John Hart, Signer of the "Declaration of Independence"

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John Hart

Also Known As: "Signer of Declaration of Independence"
Birthplace: Burlington, New Jersey
Death: Died in Hopewell Township, Hunterdon, New Jersey, United States
Place of Burial: Hopewell Township, Mercer County, New Jersey, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward Hart; Edward Hart; Martha Hart and Martha Furman Hart
Husband of Deborah Hart and Deborah Scudder Scudder Hart
Father of Sarah Wikoff; Jesse Hart; Martha Wood; Nathaniel Hart; John R. Hart and 8 others
Brother of Edward Hart; Daniel Hart; Martha Hart; Sarah Hart and Moses Hart

Occupation: farmer, statesman, miller
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Hart, Signer of the "Declaration of Independence"

John Hart (born between 1706 and 1713 – May 11, 1779) was a public official and politician in colonial New Jersey who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and also signed Declaration of Independence. He was the son of Captain Edward Hart, a farmer, public assessor, Justice of the Peace. In 1741, John Hart married Deborah Scudder (1721 – 1776). The couple would have thirteen children: Sarah, Jesse, Martha, Nathaniel, John, Susanna, Mary, Abigail, Edward, Scudder, an infant daughter, Daniel, and Deborah, of whom only Daniel and Deborah were still minor children at the time of John Hart's death in 1779.


  • DAR Ancestor # A051538
  • John Hart has the distinction of having the highest number of DAR members having cited him as their DAR Patriot- more than 600 as of the latest magazine (2015).


from JOHN HART, Signer Of The Declaration Of Independence for New Jersey - A Biography:

John Hart lived in Hopewell Township, in what is now the town of Hopewell, and was then known as Baptist Meeting House, for the church there. He was the son of Edward Hart, a Justice of the Peace, public assessor, and farmer. John Hart, signer, was the grandson of John Hart, a carpenter who came to Hopewell from Newtown, Long Island.

John Hart, signer, was born in 1713. The signer was taught to read, write and do figures, but like most men of his day, had little formal schooling. His spelling was poor, but at the time most people were casual about spelling, if they could read at all. He was well know for his common sense, and may have been well read for his day, and at least later in life knew the law, and was considered informed on money and business matters.

In 1742 He and his father together repurchased 100 acres of their own land . Edward had bought 50 acres years before, and they added 50 acres of Edwards brother John Jr's adjacent land. In a land title dispute that lasted many years and involved many people who had purchased land in the area, they were forced to repurchase the land from the estate of John Coxe, of the NJ proprietors, for 144 pounds, 13 shillings and 6 pence. The original price paid was 10 pounds per hundred acres.

In 1746, Edward was granted a warrant to assemble a company of militia to fight the French in Canada by the NJ provincial government. Unfortunately, when they arrived in Perth Amboy 6 weeks later, they were the 6 th company of 5 agreed to by the government. Since at the time, the man assembling troops paid their expenses until taken by the government, this seemed a great loss to both Edward and his supporters in the government. The royal governor John Hamilton, considered the company "by far the most likely and able-bodied Men that had been raised."

The Governed then recommended to the State of New York that NY take them as part of their allotment. He further set aside some of the outfitting money from the state for the militia, to feed the men while Captain Edward went to Albany to get approval. This was done, and the company went to Albany to await deployment.

Fifteen miserable months later the company was dismissed. The entire project of invading Canada at the time was a fiasco. Neither the Royal treasury, nor the Provinces wanted to foot the bills, and Captain Edward Hart spent his remaining years trying to recover his expenses. He died in 1752.

Around 1739-1740 John Hart bought the "homestead plantation" of 193 acres on the north side of what is now the town of Hopewell.

In 1747, he donated to the Baptists, who wanted to build a church in a convenient spot in the area, a parcel of ground for a church from his front meadow. He was a Presbyterian, and this endeared him to the Baptists in the area, who may have supported him later when he ran for office. Until well after the revolution, the area was thereafter call Baptist Meeting House.

In 1739 he married Deborah Scudder, daughter of Lt. Richard Scudder of Shudder's Falls.

In 1750, John Hart was elected Freeholder for Hunterdon County, the highest elected office in the county.

In 1751, he and his brother bought a mill which was known as Daniel Hart's Mill.

In 1755 he was named a Justice of the Peace, which made him a gentleman, and he was thereafter called John Hart, Esquire. A Justice acted in minor legal issues, and was important in county business affairs, such as tax collector audits.

In 1757, he did not run for election for Freeholder, and Daniel was elected in his place.

In 1761, John Hart was elected to the provincial Assembly of New Jersey. He was one who pressed for NJ participation in the Stamp Act Congress, in NY, in 1765.

In 1766 he and his brother Daniel sold their Mill.

In 1768, he was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas, which held appeals from the Justice courts and other higher issues.

