Thomas Worthington, sixth governor of Ohio, was born at his father's estate near present Charles Town, West Virginia, in 1773. His Quaker grandfather, Robert Worthington, came to America in 1714, and after residing near Philadelphia until about 1730, settled in the northern Shenandoah Valley, then in Virginia. Thomas' father, also named Robert, was a prominent planter and influential citizen. His estate adjoined that of Samuel Washington, and George Washington had a farm nearby.
Left an orphan at seven, Thomas received little formal education. At eighteen he went to sea for two years and then returned to the modest estate he had inherited from his father in Berkeley County. He engaged in farming, stockraising, and surveying. In 1796 he made a trip to the Scioto country and determined to settle in the village, later named Chillicothe, then being laid out by his friend Nathaniel Massie. The next year he returned to Chillicothe with his brother-in-law Edward Tiffin, and each built a long cabin in the village. The following spring they brought their families and manumitted slaves and settled there. Both Tiffin and Worthington rose rapidly to places of leadership in the new territory. Worthington was elected to the first and second territorial legislatures, where he served on important committees. A Republican, he worked against the administration of the Federalist Governor St. Clair and went to Washington to represent the opposition to the governor and to lobby for immediate statehood for the eastern section of the territory. His efforts were successful and he became an influential member of the constitutional convention of 1802.
Upon the organization of state government Worthington was elected to the house of representatives from Ross County, but was at once elected by the general assembly as one of the first two United States senators from Ohio. He served prominently in that body from 1803 to 1807 and again from 1811 to 1814. In the interim he was a member of the house in the sixth general assembly (1807-8). During his second term in congress he aroused much antagonism by opposing the entrance of the country into war with Great Britain, but vigorously supported the war after hostilities were begun.
In the fall of 1814 Worthington was a popular candidate for governor and was elected in October by an overwhelming majority over Othniel Looker. Inaugurated as governor on December 8, his first concern was the successful prosecution of the war. After peace came he encouraged a strong militia, advocated county poor farms, proposed state regulation of banks, and favored a public elementary school system. Worthington had little opposition for reelection in 1816 and won a decisive victory over James Dunlap and Ethan Allen Brown. During this term, 1816-18, the governor continued to press the measures advocated in his first inaugural and to urge penal reforms and encourage home manufacturing. It was at the beginning of Worthington's second term that the state capital was moved from Chillicothe to Columbus.
At the close of his administration Worthington retired from politics for a time and devoted his energies to his numerous business enterprises, which included farming, stockraising, milling, and river shipping. In 1821 he was elected to the general assembly from Ross County. In that year he lost by one vote election to the United States Senate to serve the remainder of William Trimble's unexpired term. Between 1821 and 1825 he served three terms in the state house of representatives, where he exerted much influence in support of progressive legislation, including an elementary public-school law and the authorization of canal construction. He was a member of the important commission for locating and supervising the construction of canals.
He retired from politics after 1825 but continued his business activities in spite of failing health. He made several long trips in the interest of his business and in the hope of benefiting his health. On one of these he died in New York City, June 20, 1827. He was buried at Adena but was later moved to Grandview Cemetery, Chillicothe, where his grave is marked by a memorial stone.
Worthington was a man of many talents. He was an astute busi- nessman, an honest statesman, and a capable leader. He was sincerely religious and his moral character was above reproach. He appreciated the beautiful in nature, in literature, and in architecture. Adena, his imposing mansion near Chillicothe, was noted for its refinement and hospitality. Its mistress and the mother of his ten children was the former Eleanor Swearingen, whom Worthington had married in Virginia in 1796. The Ohio Historical Society!
S. WINIFRED SMITH
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