Mary Middleton

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer Arthur Middleton

Middleton Family Portrait
Benjamin West, Artist, 1771

Mary Izard was born on July 31, 1747, in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of Walter and Elizabeth Gibbes Izard. Arthur Middleton was born on June 26, 1742, at his family plantation, Middleton Place, near Charleston, South Carolina. Arthur’s father, Henry Middleton, sent Arthur to England at the age of twelve to be educated at the Hackney School, and at eighteen, he began study at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Middleton excelled in the classics, and developed a refined taste for painting, music, and literature while traveling through Europe after his graduation. Middleton returned home just before Christmas 1763.

Middleton Family History
In 1678, Edward Middleton emigrated from England to Barbados and from there to South Carolina, eight years after the founding of Charleston. Receiving large grants of land on Goose Creek, Edward settled at a plantation he named The Oaks, and served as Lords Proprietors deputy for many years. His estate passed to his son, Arthur, who also was active in public life and became president of the convention that overthrew the Lords Proprietors in 1719. In 1741, Arthur’s son, Henry, married Mary Williams, the only daughter and heiress of John Williams, a wealthy landowner, Justice of the Peace and member of the Assembly. Mary’s dowry included the house and plantation they named Middleton Place. Here, rather than at The Oaks, they made their home.

Henry Middleton, an influential political leader, was Speaker of the Commons, Commissioner for Indian Affairs, and a member of the Governor’s Council until he resigned his seat in 1770 to become a leader of the opposition to British policy. By this time, Henry was among the wealthiest landholders in South Carolina with more than 50,000 acres (about 8 square miles) and approximately 800 slaves. For the last twenty-three years of his life, Henry lived at The Oaks, returning there after the death of his wife in 1761. Henry twice remarried, but his five sons and seven daughters were all children of his first wife.

Marriage and Family
On August 19, 1764, Arthur Middleton married Mary Izard, with whom he would have nine children: Henry, Maria Henrietta, Eliza Carolina, Emma Philadelphia, Ana Louisa, Isabella Johannes, Septima Sexta, John Izard, and Middleton. Arthur and his bride settled at Middleton Place.

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Elizabeth Meredith Clymer

Wife of Signer of the Declaration and the Constitution George Clymer

George Clymer

Elizabeth Meredith was born in 1743, the daughter of Reese Meredith, a prominent and wealthy merchant in Philadelphia for more than half a century prior to the Revolutionary period. She was described as a handsome accomplished girl of most exemplary character. Reese Meredith and George Washington were friends, long before the Revolution. According to legend, Mr. Meredith was lunching at an inn in Philadelphia, and started a conversation with a tall young Virginian, and before separating, Mr. Meredith invited the young man to his home, and Washington accepted, and the friendship continued for the rest of their lives.

George Clymer was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 16, 1739. His mother, Deborah Fitzwater Clymer, died when he was a year old; his father, Christopher Clymer, a sea captain, died when he was seven. George was raised by his maternal aunt and uncle, Hannah (his mother’s sister) and William Coleman, a friend of Benjamin Franklin, who said Coleman had “the coolest, clearest head, the best heart, and the exactest morals of almost any man I ever met with.”

Clymer’s uncle, William Coleman was a wealthy merchant and judge who kept a large private library, and young George learned to love reading while growing up. George received a liberal education at the College of Philadelphia, and two years’ training in his uncle’s accounting house. George became a clerk and a partner in his uncle’s mercantile firm in the late 1750s.

In March 1765, he married Elizabeth Meredith. It was considered a highly advantageous union on both sides. Their married life was very happy, and was only marred by the forced separations and hardships caused by the Revolution. Eight children were born to Elizabeth and George Clymer, and five children survived to adulthood: Henry, Meredith, Margaret, Nancy, and George. Elizabeth and their children had to move several times during the Revolutionary War to avoid capture by the British.

Clymer came into a substantial inheritance after his uncle died in 1769. Sometime thereafter, Clymer formed a partnership with his inlaws to form Meredith-Clymer, a leading Pennsylvania merchant house. Elizabeth’s socially prominent family also introduced Clymer to George Washington and other Patriot leaders. His father-in-law was host to Washington on his visits to Philadelphia; Washington and Clymer formed a lasting friendship.

