Born November 28, 1855 in Georgia Died December 22, 1948 in Texas
I don’t recall much about my great-grandfather, Alex Thompson, as he died when I was seven years old. What I do remember is that he was a tall man, dark-complexioned, quiet and often referred to by family as “Uncle Crete” or “that old Indian.” Some say he was cantankerous old soul. Members of the family tell of him playing a fiddle at family gatherings and socials. But there had too much more to be researched and so for the past ten or more years, I have been on a quest to learn as much as possible about him.
According to his Marriage Certificate he married Martha A. Abel on August 5, 1878 in Cleburne, Alabama.
Martha was an Able but I would discover much later that Josephine was also Alex’s sister. That would tell me Alex and his sister married Abels who were also brother and sister.
Of his marriage to Martha, three girls were born; my grandmother Beulah Thompson Stanley, Essie Lee Thompson Wall, and Alma Thompson Adams. All three daughters were born in Alabama.
By 1900 Alex is located by census in Winn Parish with his daughters, a new wife, (Carrie Lard) and another daughter, Ingra, born in 1889 in Louisiana. From this I would assume Martha died shortly after giving birth to my grandmother, Beulah, in 1888 and the family had moved to Louisiana. In 1910 Alex and Carrie are living in Bowie County, Texas with Ingra and their son, Marvin.
Beulah (Granny to me) married my grandfather, Wesley Birdwell Stanley (PopPaw) in 1903. Wes had a brother, Joe Fred, who connected with Carrie and eventually married her in 1913. Boy! Does it get complicated from here on out. Wes was so upset with Fred that he disowned him from the family. There had been just too much “fiddling around”!
Alex lived with his children or grandchildren following Carrie’s marriage to Fred. My older brother and a cousin tell me the music continued within the family for many years afterwards. At those gatherings Granny and PopPaw could play almost any instrument. Their sons, Audrion and Adrian played guitars; my dad, Clyde, played the mandolin; daughter, Cortess, played piano; and then there was Grandpa Alex playing his fiddle.
There had always been talk about Alex’s fiddle, said to be a Stradivarius. Alex passed away December 22, 1948 and is buried at Old Union Cemetery in Simms, Texas. Who would know about the fiddle? Who could I turn to that would give me a clue?
This was just too unbelievable to me, so I set out to learn what I could about it. My brother said it was true. My cousin, Neva Stanley Thomas, said her dad, Audrion, had inherited it but she had passed it down to her son, John Thomas. My next step was to contact him to see what he knew. So many questions were running through my mind……. How could Alex have afforded it, after all he was a mere farmer? Was he musically trained? What type of music did he play? Could I actually touch it?
John was nice enough to allow me to make photos of the fiddle, which incidentally did have a label which stated Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno 17 inside. I still couldn’t believe it! After talking a bit and making a few photos, I could hardly wait to get home to do some research on the fiddle.
After spending hours on the internet reading and looking at photos of Stradivari’s instruments, it is my belief this is fiddle is not an original Stradivari. Antonio Stradivari died in 1737 in Italy. Following his death, there were many companies in France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia that reproduced the violin with the Stradivarius label which were actually “original copies”. While it is difficult to validate a true Stradivari, Wikipedia states there are only 650 that survived and are all accounted for today. Thousands have been copied bearing the Stradivarius label. It is my belief Grandpa Alex’s is one of those. Oh, well, I just hoped someone didn’t “fiddle” with him and he knew exactly what he was buying! My biggest disappointment in this fiddle is that I cannot ever remember hearing Alex Thompson play it.