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Button Gwinnett

Birthplace: Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, United States
Place of Burial: Burial: Colonial Park Cemetery * Savannah Chatham County Georgia, USA *Cenotaph [?]
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Gwinnett and Anne Eames Button
Husband of Ann Bourne Gwinnett
Father of Elizabeth Ann Belin
Brother of Six Other Children

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Button Gwinnett

Button Gwinnett (1735 – May 19 or 27, 1777) was an British-born American political leader who, as a representative of Georgia to the Continental Congress, was the second of the signatories (first signature on the left) on the United States Declaration of Independence. He was also, briefly, the provisional president of Georgia in 1777, and Gwinnett County (now a major suburb of metropolitan Atlanta) was named for him. Gwinnett was killed in a duel by a rival, Lachlan McIntosh, following a dispute after a failed invasion of East Florida.

Early life and education

Gwinnett was born in 1735 in the parish of Down Hatherley in the county of Gloucestershire, Great Britain, to Welsh parents, the Reverend Samuel and Anne (née Button) Gwinnett. He was the first of his parents' seven children. There are conflicting reports as to his birth date, but he was baptized in St Catherine’s Church in Gloucester on April 10, 1735. After attending The King's School, Gloucester he started his career as a merchant in England. He then moved to Wolverhampton in 1755 and married a local, Ann Bourne, in 1757 at St. Peter's Church at the age of 22. In 1762 the couple left Wolverhampton and moved to America.


Arriving first in Charleston, South Carolina, by 1765 they had traveled to Georgia. Gwinnett abandoned his mercantile pursuits, selling off all his merchandise to buy a tract of land where he started a plantation. He prospered as a planter, and by 1769 had gained such local prominence that he was elected to the Provincial Assembly. During his tenure in the Assembly, Gwinnett's chief political rival was Lachlan McIntosh, and Lyman Hall was his closest ally. Gwinnett did not become a strong advocate of colonial rights until 1775, when St. John's Parish, which encompassed his lands, threatened to secede from Georgia due to the colony's rather conservative response to the events of the times.

American Revolutionary War

Gwinnett voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence, adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776, two days before the "fair copy," dated July 4, 1776, was presented to the Congress. He signed the famous parchment copy on August 2, 1776. After signing the Declaration, he was accompanied as far as Virginia by Carter Braxton, another of the signers, carrying a proposed state constitution drawn up by John Adams. During his service in the Continental Congress, Gwinnett was a candidate for a brigadier general position to lead the 1st Regiment in the Continental Army, but lost out to Lachlan McIntosh. The loss of the position to his rival embittered Gwinnett greatly.

Gwinnett served in the Georgia state legislature, and in 1777 he wrote the original draft of Georgia's first State Constitution. He soon became Speaker of the Georgia Assembly, a position he held until the death of the President (Governor) of Georgia, Archibald Bulloch. Gwinnett was elevated to the vacated position by the Assembly’s Executive Council. In this position, he sought to undermine the leadership of McIntosh.


Button died on 19 or 27 May 1777 from wounds inflicted during a duel on 16 May with his political rival Lachlan McIntosh.


Button's autograph is highly sought by collectors as a result of a combination of the desire by many top collectors to acquire a complete set of autographs by all 56 signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and the extreme rarity of the Gwinnett signature; there are 51 known examples, since Gwinnett was fairly obscure prior to signing the Declaration and died shortly afterward.

Gwinnett County in Georgia is also named after Button Gwinnett.

In popular culture

In the 2008 role-playing game Fallout 3, a Protectron robot wearing a powdered wig has been left in command of the National Archives and due to a memory malfunction believes itself to be the real Gwinnett. It will challenge the player to a duel or otherwise resist him if the player attempts to seize the copy of the Declaration of Independence that it is guarding. If the player manages to convince the robot that he or she is Thomas Jefferson, it will submit.

In Season 1 of Mr. Show, Button Gwinnett was played by Jack Plotnick in a skit surrounding the origin of the American flag's design. Gwinnett was portrayed as a pitiable stooge.

The 1932 film Washington Merry-Go-Round stars actor Lee Tracy as Button Gwinnett Brown, a (fictitious) modern-day Congressman and descendant of Button Gwinnett. He owns a letter written and signed by his ancestor Button Gwinnett, which is worth $50,000 because (according to this movie's dialogue) only three of the original Gwinnett's letters still survive, and this is one of them. This fictitious document is destroyed during the film's action; the film also includes a close-up of the real Gwinnett's signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Stephen Colbert has referenced Gwinnett in both airings of the segment "Better Know A Founder" featuring impersonators of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, joking that Gwinnett would be interviewed in a future segment.

Isaac Asimov wrote a science-fiction short-story named "Button! Button!", featuring a time-travel plot in which a collector may take possession of Gwinnett's signature on the Declaration of Independence.


