Francis Lewis, signer of the "U.S. Declaration of Independence"

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Francis Lewis, II

Birthplace: Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales
Death: Died in New York, New York County, New York, United States
Place of Burial: New York, New York, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Reverend Francis Lewis and Amy Lewis
Husband of Elizabeth Lewis
Father of Ann Robertson; Francis Lewis, Jr. and Colonel Morgan Lewis (Continental Army), Governor

Occupation: Merchant
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Francis Lewis, signer of the "U.S. Declaration of Independence"

Francis Lewis (March 21, 1713 – December 31, 1802) was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New York.

Francis Lewis was a native of Landaff, in South Wales, where he was born in the year 1713. His father was a clergyman, belonging to the established church. His mother was the daughter of Dr. Pettingal, who was also a clergyman of the Episcopal establishment, and had his residence in North Wales. At the early age of four or five years, being left an orphan, the care of him devolved upon a maternal maiden aunt, who took singular pains to have him instructed in the native language of his country. He was afterwards sent to Scotland, where, in the family of a relation, he acquired a knowledge of the Gaelic. From this, he was transferred to the school of Westminster, where he completed his education; and enjoyed the reputation of being a good classical scholar.

Mercantile pursuits being his object, he entered the counting room of a London merchant; where, in a few years, he acquired a competent knowledge of the profession. On attaining to the age of twenty-one years, he collected the property which had been left him by his father, and having converted it into merchandise, he sailed for New-York, where he arrived in the spring of 1735.

Leaving a part of his goods to be sold in New-York, by Mr. Edward Annesly, with whom he had formed a commercial connection, he transported the remainder to Philadelphia, whence, after a residence of two years, he returned to the former city, and there became extensively engaged in navigation and foreign trade. About this time he connected himself by marriage with the sister of his partner, by whom be had several children.

Mr. Lewis acquired the character of an active and enterprising merchant. In the course of his commercial transactions, he traversed a considerable part of the continent of Europe. He visited several of the seaports of Russia, the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and twice suffered shipwreck of the Irish coast.

During the French or Canadian war, Mr. Lewis was, for a time, agent for supplying the British troops. In this capacity, he was present at the time, when, in August, 1756, the fort of Oswego was surrendered to the distinguished French general, de Montcalm. The fort was, at that time, commanded by the British Colonel Mersey. On the tenth of August, Montcalm approached it with more than five thousand Europeans, Canadians, and Indians. On the twelfth, at midnight, he opened the trenches, with thirty-two pieces of cannon, besides several brass mortars and howitzers. The garrison having, fired away all their shells and ammunition, Colonel Mersey ordered the cannon to be spiked, and crossed the river to Little Oswego Fort, without the loss of a single man. Of the deserted fort, the enemy took immediate possession, and from it began a fire, which was kept up without intermission. The next day, Colonel Mersey was killed while standing by the side of Mr. Lewis.

The garrison, being thus deprived of their commander, their fort destitute of a cover, and no prospect of aid presenting itself, demanded a capitulation, and surrendered as prisoners of war. The garrison consisted at this time of the regiments of Shirley and Pepperell, and amounted to one thousand and four hundred men. The conditions required, and acceded to, were, that they should be exempted from plunder, conducted to Montreal, and treated with humanity. The services rendered by Mr. Lewis, during the war, were held in such consideration by the British government, that at the close of it he received a grant of five thousand acres of land.

The conditions, upon which the garrison at Fort Oswego surrendered to Montcalm, were shamefully violated by that commander. They were assured of kind treatment; but no sooner had the surrender been made, than Montcalm allowed the chief warrior of the Indians, who assisted in taking the fort, to select about thirty of the prisoners, and do with them as he pleased. Of this number Mr. Lewis was one. Placed thus at the disposal of savage power, a speedy and cruel death was to be expected. The tradition is, however that he soon discovered that he was able to converse with the Indians, by reason of the similarity of the ancient language of Wales, which he understood, to the Indian dialect. The ability of Mr. Lewis, thus readily to communicate with the chief, so pleased the latter, that he treated him kindly ; and on arriving at Montreal, he requested the French governor to allow him to return to his family, without ransom. The request, however, was not granted, and Mr. Lewis was sent as a prisoner to France, from which country, being some time after exchanged, he returned to America.

