From History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania by Samuel P. Bates, 1886:

If Adams County is pictured to the mind as a dinning table, then wherever Hon. Thaddeus Stevens sat  was the head of
the table. The son of a Vermont shoe maker, born April 4, 1792, commenced life as a school teacher in York, came to
Gettysburg immediately after he had been admitted to practice law in Maryland in 1816 and opened an office in the east
end of the McClellan House, now occupied by Col. John H. McClellan. He at once became a leader at the bar, was
several years a town councilman, a member of the Legislature, where he became the father of Pennsylvania free
schools. He removed to Lancaster in 1841. He entered Congress in 1849 and served two terms, then remained in
private life and again entered Congress in 1859, where he remained until his death. August 11, 1868. He was the
chairman of the ways and means committee in Congress at the commencement of the war and was  the one man great
enough to rule Congress, the Senate and the President, and who comprehended the full import of the civil war at its
commencement. He proved himself the greatest parliamentary leader  this country has had, not even excepting Henry
Clay. Indeed Thaddeus Stevens was a wonderful man, whose history is a part of the history of our country during its
most turbulent and trying times -- such times only develop such men as was Stevens, where he won the distinguished
sobriquet of the Great Commoner. Mentally and physically a strange compound of opposites, if they were not
contradictions. Physically, defective in one of his feet; intellectually a trained athlete; a knight errant riding the whirlwind
of the dark passions of mankind and delivering the blasting thunderbolts of this matchless invective against the
oppressors of his fellow-man; his nature deeply charitable, lifting up the lowly, aiding the worthy, spending his last dollar
when on his way to Baltimore with his carefully garnered gains to buy his first law library and he saw a slave parent and
child being sold to be separated; he spent all he had and purchased the slaves and returned to Gettysburg with these
instead of his promised books, and at the same time implacable against that portion of his fellow country men born to
the ownership of slaves. He loved children tenderly, and the highest praise that can be said of him is the love and
respect his name ever conjured in the hearts of he men and women of Gettysburg who were children when this was his

A deligent student of men and book he was a lover of field sports and games; of Puritan birth probably, he was the
broadest and most liberal in faith and practice. An extreme Federalist in the larger sense of the term, a Democrat by
nature, a political revolutionist, who was intensely patriotic in his love of his government. A criminal lawyer with few
equals and no superiors, as a constitutional lawyer he was blinded by seething political passions. His broad charity that
carried a purse that had no strings, and his deep seated radicalism that would "organize a hell" for treason, where the
strong lines in his nature. Charitable and combative his mastery of men made him a party destroyer and a party leader.
Here he was born to fight and command. When he had carried the old Federal party long enough he crushed it and
reared the Anti-Masonic part; tossing this aside when it had subserved his purposes, he became quiet politically for a
time until upon the ruins of old parties rose the Republican party, and here again was Stevens the master architect.

We know nothing of this ancestors and have no antecedent facts upon which we can see why he was the strange,
strong and extraordinary compound he was. We only know he rescued his name from deepest obscurity and wrote it in
bright letters across the scroll of fame. When his flaming sword fell from his nerveless grasp it passed to no lineal
descendant's hand. He was the first and last of his name and race known to history.