Col. Timothy Pickering

Col. Timothy Pickering
by: Painting (bust) by Rice from painting by Gilbert Stuart
111-SC-690, National Archives, Washington, DC

To attempt to condense into a few paragraphs an account of the career of a man of such national and international prominence as Pickering is futile. Pickering left his home in Massachusetts in 1776 and by force of circumstance and personal choice he did not return for twenty-five years. When the Society of the Cincinnati was instituted on the Hudson in 1783, Pickering had the honor of signing the great “Parchment Roll” of the General Society of the Cincinnati, to which George Washington also put his name. As a resident of Pennsylvania after the Revolution, Pickering considered himself, and was considered, a member of the Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania whose “Parchment Roll” he signed and on whose Standing Committee he served in 1798.

Pickering performed numerous official services for the Commonwealth, among them an attempt to bring peace to the Wyoming Valley and the concomitant formation of Luzerne County in 1786. He represented Luzerne at the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1788-1789 and in the state convention for ratifying the Federal Constitution in 1788. However, Pickering’s fame rests on his national services.

The following, from the Memorials of The Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati, summarizes Pickering’s history;

…a son of Deacon Timothy and Mary (Wingate) Pickering, he was born in Salem, [Massachusetts], July 17, 1743, died there January 29, 1829, aged 85; A.B., Harvard, 1763; admitted to the Bar in 1768; the first person to offer armed resistence to the British, when, on February 25, 1775, being then a Colonel of Militia, he prevented by force of arms a detachment of British regulars from crossing the drawbridge at Salem to seize some American military stores. In 1775 he was appointed a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for Essex County, and sole Judge of the Maritime Court for the Middle District. He was Colonel of a Massachusetts Militia regiment at the start of the war; Colonel and Adjutant-General to General Washington, June 18, 1777 to January 13, 1778; elected member of the Board of War, November 7, 1777; Colonel and Quarter-Master-General, Continental Army, August 5, 1780 to July 25, 1785. After the war he resided in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; was Postmaster-General of the United States, November 7, 1791-January 2, 1795; Secretary of War, January 2-December 10, 1795; Secretary of State, December 10, 1795-May 12, 1800. He returned to Salem late in 1801; was elected a United States Senator by the Massachusetts General Court (Legislature) in 1803; continued in that office through 1811; was a member of the Massachusetts Board of War during the War of 1812; was a Representative in Congress, 1815-17. Colonel Pickering was active in the cause of education; was a talented writer; a brave soldier; and a disinterested, able, and energetic public officer. He was admitted a member of the Massachusetts Society [of the Cincinnati] by right of residence after his return to Salem, Massachusetts. He was a member of the Standing Committee of the Massachusetts Society… 1825 through 1828.

He married in Bradford, Massachusetts, April 8, 1776, Rebecca White. Eight sons, two daughters.