Gov. Thomas Jordan Jarvis, US Senator

Is your surname Jarvis?

Research the Jarvis family

Gov. Thomas Jordan Jarvis, US Senator's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Thomas Jordan Jarvis

Birthplace: Jarvisburg, Currituck, NC, USA
Death: Died in Greenville, Pitt, NC, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Bannister Hardy Jarvis and Elizabeth Jarvis
Husband of Mary Elizabeth Jarvis
Brother of George Jarvis; Ann Jarvis; Margaret Jarvis and Elizabeth Jarvis

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Gov. Thomas Jordan Jarvis, US Senator

Thomas Jordan Jarvis (January 18, 1836 – June 17, 1915) was the 44th Governor of the U.S. state of North Carolina from 1879 to 1885. Jarvis later served as a U.S. Senator from 1894 to 1895, and helped establish East Carolina Teachers Training School in 1907.

Early years

Born in Jarvisburg, North Carolina, in Currituck County, he was the son of Elizabeth Daley and Bannister Hardy Jarvis, a Methodist minister and farmer and brother of George, Ann, Margaret, and Elizabeth. His family was of English descent and some of its members highlighted at various points in the history of North Carolina. So, Thomas Jarvis was lieutenant governor of Albemarle during the government of Philip Ludwell, between 1691-97, and General Samuel Jarvis led the militia of Albemarle during his fight in the Revolutionary War. Raised in a poor family, although he had the necessities of life, Jarvis worked when he was young in three hundred acre farm owned by his father, while he was studying about the common schools. Jarvis was educated locally and at nineteen went on to attend Randoph-Macon College, earning an M.A. in 1861. He had to exercise as teacher during the summer to pay for college tuition. An educator by training, Jarvis opened a school in Pasquotank County and would later be one of the founders of East Carolina University.


Jarvis enlisted in the military at the beginning of the American Civil War and served in the Eighth North Carolina Regiment. On April 22, 1863 he was named Captain. Captured and exchanged in 1862, Jarvis, was injured and permanently disabled at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff in 1864. After the war ended, he was on sick leave in Norfolk and in May 1865, he got probation, returning back to Jarvisburg.

In 1865, Jarvis returned home and opened a general store before being named a delegate to the 1865 state constitutional convention. In 1867 Jarvis bought to entrepreneur William H. Happer, share of his small general store. More late, after get a license in June of this year, he abandoned the store and moved to Columbia.

Active the Democratic Party, Jarvis was elected to the State House in 1868 and served there for four years, two of them (1870–1872) as Speaker of the House. An opponent of federal Reconstruction policy, Jarvis was elected the third lieutenant governor in 1876 on a ticket with Zebulon Vance. Jarvis also married Mary Woodson in December 1874. More late, Jarvis rejected a bill for special tax bonds for railroad construction, changes in suffrage, and a organization of special militia to police certain counties. So, he later collaborated in the establish the Bragg-Phillips Investigating Committee, which aimed the studied the corruption regarding the special tax bonds that had passed. In 1870, Jarvis was elected speaker of the house. He exercised a controlling role in the impeachment of Governor Holden, reduced the cost of state government, and investigated other railway frauds. In 1872 he was the Democratic elector-at-large on the Horace Greeley ticket.

In 1876, Thomas J. Jarvis was elected lieutenant governor. In 1879, Vance resigned the governorship to serve in the United States Senate, and Jarvis filled the vacant position. He fought against government corruption and attempted to cut taxes, the debt of state and government control. He also completed the sale of various state railways to private companies because they needed a lot of money from the state. He entered mental health services in Morganton and Goldsboro, managed the establishment of normal schools for teachers in North Carolina and helped develop the State Board of Health to state and county level.

He won election in his own right in 1880, defeating Daniel G. Fowle for the Democratic nomination and narrowly winning over Republican challenger Ralph Buxton. In office, Jarvis convinced the legislature to authorize construction of the North Carolina Executive Mansion, although it was not completed until 1891. According the page Thomas Jordan Jarvis, 1836-1915, he "supported establishing a system of county superintendents of education elected by boards of education, grades of teacher certification, standards of examinations for public school teachers, and lists of recommended textbooks. Also, Funds for the mental institutions continued to increase, and the laws of North Carolina were for the first time codified and state insurance laws fully defined. Also, was built a governor's mansion".

Term-limited, Jarvis stepped down as governor in 1885, but was appointed United States Minister to Brazil by President Grover Cleveland. Jarvis held this post for four years, after which he practiced law in Greenville, North Carolina. Following Senator Vance's death in 1892, Jarvis again succeeded him in office, serving as a U.S. Senator from until 1895, but was not elected to a term of his own.

In 1896, Jarvis was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, where he supported William Jennings Bryan, his last major political act. He was instrumental in the founding of what is now East Carolina University in Greenville, where the oldest residential hall on campus is named in his memory.

After President Cleveland died, Jarvis reopened his law firm and in 1912, he founded a partnership with Frank Wooten. Jarvis was in charge of fiscal affairs, the reduction of tariffs and he developed a progressive income tax. He died in Greenville in 1915.


In addition to the ECU residence hall, a local United Methodist church and a street in Greenville are named in his memory.
At one time, several personal artifacts were on display at the church.

Personal life

Jarvis married Mary Woodson in December 1874.

view all

Gov. Thomas Jordan Jarvis, US Senator's Timeline

January 18, 1836
Jarvisburg, Currituck, NC, USA
June 17, 1915
Age 79
Greenville, Pitt, NC, USA