Matthew Thornton, signer of the "Declaration of Independence"

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Matthew Thornton, M.D.

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Kilskerry Parish, Tyrone, , Ireland
Death: Died in Newburyport, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
Place of Burial: Thornton Graveyard, Merrimack, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James Thornton and Elizabeth Thornton
Husband of Hannah Jack
Father of James Thornton; Andrew Thornton; Mary Betton; Matthew Thornton, Jr. and Hannah Thornton (McGaw)
Brother of James Thornton; Andrew Thornton; William Thornton; Agnes Thornton; Samuel Thornton and 3 others
Half brother of William Thornton

Occupation: Physician; politician; judge
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Matthew Thornton, M.D.

Matthew Thornton (1714 – June 24, 1803), was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New Hampshire. The town of Thornton, New Hampshire is named in his honor, a Londonderry elementary school, and Thorntons Ferry School in Merrimack as well.

Matthew Thornton Homestead Town of Merrimack

One of three New Hampshire men to sign the Declaration of Independence, Matthew Thornton, physician, soldier, patriot, agitated against the Stamp Act of 1765, presided over the Provincial Congress in 1775, served in the State Senate and as an associate justice of the Superior Court. His monument in Merrimack, NH honors his memory. He is buried in the adjacent cemetery. His homestead stands directly across the highway.

Links

He was born in Ireland: his family immigrated to North America when he was three years old, settling first at Wiscasset, Maine, and removing shortly thereafter to Worcester, Massachusetts. Thornton became a physician and was appointed surgeon to the New Hampshire Militia troops in an expedition against Fortress Louisbourg. He had royal commissions as justice of the peace and colonel of militia. He became Londonderry Town Selectman, a representative to, and President of the Provincial Assembly, and a member of the Committee of Safety, drafting New Hampshire's plan of government after dissolution of the royal government, which was the first state constitution adopted after the start of hostilities with England.

He was first President of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and Associate Justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire. He was elected to the Continental Congress after the debates on independence had occurred, arriving just in time to actually sign the Declaration of Independence.

He became a political essayist. He retired from his medical practice and in 1780 moved to Merrimack, New Hampshire where he farmed and operated a ferry with his family. He died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, while visiting his daughter. Matthew Thornton is buried in Thornton Cemetery in Merrimack, and his grave reads "An Honest Man." The town of Thornton, New Hampshire is named in his honor, a Londonderry elementary school, and Thorntons Ferry School in Merrimack as well. Thornton's residence in Derry, which was part of Londonderry at the time, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of his descendants live in New Hampshire, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as in Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Yulee, Florida.

Thornton's grave marker in Merrimack, New Hampshire

As President of the Provincial Congress, he addressed the following letter to the inhabitants of the Colony of New Hampshire :

   Exeter, June 2d, 1775.
   To the Inhabitants of the Colony of New Hampshire :
   Friends and Brethren : You must all be sensible that the affairs of America have at length come to a very affecting and alarming crisis. The Horrors and Distresses of a civil war, which, till of late, we only had in contemplation, we now find ourselves obliged to realize. Painful beyond expression have been those scenes of Blood and Devastation which the barbarous cruelty of British troops have placed before our eyes. Duty to God, to ourselves, to Posterity, enforced by the cries of slaughtered Innocents, have urged us to take up Arms in our Defense. Such a day as this was never before known, either to us or to our fathers. You will give us leave therefore — in whom you have reposed special confidence — as your representative body, to suggest a few things which call for the serious attention of everyone who has the true interest of America at heart. We would therefore recommend to the Colony at large to cultivate that Christian Union, Harmony and tender affection which is the only foundation upon which our invaluable privileges can rest with any security, or our public measures be pursued with the least prospect of success.
   We also recommend that a strict and inviolable regard be paid to the wise and judicious councils of the late American Congress, and particularly considering that the experience of almost every day points out to us the danger arising from the collection and movements of bodies of men, who, notwithstanding, we willingly hope would promote the common cause and serve the interest of their country, yet are in danger of pursuing a track which may cross the general plan, and so disconcert those public measures which we view as of the greatest importance. We must, in the most express and urgent terms, recommend it that there may be no movements of this nature, but by the direction of the Committees of the respective Towns or Counties; and those Committees, at the same time, advising with this Congress or with the Committee of Safety in the recess of Congress, where the exigence of the case is not plainly too pressing to leave room for such advice.
   We further recommend that the most industrious attention be paid to the cultivation of Lands and American Manufacture, in their various branches, especially the Linen and Woolen ; and that the husbandry might be particularly managed with a view thereto — accordingly that the Farmer raise Flax and increase his flock of sheep to the extent of his ability.
   We further recommend a serious and steady regard to the rules of temperance, sobriety and righteousness, and that those Laws which have heretofore been our security and defense from the hand of violence may still answer all their former valuable purposes, though persons of vicious and corrupt minds would willingly take advantage from our present situation.
   In a word, we seriously and earnestly recommend the practice of that pure and undefiled religion which embalmed the memory of our pious ancestors, as that alone upon which we can build a solid hope and confidence in the Divine protection and favor, without whose blessing all the measures of safety we have or can propose will end in our shame and disappointment.
   MATTHEW THORNTON,
   President.

He was survived by Anna Morris and family.

