Thomas Elder (lawyer)

Thomas Elder (January 30, 1767 – April 29, 1853[2]) was a Pennsylvania lawyer and Harrisburg businessman. He served one term as state Attorney General.

Thomas Elder
Pennsylvania Attorney General
In office
December 20, 1820 – December 18, 1823
GovernorJoseph Hiester
Preceded byThomas Sergeant
Succeeded byFrederick Smith
Personal details
Born(1767-01-30)January 30, 1767
Paxton Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania[1]
DiedApril 29, 1853(1853-04-29) (aged 86)
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Catherine Cox
  • Elizabeth Shippen Jones
Children1,3 (survived to adulthood)

His residence after 1835 was the former mansion of the Harris family.[3] It is currently known as the John Harris-Simon Cameron House and is a National Historic Landmark.

Early lifeEdit

Elder was born the son of the Reverend John Elder and his second wife, Mary Simpson.[4] The senior Elder was born, raised, and educated in Edinburgh. In Paxtang, Pennsylvania, he became known as the "Fighting Pastor" for organizing an anti-Indian militia, known as the Paxton Boys.


He was educated at the Academy of Philadelphia, and admitted to the Dauphin County bar in 1791. He volunteered to help suppress the Whiskey Rebellion but declined commissions until afterwards, when he was made lieutenant colonel. He practiced law for over forty years. He was active in Harrisburg affairs and was notably "the prominent and leading spirit" behind organizing the Harrisburg Bridge Company, which built (1814-1820) and ran the first Susquehanna-spanning bridge. He was elected (1816) and re-elected by the directors as the company's first president until he resigned in 1846.[2][5] He was president of the Harrisburg Bank from 1816 until his death.[6][7]

Elder served as state Attorney General from 1820 to 1823. Afterwards, he always refused political offices although he maintained an interest in politics.[6] William Henry Harrison's "log cabin campaign" was a suggestion of Elder.[8]

Personal lifeEdit

Elder married Catherine Cox in 1799. A daughter, Mary R., would later marry Amos Ellmaker. Catherine died in 1810. Elder then married Elizabeth Shippen Jones in 1813, who would outlive him.[9]


  1. ^ Eggert 1993, p. 20.
  2. ^ a b Egle 1886, p. 159.
  3. ^ Armor 1897, p. 4.
  4. ^ Egle 1886, p. 155.
  5. ^ Eggert 1993, p. 19.
  6. ^ a b Egle 1886, p. 160.
  7. ^ Eggert 1993, pp. 23–25.
  8. ^ Elliot 1883, p. 121.
  9. ^ Egle 1886, pp. 160–1.

Further readingEdit

  • Armor, William Crawford (1897). The John Harris Mansion, 1766-1897. Harrisburg Publishing Company.
  • Eggert, Gerald G. (1993). Harrisburg Industrializes: The Coming of Factories to an American Community. Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 9780271030708.
  • Egle, William Henry (1886). Pennsylvania Genealogies: Scotch-Irish and German. L. S. Hart, printer.
  • Elliott, Richard Smith (1883). Notes taken in sixty years. R. P. Studley & Co.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Thomas Sergeant
Attorney General of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Frederick Smith