Rev. Charles Fribley Thompson was born August 11, 1852 in Henry County, Ohio. He was one of sixteen children born to his father. Of those sixteen, eleven were with his mother. Charles’ father’s first wife and all five of their children died of diphtheria. In one year, 1863, Charles lost five of his siblings to Camp Typhoid Fever. He was of a similar age as his siblings that died that year and contracted the disease, but recovered from it. Charles’ parents, Daniel and Rebecca moved from Henry County to Navarre and Daniel worked at a mill in town. Rebecca was originally from Navarre and her family were blacksmiths. After Daniel and Rebecca lost five children in 1863, Rebecca moved away and died shortly after. Daniel remarried and moved around throughout Ohio and Indiana for a time. Daniel died in 1871 at the age of 47.
In Charles’ autobiographical sketch, he says that he was converted to Christ at the age of 13 at Cooke’s Chapel, shortly after his siblings died of Camp Typhoid Fever. He also recorded that shortly after that he worked for a preacher named Fessler. He then went to live with his aunt back in Navarre, Ohio. He married Clara Barbara Muskoff in 1877, and they later had three children. Charles bought a farm outside town. He was active in his church, Shepler United Brethren Church, and served as Sunday School Superintendent. He was licensed by the conference in 1889 and was admitted to the annual conference three years later. In 1896 he was ordained by Bishop Mills in the United Brethren Church. He served as a pastor in various congregations in the area from 1891-1905. His wife Clara passed away in 1905 and a year later he was appointed the Superintendent position of the East Ohio conference and he served in that position until 1911. He remarried and served as a Congregational Home Missionary in Idaho from 1913-1919. He then moved back to Ohio and retired from vocational ministry in 1927. He died at the age of 81 in 1934.
One of his children, John E. Thompson, stayed in the Navarre area and took over his father’s post as Sunday School Superintendent at Shepler United Brethren Church. At the time of Charles’ death, John’s son Charles Harold Thompson held the post of Sunday School Superintendent of that same church. Charles Harold also took over the responsibility of the farm that his grandfather Charles Fribley Thompson bought those many years ago. Charles Harold Thompson and his family continued to live in the house on that farm and attend what later became known as the Otterbein United Methodist Church. Charles Harold Thompson is my great-grandfather, which would make Charles Fribley Thompson my great, great, great-grandfather.
There have been so many interesting discoveries for me as I have read through the family genealogy that contains all this information. One thing that is interesting is that if Charles Fribley Thompson had not survived Camp Typhoid Fever, I wouldn’t be writing this. He not only survived, but was converted to Christ shortly thereafter and his life was one committed to Gospel ministry.
One of the churches that he served at for a time and was instrumental in helping start is now called Justus United Methodist Church. I have had the privilege of preaching at that same church a few times. He served in a few other churches in the Navarre area, which is where I live. Additionally, he served as a minister in Sugarcreek, Ohio from 1895-1899, which would have been the time that he was ordained. I am currently a pastor in Sugarcreek. I grew up playing in the farm that he bought all those years ago as well as helping bail hay a number of times. I also grew up attending the Otterbein United Methodist Church with my grandma, his great-granddaughter, from time to time. Actually, I was baptized there as an infant.
God’s grace to this man in allowing him to recover from a serious illness that claimed the lives of many of his siblings had a profound impact on my life, which is crazy to think about. One might say that God’s grace to him was God’s grace to me and the rest of my family. Additionally, the fact that God not only spared his life, but also eternally saved it through faith in Christ is an even greater grace. Charles’ surrender to Christ not just when he was 13, but for the remainder of his life changed the trajectory of his family for generations. This story is a testament to the faithfulness of God and to the generational impact we can all have. I remember reading George Marsden’s biography of Jonathan Edwards and particularly where he talked about how Edwards would often pray for the next four to five generations of his family. I don’t remember the specifics, but if one were to look at those next four to five generations of his family, he had some significant people as his descendants.
As I read this side of my family’s genealogy, I think about all the names, names that wouldn’t be here had God taken Charles. I think about the lives that have been lived and the ways that God has worked. As many people do as they read through genealogies in the Bible, it is easy to gloss over them as names and “begets,” but each name is a testament to God’s work. There is another wonderful blessing of reading this genealogy that goes beyond my own family. Charles Fribley Thompson wrote about his ministry in his short, autobiographical sketch, “Over 900 were taken into the church during his ministry. 136 on Navarre circuit in one year.” Hundreds of lives were impacted through Charles’ ministry. People heard him preach, were discipled by him, and were ultimately introduced to Jesus through his ministry. I am thankful for the legacy of Charles both as has been worked out in my family and in my community.