Snowshoe Thompson

JON TORSTEINSON-RUE, A.K.A. “Snowshoe” Thompson

Statue of man on skis

Researched by Billie J. Rightmire

Born: April 30, 1827 on a mountainside farm in Luraas-Rue Gard in Tinn, Telemark, Norway.
Emigrated to America: May 30,1837
Carried the mail: January 1856 to May 1876
Died: May 15, 1876

Born Jon Torsteinson-Rue on April 30, 1827, on a Norweagian mountainside farm, "Snowshoe" Thompson died May 15, 1876, of complications from appendicitis at his ranch home in Diamond Valley, California. "Snowshoe" is buried beside his wife and only son in the Genoa Cemetary, at rest wlth the mountains and tall pine trees in sight and wlth carved, crossed skis marking his headstone.

A funeral was held at the Genoa Courthouse in Genoa, Nevada. The spelling of his surname, THOMPSON, is as it is spelled on his headstone. His son's name is spelled ARTHUR — not Arthure, as spelled on his headstone. "Snowshoe's" wife, Agnes, could not read or write, hence the misspellings.

Jon and his mother, Gro, left Norway and Jon's birth place of Luraas-Rue gard in Tinn, when Jon was only ten years old. They lived in several states as the Norwegian group moved from place to place. Jon was homesick for the tall pine trees and finally settled in Creek, in the Sacramento Valley, CA.

Later, he purchased a ranch in Diamond Valley, CA. He was married in 1866 to Agnes Singleton of Genoa. They had one son, Arthur, born in 1867 and who died in 1878 of diphtheria, two years after his father died. "Snowshoe" died in 1876 of pneumonia from an appendicitis attack. His wife, Agnes, then married John Scossa.

A true American hero
A legendary figure in Nevada and California history, "Snowshoe" Thompson braved 20 to 50 foot snow depths, snowdrifts and blizzards wlth a 50 to 100 lb. mail bag strapped to his back. His physical stamina and courage were most extraordinary as he rode his homemade "long" skis over the high sierra mountain ridges using a single pole for balance. He carried crackers and dried beef for food, drank melted snow from his hand, rested only when necessary during the three day trip from Placerville to Genoa. The mail was Genoa's only contact wlth the outside world during the long winter months.

"Snowshoe" did more than deliver the mail, he carried medicines, newspaper type, and other items for his neighbors and friends. He was given credit for many daring rescues. It is noted in history that this brave man received little official recognition or material reward for his courage and loyalty.

"Snowshoe" Thompson is a true hero of the Old West.