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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Toomer, John De Rossett

by Ida B. Kellam and Leora Hiatt Mceachern, 1996

13 Mar. 1784–27 Sept. 1856

John De Rossett Toomer, attorney, legislator, and superior court judge, was born in Wilmington, the son of Henry and Magdalene Mary De Rossett Toomer. Henry Toomer, who moved from South Carolina to Wilmington with his father, Joshua Toomer, in 1747, was a member of the Wilmington Safety Committee in 1775 and 1776. Magdalene, his third wife, was the daughter of Dr. Moses John and Mary Ivy De Rossett. After attending The University of North Carolina, John D. Toomer began to practice law in Wilmington. In 1815 he was county attorney. He moved to Cumberland County and was living in Fayetteville in 1824.

The General Assembly elected Toomer a superior court judge on 18 Dec. 1818 to fill a vacancy created when several superior court judges were sent to the state supreme court, but he resigned in 1819. Eight years later, in 1827, he was elected to the General Assembly to replace Robert Strange, who had resigned. Appointed an associate justice of the supreme court by the governor on 8 May 1829, Toomer resigned on 1 December of the same year. In June 1835 he was a delegate to the constitutional convention. He was elected a judge of the superior court on 7 Jan. 1837 and served until 1840, when he resigned because of ill health. Sometime after this he moved from Fayetteville to Pittsboro, where he died.

In Wilmington on 9 Dec. 1805 Toomer married Maria J. Rhett Swann, who was born on 13 May 1787 in New Hanover County to John and Sarah Moore Swann. Sarah was the daughter of Brigadier General James Moore. The children named in Toomer's will were John, Henry, Duncan, Frederick, Lucy, Eliza (m. Thomas Hill), Sarah Ann (m. Albert Torrence), and Mary (m. Warren Winslow).

Both Toomer and his wife were buried in Pittsboro.


Carrie L. Broughton, comp., Marriage and Death Notices from the Raleigh Register and North Carolina State Gazette, 16 Dec. 1805, 18 Oct. 1856.

Chatham County Will Book C.

John L. Cheney, Jr., ed., North Carolina Government, 1585–1974 (1975).

Crockette W. Hewlett, comp., "Attorneys of New Hanover Co.," 1976 (photocopy, Wilmington Public Library).

Ida B. Kellam records (Wilmington).

Leora H. McEachern and Isabel M. Williams, eds., Wilmington–New Hanover Safety Committee Minutes, 1774–1776 (1974).

Wilmington Daily Herald, 30 Sept. 1856.

New Hanover County Court Minutes, 19 June 1799 (microfilm, Cape Fear Technical Institute Library).

New Hanover County Deed Book P.

New Hanover County Will Book AB.

St. James Church Register, Wilmington.

Additional Resources:

DeRosset Family Papers, 1671-1940 (bulk 1821-1877) (collection no. 00214). The Southern Historical Collection. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (accessed May 29, 2013).


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