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Dr. Matthew-2 Thornton (James-1) was born abt 1710 in Northern Ireland. In 1745, Dr. Matthew-2 Thornton joined the expedition against Louisburg, Cape Breton, as surgeon in the New Hampshire Division of the American army. At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, he held the rank of colonel in the militia; he was commissioned justice of the peace under the colonial administration of Gov. Benning Wentworth; he was appointed president of the Provincial Convention of New Hampshire (in 1775) and the following year was chosen to represent New Hampshire in the first Congress held at Philadelphia. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. After serving his term in Congress he became chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas in New Hampshire, and afterwards judge of the Superior Court. About 1762 he established a farm in New Boston, NH remaining there 8 years, returning to Londonderry NH; After 1776 he purchased a farm in that part of Merrimack known as Thornton's Ferry, where, surrounded by his family and friends, he passed the remainder of his days in dignified repose. He served Merrimack NH as moderator and selectman, on the 1787 tax list he is shown living in District 4. He died at the house of his daughter, Mrs. Hannah Thornton McGaw, in Newburyport, Mass., June 24, 1803, at the age of eighty-nine years. Mr. Thornton was a man of commanding presence, but of a very genial nature, remarkable for his native wit and great fondness for anecdote.

His remains were brought back to Merrimack, and they repose in the little burial ground at Thornton's Ferry, with only a modest tombstone to mark his resting place (inscription: "An honest man). August 28, 1885, an act of the legislature authorized the erection of a suitable monument to his memory, upon a site selected and donated by the town. Upon September 29, 1892, this monument was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies, the Hon. William T. Parker being president and Hon. Charles H. Burns the orator of the day.

Judge Thornton married abt 1760 to Hannah Jack, daughter of Andrew & Mary (Morrison) Jack of Chester NH [although her surname is called "Jackson" in the History of New Boston, Chester NH town records clearly show the surname to be JACK]. A story told in the History of New Boston NH states, "she was a beautiful young girl of eighteen (when they married), whom he has promised, when a child, to wait for and marry, as a reward to her taking some disagreeable medicine.", p. 209] She was born in 1742, and died before reaching middle life 5 Dec 1786, and is buried in Thornton's Cemetery, Merrimack NH.

Source: http://www.nh.searchroots.com/HillsboroughCo/Merrimack/familytrees3.html

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Son of James Thornington (later called Thornton) of Ireland. Husband of Hannah Jack Thornton. Signature on the Declaration of Independence. Relationship to Luke Thornton is said to exist, but has not been established.

view all 13

Matthew Thornton, signer of the "Declaration of Independence"'s Timeline

1713
March 17, 1713
Kilskerry Parish, Tyrone, , Ireland
1760
1760
Age 46
New Hampshire, United States
1763
1763
Age 49
1766
1766
Age 52
Merrimack, New Hampshire, United States
1768
1768
Age 54
Merrimack, New Hampshire, United States
1770
1770
Age 56
Merrimack, New Hampshire, United States
1774
September 25, 1774
Age 61
1776
July 4, 1776
- 1776
Age 63
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
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http://history.org/foundation/journal/Winter11/painting_magnify/

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http://research.history.org/pf/publishing/goddardsPrinting.cfm

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http://research.history.org/pf/publishing/dunlap.cfm

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http://research.history.org/pf/signers/

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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.

http://research.history.org/pf/viewer.cfm?image=lg_woodruff.jpg&amp...

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July 4th, 2012 at the National Archives: Dramatic Reading of the Declaration of Independence

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drIdEZ_om9w
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Declaration of Independence

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9ovu0a6pL8

July 4, 1776
- 1776
Age 63
Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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.)

1803
June 24, 1803
- 1803
Age 90
Thornton Graveyard Merrimack Hillsborough County New Hampshire, USA

Birth: 1714
Death: Jun. 24, 1803

Signer of the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire. Born in Ireland, his family emigrated to America in 1718. When their ship landed in Maine in mid-winter, the passengers had no place to live, so they remained aboard ship. In the spring, they decided to go to Worcester, Massachusetts, where young Matthew grew up and became a doctor through the time-honored tradition of studying with an established physician. After becoming a doctor himself, he moved to Londonderry, New Hampshire, where he set up a medical practice. There he remained a bachelor until age 46, when he married Hannah Jack, who was only 18. He and Hannah would have five children. In 1758, he was elected to the New Hampshire Legislature, representing his home of Londonderry. In 1771, he was appointed a judge. In early 1775, he was elected to the New Hampshire Provincial Congress, where after a speech denouncing England’s policies towards America, he won election as the body’s President. Thornton headed the committee that created New Hampshire’s constitution, and upon its adoption in January 1776, New Hampshire became the first of the original thirteen states to create a government independent of Britain. Thornton was elected to the Continental Congress in September 1776, and although the vote for independence was long past, he signed the Declaration as a New Hampshire delegate on November 4, 1776, the day he arrived in Philadelphia to take his seat. He was one of the last of the 56 men to sign the document. After serving in Congress for about a year, he returned to New Hampshire, where he worked as a judge until his late sixties, and served in the state legislature until he was nearly 75. Dr. Thornton then retired to his farm in Merrimack, New Hampshire, where he wrote political articles for the newspapers. While visiting his daughter in Massachusetts in 1803, he died there at the age of 89. (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson)

Family links:
Parents:
James Thornton (____ - 1754)
Elizabeth Jenkins Thornton (1690 - 1741)

Spouse:
Hannah Jack Thornton (____ - 1786)

Children:
Mary Thornton Betton (____ - 1845)*

Sibling:
William Thornton (1713 - 1790)**
Matthew Thornton (1714 - 1803)

*Calculated relationship
**Half-sibling

Burial:
Thornton Graveyard
Merrimack
Hillsborough County
New Hampshire, USA

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Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Apr 28, 1998
Find A Grave Memorial# 2813