This tradition as to the cause of the liberation of Mr. Lewis, is incorrect ; no such affinity existed between the Cymreag, or ancient language of Wales, and the language of any of the Indian tribes found in North America. The cause might have been, and probably was, some unusual occurrence, or adventure ; but of its precise nature we are not informed.

Although Mr. Lewis was not born in America, his attachment to the country was coeval with his settlement in it. He early espoused the patriotic cause, against the, encroachments of the British government, and was among the first to unite with an association, which existed in several parts of the country, called the "sons of liberty," the object of which was to concert measures against the exercise of an undue power on the part of the mother country.

The independent and patriotic character which Mr. Lewis was known to possess, the uniform integrity of his life, the distinguished intellectual powers with which be was endued, all pointed him out as a proper person to assist in taking charge of the interest of the colony in the continental congress. Accordingly, in April, 1775, he was unanimously elected delegate to that body. In this honorable station he was continued by the provincial congress of New-York, through the following year, 1776; and was among the number who declared the colonies forever absolved from their allegiance to the British crown, and from that time entitled to the rank, and privileges of free and independent states.

In several subsequent years, he was appointed to represent the state in the national legislature. During his congressional career, Mr. Lewis was distinguished for a becoming zeal in the cause of liberty, tempered by the influence of a correct judgment and a cautious prudence. He was employed in several secret services in the purchase of provisions and clothing for the army and in the importation of military stores, particularly arms and ammunition. In transactions of this kind, his commercial experience gave him great facilities. He was also employed on various committees, in which capacity, he rendered many valuable services to his country.

In 1775, Mr. Lewis removed his family and effects to a country seat which he owned on Long Island. This proved to be an unfortunate step. In the autumn of the following year, his house was plundered by a party of British light horse. His extensive library and valuable papers of every description were wantonly destroyed. Nor were they contented with this ruin of his property. They thirsted for revenge upon a man, who had dared to affix his signature to a document, which proclaimed the independence of America. Unfortunately Mrs. Lewis fell into their power, and was retained a prisoner for several months. During her captivity, she was closely confined, without even the comfort of a bed to lie upon, or a change of clothes.

In November, 1776, the attention of congress was called to her distressed condition, and shortly after a resolution was passed that a lady, who had been taken prisoner by the Americans, should be permitted to return to her husband, and that Mrs. Lewis be required in exchange. But the exchange could not at that time be effected. Through the influence of Washington, however, Mrs. Lewis was at length released; but her sufferings during her confinement had so much impaired her constitution, that in the course of a year or two, she sunk into the grave.

Of the subsequent life of Mr. Lewis, we have little to record. His latter days were spent in comparative poverty, his independent fortune having in a great measure been sacrificed on the altar of patriotism, during his country's struggle for independence. The life of this excellent man, and distinguished patriot, was extended to his ninetieth year. His death occurred on the 30th day of December, 1803.

Source: Rev. Charles A. Goodrich Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence. New York: William Reed & Co., 1856. Pages 193-197. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)

Francis Lewis (March 21, 1713 – December 30, 1803) was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New York.

Born in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales, he was the only child of Reverend Francis Lewis, but was orphaned at an early age. He went to live with his aunt and uncle soon after. He was educated in Scotland and attended Westminster School in England. He entered a mercantile house in London, then moved to Whitestone, New York in 1734. He was taken prisoner and shipped in a box to France while serving as a British mercantile agent in 1756. On his return to America, he became active in politics.

