McKennan, Thomas M. T.

Born: 1794-03-31 New Castle County, Delaware

Died: 1852-07-09 Reading, Pennsylvania

Thomas M. T. McKennan was a teacher, lawyer, deputy attorney general, congressman, presidential elector, secretary of the interior, and railroad executive. When he was a child, his family moved from Delaware to western Virginia, then to western Pennsylvania, settling in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1803. He attended public schools, then studied at Washington College, graduating in 1810. Afterward, he studied law while tutoring students at Washington College in ancient languages. He was admitted to the bar in 1814, then began practicing law in Washington. In 1815, he married Matilda Lowrie Bowman, with whom he eventually had eight children. In 1815 he also became Washington County's deputy attorney general, a position he held until 1817. In 1818, he joined the town council, which he served on until 1831, when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as an Anti-Masonic candidate. He was re-elected to the House for three more successive terms, serving until 1839. In 1840, he was a presidential elector for the Whig Party ticket of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler. In 1842, McKennan was elected back to the House to fill the vacancy left when Joseph Lawrence of Pennsylvania died. McKennan served in the House from May 30, 1842 to March 3, 1843, upholding traditional Whig Party policies such as protective tariffs and federal investment in internal improvements, and serving as chairman of the House Committee on Roads and Canals. During the election of 1848, he served as president of the Pennsylvania Electoral College. After President Zachary Taylor died, President Millard Fillmore appointed McKennan secretary of the interior, ousting Thomas Ewing from the position. But McKennan only served as secretary of the interior for a few weeks. He resigned in September 1850, dissatisfied with his lack of power to halt land speculation as well as with political pressure related to his selection of employees within the U.S. Department of the Interior. In his remaining years, McKennan turned his attention to railroads. He served as president of the Hempfield Railroad Company until his death.

Sylvia Larson, "McKennan, Thomas McKean Thompson," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 15:108-9; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1373, 1492; Gravestone, Washington Cemetery, Washington, PA.