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Below is a family biography included in the History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania published in 1889 by A. Warner & Co.   These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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THOMAS M. HOWE. Hon. Thomas M. Howe, one of the “strong men” who have done so much to advance the interests of Pittsburgh, where he was a leading business man, financier and capitalist, was born in Williamstown, Vt., in 1808. He was the sixth in descent from John Howe, of Sudbury, Mass., one of the earliest immigrants from England to that colony, arriving previous to 1638. His father, a merchant, removed to Trumbull county, Ohio, in 1817, and settled on a tract of land in Bloomfield township. Thomas left the farm before he reached his majority, and went to Pittsburgh, where he engaged as a clerk in the dry-goods store of Mason & McDonough. Afterward he went to work, in the same line for S. Baird & Co. In 1830 he became a partner in the new firm of Leavitt & Co., hardware dealers. From this time on he made rapid advance. In 1839 he was made cashier of the Exchange Bank, of Pittsburgh. Here he showed that he possessed exceptional ability as a financier, and in the crises of 1842 and 1845 he showed more than ordinary courage. These brought him into active participation in politics, though his inclinations were against a political career. He was a firm believer in and advocate of a protective tariff, deeming it to be for the benefit of the manufacturers of the country at large. Being an enthusiastic whig, he labored zealously in the “log-cabin-and-hard-cider campaign” of 1840 for the election of Gen. Harrison to the presidency. He became thoroughly conversant with the bearings of legislation upon the interests of his adopted state, and exercised a large influence in this direction. In 1850 he was elected to Congress from the Pittsburgh district, and was re-elected in 1852. He impressed his views upon his colleagues, and much of the tariff legislation of the period was shaped by his efforts. He was an earnest advocate of the principles which have since been embodied in the interstate commerce law.

In 1851 Mr. Howe was elected president of the Exchange Bank, and held that position until other duties compelled him to relinquish it. Upon the organization of the Chamber of Commerce, in which he took an active part, Mr. Howe was elected its president, and held the office continuously until his death in 1877. To him much of the success of that institution is due. As early as 1840 Mr. Howe was identified with the Lake Superior copper-regions and their development, and visited the fields in person. Upon his representations, and through his efforts, the Pittsburgh & Boston Mining company was formed, of which he became secretary and treasurer. This proved a very profitable enterprise, in which Mr. Howe retained his interest until the transfer of the company to Boston parties, about 1871. He helped to organize the firm of C. G. Hussey & Co., extensive copper-manufacturers of Pittsburgh, and remained a member of it until his death. He was also one of the original members of the firm of Hussey, Wells & Co., afterward, on the retirement of Mr. Wells, Hussey, Howe & Co., one of the heaviest steel-manufacturing firms in Pittsburgh. Mr. Howe contributed freely of his capital to these enterprises, and to his championship of the now gigantic steel industry is due much of its wonderful advance. In 1859 he was importuned to allow his name to be presented to the republican state convention for the gubernatorial nomination. To this he reluctantly consented. When the convention met, in 1860, Andrew G. Curtin was nominated, to the great relief of Mr. Howe, who cordially supported Mr. Curtin for election. When the great struggle of the rebellion began, Mr. Howe entered strongly into the support of the government. He was appointed assistant adjutant-general, on Gov. Curtin’s staff, and rendered right loyal and efficient service, refusing all compensation therefor.

Mr. Howe was always ready to contribute of his capital and services in any enterprise tending to forward the interests of Pittsburgh. He was largely instrumental in the building of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh railway. He was one of the founders of the Allegheny cemetery, serving as president of its board of managers for thirty years. He was a presidential elector in 1860, casting his vote for Lincoln and Hamlin. In 1864 he was urged to accept the office of state treasurer, but positively declined. In 1874 he was prominently mentioned for secretary of the treasury, but promptly withdrew his name. These declinations of public trusts arose from no selfish motives, but because of Mr. Howe’s dislike of the turmoil and methods of the political campaigning of that period. In civil life he labored unceasingly and ungrudgingly in enterprises that were largely beneficial to the city, state and nation. In his religious life he was active and conscientious. He was for thirty years a vestryman in Trinity Church, and took an active part in the establishment of Calvary Church, of which he became a warden and vestryman. He was for a number of years a member of the diocesan standing committee, and was twice elected a deputy to the general convention. In his business affairs he was the soul of honor, carrying into his dealings the teachings of the golden rule. In an unostentatious manner, not seeking the applause of men, he was a large contributor to charitable and benevolent work.

Mr. Howe’s death occurred on the 20th of July, 1877. It was everywhere regarded as a public calamity, and was widely expressed not only by individuals but by numerous bodies and corporations with which Mr. Howe had been connected. His memory was perpetuated by the Chamber of Commerce by hanging his portrait upon the walls of its building. Notwithstanding the years that have elapsed since his decease, he is still held in grateful remembrance as a model citizen.

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This family biography is one of 2,156 biographies included in the History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania published in 1889 by A. Warner & Co.

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