Thomas Scott
b. Oct. 31, 1772
d. Feb. 15, 1856
6th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio
Term
Jan. 17, 1809
to July 25, 1815

THOMAS SCOTT

Thomas Scott was born in the town of Skipton, now called Old Town, Md., on Oct. 31, 1772 to John and Sarah Wood Scott. Scott’s family eventually settled in the Green Springs Valley in what is now West Virginia. There, Scott received a rudimentary education, and at age 14, first met Bishop Francis Asbury, one of John Wesley’s superintendents of America’s Methodist Episcopal Church, who awakened in Scott a lifelong calling to the church. Scott came to Ohio in 1793, when he visited settlements on the Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio sides of the Ohio River to preach on the Ohio Circuit.

Following his marriage in 1796, Scott retired from circuit riding, took up the trade of a tailor and limited his preaching to Sundays. While working as a tailor to support his young family, Scott studied law by memorizing the texts of law books read to him by his wife Catherine. In Scott’s obituary that appeared in the Feb. 19, 1856 edition of Chillicothe’s Scioto Gazette, the writer quotes Scott: “This reading was often succeeded by singing which cheerily passed the time.” Scott and his family moved to Lexington in 1798 after he secured the ability to study law in the more conventional manner of reading law in the law office of attorney James Brown. He was admitted to the Kentucky bar, and shortly thereafter, in 1800, moved to Flemingsburg in Fleming County to become the county prosecutor.

At the invitation of Nathaniel Massie, Scott moved his family in March 1801 to Chillicothe in the Ohio Territory in hope of securing greater financial success. Scott served as a clerk in the territorial court office. In June, Scott was commissioned an attorney by the territorial court and placed an advertisement about his legal services in the Scioto Gazette & Chillicothe Advertiser. Scott served as a clerk for the territorial assembly meeting in Chillicothe during the winter of 1801. At the court’s January 1803 term, Scott was appointed by acting Territorial Gov. Charles Willing Byrd to replace Edward Tiffin as prothonotary, the court’s chief clerk and notary, and manager of its activities. Scott held this post until Ohio’s state court system went into effect in April 1803.

In November 1802, at the convening of Ohio’s first Constitutional Convention, Scott was appointed the convention’s secretary. Following the adoption of the constitution by the delegates, Ross County historians repeat the story of Scott jumping on top of the table he used during the convention and excitedly waving the newly signed document. Today, that table is on display at the Ross County Historical Society.

When the first Ohio General Assembly convened in March 1803, the newly elected Ohio Senate chose Scott to be its clerk, a post he held until his election to the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1809. Scott also was chosen by the members of the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate meeting in joint session to become a justice of the peace for Scioto Township, Ross County.

On Jan. 17, 1809, the Ohio General Assembly met in joint session to elect a Justice to the Supreme Court to replace Samuel Huntington, the newly inaugurated governor. The General Assembly members chose Scott, who served until the adoption of the “Sweeping Resolution” that removed all seven-year judicial appointees at the end of their terms in 1810. In April 1810, before its adjournment, the Ohio General Assembly selected Scott to join William W. Irwin and Ethan Allen Brown as Justices on the Supreme Court. Scott served on the Court until he submitted his resignation to Gov. Thomas Worthington on July 25, 1815.

In October 1815, Ross County voters elected Scott to a seat in the Ohio House and he served from Dec. 4, 1815 to April 2, 1816. Scott did not seek re-election to a second term. In 1822, Gov. Jeremiah Morrow named Scott, Francis Dunleavy and Thomas Ewing to a commission to revise the general laws of Ohio and issue a report to the incoming Ohio General Assembly. When the legislature convened in December 1822, one of its first acts was to dissolve the commission before a final report could be issued.

Scott continued interested in politics and campaigns throughout his life; in 1824 he campaigned among his Ross County neighbors for Andrew Jackson for president. In 1827, Scott was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the Ohio House. He also assisted in organizing committees of correspondence and vigilance in 1828 to promote Andrew Jackson’s second and successful presidential campaign.

President Jackson appointed Scott register of the Chillicothe Land Office in 1829, a post he held for 16 years. Scott also maintained his law practice in Chillicothe, pleading cases in state and federal trial and appellate courts. In obituaries that appeared at his death, writers commented that Scott specialized in cases dealing with real estate and estates. Like many of his Chillicothe neighbors, Scott also engaged in land speculation by buying Virginia Military District warrants. He also bought land through the Chillicothe Land Office before and after his tenure as register. When court dates prevented Scott from carrying out the duties of register of the Chillicothe Land Office, as occurred in January 1845, he appointed his son, James Scott, to serve as acting register until his return to Chillicothe. On July 12, 1855, Scott participated in laying the cornerstone for the new Ross County Courthouse; the table used by Scott at Ohio’s first constitutional convention was placed on a raised platform and Scott and other speakers were seated around it.

Scott married Catherine Wood on May 10, 1796, in Jessamine County, Ky. and raised eight children to adulthood. Scott remained active in the Methodist Church, occasionally preaching on Sundays at churches in the area when the need arose.

Scott died at his home on Feb. 5, 1856 after a lengthy illness. Funeral services for Scott took place on Feb. 7 at the family residence in Chillicothe and he is buried at Chillicothe’s Grandview Cemetery.