Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thomas McCormick (1792-1883)
MSA SC 3520-16870

Biography:

Born on January 5, 1792 in Loudoun County, Virginia. Son of James McCormick and Ann McCormick (née Moore). Siblings: Ann McCormick (Eachus/Eaches), John McCormick, Mary McCormick (Reese), Elizabeth McCormick (Morgan). Married Letitia B. McCormick. One son: Thomas M. McCormick (c. 1818-1880). Died on February 20, 1883.

The Reverend Thomas McCormick (1792-1883) was a Methodist minister who spent most of his childhood in Brookeville, Maryland in the household of his uncle Thomas Moore. Trained as a house carpenter, he was later an experienced grocer, a Methodist minister and reformer, and an active Brookeville resident. McCormick lived a very long life and was well-respected in the Methodist community, prompting one of his peers to comment that "but few persons comparatively speaking, has the Lord so highly favored with the great blessing of life, as Rev. Thomas McCormick."1

McCormick was born on January 5, 1792 in Loudoun County, Virginia to Ann Moore and James McCormick, both devout Quakers.2 Ann died in 1797 when her son was only five years old, at which time the boy was sent to live with his uncle Thomas Moore, a prominent Quaker resident of Brookeville, Maryland.3 Sometime around 1807, McCormick moved to Baltimore to live with his father, a resident of the city.4 Shortly thereafter, McCormick's father apprenticed him to Thomas Kenny, a Baltimore house carpenter.5 While an apprentice, McCormick began to visit Methodist churches in the area. He eventually converted to Methodism at a camp meeting in Baltimore County in September of 1811.6

McCormick's decision to leave the Quaker faith did not seem to do irreparable damage to his relationship with Thomas Moore, the uncle who had raised him. After McCormick completed his apprenticeship on his twenty-first birthday in January of 1813, Moore, then the chief manager of the Union Manufacturing Company's cotton mills near Ellicott City, immediately hired McCormick to work as a carpenter at the mills. McCormick remained devoted to his new-found Methodist faith and even taught religious classes at the Union mills.7 He was also able to use his carpentry skills for his uncle in Brookeville. Around 1817, he renovated and updated his uncle's log cabin "Retreat" into a stately country home which McCormick re-named "Longwood."8

In 1816, McCormick returned to Baltimore as a Methodist exhorter, a lay leader in the church. While living in Baltimore, his career as a Methodist minister began to thrive. By 1817, McCormick was licensed to preach in the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1822, he was appointed a Deacon in the church. While in Baltimore, McCormick also served as one of the pall bearers for Bishop Francis Asbury, the founder of American Methodism.9 McCormick became active in the Methodist church as a reformer. He believed that the leaders of the church operated too independently of the congregation and argued that the general lay members of the church should have more influence and power over church leadership decisions. In 1827 he was expelled from the Methodist Episcopal Church along with eleven other ministers for his radical views.10

McCormick did not let his expulsion hinder his career as a preacher. Along with the other men who were removed from the church for seeking reform, he helped to found the Methodist Protestant Church, a Wesleyan denomination which was governed by the congregation. In 1829 he was ordained as an Elder in the "Associated Methodist Churches," another separate denomination.11 By the end of his life he was welcomed back into the Methodist Episcopal community where he was highly respected.12 At 85, his peers lauded him as the oldest surviving founder of the Methodist Protestant Church. His influence in the community even earned him the superlative of the "Polycarp of our Church."13

McCormick did not only preach while living in Baltimore. He also ran a grocery called the House of Starr & McCormick at 12 Light Street in downtown Baltimore.14 McCormick eventually left Baltimore for his childhood home, Brookeville. In 1830 he purchased the house he had built for Thomas Moore from Moore's widow. McCormick and his family, which by then consisted of his wife Letitia M. McCormick and at least one son named Thomas M. McCormick, lived at Longwood just outside of Brookeville.15 McCormick was busy during his time at Brookeville. He appears to have been running a store in Brookeville. At least one advertisement shows that he was peddling "Morrison's Pills," a patent medicine which claimed to remove "all obstructions to the dire performance of... healthy functions."16 McCormick also purchased and operated Richard Thomas' grist mill beginning in 1842.17 While in Brookeville, he served as treasurer for the Brookeville Academy's Board of Trustees.18 McCormick also continued some of his duties as a Methodist minister and officiated at least on non-Quaker marriage in the town.19

