The 2,000-acre Adena estate belonged to Thomas Worthington (1773–1827), who served as one of Ohio’s first senators and its sixth governor. Worthington lived here with his wife Eleanor and their ten children. The house was designed by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who also designed the U. S. Capitol, and was completed in 1807. (It is one of only three houses Latrobe designed that is still standing.) The Worthingtons also created beautiful gardens on their property, which have since been renovated. Looking east from the north lawn of the mansion, one can see the view that inspired the Great Seal of the State of Ohio. The mansion has since been restored and features some of the Worthington family’s furnishings. Today, the mansion serves as a museum that gives visitors a glimpse of life in Ohio in the early 1800s. It can also be rented out for events and meetings.
Thomas Worthington was born on July 16, 1773 near Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia). Both of his parents died during his childhood, leaving him to be raised by his older brothers. When he turned fourteen, Worthington chose family friend General William Darke to be his guardian. Worthington then went to school and developed an interest in the Northwest Territory of the United States. At eighteen, Worthington joined the merchant marines. Two years later, he returned to Virginia and began surveying. In 1796, he married Eleanor Swearingen and surveyed the Virginia Military District. He received his payment in land near Chillicothe, Ohio. Both he and his brother-in-law Edward Tiffin were opposed to slavery and freed the slaves they had inherited before they moved. Several of their former slaves accompanied them on their 1798 journey to the Northwest Territory where they could find a better life. Upon arrival, Worthington began work on his home, Adena.
Shortly after settling in, Worthington was appointed Justice of the Peace for Chillicothe and later, judge of the court of common pleas. Starting in 1799 and ending in 1803, he worked as a member of the territorial legislature. He later ran as a Democratic-Republican against Governor St. Clair. St. Clair did not want Ohio to become a state, rather he wanted it to become two states so that Federalists would outnumber Democratic-Republicans in Congress. Worthington and others eventually persuaded President Thomas Jefferson to admit Ohio to the union in 1803.
After a short stint as a member of the Ohio General Assembly, Worthington served as Senator from 1803 to 1807. He then joined Ohio’s House of Representatives before becoming Senator again in 1810. As Senator, Worthington asked the U.S. government to send military assistance to Ohio against the Native Americans. He also opposed the War of 1812, believing the U.S. to be too weak for a fight. In 1814, Worthington stepped down from the Senate to become Ohio’s sixth governor. During his tenure, Worthington worked to regulate bars and taverns, reform prisons, provide assistance to the poor, offer public education, and build a canal system. Thought the Ohio legislature did not support all his efforts, some of his ideas, such as canals and public education, became realities. After his term was over in 1818, Worthington was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives again in 1821.
Thomas Worthington passed away at age 54 on June 20, 1827. He died in the American Hotel in New York after traveling on a boat for thirty-five days while ill. Back in Chillicothe, his remains were met by a procession of citizens and cavalry on July 5th.