner,. Dr. John MePherson Thompson, her oldest brother, who has- made a fine reputation as a mathematician, as well as a physician. Miss Thompson says that what little of literary ability she possesses she inherits from her father, while to her mother, to whom she is devoted even beyond the ordinary, she owes a retentive memory.

Miss Thompson's ideal of womanhood is very high, and in her writing she has always endeavored to hold up to her readers the model extolled by the great Justin J. Holland, as contained in the following lines, with which we conclude this sketch :


" She was my peer.
No weakling girl, who would surrender will
And life and reason, with her loving heart,
To her possessor; no soft, clinging thing
who would find breath alone within the arms
Of a strong master, and obediently
Wait on his will in slavish carefulness ;
No fawning, cringing spaniel to attend
His royal pleasure, and account herself
Rewarded by his pats and pretty words.
But A SOUND WOMAN, who, with insight keen ,
H ad wrought a scheme of life, and measured well
Her womanhood; had spread before her feet
A fine philosophy to guide her steps ;
Had won a faith to which her life was brought
In strict adjustment— brain and heart meanwhile
Working In conscious harmony and rhythm "
With the great scheme of God's great universe,
ON TOWARD HER BEING'S END."

* It was begun in the Christian Recorder, but, awaking to the fact that
the plot and development of the story would scarcely become an ecclesiastical
paper. It was withdrawn after three chapters had been published.

Noted Negro Women: Their Triumphs and Activities

by Monroe Alphus Majors - 1893 - 365 pages

 


 

Miss C. M. Thompson m. W. A. Allen 24 Dec 1896 Tarrant Co. Mg. Rec. bk 9, page 298 

 


 

1900                            
                             
Allen CLARISSA M Head F B Oct 1859 40 M 3 Teacher SC 4 Owm home  7-WD FORT WORTH 
HOPKINS EMMA C Cousin F B Jan?? 1870 29 S   Dressmaker SC 0   7-WD FORT WORTH 
 Thompson CELIA R Sister F B Oct 1866 34 S   Teacher SC 6   7-WD FORT WORTH 
Coleman William Boarder M B Aug 1869 30 S   Teacher GA 3    

 

 

 

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