Beginning in the late 1840s, McCormick prepared to leave Brookeville for Alexandria, Virginia. He sold Longwood and his grist mill and relocated out of state.20 During the 1850s, McCormick was living in Virginia and was once more active in the Methodist church. He became the superintendent of the Methodist Protestant Sabbath School in Alexandria, a post for which he received much acclaim.21 McCormick also joined the Sons of Temperance, a society which advocated for "total abstinence" of alcohol and other worldly habits. In 1848, he was even elected Vice President of that society.22

McCormick lived a long and healthy life. In 1876, at the age of 84, one of McCormick's Methodist peers described him as "still active, cheerful and clearheaded, with a vigorous memory."23 Reverend McCormick died on February 20, 1883. He lived to be 91 years old.24 McCormick's life was honored by his burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Baltimore, the final resting place of numerous important figures of American Methodism.25

Megan O'Hern, 2013.

Notes:

  1. Thomas Henry Colhouer, Sketches of the Founders of the Methodist Protestant Church, and its Bibliography (Pittsburgh: Methodist Protestant Book Concern, 1880), 232.
  2. Ralph Hardee Rives, "McCormick, Thomas (1792-1883)," in Encyclopedia of World Methodism, vol. II, Nolan B. Harmon, ed. (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 1974), 1481.
  3. Colhouer, Sketches of the Founders, 232.
  4. Colhouer, Sketches of the Founders, 232.
  5. BALTIMORE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Indentures) 1794-1913, Indenture of Thomas McCormick, 5 January 1808, Liber 6, p. 391 [MSA C337-6]. Note: the book is erroneously numbered with two pages numbered 391, in consecutive order. Thomas McCormick's indenture is on the second page.
  6. Colhouer, Sketches of the Founders, 232-3.
  7. Colhouer, Sketches of the Founders, 233.
  8. MARYLAND HISTORICAL TRUST (Inventory of Historic Sites) Longwood, M: 23-63, Montgomery County [MSA SE5-17389].
  9. Colhouer, Sketches of the Founders, 233.
  10. Colhouer, Sketches of the Founders, 233.
  11. Colhouer, Sketches of the Founders, 233.
  12. One biography refers to him only as the "venerable Thomas McCormick" throughout. See Ancel H. Bassett, A concise history of the Methodist Protestant Church from its origin (Pittsburgh: Press of Charles A. Scott, 1877).
  13. Polycarp was a second-century Christian leader and martyr. See Colhouer, Sketches of the Founders, 236.
  14. Charles Keenan, The Baltimore directory for 1822 & '23 (Baltimore: R.J. Matchett, 1822), 184]. You can find McCormick's name in many of the directories between 1816 and 1829, after which he disappears from the directories, likely when he relocated to Brookeville. See "Baltimore City Directories," Baltimore City Archives, online, accessed 2 Dec. 2013.
  15. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 5 March 1830, Deed, Mary Moore to Thomas McCormick, Liber BS 2, p. 474 [MSA CE 148-28].
  16. "Morrison's Pills," The Baltimore Sun, 23 August 1838.
  17. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 7 February 1842, Liber BS 11, p. 43, Deed, Roger Brooke Thomas to Thomas McCormick [MSA CE 148-37].
  18. "Brookeville Academy," Daily National Intelligencer, 6 July 1836.
  19. "Married," Alexandria Gazette, 6 November 1834.
  20. MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 8 February 1851, Liber STS 5, p. 203, Deed, Thomas McCormick to Leonard Weer [MSA CE 148-43]; MONTGOMERY COUNTY COURT (Land Records) 9 November 1844, Liber BS 12, p. 409, Deed, Thomas McCormick et ux. to Sophia R. Hammond [MSA CE 148-38].
  21. "The Alexandria Sunday Schools," Alexandria Gazette, 6 November 1850; "Address of Miss A.E. Devaughn, to Mr. Thomas McCormick," Alexandria Gazette, 30 June 1848.
  22. "Meeting of the Sons of Temperance," Alexandria Gazette, 30 June 1848.
  23. Bassett, A concise history, p. 284.
  24. "Obituary," The Baltimore Sun, 21 February 1883.
  25. Rives, "McCormick, Thomas," 1481.

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