In 1772, John Hart did not campaign for reelection to the Assembly, and Samuel Tucker was elected. This year he bought an additional 230 acres, and became the largest landowner in Hopewell township, with over 600 acres.

In 1773 he bought the Mills at Rocky Hill, with a grain mill, fulling mill, barns, buildings and residences, orchards and fields. One third was owned by his son-in-law John Polhemus. Polhemus managed the mill, and workers operated it for the absentee landlords, Hart and Polhemus. Polhemus would later become a captain, first in the militia, then in the Continental Army

In 1774, He was elected to a committee to "elect and appoint delegates " to the 1st Continental Congress to protest the Tea Act. Elected to the NJ Provincial Congress for Hunterdon County.

In 1775 Hart was elected to the Committee of Correspondence of NJ by the NJ Provincial Congress. He then served on the Committee. of Safety-"to act in the public welfare of the colony, in the recess of the Congress". Family members enlist in the militia.

In 1776, he was designated one of the officials to sign the new Bill of Credit notes issued as money for the state. He signed each of the notes issued for the western NJ division of the treasury-15,583 notes legibly signed. He was paid 12. pounds, 10 shillings and 10 pence which was about the value of 3 muskets. In May he was reelected to the Provincial. Congress. On June 22nd he was elected as one of 5 delegate to the 2nd Cont'l Congress-"any one member with full rights to cast a vote" for the state July 4 th 1776 he signed the Declaration of Independence , with the other 4 delegates from NJ. August.13 th elected to the new STATE ,not colony, Assembly. Aug 29 th elected to Speaker of the Assembly. Oct. 5 th he returned home to see his sick wife, a Saturday. On Monday the 7 th he returned to the Assembly, but was called home again. On Tuesday the 8 th, the Assembly adjourned until Nov. 13 th because they could not hold business without the Speaker. That day-Oct.8 th 1776-Deborah Hart died. On November 13 th British invaded the state, and Washington could not stand against them, and retreated across the state. In mid Dec. John Hart has to hide from The British and Hessians who are searching for him, at one point hiding in a natural rock formation call the Rock House, an unpleasant experience in the winter for an elderly man. The Hessians damage his farm, but do not destroy it. In comparison,an associate, Samuel Tucker, President of the Joint meetings of the NJ legislature, signs a loyalty oath to the British crown after excepting amnesty, and so does Richard Stockton, fellow signer, both after being captured and held under deplorable conditions. These were the crisis times of the Revolution.

Jan 3 rd, Geo. Washington wins at The Battle of Princeton, and the British and Hessians begin to pull out of most of the state- John Hart calls for the Assembly to convene at Pittstown on the 22 nd.

From 1777 to 1778 the Assembly met 10 times, in session for 270 days. Twice John Hart was reelected Speaker. In 78 he was elected to the Council of Safety, who were given 'extraordinary and summary powers" to conduct the most urgent affairs of the state.Also elected as President of Joint meetings of the NJ Congress, replacing Samuel Tucker. Served as Treasurer of the Council of Safety, and Commissioner of the NJ Loan Office, signing more bill of credit notes in 1777-78.

On June 22nd 1778 he invited the American army to encamp on his farm. Washington had lunch with him, then had his famous Council of War at the nearby Hunt House. 12,000 men camped on his fields-during the growing season. After resting and preparing for battle the troops left on the 24 TH. On June 28 th was fought the Battle of Monmouth.

On Nov 7 th 1778 he returned home. On the 9 th he was too ill from "gravel" or kidney stones, to return to Trenton and the Assembly. He remained too ill to travel until his death on Tuesday, May 11th 1779, age 66, at his home.

May 19,1779 The NJ GAZETTE said: On Tuesday the 11 th instant, departed this life at his seat in Hopewell, JOHN HART, Esq. the Representative in General Assembly for the county of Hunterdon, and late Speaker of that House. He had served in the Assembly for many years under the former government, taken an early and active part in the present revolution, and continued to the day he was seized with his last illness to discharge the duties of a faithful and upright patriot in the service of his country in general and the county he represented in particular . The universal approbation of his character and conduct among all ranks of people, is the best testimony of his worth, and as it must make his death regretted and lamented, will ensure lasting respect to his memory.

John and Deborah Hart had 12 children: Sarah, Jesse, Martha, Nathaniel, John, Susannah, Mary, Abagail, Edward, Scudder, Daniel and Deborah. Only Daniel and Deborah were still minor children during the war and at his death.

John Hart died owing money, and due to the shortage of hard money, depreciation of colonial money, and a glut of land on the market as Loyalist land was confiscated and sold, most of his property was sold for a pittance. His sons later moved to the frontiers, his daughters married area men.



