Thomas Shanks (Virginia politician)

Last updated
Thomas Shanks
Member of the VirginiaHouseofDelegates
from the Botetourt district
In office
December 7, 1829 December 5, 1830
Servingwith John T. Anderson
Preceded by Fleming B. Miller
Succeeded by Fleming B. Miller
Member of the VirginiaHouseofDelegates
from the Botetourt district
In office
January 1, 1838 December 2, 1839
Servingwith William M. Peyton
Preceded by Fleming B. Miller
Succeeded by Joseph Hannah
Succeeded by Fleming B. Miller
Personal details
Born(1796-07-15)July 15, 1796
Fincastle, Virginia U.S.
Died May 7, 1849
Fincastle, Virginia U.S.

Thomas Shanks (July 15, 1796– May 7, 1849) was an American slave owner and politician who won three elections to represent Botetourt County in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Botetourt County, Virginia County in the United States

Botetourt County is a United States county that lies in the Roanoke Region of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Located in the mountainous portion of the state, the county is bordered by two major ranges, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains.

Virginia House of Delegates lower house of U.S. state legislature

The Virginia House of Delegates is one of two parts in the Virginia General Assembly, the other being the Senate of Virginia. It has 100 members elected for terms of two years; unlike most states, these elections take place during odd-numbered years. The House is presided over by the Speaker of the House, who is elected from among the House membership by the Delegates. The Speaker is usually a member of the majority party and, as Speaker, becomes the most powerful member of the House. The House shares legislative power with the Senate of Virginia, the upper house of the Virginia General Assembly. The House of Delegates is the modern-day successor to the Virginia House of Burgesses, which first met at Jamestown in 1619. The House is divided into Democratic and Republican caucuses. In addition to the Speaker, there is a majority leader, majority caucus chair, minority leader, minority caucus chair, and the chairs of the several committees of the House.


Early and family life

Born near what would become Amsterdam, Virginia, Thomas Shanks was the son of the former Hannah Morrison and her husband David Shanks. Thomas Shanks survived two wives. He married Grace Metcalfe Thomas (1795-1833) in 1825, and she bore two daughters and a son who survived their parents. Five years after her death, Thomas Shanks married widow Mary T. Harvey Kyle (1797-1845) in June 16, 1838, but had no further children in the seven years before her death. [1]

Amsterdam, Virginia Unincorporated community in Virginia, United States

Amsterdam is an unincorporated community in Botetourt County, Virginia, United States.


Botetourt County voters first elected Shanks to represent them (part-time) as one of Botetourt County's two representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1829. He temporarily unseated veteran politician and lawyer Fleming B. Miller and served alongside lawyer and manufacturer John T. Anderson, who would become a veteran legislator. [2] Nearly a decade later, in 1837, Botetourt County voters elected Shanks once again as one of their delegates, this time alongside Whig and fellow slaveowner William M. Peyton, [3] and re-elected both men that fall, although the following year a census realignment cut the county's representation to just one man, Joseph Hannah. [4]

John Thomas Anderson was a nineteenth-century American lawyer, iron manufacturer and politician who served in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly, representing Botetourt and nearby counties.

William Madison Peyton was a Virginia lawyer, politician and slave owner who began developing what would become the coal country of Virginia and West Virginia in the 1840s. Peyton sympathized with the Confederate States of America and died financially ruined shortly after the war's end.

Thomas Shanks may have been a merchant (or even a slave trader), for the New and Comprehensive Gazetteer of Virginia published by Joseph Martin in 1835 described six mercantile establishments in Fincastle, as well as 3 churches and 260 homes. One of the general stores was run by Kyles, another by Utz and Hannah, and another by Shanks and Anderson. [5] However, Thomas Shanks' name does not appear in the 1830 U.S. federal census (the enumerator found only David, Christian and Lewis Shanks in Botetourt County). [6] In the 1840 U.S. Federal census, the last before his death as well as the last before listing occupations, Thomas Shanks appears on both the Fincastle page (as head of a household consisting of 4 free white persons and 11 slaves, mostly female), as well as on the general Botetourt County census enumeration (as owning 36 enslaved males). [7]


Thomas Shanks died on May 7, 1849 (aged 52) and is buried at the Fincastle Presbyterian Church cemetery. [8] [9] His son, Rev. David William Shanks (1830-1894), would receive a degree from Washington College, become a minister in Rockbridge County and later in Danville, survive the American Civil War and likewise marry twice. Thomas Shanks' two daughters who survived him were: Grace Ellen Shanks Glasgow (1826-1897) (second wife of William A. Glasgow and both of whose sons would graduate from Washington and Lee University and become lawyers) [10] and Eliza Cassandra Shanks McPheeters (1827-1872). Rev. D.W. Shanks neither owned slaves nor enlisted in the military, and in addition to his sons Lewis and David Shanks, had three long-lived but unmarried daughters: Margaret Cabell Shanks (1867–1935), Eliza McPheeters Shanks (1868–1938) and Juliet Irvine Shanks (1869–1958). [11]

Washington and Lee University private liberal arts university in Lexington, Virginia, United States

Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts university in Lexington, Virginia. Established in 1749, the university is a colonial-era college and the ninth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.

Rockbridge County, Virginia County in the United States

Rockbridge County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 22,307. Its county seat is Lexington. The independent cities of Buena Vista (6,680) and Lexington (7,170) are both enclaved within the county's geographical borders.

Danville, Virginia Independent city in Virginia, United States

Danville is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States, located on the fall line of the Dan River. It was a major center of Confederate activity during the Civil War, due to its strategic location on the Richmond and Danville Railroad, and today is principal city of the Danville, Virginia Micropolitan Statistical Area.

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  1. 1840 U.S. Federal Census, Slave Schedule for Fincastle, Botetourt County, Virginia. U.S. The Virginia slave censuses are not available online.
  2. Cynthia Miller Leonard, The Virginia General Assembly 1619-1978 (Virginia State Library 1978) pp. 348
  4. Leonard, pp. 384, 388
  5. Frances J. Niederer, The Town of Fincastle, Virginia (Charlottesville, Virginia: The University Press of Virginia 1965) p. 33
  6. 1830 U.S. Federal Census, Botetourt county
  7. 1840 U.S. Federal Census, Botetourt county, both unstated and Fincastle enumerations
  8. findagrave No. 63086209
  11. nos. 63086209 and 168728799