Thomas Erskine Carson
Thomas Carson was born in Mercersburg, Franklin County on August 6, 1791. The son of Irish immigrant David Carson and the former Jean Oliver, Thomas received only informal education but emerged proficient enough in English literature and grammar to receive a tuition appointment as community schoolteacher. While a schoolmaster, he married Agnes King of Mercersburg in 1815. To make ends meet, the young educator gave up teaching for the greater remuneration of the hat-making trade, opening a successful mercantile shop in Mercersburg.
Carson embarked on a public career as a magistrate, Franklin County auditor, and became the county’s 1834 Whig choice for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He served in the House through 1843, representing Franklin and Adams counties.[i] He entered the state Senate in 1845, serving a three-year term, however met defeat for re-election at the hands of fellow Whig William R. Saddler. A devoted Whig, Thomas retooled his campaign, winning a second upper house election in 1851, advocating high tariff protectionism and the free public school system. During the last year of his second term (1853), the Senate elected Carson, Speaker.
Thomas represented the Whig caucus as chair of the 1851 Election Districts Committee and the 1852 Pensions and Gratuities Committee. He supported the popular election of judges, stricter regulation of the borough system, the repeal of the Walker Tariff, and federal reprisal against slave kidnappers.
The Honorable Thomas E. Carson retired from the upper house in 1854, replaced by Whig David Mellinger. He died in Mercersburg shortly thereafter, April 26, 1857.
“His sterling integrity and uniform fidelity to all official duties intrusted [sic] to him, stamp him as one of the few public men in our commonwealth, who are proof against all the seductive influences of public life – one whose large abilities and clear perceptions are overshadowed by his modest demeanor and freedom from the arts of the popular politician.”
[i] History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co., 1887), 848.