Henderson County, Kentucky Biography
By Frederick Eberson, PH.D., M.D.
Of PINCKNEY THOMPSON it can be truthfully be said that he made his way from the ground up. His father, William THOMPSON, a native of North Carolina, descended from hardy pioneer stock, settled in Livingston County before Kentucky was admitted to the Union. Until the age of twenty-one, he was apprenticed to Colonel RAMSEY, a farmer and then volunteered in Captain BARBOUR'S company assembled at Henderson, Kentucky. After an overland march to join General Samuel HOPKINS' army at Vincennes, Indiana, the company, arriving too late for the battle of Tippecanoe in November 1811, returned to Henderson.
During one of several business trips to New Orleans, Louisiana, William THOMPSON was impressed into service by General JACKSON, and shortly afterward, with an honorable discharge, made his way back on foot to Livingston County where he settled down to hard work on the farm.
It was amid these humble surroundings that his son, Pinckney THOMPSON, was born and received his early education in a backwoods log cabin schoolroom. He worked all day long on his father's farm until his twentieth year, studied by the light of the customary log fire and so prepared himself for a career which he was determined to follow. One year later he began medical study in the office of Dr. B. SAUNDERS, a distinguished physician of Smithland, Livingston County. After this two year stint, THOMPSON enrolled in the medical department of the University of Louisville, graduating with the M.D. degree in 1833. While here, it was his good fortune to study as a private pupil with Dr. Tobias G. RICHARDSON, Demonstrator of Anatomy at the University and former pupil and associate of the renowned surgeon, Dr. Samuel GROSS. This training together with much practical experience while a resident physician at the City Hospital, went far toward developing his exceptional skill in surgery.
Shortly after graduation he visited his old home in Henderson. Arriving without ready money and finding only three acquaintances in the town, he bravely began practicing medicine and surgery and soon acquired a lucrative practice. In the forty-four years he remained here, he enjoyed the reputation of one of the most successful physicians in the community.
Although busily occupied, he developed a keen interest in the prevention of epidemic diseases and before long, became one of the first and most distinguished sanitarians in Kentucky. Characteristically, Dr. THOMPSON was always in the forefront in his profession. Through his efforts alone, the State Board of Health was created in 1879, and he served as its first president for fifteen years during the most difficult period of its history.
When the board was first organized, yellow fever was rampant in the South, and despite all precautions then current, spread to Hickman, Bowling Green and Louisville the following year, causing many deaths and a state bordering on panic. Laboring with a pitifully small appropriation of funds that was soon exhausted, Dr. THOMPSON generously supplied his own to fight the scourge, making visits to the infected districts and supervising the quarantine and other control measures.
In carrying out this work, he initiated legislative procedures creating the National Board of Health in 1879, and organizing the Sanitary Council of the Mississippi Valley (of which he became vice president) and the American Public Health Association in 1884.
Just before reaching the age of seventy, Dr. THOMPSON died in Henderson, where he had lived and worked the greater part of his life for the public health and welfare of his community and native State.