Man of the people, and a voice for immigrants
By Tucker Henderson
Quite a while ago, I was loaned an old, somewhat worn, book that reads “First Biennial Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics – Minnesota 1887-8.” Now, I am a history fan, I wouldn’t be writing this column if I wasn’t. However, even I think that that sounds like a dry read. Fortunately, if you flip through the book, it reveals a lot more than statistics on labor from over a century ago.
This book was obviously not a riveting page-turner for the original owner, either. They turned it into a newspaper-clipping scrapbook about an important man from Deer Creek. That would be the Honorable John B. Hompe, who represented Otter Tail County for twenty-four years in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
John B. Hompe was born on February 4, 1846 in Amsterdam, Holland to Anthony and Henrietta (Weiman) Hompe. He came to the United States at the age of three and lived with his parents in New York. At the age of sixteen, he volunteered and enlisted in the United States Army, fighting for the Union in the Civil War.
He served in the 147th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment from August of 1862, until mustering out in 1865. He was wounded twice at Gettysburg and once at Battle of the Wilderness. By the time the war was over, he was nearly twenty years old.
He moved to Minnesota in 1876 and made his family home in Deer Creek. He married Ella Nottingham in 1879 and they had five sons together. Two of which have also served in the Minnesota State Legislature, Bernard and Edward.
John was primarily a farmer and in 1888 he was elected to serve on the 26th Legislative Session of the House of Representatives. He served on the 26th, 27th, and 28th Sessions in both the House and Senate and also ran for Lieutenant Governor and State House before taking a sabbatical from politics.
He returned to the House in 1915 and served until 1933. In 1931, at the age of 85, he became the oldest legislator in the United States. He ran for office fourteen times in his career and won ten of those times. He ran in the Farmer’s Alliance Party, People’s Party, as both Democrat and Republican, and finished his time in the House under a Nonpartisan role.
John served on many committees over the years, taking special interest in soldiers’ welfare and agricultural schools. He passed away at the age of ninety-one on December 15, 1937 and is buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Deer Creek.
There are still a few community elders that remember the name John Hompe. He was a man of the people, especially the farmer. He made sure to give a voice to immigrants, soldiers, and promoted agricultural education. John Hompe was a man that dedicated his life to the betterment of his community, state, and country.