Thomas Worthington


The pioneer village of Chillicothe, Northwest Territory, first known as Massiesville, to which General Thomas Worthington and his family removed from Virginia in 1798, was a small log-cabin settlement, typical of the best immigrant centers of the period. The rich bottom land of the Scioto River and the rolling terrain near which the village was located, had already attracted a considerable number of settlers. Some Virginia Revolutionary soldiers who were entitled to free land allotments - according to rank in service - had already located between the Scioto and Little Miami Rivers. Among those entitled by rank to large allotments in this Virginia Military Reservation between these two rivers, was General Darke, guardian of Thomas Worthington, an orphaned neighbor boy.

Unable to locate and survey his lands because of age and the hardships of the journey, General Darke delegated this duty to his ward, and subsequently sold the land to him. The opportunity this survey gave young Worthington to examine the quality of the land he had located for his guardian, determined him to dispose of his estate in Virgiinia and establish his permanent home at Chillicothe. Following his return to Virginia and the disposal of all of his interests there, he prepared at once for the comfortable transfer of his family and a number of former slaves to their new abode. With him and his accomplished wife came his brother, Richard Worthington, his sister and her husband, Dr. Edward Tiffin, Ohio's first governor.

The Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited human slavery in the Northwest Territory, gave General Worthington the opportunity he desired to manumit his slaves before he migrated, and to bring them with him as freed men. Emancipation in Virginia at that period required, also, the provision of a suitable home for the freedman. A few of them who declined emancipation and elected to remain in Virginia, were given opportunity to select their own masters. The others who came with the family settled in and near Chillicothe, where General and Mrs. Worthington could give them such personal aid and assistance as they needed while adapting themselves to a new life in a new country.

It was a memorable day, April 17, 1798, when the long journey by land and river was ended, and the little log-built village of Chillicothe on the Scioto River presented itself before their eyes. There was great rejoicing, for it marked the end of an arduous journey to the place of their choice, where new homes were to be established permanently, and their reminaing years were to be spent.

Following the building of a number of homes for those who came with him, General Worthington began the erection of Adena, his own home, in 1807, and finished it for occupancy in 1811. To a friendly inquiry as to why he had built so elaborate a home, he replied: "that Mrs. Worthington and I may be able to entertain our friends as we did in our old Virginia manor-house." Its subsequent guestlist included many of the country's distinguished men and women, and also the names of some of the more noted Indian chiefs of the Northwest Territory. A distinguished guest, Governor Clinton, on his departure, designated Adena as "the abode of hospitality, both genuine and elegant."

General Worthington's rise to power and position was rapid and continuous until his demise at the early age of fifty-four. In 1798, the year of his arrival at Chillicothe, he was appointed major of militia and deputy surveyor-general of the Northwest Territory. He was later elected a member of the first Ohio Constitutional Convention; Ohio's first United States senator, and in 1814, her fourth governor. In his long service to the State and Nation, he was a wise and constructive statesman, and a leader in that coterie of remarkable men whose service in the early years of Ohio's organization should more often be recalled and more signally honored.


Old Chillicothe by William Albert Galloway, pages 210-211
The Buckeye Press, Xenia Ohio, 1934