Named for his grandfather, Robert Bruce Thompson was delivered into this earthly world on September 24, 1847. The family gathered expectantly at their home on York Farm in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. The happy expectant parents, Alexander Thompson and Isabelle Stoddart Penman Thompson eagerly awaited his arrival along with Robert’s seven older brothers and sisters, George, Robert, David, William, Elizabeth, Janette, and Alexander. Robert was not the last child to be born to these parents—his younger siblings, Isabelle and James, would later follow.
Robert’s early years were spent growing up on York Farm, where his father raised crops. His family was also known to sell coal from the site, which would later become the famous York Farm Colliery. But his carefree childhood existence would soon see many changes. In 1851, at only four years old, Robert would mourn the loss of his mother. It was the same year Pottsville became the Schuylkill County seat.
Three years later, the family would move to a 110-acre farm in the sparsely settled Porter Township area. The farm grew smaller as Robert grew older and the town of Sheridan grew around him. Robert would gain a stepmother when his father took Mary Bast as his new wife. Over the next several years, Robert would be joined by an additional twelve half-siblings as well. He was still living at home and working as a laborer in 1870.
Almost nine years after Robert was born, the Goodman family was expecting the birth of a child. Lydia Ann Goodman arrived on February 20, 1856 and was baptized the very same day. She was the tenth child born to Michael Goodman and his wife, Mary Magdalene Brown, of Clarks Valley, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Lydia grew up on a farm as well. Her youth was uneventful as her older brothers and sisters married and left the nest one by one. By 1870, her brother George was the only sibling remaining at home.
Robert was raised in Norwegian Township (Bear Mt./Orwin post office) and perhaps attended Johannes Hand’s Reformed Church until about age 12. Hand’s was a log structure, which doubled as a One-room school house in Tower City square (currently Trinity UCC). His siblings all seem to have attended school and he and his parents were fully literate. Lydia was raised in Rush Township (Bear Mt./Enterline post office), probably attended a One-room school house until about age thirteen. She and her parents were fully literate, but it seems some of her older siblings did not attend school.
Robert grew up in Pottsville and Lydia across the county line in Rush Township. After their marriage, it seems evident Robert and Lydia owned a home in Rush, Dauphin. After Lydia’s premature death during childbirth, Robert moved back to Pottsville, owning a home there. In 1900, Robert is listed as a patient at the Pottsville Hospital at 500 Washington Street, due to his horse fall injuries (see below). Lydia born as the Civil War was commencing and died due to complication of childbirth. She was only one of seven ancestors to pass before age thirty… (see ‘The Chronies’ for entire narrative)
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