Clymer was a successful businessman, but in this new country his entire sympathy was with the rights of the people. Motivated at least partly by the impact of British economic restrictions on his own business, Clymer early adopted the Revolutionary cause. He was opposed to England’s tax plan, and went to Boston to gain firsthand knowledge, returning to Philadelphia filled with an intense desire for complete independence from England.

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Mary Carroll

Wife of Declaration Signer Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Mary Darnall, daughter of Colonel Henry Darnall, was a young lady of beauty, fortune, and ancient family. Charles Carroll of Carrollton was born in Annapolis, Maryland, September 30, 1737, at the home of his parents, Charles Carroll of Annapolis and Elizabeth Brooke. Charles and his mother enjoyed mutual tenderness and affection, but it was his father’s intense love and rigorous discipline that formed his character and gave him the skills and drive to succeed. A brilliant businessman, Carroll of Annapolis expanded his lands and capital and made his son an heir worthy and fit to receive them.

Although Maryland had been founded by and for Catholics on the basis of religious toleration in 1634, in 1649 and again in 1689, severe restrictions were placed on Catholics in England. The laws were also changed in Maryland, and Catholicism was repressed. Between 1690 and the beginning of the American Revolution, Catholics could no longer hold public office, practice law, vote, educate their children in their faith, or worship in public.

Known as “Charley” to his parents, Charles Carroll was sent at the age of ten to Maryland’s Eastern Shore to study secretly at the Jesuit school at Bohemia Manor in Cecil County. By 1749, Charley was sent to study at St. Omers in French Flanders. He was instructed in classical studies in Paris, and by 1760 was studying English law at the Inner Temple in London. After the death of his mother, a refined and well-educated Carroll returned home after sixteen years abroad.

Upon his return to America in 1765, Charley was given a 10,000 acre land tract called Carrollton, in Frederick County. Although he would never live there, he became known as Charles Carroll of Carrollton, to distinguish him from from the other Charles Carrolls in his family. As the only son of his generation, he became heir not only to the largest fortune in colonial Maryland, but to the ancestral legacy of defending family and faith passed down by the Carrolls.

Confined to private life by the Maryland statutes against Catholics, Charles Carroll joined his father in managing the extensive agricultural and business interests that constituted their fortune. By the 1770s, the Carrolls owned almost 40,000 acres of land, more slaves (330) than anyone else in Maryland, and a share in a profitable ironworks called the Baltimore Company. They also collected rents from some 195 tenants and were the greatest moneylenders in the colony. Maryland Catholics zealously guarded their fortunes by marrying into other Catholic families.

Charles Carroll married Mary Darnall, his cousin, on June 5, 1768, and began major improvements to his family home and gardens in Annapolis. They had seven children, only three surived to adulthood: Mary, Charles Jr., and Kitty. Charles, their only son, would later live at Homewood, now located on the Baltimore campus of Johns Hopkins University. Carroll, described often as the wealthiest man in the Colonies, had a substantial house built for each of his children.

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Gertrude Read

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer George Read

Gertrude Ross was born in 1733, the daughter of Reverend George Ross, who was for more than half a century a clergyman of Newcastle, Delaware. Gertrude was well educated by her father, beyond the common lot of most girls of her day, even in educated families. It is said, “her person was beautiful, her manners elegant, and her piety exemplary.” She was the sister of George Ross, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and half-sister of John Ross, an eminent lawyer at the Philadelphia bar.

George Read, the son of John and Mary Howell Read, was born in the town of North East, Maryland, on September 18, 1733. His father was a landholder of means, and his mother was the daughter of a Welsh planter. The family moved to New Castle, Delaware, when George was young. He attended school in Chester, Pennsylvania, as well as the Reverend Francis Alison’s Academy at New London, PA.

At the age of fifteen, George began studying law with a Philadelphia attorney. In 1753, he was admitted to the bar, and began his own practice in Philadelphia. Under Delaware law, as the eldest of his father’s six children, he was entitled, to two fifths of his father’s estate. As soon as he came of age, he signed over all his rights in the estate to the younger children, believing that the amount spent on his education was all that he could ask from the estate.

Marriage and Family
On January 11, 1763, George Read married Gertrude Ross Till, the widowed sister of future Signer George Ross, at Emanuel Church, New Castle County, Delaware. There were four children born to the Reads: George Jr., born in 1765, was US District Attorney for Delaware for thirty years, receiving his first appointment from George Washington; William, born in 1767, was Consul-General for Naples at Philadelphia for many years; John, born in 1769, was a prominent member of the Philadelphia bar and Judge of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania; Mary, born 1770, their only daughter.

