Born of an old American family that reached Massachusetts early in the seventeenth century, and with an ancestor supposed to have been killed at the Battle of Lexington, Daniel Pierce Thompson had reason to be interested in history. Shortly after his birth, at Charlestown, Massachusetts, his family moved to Berlin, Vermont, a frontier settlement with neither school nor library. The chance discovery of a volume of poetry inspired him to get an education. After studying by himself and at a preparatory school, he entered Middlebury College with advanced standing, financing his studies by the sale of his sheep and by poems and articles he contributed to magazines.
After graduation, Thompson tutored the son of a rich southern planter and met Thomas Jefferson, who turned the young man’s thoughts toward the law. After some study, Thompson returned to Vermont and was admitted to the bar. He codified the laws of Vermont in 1834. His first work of fiction was the anti-Masonic Adventures of Timothy Peacock, Esq., whom he called a “Masonic Quixote.” Association with survivors of the revolutionary period inspired his novel The Green Mountain Boys, first printed on a small newspaper press. Immediately successful, the novel went through fifty editions in twenty years. Its sequel was The Rangers, published in 1851. Thompson also edited the antislavery publication Green Mountain Freeman (1849-1856).
Thompson was an old-fashioned Yankee with a keen sense of humor. A contemporary portrait shows him with thin features, a jutting chin, a long nose, and a tangled mop of hair. He died at Montpelier, Vermont, in 1868.