Born: No­vem­ber 7, 1847, East Li­ver­pool, Ohio.

Died: Sep­tem­ber 20, 1909, Pres­by­ter­ian Hos­pi­tal, New York Ci­ty.

Buried: Ri­ver­view Ce­me­te­ry, East Li­ver­pool, Ohio.


Will was the son of Jo­si­ah Thomp­son, a suc­cess­ful bu­si­ness­man and state le­gis­lat­or for two terms, and hus­band of Eli­za­beth John­son (mar­ried 1891).

Rebuffed in ear­ly at­tempts to sell his songs to com­mer­cial pub­lish­ers, he start­ed his own pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny. He lat­er op­ened a store to sell pi­anos, or­gans and sheet mu­sic.

A ly­ri­cist and com­pos­er, he en­sured he would al­ways re­mem­ber words or tunes that came to him at odd times:

No mat­ter where I am, at home or ho­tel, at the store or tra­vel­ing, if an idea or theme comes to me that I deem wor­thy of a song, I jot it down in verse. In this way I ne­ver lose it.

Thompson took ill dur­ing a tour of Eur­ope, and his fa­mi­ly cut short its tra­vels to re­turn home. He died a few weeks lat­er.