Circa 1825–?

Born: Cir­ca 1825, Es­sex Coun­ty, Mas­sa­chu­setts.

Little is known of Thomp­son oth­er than his works, main­ly ball­ads used in black­face min­strel shows. For­ty-eight works were pub­lished un­der the name H. S. Thomp­son be­tween 1849 and 1885.

Thompson was prob­ab­ly born in 1824 or 1825 in north­ern Es­sex County, Mas­sa­chu­setts. By 1851, he had moved to New­bur­y­port, Mas­sa­chu­setts, where he was a teach­er, per­form­er, and im­pre­sar­io.

Lat­er, he was con­nect­ed with se­ver­al min­strel com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Mor­ris Brothers, Pell, Hunt­ley’s, and Trow­bridge’s Min­strels in Bos­ton, and Mor­ris and Wil­son’s Op­era Troupe in St. Lou­is (1865–66).

Thompson had a wide, but not well known, in­flu­ence on Am­er­i­can po­pu­lar mu­sic. His work which is prob­ab­ly best re­mem­bered is his 1857 An­nie Lisle, a ball­ad about a her­o­ine dy­ing of tu­ber­cu­lo­sis.

In 1870, Ar­chi­bald Cros­well Weeks and Wil­mot Mos­es Smith, stu­dents at Cor­nell Un­i­ver­si­ty, New York, wrote lyr­ics for the mu­sic, which be­came the Cor­nell al­ma ma­ter, Far Above Ca­yu­ga’s Wa­ters.

Many oth­er coll­eg­es, high schools and camps adapt­ed An­nie Lisle as well. By the mid-20th Cen­tu­ry, Boy Scouts at the Ir­on­dale Re­ser­va­tion in Bis­marck, Mis­sou­ri (one of the first per­ma­nent scout camps in Am­er­i­ca) were sing­ing the mu­sic for their camp song, Where the Crest of Oz­ark Moun­tain.

Still pop­u­lar years later, the tune sur­faced in the 1987 film Dir­ty Danc­ing as Kel­ler­man’s An­them.

Other songs by Thomp­son al­so made their way in­to Am­er­i­can cul­ture. His Down by the Ri­ver Lived a Maid­en is gen­er­al­ly be­lieved to be the ba­sis for Per­cy Mont­rose’s 1884 Oh My Dar­ling, Cle­men­tine.

An al­tered ver­sion of the lyr­ics from Thomp­son’s Lil­ly Dale ap­pears in James Joyce’s 1916 no­vel A Por­trait of the Ar­tist as a Young Man.

  1. Lilly Dale
  2. Annie Lisle
  3. Down by the Ri­ver Lived a Maid­en