Gertrude Read seems to have been admirably fitted to be the life companion of the public-spirited and patriotic young man she married. During the Revolution, she was almost constantly separated from her husband because of his service to his country. She suffered considerably, and was often compelled to flee from the British at a moment’s notice. But she was never dejected or complaining; on the contrary, she encouraged her husband in every possible way, not only by word, but by the cheerful manner with which she bore the hardships and burdens.

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Mary McKean

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer Thomas McKean

Thomas McKean
Artist: C. W Schreyleer

Mary Borden, born January 1, 1743, was the eldest daughter of Thomas Borden of Bordentown, New Jersey, a wealthy and public-spirited citizen, who was later to become an active patriot during the war of the Revolution. Mary Borden and her younger sister, Ann, were said to be the handsomest girls in New Jersey. Ann afterward married Francis Hopkinson, who also became a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas McKean was born March 19, 1734, the son of well-to-do Irish-American parents in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Thomas rose through the influence of his mother’s family. He was educated at the New London Academy and the school of Reverend Francis Allison in Philadelphia. At the age of 16, he studied law in the office of his cousin David Finney, a prominent attorney of Newcastle, Delaware. After being admitted to the Delaware bar in 1754, he also practiced law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Ambitious and able, McKean soon became active in Delaware politics. He became deputy attorney general for Sussex County, and then sat in the Delaware Assembly from 1762-1779, was the assembly’s Speaker from 1772-73, while also serving as a judge and a customs collector.

In 1763, Thomas McKean married Mary Borden, and they lived at 22 The Strand in New Castle, Delaware. They became the parents of six children: Joseph, born 1754; Robert, born 1765; Elizabeth, born 1767; Letitia, born 1769; Mary, born 1771, died in childhood; Anne, born 1773.

Eighteenth century Delaware was politically divided into loose political factions known as the Court Party and the Country Party. The majority Court Party was generally Anglican, worked well with the colonial Proprietary government, and was in favor of reconciliation with the British government. The minority Country Party was largely Ulster-Scot, and quickly advocated independence from the British. McKean was the epitome of the Country party politician and was, as much as anyone, its leader.

When opposition arose to British policies, McKean represented Delaware at the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, where he stressed the rights of the Colonies and helped organize Delaware’s resistance to the Townshend Duties. McKean proposed the voting procedure that the Continental Congress later adopted: that each colony, regardless of size or population, had one vote.

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Lucy Nelson

Wife of Signer Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Engraved by H.B. Hall

Lucy Grymes was born on August 24, 1743, in Middlesex County, Virginia, the daughter of Philip and Mary Randolph Grymes. Through her mother’s family, Lucy was the cousin of many of the Founding Fathers who served with her husband, including Virginia patriots Peyton Randolph, Carter Braxton, and Thomas Jefferson. Her first cousin once removed, also named Lucy Grymes, married Henry Lee II, and was the mother of Henry ” Light Horse Harry” Lee, who was the father of Confederate General Robert Edward Lee.

Thomas Nelson, Jr. was born at Yorktown, Virginia, on December 26, 1738, the son of William and Elizabeth Burwell Nelson. (He was given the title “Junior” to distinguish himself from his uncle, who was also named Thomas). He was the grandson of Thomas Nelson, known as “Scotch Tom,” a merchant-planter who was the family’s founder, one of the wealthiest in the colony. His father was William Nelson, long a member of the Council and at one time acting Governor, who was generally known as “President Nelson.”

Thomas was the oldest son, and as was the fashion at the time, his father sent him to England at the age of fourteen to be educated. He attended Eaton, a distinguished private school not far from London, and after completing a preparatory course of studies there, he went to Cambridge and entered Trinity College.

In 1761, after graduating from Cambridge University, Nelson sailed for America to help his father manage his plantation and mercantile business. While still at sea on his way home, he was elected by York County to the Virginia House of Burgesses, at the age of twenty-two. He served there until May 1774.

On July 29, 1762, Thomas Nelson married Lucy Grymes, who was a talented harpsichord player. At the time of his marriage, his father gave him a large landed estate of 20,000 acres, 400 slaves, and £30,000, which enabled him to maintain an elegant lifestyle as a country gentleman. The couple eventually had eleven children.