Button Gwinnett was born in 1732 in Gloucestershire, England, one of seven children of the Rev. Samuel and Anne Eames Gwinnett. The Gwinnett name was originally Gwynedd, a name of long standing from the northern part of Wales. His mother, Anne Eames, had prominent relatives in Herefordshire.


Birth: 1735 Death: May 19, 1777

Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Georgia. Born in Gloucestershire, England, he was named Button in honor of his godmother, Barbara Button. When in his early twenties, he married Ann Bourne and went into business as a merchant. Talking with the sailors who carried his goods to America, he became so interested in the colonies that in 1764, he and Ann decided to move to America, settling first in Charleston, SC, and then later moving to Savannah, Georgia, where he became a merchant. Not doing as well as he hoped, he decided to become a farmer instead, and purchased St. Catherines’ Island off the Georgia coast, where he set up a plantation. Unfortunately, he did not do well as a farmer either. In 1769, he was elected to the Georgia Assembly, and in the Second Continental Congress, from 1776 to 1777. Born and raised in England, he was undecided about the issue of independence until 1775. It is generally believed that Dr. Lyman Hall convinced him to side with those who favored independence. After signing the Declaration of Independence, he returned to Georgia, where he was elected speaker of the Georgia Assembly, and helped to write the state constitution in 1777. For a brief period, he served as acting governor of Georgia in 1777. What he most wanted to do was to lead troops in battle, and when General Lachlan McIntosh, a seasoned soldier, was selected to lead the Georgia soldiers, Gwinnett began to feud with him. In the spring of 1777, Acting Governor Gwinnett led an expedition to seize British held Florida, limiting General McIntosh’s role in the expedition. When the attack failed, the people blamed Gwinnett and he was defeated for election as governor on May 8, 1777. Both men were called before the Georgia Assembly to explain the expedition’s failure, and Gwinnett was able to place the blame on McIntosh. McIntosh, angry at being blamed for the expedition’s failure, called Gwinnett “a scoundrel and a lying rascal” in front of the Assembly. Gwinnett then challenged McIntosh to a duel, to avenge his honor. On the outskirts of Savannah the morning of May 16, both men took part in a duel, firing just twelve feet from each other. Both were wounded, but while McIntosh recovered from his wound, Gwinnett died just three days later. During the war, the British seized the Gwinnett estate on St. Catherines Island, and both his wife and only daughter died before the war’s end. (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson)

Family links:

 Ann Bourne Gwinnett (____ - 1780)*

 Elizabeth Ann Gwinnett Belin (1762 - 1780)*
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Burial: Colonial Park Cemetery * Savannah Chatham County Georgia, USA

  • Cenotaph [?]

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Maintained by: Find A Grave Record added: Apr 27, 1998 Find A Grave Memorial# 2793


Georgia Governor Button Gwinnett Georgia Governor Button Gwinnett

State Website

Office Dates: Mar 04, 1777 - May 08, 1777 Succeeded


Born: Jan 01, 1735 Passed: May 19, 1777 Birth State: Other Party: Whig (radical faction) Family: Married Ann Bourne; three daughters Military Service: National Guard Awards: Member of the Continental Congress in 1776; Signer of the Declaration of Independence BUTTON GWINNETT, president (the equivalent of governor) of Georgia, was born in Down Hatherley, Gloucestershire, England in about 1735. His education was attained at the King’s School in Gloucester. Around 1762 he immigrated to America, settling first in Savannah, Georgia. In 1765 he moved to St. Catherine's Island, where he established a plantation. Gwinnett first entered politics as a member of the Commons House of Assembly, a position he held in 1769. He served as a member of the Continental Congress in 1776 and was one of three Georgians to sign the Declaration of Independence. He also was an instrumental member and speaker of the Georgia state government that framed the state constitution in 1777. On February 24, 1777, Governor Archibald Bulloch died in office, and Gwinnett, who was speaker of the provincial congress was selected by the Council of Safety to succeed him on March 4, 1777. He was not elected governor when the new legislature met. Gwinnett left office on May 8, 1777. Gwinnett had always aspired to serve as brigadier general of Georgia; however, the position went to his rival Lachlan McIntosh. Shortly after his gubernatorial defeat, Gwinnett challenged his adversary (McIntosh) to a duel. Both men were seriously wounded, but only Gwinnett’s injury was fatal. Governor Button Gwinnett died three days later on May 19, 1777, and was buried in the Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. His signature is extremely valuable, because it is so rare. Gwinnett County in north Georgia was named in his honor in 1818. Sources: About North Georgia Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress Button Gwinnett webpage Cook, James F. Governors of Georgia, 1754-2004. 3d ed. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005.

