Mention Ohio, and Jefferson County doesn’t come immediately to mind but a number of links exist between the two.
One of Jefferson County’s most famous sons, Martin Delany, died in Wilberforce, Ohio, in 1885. Born in Charles Town in 1812, he and his family fled Jefferson County because his parents had taught their children to read and write – skills Virginia made it illegal to pass along to African-Americans at that time.
The abolitionist who came to Harpers Ferry to spark a slave rebellion spent years in Ohio. John Brown called Akron, Hudson, Deerfield and other Ohio towns home. Franklin Mills, now Kent, Ohio, was the birthplace of the pair of Brown’s sons who died in the 1859 raid.
Two of Ohio’s first six governors had connections to Jefferson County.
Dr. Edward Tiffin was born in England where he went to school and studied medicine.
His family moved to Virginia in 1783 and he became a medical doctor in Charles Town. He lived at 210 W. Liberty St., a house that is part of the Charles Town walking tour.
According to the Jefferson County Landmarks Commission, the original log part of the Tiffin House dates to 1787 and is the oldest house built within the original boundaries of Charles Town.
Tiffin married Mary Worthington of Berkeley County in 1789. When his father-in-law died, Tiffin and Mary’s brother Thomas Worthington inherited slaves. The men freed them and moved to Chillicothe, Ohio, then part of the Northwest Territory where slavery was prohibited.
In Chillicothe, Tiffin was the only medical doctor within miles. He also had a great interest in seeking public office. He served as Speaker of the Territorial House of Representatives from 1799 t0 1801 and then as president of the Constitutional Convention.
When Ohio became the 17th state of the Union on March 1, 1803, Tiffin became the state’s first governor and served until 1807 when he became a U.S. Senator, succeeding his brother-in-law, Worthington, who had been elected one of Ohio’s first two original senators. Tiffin served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1809 until 1811.
According to 1897’s “The Life of Edward First Governor of Ohio” by William Edward Gilmore, Tiffin was “ever faithful to the interests of the West and diligent in seeking the welfare of its inhabitants. He procured an appropriation of public money for the improvement of the Ohio River. He secured better and speedier transportation of the mails; a better and more rapid system for the surveys of western lands; and urged such modifications of the laws regarding sales of western land as would, to use his own words, ‘guard the purchasers of them from unnecessary embarrassments and frequent ruin’.”
Thomas Worthington had been born in 1773 in what is now Jefferson County. He served in the U.S. Senate from Ohio from 1803 until 1807 and from 1810 to 1814. He also was elected Ohio’s sixth governor.
Both Tiffin and Thomas Worthington are buried in Grandview Cemetery in Chillicothe. They also have towns named for them: Tiffin is the county seat of Seneca County in the northwestern part of the state. Worthington is a northern suburb of Columbus in Franklin County.
– Bob O’Connor writes
from Charles Town