Skip to content

Mary Elizabeth Thompson

Mary Elizabeth Thompson

February 7, 1871 – October 21, 1967

Mary Thompson

           Mary Thompson

Born on February 7, 1871, Mary Elizabeth Thompson was the last of five children born to James Thompson and Margaret Ann Parks.  In 1886 when Mary was 15 years old her father died.  After his death, the family faced economic hardship.  Acreage was mortgaged and remortgaged and Mary’s high school education was delayed until the family could afford the costs of boarding school in Birmingham, Michigan.  She was able to graduate in 1892 and attended Michigan Normal College in Ypsilanti, Michigan, graduating with a teacher’s certificate in 1898.

Bicycling Bangor, MI, 1899.  Mary in center flanked by co-workers.

Bicycling Bangor, MI, 1899. Mary in center flanked by co-workers.

After teaching for a few years, Mary embarked on the further development of her career, earning a master’s degree from Columbia in 1905 and a M. Pd (Pedagogy) in 1907 from Michigan State Normal in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  Following another few years of teaching Mary went on to earn a doctorate in education from New York University in 1909.  Psychology and Pedagogy of Writing, Mary’s doctoral thesis, was published in 1911.  A reproduction copy of Mary’s work is available to scholars in the Southfield History Collection in the Southfield Public Library.

Mary Thompson's Doctoral Thesis

Mary Thompson’s Doctoral Thesis

Mary’s career was interrupted in 1912 when she returned home to care for her ailing mother who died in 1914.  The farm was left to Mary’s brother James who focused on raising cattle and horses and

The Thompson Family about 1912. James, Margaret, Mary, Rachel's daughters, and Rachel.

The Thompson Family about 1912. James, Margaret, Mary, Rachel’s daughters, and Rachel.

Mary returned to her career, teaching in Patterson, New Jersey and working as an Assistant Superintendent of Schools and Supervisor of Primary Education in Jacksonville, Florida.

In the early 1920’s Mary returned to Southfield to teach in the nearby one-room Beddows School (later known as Brooks School) located at Lahser and Eleven Mile Roads.  In 1929 she was the first teacher at the new McKinley School.   Her last teaching position was at the Brace school in the late 1930’s.

As a teacher, Mary Thompson received a steady income and during the Depression years she was able to purchase additional land near the farm.  Although Mary and her brother James owned most of the land between 10 and 11 Mile Roads and between Evergreen and Santa Barbara most of their wealth was tied up in the land and they continued to live without any modern residential features.  The Thompson farmhouse had no indoor plumbing, sanitary sewer service, or whole house heating system.

Educating and bettering the community were Mary Thompson’s primary goals.  In 1959 she and her brother James sold 166 acres, at one half their value, to the City of Southfield for use as a Civic Center.

1963 Civic Center Groundbreaking

1963 Civic Center Groundbreaking

James Thompson died in 1960 and in 1967 at the age of 96 Mary died in the fields while tending her sheep.  In her will, Mary Thompson left her home and the surrounding 20 acres to the City of Southfield.  Today the Mary Thompson Farm stands as a tribute to her community and a memorial to her family.

Mary Thompson Farmhouse 2011

Mary Thompson Farmhouse 2011

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: