Col. Thomas Marshall Key

(b. August 8, 1819, Washington, Ky.; d. January 15, 1869, Lebanon, Ohio). Thomas Marshall Key, a judge and a Civil War colonel, was the second son
of Marshall Key and Harriet Sellman Key. After attending Augusta College in Augusta, Ky., he enrolled at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and graduated in 1838, before his 19th birthday. While at Yale, he was a member of the exclusive secret society Skull and Bones. Key studied law in Cincinnati under Alphonso Taft, who later became U.S. attorney general under President Ulysses S. Grant (1869–1877); Taft was the father of President William Howard Taft (1909–1913).

When the Commercial Court of Cincinnati was organized in 1848, Key was appointed the first judge and served for five years. In 1858 he wed Elizabeth Boylan and was elected to the Ohio Senate as a Democrat. Following the attack by the Confederates on Fort Sumter, S.C., in 1861, Key was instrumental in securing unanimous legislative support in Ohio
for the Union cause, and in April 1861 he was Ohio governor William Dennison’s emissary to persuade Kentucky governor Beriah Magoffin (1859–1862) not to aid the Confederates. Named judge advocate and aide-de-camp on the staff of Union general George B. McClellan, Key was given the rank of colonel. While stationed in the nation’s capital, he drafted and promoted the passage of a bill abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. When President Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865) removed General McClellan from command on November 5, 1862, Key returned to Cincinnati, suffering from pulmonary disease believed to have been contracted
during the Civil War Antietam campaign. He died of pneumonia in Lebanon, Ohio, in 1869 and was buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.

Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton, 1894.
Calvert, Jean, and John Klee. Maysville, Kentucky:
From Past to Present in Pictures. Maysville, Ky. Mason Co. Museum, 1983.
Spring Grove Cemetery Records, Cincinnati.