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Thomas McConnell Elder


REV. THOMAS McCONNELL ELDER. Among the useful and public-spirited citizens of Dayton, well respected and highly esteemed by all who know him and ever watchful for the progress and prosperity of the place where he has so long had his home, is Rev. Thomas McConnell Edler.

He was born near New Alexandria, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, March 24, 1826, and is a son of Thomas and Mary (McConnell) Elder. His is a descendant of the Dauphin county Elder family, of whose members many were pioneer settlers of western Pennsylvania. His grandfather, Robert Elder, served five years as a soldier in the Revolutionary war, and at its close (soon after the burning of Hannastown) came to near New Alexandria, where he died many years later at the ripe age of eighty-six years. He was a cabinet-maker by trade. He settled on, and became owner of, a portion of a large body of land, still known as the "Richlands," taken up by Thomas Anderson, a relative of his. Of these lands, the tract known as "Hannasburg", descended through the mother, Mrs. Hannah Elder; the other, known as "Andersonia," by will of said Anderson.
Robert Elder was in politics a democrat, a consistent member of "Old Salem" Presbyterian church (Salem, in whose church-yard still stands an ancient gravestone marked "Thomas Anderson, aged 103 years,'") was married and survived his wife, by whom he had two children: Hannah, who married James Richards, and resided and died on part of the home tract, and Thomas, the father of the subject of this sketch.

Thomas Elder was born in Dauphin county, January 18, 1782, and in 1784 was brought by his parents to Westmoreland county, where he was engaged in agricultural pursuits until his death, in April, 1855.

He was a good citizen, a strong democrat and was a member of the old school Presbyterian church, which he left some years before his death to unite with the Reformed Presbyterian church.

On June 2, 1812, he married Mary McConnell, of Lancaster county, who was of the same religious faith as her husband. Their children were:
Violet W., born March 13, 1813; Patsey M., born September 27, 1815; Robert A., born September 22, 1817; Harriet E., born December 27, 1820; David, born September 4, 1823; Rev. Thomas M., Mary, born November 6, 1828; James M., born November 14, 1829; John M., born December 22, 1832, and William P., born April 12, 1835.

All of these children are dead except Rev. Thomas M. and John M., who still resides on the old home farm.

Mrs. Elder was born August 24, 1792, and died October 3, 1881. She was a daughter of David McConnell, a Scotch-English farmer of Lancaster county, who came to near New Alexandria, Westmoreland county, after the Revolution. He afterwards removed to Salem township, that county, where he died. He was an earnest Presbyterian, and married Martha Whitesides, January 10, 1788, by whom he had twelve children:
Daniel, Thomas W., David and Samuel, and Margaret, Prudence, Mary, Martha, Violet, Elizabeth, Hannah and Rebecca. These have now all passed away.

Thomas M. Elder was educated at Geneva college, from which he was graduated in 1853. He afterwards took a four years theological course at the Reformed Presbyterian seminary, now of Allegheny city. He has been always greatly interested in matters educational. He was the first teacher of the female seminary at Northwood, Ohio; he founded and was principal of the Loyalhanna institute for two years; he was principal of Dayton Union academy from 1862 to 1866, and in the latter was largely instrumental in establishing the Dayton Soldiers' Orphan school, of which he was principal until 1871.

He was licensed to preach the Gospel in 1858, was ordained May 11, 1859, and settled as pastor of the congregation of Rehoboth. He also supplied many important vacancies and had several important calls, among them being one to Baltimore and two to Boston, which he did not accept.

In 1863 he had charge of the mission schools of his church at Fernandina, Florida, where, in the absence of the regular chaplain, he did chaplain work for the 11th Maine Volunteers, and in 1864-65 he superintended church missions in Washington City, D. C. On account of hereditary illness he has largely withdrawn from active church work for some years past, and now lives in comfortable retirement in the village of Dayton.

On September 14, 1848, Mr. Elder was married to Tirzah Mason, daughter of Thomas Mason, of Hannastown, Pa., and the youngest of a family of seventeen children. To them were born two children, one of which died in infancy and McLeod M., a Pullman palace car conductor, now resides in Allegheny city and married to Hannah Knox.

Mrs. Elder died in the summer of 1851, and on October 10, 1854, Mr. Elder was again married, this time to Mary Parker, daughter of Mr. John Lindsay, of Philadelphia, This wife died September 12, 1868. to this second union were born three children: Tirzah T. M., wife of C. S. Marshall, a merchant of Dayton; one which died in infancy, and Argyle W., now engaged as shipping clerk with a wholesale firm in Pittsburgh and married to Edith C., daughter of C. W. Ellenberger.

Rev. T. M. Elder is a republican and was one of the early abolitionists. He has lived a busy, active life, and very many useful and important enterprises attest his industry, energy and the value of his counsel.

He is a man of fine presence and impressive manners, six feet two inches in height, two hundred and twenty-five pounds in weight, and, although gray, has still the years and ability to add other work to a very successful life. He owns a part of his father's landed estate, and two farms in Armstrong county, besides several houses and lots at Dayton. He is a partner of the mercantile firm of C. S. Marshall & Co., is president of Dayton S. O. School association, also of two oil and gas companies, and has been interested and active in every business enterprise of any importance which has existed at Dayton, where he has resided for the last thirty years.

Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia of Indiana and Armstrong Counties, 1891, pages 487-488  


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