Timothy Matlack, Colonel
|Death:||Died in Philadelphia, PA, USA|
|Place of Burial:||Free Quaker Burial Ground, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA|
Son of Timothy Matlack, Sr. and Martha Haines Matlack
|Managed by:||Private User|
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About Timothy Matlack, Colonel
scribe to Thomas Jefferson. His is the hand that wrote The Declaration of Independence.
Timothy Matlack was born in Haddonfield, New Jersey, to Martha Burr and Timothy Matlack, a Quaker merchant and brewer. In 1745, the family relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where young Timothy attended the Quaker Friends' School. In 1748 he married Ellen Yarnall, the daughter of Quaker preacher Mordecai Yarnall, with whom he had five children (William, Mordecai, Sibyl, Catharine, Martha). After Ellen's death in 1791, Matlack married widow Elizabeth Claypoole Copper in 1797; they had no children.
Known to be a sword-toting patriot around the streets of Philadelphia, Matlack was active in the revolutionary politics of Philadelphia, serving on committees of inspection and observation, and attending the conference in June 1776 that called for a convention to draft a new state constitution. As a delegate to that convention, his radical Whig faction was instrumental in drafting the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 and its declaration of rights. He was an ardent defender of the constitution against its moderate Republican critics, most notably James Wilson. During this period Matlack authored a number of newspaper articles (signed "T.G." for Tiberius Gracchus) attacking opponents of the constitution. He served in a variety of officers thereafter, most importantly as the first Secretary to the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For his patriotic devotion to the cause of freedom and independence from Great Britain and the many services rendered by him throughout the struggle, Matlack was presented a silver urn by the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety of which he was a member. After the Revolution, Matlack served in a variety of government posts in Pennsylvania, including as the first Director of the Bank of North America from 1781-1782.
On April 8, 1776, the 5th Rifle Battalion of Philadelphia met to select officers in Carpenters' Hall, where Matlack was elected and later commissioned a Colonel in a local militia known as the Philadelphia Associators, also known as the "Shirt Battalion". Campaigning in New Jersey under General John Cadwalader, Matlack's battalion was engaged in the battles of Trenton and Princeton that later helped rally the Continental Army under General Washington to victory in the American Revolution. During the Revolution Matlack was also appointed as overseer of provisions to the Continental Army. On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was approved by the thirteen colonies and on July 19 the Continental Congress ordered that the Declaration be "fairly engrossed on parchment" and signed by every member of Congress. As a clerk to the Secretary of the Continental Congress, Matlack was chosen to inscribe the historic document that now rests on display in the National Archives. Matlack is also known to have penned in 1775 George Washington's commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the United Colonies (Continental Army), among other important documents of the time.
While serving as Secretary of the Supreme Executive Council, Matlack played an instrumental role in the May, 1779 court martial of General Benedict Arnold in Morristown, serving as one of the prosecution's chief witnesses during the trial. The third charge read against General Arnold claimed that he imposed "menial offices on the sons of freemen of the State," a reference to an incident involving Matlack's son, William.
At the height of his political and social influence, Matlack was elected a trustee (1779–1785) of the University of the State of Pennsylvania (presently the University of Pennsylvania). During this period he was also elected to the American Philosophical Society, where he served as Secretary of the organization from 1781-83. In 1780, Matlack delivered the first address before the Society, where he advocated for the institutionalization of agricultural in the interest of national development. “In our endeavors to promote the interest and happiness of our country,” Matlack declared, “let us apply to intelligent husbandmen in every part of the state and collect the real knowledge among us" and "arrange it into science”. Matlack called upon the University of the State of Pennsylvania, as well as other colleges, to foster the development of modern agricultural research and education in America. "The Star-bespangled Genius of America..." he proclaimed, "points to Agriculture as the stable Foundation of the rising mighty Empire."
In 1781, Matlack helped found along with Samuel Wetherill the Society of Free Quakers, which consisted mostly of Quakers disowned for their support of or participation in the armed conflict with Great Britain during the American war for independence. One of the earliest opponents of slavery in British colonies in America, Matlack felt the Quakers were not moving quickly enough on abolition. Along with Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris and others, Matlack helped raise a substantial sum of money to construct the Free Quaker Meeting House at the corner of Fifth and Arch streets in downtown Philadelphia, where he and other members of the society, including his brothers Josiah and White, openly worshiped. Matlack has been attributed with the architectural design of the Free Quaker Meeting House and its masonry vaults. He was also hired in 1794 by Philadelphia merchant and politician Anthony Morris to design a late Georgian style mansion in the countryside just outside of Philadelphia. The estate is known today as the Highlands. In 1790, Matlack was commissioned along with Samuel Maclay and John Adlum by the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania to survey the "headwaters of the Susquehanna River and the streams of the New Purchase," the northwestern portion of the state purchased from the American Indians. They were also charged with exploring a route for a passageway to connect the West Branch with the Allegheny River.
After his death in Holmesburg, Pennsylvania on April 14, 1829, Matlack was interred in the Free Quaker Burial Ground on South Fifth Street, Philadelphia. His remains were removed from the Burial Ground in 1905 and reinterred in Matson's Ford, Montgomery Co., Pennsylvania, in the Flatlands of the Schuylkill River opposite Valley Forge.
Colonel Timothy Matlack, Scribe of the "Declaration of Independence"'s Timeline
March 28, 1736
October 5, 1758
July 4, 1776
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. http://www.genealogymagazine.com/didyouransig.html
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.
April 14, 1829
Philadelphia, PA, USA
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA