On this Day in History: Lancaster’s most influential resident Thaddeus Stevens dies

On This Day In History

On August 11, 1868, Thaddeus Stevens died in Washington, D.C. He was 76 years old. Stevens is arguably Lancaster’s most influential resident, having fought for civil rights, racial equality, and a free public education system.

Stevens was laid in state at the Capitol Rotunda, only the third person to receive this honor after Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln.

He selected Lancaster’s Shreiner-Concord Cemetery as his final resting place as it was the only graveyard in the city with no restrictions for internment based on color or race at the time. Reports indicate that 20,000 people attended his funeral.

1910 postcard of Thaddeus Steven’s tomb.

History Brief

Thaddeus Stevens was the most influential leader of the Republican Party during the Civil War. When Stevens moved to Lancaster in 1843, he practiced law at his home office on South Queen Street.

Stevens was a champion for a free public school system in Pennsylvania and an abolitionist. His home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Archaeologists digging at his home in 2003 discovered a cistern with a patched hole in the wall. It connected to a tunnel and a patched doorway into an adjacent building. The cistern was believed to be used as an emergency hiding place for fugitives.

Thaddeus Stevens House

Stevens was primarily responsible for the pressure on Lincoln to make the emancipation of slavery a primary objective of the Civil War. He insisted on a post-war reconstruction policy preventing the South from regaining its former power in Congress.

Stevens was buried per his instructions in Lancaster’s Shreiners-Concord Cemetery. At the time, it was the only cemetery in the city with no restrictions for internment based on color or race.

Grave of Thaddeus Stevens

Stevens wrote the inscription for his headstone. It reads:

I repose in this quiet and secluded spot, not from any natural preference for solitude, but finding other cemeteries limited as to race, by charter rules, I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death the principles which I advocated through a long life, equality of man before his Creator.

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Thaddeus Stevens: “Old Commoner” Poster

This fantastic poster, reproduced by the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, depicts a strong portrait of Thaddeus Stevens. They are printed on high-quality, off-white, matte stock. Dimensions: 18 x 26. Only $35 with free shipping from the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County. Click here to purchase your copy.

Thaddeus Stevens: “Old Commoner” Poster

One thought on “On this Day in History: Lancaster’s most influential resident Thaddeus Stevens dies

  1. Thanks for this reminder, Adam. It was lost on me until you posted this bit of history that on this particular day, The New York Times reports that two conservative constitutional scholars — members of The Federalist Society — have written a lengthy report directly tied to the work of Thaddeus Stevens — his crowning legislative achievement: the 14th Amendment, specifically, Section 3. It is, they note, a “self-actuating” provision of our Constitution, to wit: those who had taken an oath “to support the Constitution of the United States” are barred from holding office if they then “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” It is sadly ironic, however, that Stevens is not mentioned in this article. This section could not be more relevant today.

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