Thompson, John Martin (1829–1907)

By: Thomas D. Isern

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

John Martin Thompson, pioneer and leader of the lumber industry in East Texas, was born in Cass County, Georgia, on June 9, 1829, son of Benjamin Franklin and Ann (Martin) Thompson. His mother was the daughter of John Martin, chief justice of the Cherokee Nation. His South Carolina-born father brought the family to Texas in 1844. Thompson entered the lumber business in 1852 with his father and his brother, William Wirt Thompson. They built a sash sawmill in Rush County, the first of five mills that they operated successively in that vicinity. Thompson, the most active family member in the business, took in a partner named Henry Tucker. Three of his seven sons-John Lewis, Alexander, and Hoxie Harry Thompson-also assumed important roles in management of the Thompson lumber enterprises. In 1881 Thompson moved his operations, now incorporated as the Thompson and Tucker Lumber Company, to Trinity County. This timely move to the heart of the longleaf pine region enabled him to build a business empire for his sons. With his continued guidance, with the added energy of his sons, and with capital from a new partner, Ben Foster of Kansas City, the Thompson interests reached their height of prosperity during the early years of the twentieth century. Additional corporate vehicles by which the family acquired lands and cut timber at this time included the J. M. Thompson Lumber Company, the Thompson and Ford Lumber Company, and the Thompson Brothers Lumber Company, the products of all of which were marketed as Lone Star Pine. By 1902 Thompson had retired and was living in Sherman, and by 1906 the corporate offices had moved to Houston. Thompson was a staunch Presbyterian; during his retirement he was a trustee and a notable benefactor of Austin College, a Presbyterian institution in Sherman. When Thompson died in Houston on March 23, 1907, the Thompson lumber interests were financially overextended. But despite the financial panic of 1907, reorganizations preserved the Thompson timber interests, which then resumed expansion.

Thomas D. Isern and Raymond Wilson, "Lone Star: The Thompson Timber Interests of Texas," Red River Valley Historical Review 7 (Fall 1981). Thompson Papers, Thomason Room, Sam Houston State University Library.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas D. Isern, “Thompson, John Martin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 17, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995