How the Indians scalped an Englishman, and he survived and gave the scalp to the museum: the story of William Thompson

How the Indians scalped an Englishman, and he survived and gave the scalp to the museum: the story of William Thompson

Categories: History | North America | World

Scalping scenes are often shown in old Westerns, and they are almost always accompanied by disturbing music and dramatic pauses. In life, everything is not so theatrical, but no less fascinating: we tell the story of an Englishman, William Thompson, who managed not only to survive the scalping, but also to keep the trophy for himself.

How the Indians scalped an Englishman, and he survived and gave the scalp to the museum: the story of William Thompson

On a hot and muggy evening in August 1867, the Union Pacific Railroad headquarters discovered that the telegraph service had stopped working west of Plum Creek Station, where the future city of Lexington would be built.

Four telegraph operators and a foreman took a trolley to the station, but after another sharp turn, they found that the road ended abruptly – someone dismantled it and threw the rails next to it. The trolley derailed, and 25 Cheyenne warriors emerged from the ambush. They attacked the workers, among whom was William Thompson.

How the Indians scalped an Englishman, and he survived and gave the scalp to the museum: the story of William Thompson

Thompson was shot in the shoulder, and one of the Cheyennes scalped him. Thompson was conscious and pretended to be dead – the debate about how he managed not to cry out in pain and how he got his own scalp, which was usually taken as a trophy, is still ongoing.

Earlier that day, a train left Omaha. They arrived on the scene after the Cheyenne attack and fell into the same trap. A 17-car train derailed; an engineer, a fireman, and a conductor were killed. For the first time in history, an Indian tribe managed to make an entire train derail.

How the Indians scalped an Englishman, and he survived and gave the scalp to the museum: the story of William Thompson

Realizing the scale of the disaster, Union Pacific sent a train to help the next day. Thompson was saved, although by that time he had already begun to get infected. Rescuers took him to a hospital in Omaha, where Dr. Richard Moore tried to sew on his scalp, but failed. However, he believed that Thompson was strong enough to fight off the infection, and he did soon recover.

How the Indians scalped an Englishman, and he survived and gave the scalp to the museum: the story of William Thompson

Thompson initially wanted to keep the scalp, but his English teammates were not happy with the trophy. In 1900, Thompson gave the scalp to Moore, the doctor who treated him. He, in turn, gave it to the Omaha Library, thinking that the exhibit would interest the locals.

How the Indians scalped an Englishman, and he survived and gave the scalp to the museum: the story of William Thompson

The scalp is currently stored in a special acid-free display case at the W. Dale Clark Library in Omaha. The exhibit has repeatedly appeared in the stories of American TV shows, and still attracts many visitors to the library.

Keywords: USA | North America | History | Museum | World | Survival | English

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