Thomas Nelson became one of Virginia’s most active patriots. In 1773, the House of Burgesses met to consider a committee of correspondence through which Virginia could communicate with and offer aid to Patriots in the other colonies. In early 1774, in response to the Boston Tea Party, Nelson and others boarded the ship Virginia at Yorktown, and he personally dumped two chests of tea into the York River to protest the British Tea Tax. This was an action that could have cost him prison or death.

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Anne Chase

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer Samuel Chase

Anne Baldwin was born in Annapolis, Maryland, daughter of Thomas Baldwin and his wife Agnes. Samuel Chase was born on April 17, 1741, in Somerset County, Maryland. His father, Thomas Chase, was a British-born clergyman for the Church of England. His mother, Matilda Walker Chase, died when he was born. In 1744, Samuel and his father moved to Baltimore, where Samuel grew up and received a classical education under his father’s supervision.

Anne Baldwin Chase
With her daughters Anne and Matilda
Charles Willson Peale, 1772

Chase studied law in Annapolis, Maryland, at the office of Attorney John Hall from 1759 until he was admitted to the bar in 1763. William Paca was a fellow student of Samuel’s in the office of Hammond & Hall, and there began a friendship which lasted their entire lives. The two young men became members of the Provincial Legislature the same year and together were sent to the Continental Congress.

In May 1762, Samuel Chase married Anne Baldwin, and they settled in Annapolis, where they had seven children, three sons and four daughters, three of whom died in infancy. Samuel was twenty-one years old at the time of his marriage, and had just completed his legal studies.

Chase established a lucrative law practice in Annapolis, and began taking an active interest in public affairs that was later to make him an uncompromising patriot. He practiced law at the Mayor’s Court in Annapolis and appeared before other courts throughout the County. In 1764, he was elected to the Maryland Assembly as a representative of Annapolis, where he served until 1784.

An early and active opponent of the British crown, at the young age of 24, Chase openly challenged the right of the English Parliament to tax the Colonies without their consent. In reaction to the Stamp Act of 1765, the Sons of Liberty, of which Chase was most active member, forcibly opened the public offices in Annapolis, seized and destroyed the hated stamps. The stamp distributor or agent was burned in effigy.

Chase’s activities in these riotous demonstrations caused him to be denounced by the city officials as a “busy, restless incendiary, and ringleader of mobs, a foul-mouthed and inflaming son of discord and faction, a common disturber of the public tranquility, and a promoter of the lawless excesses of the multitude.” Chase admitted his participation but maintained that the so called mob was composed of “men of reputation and merit” superior to the court officials. This was a bold stand for a young man to take against the authorities in the Colony.

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Mary Chew

Wife of Declaration Signer William Paca

Mary Chew was born in 1736 at Anne Arundel County, Maryland, into one of Maryland’s most prominent families. She was the daughter of Samuel and Henrietta Lloyd Chew, and a direct descendant of John Chew, who arrived at Jamestown in 1622 on the ship Charitie.

William Paca was born on October 31, 1740, at his family’s home near Abingdon, in the British colony of Maryland. He was the second son of John Paca – a wealthy planter of Italian descent. William was a member of the fourth generation of Paca men in Maryland, his great-grandfather Robert having emigrated in the 1640s. William was educated in Philadelphia, graduating from the College of Philadelphia in 1759 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

William Paca

In the early summer of 1759, Paca returned to Maryland and settled in Annapolis and studied law for two years under Stephen Bordley, one of the colony’s most prominent lawyers. In 1761, Paca traveled to England to complete his studies and spent two years at the Inner Temple in London. Upon his return to Annapolis, Paca was admitted to the Bar, and began his legal career on October 27, 1761, when he was admitted to practice law in Annapolis Mayor’s Court. He eventually qualified to practice in several county courts, as well as the more prestigious provincial courts.

Mary Chew married William Paca on May 26, 1763. She was a girl of considerable wealth, and their marriage ensured his position among the Maryland gentry. William was a young lawyer who had just been elected a member of the Maryland Provincial Assembly. Mary gave birth to three children, but only one child survived to adulthood, a son named John born March 17, 1771.

During the 1760s, Paca took an active role in Maryland politics. With fellow attorney Samuel Chase, he led local protests in 1765 against the Stamp Act and organized the Anne Arundel County chapter of the Sons of Liberty. An ardent patriot, Paca preferred to work behind the scenes, writing newspaper articles, and leaving the speeches and rabble rousing to others. He and Chase made a terrific team, with Paca writing many of the speeches that Chase would make.