John Hart signed the Declaration of Independence for New Jersey. He is buried in the yard of the First Baptist Church in Hopewell, New Jersey. He was known in the community as 'Honest John'. Elected to the Provincial congress in 1774. To the Continental Congress in 1776. He apparently signed the Declaration after being in the Continental Congress less than one month. John Hart and others replaced the previous delegation to the Congress from New Jersey because they would not sign the Declaration of Independence. His estate was severely damaged when the British invaded New Jersey. He escaped capture by fleeing to the forest. He returned to his home after General George Washington captured the Hessians.

His wife was wounded during a Hessian attack in the winter of 1776-1777. John Hart returned to save his wife and children. She pleaded for him to flee to the woods. He hid in the Sourland Mountains, moving everyday to avoid the Hessians and the Torries without endangering his friends. He hid for one month in the mountains, during which time his wife died of her injuries.


HART, John, signer of the Declaration of Independence, born in Hopewell township, New Jersey, in 1713; died there in 1779. He was the son of Edward Hart, who commanded the New Jersey blues, a corps of volunteers that served in the French-Canadian wars. John was a farmer, without military ambition, and took no active part in the French wars. He acquired 380 acres of his own, including grist mills, married a local girl, Deborah Scudder in 1739 and had thirteen children. He is said to have been a man of medium height and well proportioned, with very black hair and light eyes, and to have been called handsome in his youth.

While his farm prospered, in 1750, John Hart was elected Freeholder for Hunterdon County, the highest elected office in the county. In 1761, he was elected to the Provincial Assembly of New Jersey. He served for several terms in the provincial legislature, and was the promoter of laws for the improvement of roads, the founding of schools, and the administration of justice. He was known in the community as "Honest John Hart." In 1765, on the passage of the stamp act, he was one of the first to recognize the tyrannical character of that measure, and assisted in the selection of delegates to the congress that was held in New York in October of that year.

He served in the congress of 1774 and that of 1775. and in 1776 was elected with four others to fill the vacancies caused by the resignation of the New Jersey delegation, who were unwilling to assume the responsibility imposed by Lee's resolution of independence. In 1776, he was designated one of the officials to sign the new Bill of Credit notes issued as money for the state. He signed each of the 15,583 notes issued for the western New Jersey division of the treasury in 1776. In that same year he was elected as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence in early August. Fellow Signer, Benjamin Rush, described him as "a plain, honest, well meaning Jersey farmer, with but little education, but with good sense and virtue enough to pursue the true interests of his country."

John Hart, the signer of the Declaration, has frequently been confounded with John de Hart, who was one of the number that resigned. In 1777-'8 he was chairman of the New Jersey council of safety. After signing the Declaration, Hart's life was one of tragic losses. Shortly after signing the Declaration, he was elected to the new State Assembly and chosen its Speaker. When he left Philadelphia to take his seat in the state legislature at Princeton, his farm, livestock, grist mills and property were destroyed by Hessian mercenaries. Because of these hardships, Hart's wife became ill, and due to his frequent absences to be at her side, the State Assembly adjourned until November because they could not hold business without the Speaker. His wife died the same day the decision to adjourn was made. Upon hearing the British were seeking to capture him, Hart eluded them by hiding in forests and sleeping in caves. His children were forced to hide and seek refuge with family and friends.

This terrible turn of events took its irreversible toll on Hart and his own health started to fail. After Washington won at the Battle of Princeton, Hart returned from hiding and called for the Assembly to reconvene at Pittstown. In 1779 Hart resigned from the state legislature. On May 11 of that year, at the age of sixty-eight, John Hart died near Hopewell, New Jersey. His death came less than three years after he placed his signature on the Declaration.


Oldest signer of the Declaration of Independence at age 65. Justice in Hunterdon Co. New Jersey. Elected to the NJ State Assembly in 1761 and served for 10 years. Served in the NJ Provincial Congresses from 1774-1776. Unanimously chosen speaker of the First Assembly of the State of NJ and also a member of the Council of Safety during the revolution. Farm and Mills were destroyed by the British during the war and forced to escape to the Sourland Mountains to hide.

John and Deborah Hart had 12 children: Sarah, Jesse, Martha, Nathaniel, John, Susannah, Mary, Abagail, Edward, Scudder, Daniel and Deborah. Only Daniel and Deborah were still minor children during the war and at his death


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John Hart, Signer of the "Declaration of Independence"'s Timeline

February 21, 1713
Burlington, New Jersey
February 21, 1713
Maidenhead Township, Burlington, New Jersey
Age 25
Hopewell, NJ, USA
October 16, 1741
Age 28
Hopewell, NJ, USA
September 19, 1742
Age 29
Hopewell, NJ, USA
April 10, 1746
Age 33
Hopewell, NJ, USA
Age 33
Age 34
August 2, 1750
Age 37
April 7, 1752
Age 39
Ewing, NJ, USA