< BACK Thomas McKissock (1790 - 1866)
By Dennis Wepman


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The second member of Congress to be laid to rest in the Old Town Cemetery was Thomas McKissock, born two years after Jonathan Fisk, on Sept. 26, 1790. Not so colorful a figure as his predecessor, he was a substantial and respected citizen of the community and an honored member of the bar.

His father, also Thomas, was a substantial merchant of the town, and young Thomas had all the advantages of a prosperous family could offer. He began the study of medicine "at an appropriate age", as one biographer vaguely reported, but switched to law and was admitted to the bar in 1818. His practice in Newburgh was successful enough to win him the appointment of Puisne Justice of the State Supreme Court in 1847. (Puisne, pronounced puny and the source of that word, is an old English legal term meaning "of lower order"; a puisne justice was an associate, rather than chief justice. The title, never one to be especially proud of, has been dropped, to the general relief of those who held it.) Consistently with his judicial rank, he later became a junior partner in the firm of Bate & McKissock.

McKissock was elected as a Whig to the House of Representative in 1849 but served less than two years. He was defeated in 1851 and returned to private practice, which he maintained until his death at 76 on June 26, 1866.

He did nothing sensational as lawyer, judge, or congressman but he served honorably and effectively. "Candor, ingenuousness, manliness, and moral integrity were predominant traits in his character," a local historian wrote of Thomas McKissock 15 years after his death. His tomb in the Middle South Section of the Old Town Cemetery (#434) has one of the loftiest markers in the yard.