Matthew Thornton, signer of the "Declaration of Independence"

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Matthew Matthew Thornton, M.D.

Birthplace: Kilskerry Parish, Tyrone, Ireland
Death: June 24, 1803 (90)
Newburyport, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
Place of Burial: Merrimack, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James Thornton, Jr. and Elizabeth Keturah Thornton
Husband of Hannah Thornton
Father of James Thornton; Andrew Thornton; Mary Betton; Matthew Thornton, Jr. and Hannah Thornton (McGaw)
Brother of James Thornton, III; Andrew Thornton; Agnes Wasson; Hannah Thornton; Samuel Thornton and 3 others

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

About Matthew Thornton, signer of the "Declaration of Independence"

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.

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.

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.

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.

He was survived by Anna Morris and family.

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.


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.

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

March 17, 1713
Kilskerry Parish, Tyrone, Ireland
Londonderry, Rockingham County, NH, United States
Merrimack, New Hampshire, United States
Merrimack, New Hampshire, United States
Merrimack, New Hampshire, United States
September 25, 1774