The Cumberland Valley impressed Thaddeus Stevens, reminding him of the rural beauty of Danville, Vermont, where he was born in 1792. Later, when Stevens purchased land to begin an ironworks, he called it Caledonia because it reminded him of his boyhood home.
As a child, Stevens had a difficult life. His family struggled to make a living by farming. His father was an alcoholic and eventually left his family. His mother, Sarah, kept the family together and realized education was the way to give Thaddeus a better life.
Thaddeus and his brother were both born with club feet. For Thaddeus Stevens, his club foot gave him the experience of “being different.” Growing up poor gave him an understanding of struggle. Education raised him up and gave him a way to make his life better. Thaddeus Stevens never forgot this and became a proponent of giving people access to opportunity through education and through equality.
After graduating from Dartmouth College, Stevens began his career as a teacher in York, PA. He studied law in the evenings and became a lawyer. In 1833, Stevens was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. In 1848, he was elected to Congress. He did not run in 1852 but ran and was re-elected in 1858 to Congress.
Throughout his years of service, he advocated repeatedly for equality of all.