Prof. Bert M. Thompson was a prominent figure in the field of education in Ohio. He was born in 1881 in Senecaville, Guernsey County, and had a strong educational background, having attended the Senecaville High School, the National Normal University, and the normal college in Athens, Ohio. He began teaching in 1900 and served as superintendent of the public schools of Byesville, Ohio, from 1908 to 1913. During his tenure, he worked to raise the standard of education in the area, and his efforts resulted in the construction of a new high school building and the expansion of the teaching force. Thompson was also active in his community and was involved in various organizations, including the Ohio School Improvement Federation and the Epworth League.
The men most influential in promoting the advancement of society and in giving character to the times in which they live are of two classes: the men who study and the men of action. Whether we are most indebted for the improvement of the age to the one class or the other is a question of honest difference in opinion; neither class can be spared, and both should be encouraged to occupy their several spheres of labor and influence zealously and without mutual distrust. In the following paragraphs are briefly outlined the leading facts and characteristics of a gentleman who combines in his makeup the elements of the scholar and the energy of the public-spirited man of affairs. Devoted to the noble and humane work of teaching, he has made his influence felt in the school life of Guernsey County and is not unknown to the wider educational circles of the state, occupying as he does a prominent place in his profession and standing high in the esteem of educators in other than his own field of endeavor.
Prof. Bert M. Thompson, the able and popular superintendent of public schools of Byesville, Ohio, was born in 1881 at Senecaville, Guernsey County. He is the son of Luke D. and Ida S. (Nicholson) Thompson. Luke D. Thompson was also a native here, born one-fourth mile from where the subject was born, about two miles southwest of Senecaville. He was prominent and influential in this locality in the early days of development.
The Thompson family first came from central Pennsylvania in the early days. Some of them were blacksmiths in the days when blacksmiths made nails with hammer and anvil. The first one here was William Thompson, great-grandfather of the subject. He was a wagoner of the Alleghanies and hauled with six- and eight-horse teams from Baltimore, Maryland, over the mountains. He had a fine set of horses and often got in a week ahead of the others, thereby earning the cream of the business. On one of his trips, in crossing the Potomac on the ice, he found himself floating away with his team on a large two- or three-acre piece. He floated for two or three miles, when the ice swung around a sandbar, and he promptly whipped the team off onto the land. He came to this country at a very early day and located a mile west of Senecaville, and the Thompson family have lived in that part of the township ever since. William Thompson kept tavern on the public square at Senecaville soon after 1800. He died of cholera. William Thompson’s son was also named William.
Luke Thompson was the son of William Thompson, Jr., and Margaret (Dilley) Thompson. Margaret Dilley was the daughter of Abram Dilley, who was the son of Ephraim Dilley. The origin of the Dilley family is given as follows: Ephraim Dilley, grandfather of Margaret (Dilley) Thompson, was born in 1755 and died in 1844. His wife, Lucy (Ayers) Dilley, was born in 1762 and died in 1840. Ephraim Dilley’s wife’s maiden name was Lucy Ayers, daughter of William and Esther (Hardin) Ayers. Ephraim Dilley was the son of Aaron and Hannah (Perry) Dilley. Hannah Perry was related to Commodore Perry, who fought the battle on Lake Erie in 1813, being a sister of the commodore’s mother or grandmother, and had the same noble ancestry. She was a direct descendant of Sir William Wallace, the Scottish hero who was born in 1270 and who was an Anglo-Norman. His ancestors were not English but were French Huguenots who were in the massacre of St. Bartholomew and had to flee for their lives. They migrated from the Isle of Jersey to England, thence to the United States. Ethnology places them as ancient Celts or Gauls. Ephraim Dilley was in the Revolutionary War and fought in the battle of Stony Point and other battles. Abram Dilley’s wife was Jane Wilson McCleary Dilley. Jane Wilson McCleary was born in County Down, Ireland, and came to the United States when eight years old. She came in her Aunt Mary Roland’s ship, her husband being the captain of the vessel. He died, and she (Mary Roland) married a Mr. Wright, the mate. Jane Wilson McCleary’s mother or grandmother was a daughter of Lord Adlson. She married a mechanic, and her father disinherited her. The family crest of Lord Adlson was the wolf’s head.
Professor Thompson’s mother was the daughter of Jacob and Jane (Cramblett) Nicholson, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this volume. She was born and reared about two and a half miles from the town of Derwent. The professor’s father was born not far from Senecaville and lived in that vicinity all of his life. Professor Thompson was the only child of the family, and he grew up on the home farm. The father followed farming all of his life. He and his wife were members of the Lutheran Church, as all of the Nicholsons are. Grandfather Thompson was a Presbyterian. The father, who died September 26, 1908, was a good man and highly esteemed by all who knew him.
Bert M. Thompson attended the common schools in the country districts, graduating in 1899 from the Senecaville High School. He spent one summer at the National Normal University. He also took twelve terms at Athens, Ohio, completing the course in the normal college. He has also secured both common school and high school state life certificates, which is quite an unusual thing for one of more advanced years and experience. Thus, well-equipped for his life’s work, in 1900 he began teaching in Richland Township and taught there for three years and afterward one year in Valley Township. He then came to Byesville, spent four years as principal of the high school, and became superintendent of the schools in May 1908, which position he filled for the two years’ term. In 1910, he was again elected for a three-year term. He has done much to raise the standard of the schools of Byesville, is an able educator, a man of high character, genial and kind, a clear thinker, cogent reasoner, a platform speaker of ability, delivers commencement addresses, etc. He is the geographical editor of the Ohio Teacher, is a field worker for the Ohio School Improvement Federation, and has a local license in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He does considerable public speaking, both in school and church work. For the past ten years, he has been very active in the Epworth League, has been for three years past president of the Cambridge district of the Epworth League. He finally gave this up for lack of time.
When Professor Thompson came to Byesville, there was only one school building and nine teachers; now there are three schools, with a teaching force of twenty-three teachers. A new high school building, costing thirty thousand dollars, and many improvements in the conduct of the schools are largely due to the progress of the public school system under his supervision. He is known nearly all over Ohio as a leader in educational matters. His fieldwork, carried on earnestly, brings him in close touch with the work in every locality. He and his mother now live in Byesville, where they have a beautiful home.
Unlike many of his calling who become narrow and pedantic, Professor Thompson is essentially a man of the times, broad and liberal in his views and has the courage of his convictions on all the leading public questions and issues upon which men and parties divide. He also keeps in touch with the trend of modern thought along its various lines and being a man of scholarly attainments and refined tastes, his acquaintance with the best literature of the world is both general and profound, while his familiarity with the more practical affairs of the day makes him feel free with all classes and conditions of people whom he meets, and he is deserving of the large success he has achieved and of the universal esteem which he now enjoys.