He was a member of the Committee of Sixty, a member of the New York Provincial Congress, and was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775. In 1778, he signed the United States Articles of Confederation. From 1779 to 1780, Lewis served as the Chairman of the Continental Board of Admiralty.

His home, located in Whitestone, on Queens, New York, was destroyed in the Revolutionary War by British soldiers, who also arrested his wife and denied her a change of clothing or adequate food for weeks while in captivity.

His son Morgan Lewis served in the army during the Revolutionary War and later held many offices in New York State, including Governor.


Francis Lewis's great-grandson, Manning Livingston, died at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. He also has many relatives stretching all the way to Idaho. His great-great-great grandson was Hollywood director William A. Wellman, and his great-granddaughter was author and actress Anna Cora Mowatt.

In Queens, New York, Francis Lewis High School and P.S. 79 "The Francis Lewis School" are named for Lewis. There is also Francis Lewis Boulevard, which locals tend to refer to as "Franny Lew," stretching almost the entire north/south length of the borough, as well as Francis Lewis Park, which is located underneath the Queens approach of the Bronx Whitestone Bridge. A Masonic Lodge, Francis Lewis #273, is also located in Whitestone, NY.

Immigrated to NY 1735

Was a wealth merchant.

1775 Elected to the Continental Congress

Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Lost his wealth and most of his possessions during the Rev. War.


Birth: 1713 Death: Dec. 30, 1803

Signer of the Declaration of Independence from New York. Born in Llandaff, Wales, Great Britain, and both of his parents died when he was young. Francis grew up with relatives in Wales, and went to school in London. As a young man, he worked in a London counting house. In his twenties, he turned to being a merchant, and made a good living. He came to America in 1738, settling in New York City, where he became a wealthy merchant. In 1745, he married Elizabeth Annesley, his partner's sister, and they would have seven children. As a merchant, he would ship goods to many parts of the world, and he is believed to be the first American businessman to visit Russia. He also visited Africa and Scotland, twice being shipwrecked off Ireland. He also traveled through the Artic Ocean. Returning to America, he served as a military aide to the British Commander of Fort Oswego, New York, during the French and Indian War. In 1756, the French attacked the fort, and he was captured, and was turned over to the Indian allies of the French. The Indians wanted to kill him, but speaking to them in Welsh, he was able to convince them to spare his life. He was sent to France as a prisoner, but was released in 1763 when the war ended. For his war service, the British awarded him 5,000 acres of land. In 1765, he retired from business and moved from New York City to Long Island, NY. When Britain passed the Stamp Act, Francis Lewis joined protest groups. In April 1775, he was elected to the Continental Congress, where he worked to supply the Army with weapons and supplies. He would spend most of his life's savings to purchase supplies for the American Army, and would end the war virtually penniless. In the autumn of 1776, the British approached his Long Island home, taking his wife prisoner and burning the home to the ground. Held in a damp, unheated, filthy prison, Elizabeth Lewis became sick and died about two years later. Their only daughter had married a British Navy Officer, and had settled in England, refusing to see or correspond with her parents. Lewis retired from Congress in 1781, and lived with his two sons the rest of his life. He died on New Year's Eve of 1802, at the age of 89. (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson)

Family links:

 Francis Lewis (____ - 1717)
 Amy Pettingal Lewis (____ - 1718)

 Elizabeth Annisley Lewis (1715 - 1778)*

 Francis Lewis (1741 - 1814)*
 Morgan Lewis (1754 - 1844)*
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Burial: Trinity Churchyard Manhattan New York County (Manhattan) New York, USA

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Maintained by: Find A Grave Record added: Jan 01, 2001 Find A Grave Memorial# 621

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Francis Lewis, signer of the "U.S. Declaration of Independence"'s Timeline

March 21, 1713
Cardiff, Wales
Age 34
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
February 28, 1749
Age 35
October 14, 1754
Age 41
New York, New York, New York
December 31, 1802
Age 89
New York, New York County, New York, United States
Age 88
New York, New York, New York, United States