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Memories from the Homestead: Taney County named for Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney

The past week has been an exciting Sons of the Pioneers road trip, with performances in Massillon, Ohio, on March 15 and Frederick, Maryland, on March 17, birthday of the man whom Taney County was named—Roger Brooke Taney (pronounced Taw-nee).

     Taney was based out of Frederick, Maryland, and a home he owned from 1815 to 1823 still stands today. He and his wife didn't live in the residence.


    My fascination with Taney County's 1837 beginnings took off when I was in high school. Mr. Rod Pock was my World History teacher my sophomore year and was my American History teacher my junior year. I wrote a term paper on Roger B. Taney my junior year and researched the interesting details of his life. Mr. Pock gave me an A- for my efforts, claiming my sources were considered rare and hard to find. Much of that was due to info I had located at Forsyth at the White River Valley Historical Society.


    Taney was born March 17, 1777, in Calvert County, Maryland. He graduated college with a law degree from Dickinson College in 1795. He was elected class valedictorian. From there he relocated to Frederick, Maryland, and practiced law for nearly twenty years.


     On June 7, 1806, Taney married Anne Phoebe Charlton Key. This may be a familiar name to you, as Anne's brother was Francis Scott Key, the author of "The Star Spangled Banner."


     Roger and Anne would have six daughters together. Even though Roger was a devoted Catholic, their girls were raised in the Episcopalian Church, which was the Church Anne was raised in. 


     With his successful legal practice in Frederick, Taney ran for the Maryland House of Delegates and won. During this time, he was with the Federalist Party, but broke off when the War of 1812 was underway.  In 1816 Taney won a five-year term into the Maryland State Senate.


In 1823 he moved his legal practice to Baltimore. In 1827, he was appointed to the Maryland Attorney General position. 


     In 1831, President Jackson asked Taney to become U.S. Attorney General and would now be the President's top legal advisor. 


     In March 1836, Roger B. Taney was nominated by President Jackson to be the Fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. This position would last the rest of his life until his passing in October 1864.


     President Lincoln was in office at the time of Taney's death. The two disagreed on the slavery issue, among other things, and many in the north reviled Taney. His 1857 Dred Scott case decision was considered the worst Supreme Court ruling ever. Lincoln wouldn't even acknowledge Taney's passing on October 12, 1864.


     Taney was 87 at the time of his passing. He had served as Chief Justice for 28 years, the second longest of any Chief Justice. Lincoln and three of his cabinet members would attend Taney's funeral services in Washington, D.C.


     Taney was laid to rest next to his mother in Frederick, Maryland, at the Saint John's Cemetery. Anne had passed away in 1855 and was laid to rest with her family at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick. 


     Taney County, Missouri, was established in 1837 while he was in his second year as Chief Justice. None of the early settlers here pronounced the name correctly, and that's why we still pronounce it as "Tay-nee." From the time I wrote my term paper in 1995, it only took twenty-nine years to get to Frederick to see everything! And to perform there at the Weinberg Center for the Arts on what would have been Taney's 247th Birthday! It's been a wonderful trip down many historical trails. Luanna and I have had so much fun exploring them!


Happy trails, everyone!

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