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Button Gwinnett's Timeline

January 1, 1735
Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom
Age 27
WolverhamptonWest Midlands, England
July 4, 1776
- 1776
Age 41
Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
July 4, 1776
- 1776
Age 41
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States

Descent Only 15 of the 56 signers have male descendants today. These Signers have no descendants: William Whipple, John Hancock, Samuel Huntington, James Smith, James Wilson, Caesar Rodney, George Wythe, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Joseph Hewes, Thomas Lynch, Jr. Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton. These Signers have no same surname (male) descendants: Josiah Bartlett, Matthew Thornton, Samuel Adams, Elbridge Gerry, William Williams, William Floyd, Francis Lewis, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, George Clymer, George Taylor, George Ross, Thomas McKean, Samuel Chase, Thomas Stone, Thomas Jefferson, William Hooper and John Penn. These Signers have very doubtful same surname (male) descendants: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery, Oliver Wolcott, John Witherspoon, Abraham Clark, John Morton, Carter Braxton, Edward Rutledge. The remainder of the Signers is known to have same surname (male) descendants. (Talk about being blown away when you find out almost all of the signers are part of your family's history. You sit back shake your head and wonder am I dreaming. Then you double check in disbelief wondering how that could be. What does that mean for you and your.) =================================================================== Did Your Ancestor Sign the Declaration of Independence? By James Pylant And can you prove it? Kathy M. Cornwell's "Disspelling a Myth and Finding An Ancestor," in Seventeen Seventy-Six, Vol. 2, No. 2 (pp. 69-73), tells of a family tradition that her husband's ancestor, Jane Wilson Cornwell, was the daughter of James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. "Admittedly, there was plausibility for the claim, for descendants of all of Jane's children whom we could locate had heard the story, and firmly believed it. One relative knew it was true because his grandmother told him, and she was Jane's daughter." Her research did reveal her husband's ancestor was the daughter of James Wilson — only that he and the signer were not one and the same. Signer James Wilson, according to one source Cornwell found, had no living descendants. "Our search to prove or disprove it spanned several years," wrote Cornwell, "but at the end of the genealogical journey we found the real ancestor, another James Wilson, who turned out to be just as colorful and fascinating as the celebrated Wilson." Yet, some legends prove to be true. “I too had a family story that the Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon was an ancestor," says librarian Beatrice M. Beck. "It took three years to document this story. But it was one hundred percent correct.”* The Rev. Frederick W. Pyne’s Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, a nine-volume series, was published by Picton Press. The author’s work incorporates data from the application files of the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Frank W. Leach manuscript, and many other published references. In 1987, the LDS Reference Unit at the Family History Library, in Salt Lake City, compiled the "Founding Fathers Project." The project encompasses genealogical data on signers of the Declaration of Independence, signers of the Articles of Confederation (1778), and members of the American Constitutional Convention (1787). The Reference Unit's objective was to identify names of wives, children, and parents. This reference is available on microfilm loan at the various Family History Centers. The film number is 1592751, item 3. However, for more complete data on descendants (up to 1900 in some cases), refer to the following microfilms: 001751: John Adams, Samuel Adams, Josiah Bartlett, William Ellery, Elbridge Gerry,John Hancock, Stephen Hopkins, Samuel Huntington, Robert Treat Paine, Roger Sherman, Matthew Thornton, William Whipple, William Williams, and Oliver Wolcott. 001752: Abraham Clark, William Floyd, John Hart, Francis Lewis, Phillip Livingston, and Lewis Morris. 001753: George Clymer, Benjamin Francis Hopkinson, Robert Morris, John Morton, and John Witherspoon. 001754: Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase, Thomas McKean, William Paca, George Read, Caesar Rodney, George Ross, Benjamin Rush, Thomas Stone, George Taylor, and James Wilson. 001755: Carter Braxton, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Jefferson, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Nelson Jr., and George Wythe. 001756: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, Joseph Hewes, Thomas Heyward Jr., William Hooper, Thomas Lynch Jr., Arthur Middleton, John Penn, Edward Rutledge, and George Walton * Beatrice M. Beck to James Pylant, 4 June 2001.





William Woodruff's Facsimile

An upsurge in public interest in the Declaration of Independence occurred in the early nineteenth century. Among the various editions printed was one by Philadelphian William Woodruff, a journeyman engraver. Allegorical symbols of the new nation surround the text and signatures. The cursive signatures on the printing at the right indicate that it was one produced after Woodruff's initial 1819 printing.

July 4th, 2012 at the National Archives: Dramatic Reading of the Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence
John and Abigail (Adams)
Correspondence between John and Abigail Adams
Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March - 5 April 1776

May 19, 1777
Age 42
Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia, United States
May 19, 1777
Age 42
Burial: Colonial Park Cemetery * Savannah Chatham County Georgia, USA *Cenotaph [?]