Tiffin, Edward, 1766-1829

Alternative names
Birth 1766-06-19
Death 1829-08-09

Biographical notes:

U.S. senator and first governor of Ohio. He was an early settler of Chillicothe, Ohio and also served as U.S. Commissioner of Public Lands (1812-1814) and Surveyor General of the Northwest Territory (1814-1829). He was also a lay preacher and a doctor.

From the description of Papers, 1785-1853. (Rhinelander District Library). WorldCat record id: 17725189

Surveyor General of the United States, from Ohio where he had served as a congressman and governor for that state.

From the description of Report, June 25, 1818. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library). WorldCat record id: 55941342

Edward Tiffin was a U.S. senator and the first governor of Ohio (1803-1807). He was an early settler of Chillicothe, Ohio, and also served as U.S. Commissioner of Public Lands (1812-1814) and Surveyor General of the Northwest Territory (1814-1829). Tiffin was also a lay preacher and a doctor.

From the description of Edward Tiffin letter to William C. Schenk, 1805 July 23. (Rhinelander District Library). WorldCat record id: 766004428

Surveyor general of the Northwest, U.S. Commissioner of the General Land Office, Governor of Ohio and U.S. Senator.

Born in Carlisle, England, Jun 19, 1766; studied medicine in Univ. of Penn. and grad. 1789; Methodist deacon, Nov. 19, 1792; moved to Chillicothe, Ohio, 1796; preached & practiced; 1799 chosen to legislator of N.W. territory; 1802 president of convent. forming constitut. of Ohio; 1803 first governor of Ohio; reelected 1805; Dec. 1807 U.S. senator; resigned Mar. 3, 1809; 1812 commissioner of general land office; 1814 surveyor gener. of publ. lands N.W. Ohio river; died in this office, in Chillicothe, Ohio, Aug, 9, 1829. (from Appleton's Cyclop. of Americ. Biograph.) (blue index cards)

From the description of Edward Tiffin papers, 1779-1894 (Detroit Public Library). WorldCat record id: 503305457

Edward Tiffin was born on June 19, 1766 at Carlisle, England, the 7th of 12 children born to Henry and Mary (Parker) Tiffin. Because of the family's modest means, Edward's education became the responsibility of his uncle, Edward parker. He attended the Latin School at Carlisle, and in April 1778 began a five year apprenticeship as a medical student.

Following the American Revolutionary War, Tiffin sailed from Liverpool for America in July 1783 on the ship Mary and Ann with his parents, two brothers (Joseph and Henry), and two sisters (Mary and Margaret). He landed at Norfolk, Virginia and settled in Charles Town, Berkeley County, Virginia (now in Jefferson County, West Virginia). After pursuing additional medical education, he established himself in medical practice as a very young man in Charles Town.

In 1789, Edward Tiffin married Mary Worthington. Her father, Robert Worthington, was a Berkeley County landowner of affluence and good background. Her brother, Thomas Worthington, later removed to Ohio with the Tiffin family and eventually followed Edward as governor of Ohio, while having preceded him as Ohio Senator. Edward and Mary Tiffen had no children. The couple joined the Methodist church in 1790 when the church took an active role in the revivalist movement in Virginia. The pro-Tory character of the Episcopal Church, in which both had been reared, alienated many Americans during the Revolutionary period. Edward Tiffin was ordained a Methodist lay preacher by Bishop Francis Asbury in 1792 while the latter was in America engaged in missionary work.

From 1795-1798, Edward Tiffin's name appears among the list of Gentlemen Justices in Berkeley County Court minute books. These men were appointed by the governor of Virginia.

In May 1797, Edward Tiffin traveled in the company of his brother-in-law Thomas Worthington and a group of craftsmen to the newly-established village of Chillicothe in the Scioto Valley of south central Ohio, to build homes for former slaves on Virginia Military District lands. These lands had been the property of Edward Tiffin's father-in-law who, upon his death, had bequeathed them to Thomas Worthington and Mary (Worthington) Tiffin. It had subsequently been decided to emancipate the slaves. While in Chillicothe, Edward and Thomas decided to bring their own families to begin new life in the frontier community. Tiffin and Worthington returned to Virginia, and in December 1797 Tiffin became a trustee of the Charles Town Academy. Tiffin returned to Chillicothe in March 1798. He was joined by his wife, parents, brothers, sisters, other families, their African American servants, and their children. At the time, Chillicothe was a log cabin village of approximately 100 families. Edward Tiffin chose a four acre lot at the upper end of town where he allegedly constructed the first shingle-roofed residence in the town.

In Chillicothe, Edward Tiffin took on duties as physician and preacher, laying groundwork of friendships which would assist his subsequent political career. In Virginia, as a professional, financial, and social success, he had mingled with notables. Subsequently, upon removing to the Northwest Territory, he carried a glowing letter of reference from George Washington to the territorial governor, Arthur St. Clair. In this document, Washington asserted that Edward Tiffin was well versed in the Common Law. When Tiffin made a solicitation for the post of chief notary of the Territorial Court of Common Pleas, he received the appointment.