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Martha Huntington

Wife of Declaration Signer Samuel Huntington

Martha Devotion, oldest daughter of Reverend Ebenezer and Martha Lathrop Devotion, was born in 1740. Samuel Huntington was born on July 16, 1731, at Windham, Connecticut, the fourth of ten children. His father, Nathaniel Huntington, son of one of the founders of the town, settled along the banks of Merrick’s Brook near the center of Windham. There he and his wife Mehetabel raised their large family on a 400-acre farm and played an active role in the community.

Samuel Huntington

Nathaniel, as befitting his status as eldest son, was sent to Yale College, and became a Congregational minister in Ellington. Second son Samuel watched several of his brothers attend college, while he worked on the farm. He was much more inclined to studies, and would probably have been happier going to Yale himself. He began studying in his spare time with the encouragement of the Reverend Ebenezer Devotion, the family minister who lived nearby.

Samuel expanded his reading, studying law, perhaps using books borrowed from two Windham lawyers. On December 2, 1754, he was admitted to the bar in Windham, and by 1760 he had moved to the larger town of Norwich, where there was ample work for the young lawyer.

Martha Devotion married Samuel Huntington on April 17, 1761, and they settled in Norwich, where they had numerous influential relatives to help them along, including the Lathrops, Huntingtons and other prominent families. Samuel’s previous visits to the parson’s library probably also have served as visits to Reverend Devotion’s daughter Martha, since Samuel married her as soon as he had established himself with a home and steady income. She was twenty-two years old at the time of their marriage; he was thirty.

Few marriages have brought together two more congenial spirits. Blessed with no children of their own, they were the more a care and joy to each other. Their home was felt to be a home to all who had the good fortune to enjoy its hospitalities, and they frequently played host to a large circle of relatives and friends, made welcome with a cheer as bountiful as it was spontaneous.

Huntington built up an extended legal practice in Norwich, handling a variety of cases, and soon earned a solid reputation. He often represented the town in county court, and his practice increased to include several out-of-state clients, concerned with business in Connecticut. He began to take an active part in political affairs of the province. Politics was no novelty to Martha, because her father was ardently interested in the politics of Connecticut and represented Windham in the General Assembly from 1760 until 1771.

In a surprisingly short time, Norwich asked Samuel to represent them at the General Assembly. The same year, 1765, he was appointed by the General Assembly for the first of nine years as Justice of the Peace in Norwich, and also became a selectman. About the same time, he was appointed a King’s Attorney. Nine years later, Samuel’s conscience caused him to resign from this post and turn his back on what might have been a bright and comfortable future in the employment of the King.

Instead, Samuel Huntington became a patriot and dedicated his life to public service. In less than a decade, Samuel was receiving notice on a larger scale. The General Assembly appointed him an Assistant Judge of the Superior Court in 1773 and continued him in the position until 1784, when he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Errors. Although personal information about Huntington is limited, he was apparently ambitious but not arrogant. Well-connected, and with an ability to diplomatically get things done by persuasion or compromise, he gained the approval of freemen, as well as of the elite who governed the colony.

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Hannah Jack Thornton

Wife of Declaration Signer Dr. Matthew Thornton

Hannah Jack was born in 1742, daughter of Andrew and Mary Morrison Jack of Chester, New Hampshire. Her family had emigrated from Londonderry, Ireland, but they were originally Scottish. Matthew Thornton was born in 1714 in Northern Ireland, and was brought to this country at the age of three years by his parents, James and Elizabeth Jenkins Thornton. Their family is said to have been among the 120 families who in five small ships, arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 17, 1718, and in the fall of that year went to Maine. When their ship landed in Maine in mid-winter, the passengers had no place to live, so they remained aboard ship.

American Patriot
Dr. Matthew Thornton
Six of the 56 signers belatedly penned their signatures, eight of them were foreign-born, and four were physicians. Matthew Thornton belongs in all three categories.

The Thornton family settled first outside Brunswick, Maine, on a plot of land overlooking Maquoit Bay. In 1720, Brunswick was an outpost on the frontline that stood between the aspirations and momentum of three major cultures, each of which was seeking its own territory. This triangle of struggle consisted of:
The English in Boston and Falmouth to the West
The Native American peoples to the North and in the interior
The French of Acadia, Nova Scotia and the St. Lawrence to the East

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