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Collection Thaddeus Stevens Papers


A chronology of key events in the life of Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868), lawyer and U.S. representative from Pennsylvania.

  • 1792, Apr. 4

    Born, Dansville, Vt., to Joshua Stevens (ca. 1768-1814) and Sarah Morrill Stevens (ca. 1767-1854). Thaddeus Stevens was the second of four sons. His siblings were Joshua (1790-1858), Abner Morrill (1794-1847), and Alanson (1797-1847). Thaddeus Stevens was born with a clubfoot.

  • Ca. 1804

    Joshua Stevens, Sr., abandoned his family. He was later killed during the War of 1812.

  • Ca. 1807

    Sarah Stevens moved with her sons to Peacham, Vt.

  • 1807-1811

    Attended Caledonia County Grammar School, Peacham, Vt.

  • 1811-1814

    Attended the University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt., and graduated from Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., in August 1814

  • 1815-1816

    Taught at the York Academy in York, Pa., and read law under David Cassat

  • 1816-1826

    Practiced law, Gettysburg, Pa.

  • 1822

    Elected, first term on borough council, Gettysburg, Pa.

  • 1824

    Elected director, Gettysburg Bank, Gettysburg, Pa.

  • 1826

    Established partnership with James D. Paxton in iron company commonly known as Stevens & Paxton. Stevens's partnership with Paxton dissolved in 1848

  • Ca. 1827

    Lost hair due to alopecia and wore a wig for the rest of his life

  • 1830

    Founded Star and Banner, an Antimasonic newspaper in Gettysburg, Pa.

  • 1831

    Partner in law firm with Daniel M. Smyser

  • 1833-1841

    Elected and served in Pennsylvania House of Representatives

  • 1834

    Elected trustee, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pa.

  • 1835, Apr. 11

    Delivered speech in Pennsylvania legislature advocating for free schools

  • 1836, Nov.

    Elected delegate to the Pennsylvania state constitutional convention that met from 1837-1838

  • 1837

    Construction of Caledonia Iron Works, Franklin County, Pa. Destroyed by Confederate forces in June 1863.

  • 1838, Dec.

    The Buckshot War in Harrisburg, Pa., following elections in which both the Democratic and Whig Parties asserted control over the House of Representatives

  • 1840

    President, Wrightsville, York and Gettysburg Railroad Co., founded ca. 1835

  • 1842

    Moved to Lancaster, Pa., and lived at 47-49 S. Queen Street beginning in 1843.

  • 1848

    Nephews A. J. (Alanson) Stevens, Jr. (1833-1863) and Thaddeus Stevens, Jr. (1835-1874) became his wards after the deaths of their parents Abner M. and Lucy Stevens

    Lydia Hamilton Smith (1815-1884) began her employment with Stevens. Smith served as Stevens's housekeeper in Washington, D.C., and Lancaster, Pa., until his death in 1868. There has long been speculation that Stevens and Smith also had a personal relationship. It is clear from existing correspondence that Mrs. Smith was close to and respected by Stevens and his family.

  • 1849-1852

    Served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a member of the Whig Party

  • 1851

    Lead defense attorney for Castner Hanway, charged with treason after the Christiana Riot during Edward Gorsuch's attempted capture of fugitive slaves. Hanway was found not guilty.

  • 1854

    Mother Sarah Stevens, to whom Thaddeus Stevens was extremely close, died in Vermont

  • 1855-1856

    Organized the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Republicans and attended the Republican National Convention

  • 1859-1868

    Served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a member of the Republican Party

  • 1860

    Delegate, Republican National Convention

  • 1861-1865

    Chairman, House Ways and Means Committee

  • 1863, June

    Caledonia Iron Works destroyed by Confederate General Jubal Early's troops

  • 1863, Sept. 20

    Nephew A. J. Stevens killed at battle of Chickamauga, Ga.

  • 1865

    Chairman, House Appropriations Committee

    Member and House chairman, Joint Committee on Reconstruction

  • 1865, Jan. 31

    13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery, approved in the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • 1865, Dec. 6

    13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, abolishing slavery, ratified by the states.

  • 1865, Dec. 18

    Delivered address on Reconstruction in House of Representatives

  • 1866, Apr. 9

    Under Stevens's leadership, Congress passed a Civil Rights Bill

  • 1866, June 13

    U.S. Congress approved 14th Amendment, which defined citizenship rights, and on June 23, President Andrew Johnson announced it had been sent to the states for ratification.

  • 1866, July 16

    Under Stevens's leadership, Congress passed a revised Freedman's Bureau Bill over President Andrew Johnson's veto

  • 1867

    Congress passed Reconstruction Acts of 1867, which divided the former Confederacy into military districts, and required the passage of new state constitutions approved by the U.S. Congress, ratification of the 14th Amendment, and suffrage rights for African American men before being readmitted to the Union

  • 1868

    Member, committee to draft articles of impeachment against President Andrew Johnson and a manager of the case before the Senate

  • 1868, July 9

    14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified by the states.

  • 1868, Aug. 11

    Died, Washington, D.C., and interred in Shreiner's Cemetery (now Shreiner-Concord Cemetery), Lancaster, Pa. Stevens chose Shreiner's Cemetery because it was open to all races.

  • 1905

    Stevens Trade School (now Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology) opened in Lancaster, Pa., with a bequest from Stevens's estate.

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