In August 1798, Governor St. Clair established Ross County by proclamation, and Chillicothe was designated as its county seat. From 1799-1801, Tiffin served as a member of the territorial legislature, which met in Cincinnati. He frequently participated in debates and was unanimously elected speaker of the house, in which capacity he filled until the territorial government was dissolved. In January 1802, St. Clair appointed Tiffin to be a member of the Select Council for Chillicothe when the village was incorporated. However, in February 1802, Tiffin and St. Clair came into political conflict; Tiffin was a "Virginia Republican" and a Jeffersonian while St. Clair was a Federalist. Tiffin played a part in bringing formal charges of maladministration and personal misconduct against St. Clair.

In March 1803, Edward Tiffin took office as the first governor of the state of Ohio. His election, held in January 1803, was virtually without opposition, and he received some 4,500 votes. He took an active interest in the establishment of Ohio University in 1804. In October 1805, he was reelected to the governorship, receiving some 4,700 votes. At the this time, he declared his intention not to run for a third term.

In 1806, Tiffin acted decisively in setting up an artillery blockade which prevented Aaron Burr from launching an expedition from Blennerhassett's Island (below Marietta, Ohio). He was later commended for the tactic by President Thomas Jefferson.

Tiffin was supposed to have been one of the first to encourage the formation of a state government in Ohio around 1800. As governor, he urged that English Common Law crimes not be recognized by Ohio courts. After the passage of appropriate legislation, all Ohio crimes became statutory. Tiffin was in favor of opening roads and waterways and developing agricultural and mineral resources in the state. Likewise, he proposed to promote popular education and encourage immigration. He was opposed to slavery, and though he favored humane treatment for the Indians, he urged adequate frontier fortifications to guard against surprise raids.

In January 1807, Tiffin was elected to the United States Senate as a Democrat to succeed brother-in-law Thomas Worthington. His credentials were presented to that body by John Quincy Adams. In November 1807, Tiffin unsuccessfully proposed a Constitutional amendment by which Supreme and District Court judges could be removed by the President, providing two-thirds of both houses of Congress requested it. President Jefferson may have instigated this move in view of his opposition to John Marshall and other Supreme Court justices.

In Congress, Tiffin maintained a good attendance record and helped to secure appropriations for the development of the Ohio River, for public lands surveys, and for improved mail transportation. He supported Jefferson's policies, including the controversial embargo measure. He was an advocate of Western causes and influenced the committees upon which he served, including the Committee on Fortifications and Public Defense. He voted for all legislation designed to put the country on a firmer military footing in anticipation of the second conflict with England.

Edward Tiffin's first wife died in July 1808, and in March of the following year Edward resigned from the Senate, hoping to return to private life, farming, and the practice of medicine. In April 1809 he married Mary Porter, a resident of Ross County who was born in Delaware. The couple had one son and four daughters: Edward Parker, Mary Porter, Diathea Madison, Rebecca Turner, and Eleanor Worthington. The family lived in a stone mansion on the northeastern corner of Water and High Streets in Chillicothe, and also operated a farm in Union Township. He was encouraged to reenter public life, and in October 1809 he was elected to the Ohio Legislature where he served as House speaker until 1811.

In 1812, Tiffin was appointed land commissioner by President James Madison when Congress established the badly-needed Office of Public Lands (now the Department of the Interior). He reported on his progress in 1813, and, unlike many other departments, was able to transport his records to safety in Loudon County, Virginia, when the British invaded and burned the United States Capital during the course of the War of 1812. He desired to return to Ohio, however, and made arrangements with President Madison to exchange posts with Josiah Meigs, the surveyor-general of the Northwest Territory. Upon the appointment, Tiffin moved the office of the surveyor-general from Cincinnati to Chillicothe.

Mary Porter Tiffin died in 1827. In July of 1829, President Andrew Jackson removed Tiffin from the office of surveyor-general due to his membership in the Whig party and his anti-Jackson leanings. Tiffin died on August 9, 1829 and is buried in Grandview Cemetery in Chillicothe under a gravestone inscribed "Doctor Edward Tiffin."

From the guide to the Edward Tiffin Papers, 1785-1853, (Western Reserve Historical Society)


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  • Indians of North America--Treaties
  • Burr Conspiracy, 1805-1807
  • Western Reserve (Ohio)--History--Sources
  • Methodist Church--Sermons
  • Ohio--Governors
  • Methodist Church--United States--Sermons
  • Ohio--Politics and government--1787-1865
  • Surveying
  • United States--Politics and government--1783-1865
  • Sermons, American
  • Tiffin, Edward, 1766-1829
  • Northwest, Old--Surveys
  • Ohio--History--1787-1865--Sources
  • Judges
  • Canals
  • Public lands
  • Real property
  • Roads
  • Alien and Sedition laws, 1798
  • Governor
  • Patronage, Political


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  • United States (as recorded)
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  • Indiana (as recorded)
  • Northwest, Old (as recorded)
  • Illinois (as recorded)
  • Northwest, Old (as recorded)
  • Ohio (as recorded)
  • Ohio (as recorded)
  • Ohio (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Ohio (as recorded)
  • Western Reserve (Ohio) (as recorded)