"I feel a desire to inform you of the principal scenes in which I have been engaged and of the services I have rendered.”
Thomas Worthington was born July 16, 1773 near Charles Town, (West) Virginia. His father Robert died in 1779 and his mother Margaret the following year. Thomas, the youngest of six children, was left an orphan. Raised by older brothers, he was neglected and his education limited. When Thomas was 14 he chose as guardian, General William Darke, who had been a friend of his father’s. Darke and his wife gave Thomas a real home. He was sent to school and counseled wisely.
It was through the influence of General Darke that Worthington first came to the Northwest Territory to locate land warrants in the Virginia Military District that had been awarded to Revolutionary War soldiers. Surveying, buying, and selling these rich lands of the Scioto Valley became a dominant and lucrative business for Worthington and other young Virginians.
The same year Worthington made his trip to the frontier, he and Eleanor Swearingen were married in Shepherdstown, Virginia, in December of 1796. The couple disapproved of slavery and wanted to free their inherited slaves and relocate them to the Northwest Territory which forbade slavery. Thomas and his brother-in-law Edward Tiffin made a second visit to the territory to prepare houses and cabins for the move. In the spring of 1798, a large group composed of Worthington, Swearingen, and Tiffin family members, freed slaves, and skilled workers made their way to the settlement of Chillicothe.
With his commanding appearance and talent for leadership, Worthington was soon appointed Justice of the Peace for Chillicothe followed by judge of the court of common pleas. He was elected to the Territorial House of Representatives in1779 and it was here he led the opposition against Governor Arthur St. Clair. As an active member of the Democratic Republican Party, he lobbied for Ohio Statehood and won. The Ohio Constitution was written in November of 1802 and delivered by Worthington to Washington D.C. for Congressional approval. It was passed by Congress in February of 1803 and signed by President Jefferson. March 1, 1803 became Ohio’s first Statehood Day.
Adena, home of Thomas Worthington, served as the stage for his political, social, and economic ambitions. Designed by Benjamin Latrobe, a Washington architect, it reflected a simplicity yet elegance in the hilltop setting. Leaders of government, Indian chiefs, businessmen, friends, and family were entertained here. In this home, the Worthingtons raised their family of ten children.
Worthington served as one of our first United States senators in 1803 and again in 1811. He became the 6th governor of Ohio from 1814-1818 during which time the capital was moved to Columbus. There he started the State Library of Ohio. Worthington was also elected twice to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1807 and 1821. In his many political positions he fought for the common man of the frontier. He promoted roads, canals, river trading, and public schools for education. He invested in industries like milling, stock-raising, banking, and improved agriculture. Worthington was also known for his experience in Indian affairs.
This statesman of few words and solemn disposition was straightforward and dignified, a gentleman. He believed fervently in the democracy of this new nation. He possessed moral courage and endeavored to do justice. He did not tolerate the mistreatment of dumb beasts or servants. Religious by nature, he believed in the need “to walk humbly with God.” Thomas was faithful to attend Sunday services and instructed his family and servants in daily devotions.
In the spring of 1827, Worthington went on a business trip to New Orleans. From there he took a boat on to New York. He was ill and the boat trip lasted 35 days and by then Thomas was in critical condition.. Friends took him to the American Hotel where his son, Thomas Jr., came from West Point to be with his father. Eleanor started from home with her son-in-law Edward King, but they arrived a day after Thomas had died, June 20, 1827. He was 54 years old. It took 4 weeks for them to return the body to Chillicothe. According to the newspaper, Scioto Gazette of July 5, 1827, Worthington’s remains were to be met by a procession of citizens and cavalry. The paper praised his public service and stated that “he was greatly instrumental in promoting us from the Territory to the dignity of State Government.”
Adena Mansion and Gardens
Thomas Worthington & Family
The Old Northwest Territory
Great Seal of the State of Ohio