Asa Thompson

               A Notable Character


In the southwestern part of Arkansas in the long ago, there were numerous
men of bold and enterprising character, nearly every one of whom developed
some peculiar characteristic that rendered him either famous or notorious.
Not the least conspicuous among these men was Asa Thompson, who in his day
was probably as well and widely known as any individual in that whole     
region. At some period in his life, the particulars of which I never      
learned, he contracted an acute affliction of the spine which had the     
effect to draw him almost in double. I might better describe it by saying
that his frame was drawn to a right angle. When walking, his head was but
little if any higher than his knees. Had he been straight he would have
been quite a tall man. His home was at Murfreesboro, in Pike county, but he
was quite as familiarly known in Hempstead and contiguous counties as in
Pike. He was enterprising and bold in speculation, and would seize hold of
almost anything that promised to turn out profitable. Owing to his
unfortunate deformity he could not ride astride of a horse. He always sat
sideways, but never used any other than a man's saddle. I do not know
whether it was because he could ride upon a man's saddle with more comfort,
or whether it was from a feeling of pride or a sense of shame that he
abstained from the use of a side-saddle.

His great weakness was cards, and it is probable that a more inveterate    
gambler never lived in Arkansas. Wherever he stopped, in his peregrinations
through the country, he hunted up a game, which was not very difficult to  
do in those days. He was reputed to have been a great faro-dealer, and
devoted a great deal of time to it. When not engaged in cards, he was
absorbed in business, and accumulated considerable property. While living
in Pike county he was elected to the legislature and served one session in
Little Rock, where, it is hardly necessary to inform the reader, he found
abundant opportunity to indulge in his favorite pastime. While the General
Assembly of which he was a member was in session, the general conference of
the Methodist church convened in the State Capital, and filled the town
with preachers. During the sitting of the Conference religious services
were held every night at the Methodist church, all the ministers attending,
of course. One night, after preaching was over, several of the men were
leisurely sauntering along the street together when their attention was
attracted by a pedestrian, just in advance of them, carrying a candle in
one hand and stooped over as though he was looking for something on the
sidewalk. He was moving at a very slow pace, and the men of the cloth very
soon came up with him. They kindly enquired if he had lost anything, to
which he replied that he had lost a hundred dollars. The preachers
immediately expressed sympathy for him in this ill luck, and at once set
about to aid him in searching for his lost roll. Each one bent down and
began to peer attentively along the sidewalk. After proceeding thus some
distance, one of them enquired of the doubled-up Diogenes if he had any
idea where he dropped his missing treasure. "Oh, I dropped it up there at
the faro-bank!" was Thompson's instant reply. It goes without saying that
this was a "new revelation" to the men of the cloth, and that they then
and there ceased searching for the lost money. The individual with the
candle proved to be our eccentric friend, Asa Thompson. The man was
unknown to the preachers, and his peculiar shape in walking led to the very
natural mistake into which they had fallen. Thompson did not know, nor did
he care who they were, inasmuch as he had very little respect for preaching
and preachers, and the candid and truthful answer to the enquiry addressed
to him was dictated by a humorous thought, which may have struck in at the
moment, to give them a sell.

Notwithstanding, as stated above, Thompson sat upon his horse
woman-fashion, he traveled a great deal. Buggy-driving in that day was
almost unknown. These convenient vehicles had not yet been introduced into
Arkansas; besides which, the then condition of the roads rendered such mode
of locomotion impracticable. Asa was as well known in the country as
"Humpy" Thompson as by his true name. He was exceedingly social in
disposition and loved gay and jovial company. He once became the proprietor
of a wandering circus which came through the country, and tried his fortune
with that for some time, and to which he was no doubt an interesting
side-show. In the vocation he no doubt found ample opportunity to pursue
his favorite amusement.

The last seen or heard of "Humpy" Thompson, so far as I can learn, was in
1848, in which year he suddenly turned up in Washington, tarried a week or
two, and then disappeared, probably going to the Omnium-Gatherums of the
odds and ends of the earth: Texas.

Samuel Hardin Williams, memorabilia. Reprinted in Sam Williams: Printer's
Devil, Mary Medearis, editor. Hope, Arkansas: Etter Printing Company, 1979,
page 227-229.

Update 03.19.01              David Kelley 2000                 BIO-0001.HTM