Mary Trumbull Williams

Wife of Declaration Signer William Williams

Mary Trumbull was born on July 16, 1745, in Lebanon, Connecticut, the second daughter of Jonathan Trumbull, Royal Governor of Connecticut, who was the only Colonial governor to remain true to the cause of the Colonies. He served as governor in both a pre-Revolutionary colony and a post-Revolutionary state, and patriots from all parts of New England came to consult with him and lay plans for future action. Trumbull was in constant correspondence with Samuel Adams and other patriots of Massachusetts, and the confidant and adviser of General Washington.

American Patriot
William Williams

Mary Trumbull was also the sister of patriots Jonathan, Jr. and Joseph Trumbull and of the painter John Trumbull, daughter of Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, (Sr.), and great-great-great-granddaughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, was also a third cousin once removed of Patriots John Adams and Oliver Wolcott.

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Ann Borden Hopkinson

Wife of Declaration Signer Francis Hopkinson

Ann Borden was born on May 9, 1747, at Middleton, Monmouth County, New Jersey. She was the daughter of Colonel Joseph and Elizabeth Rogers Borden, members of a well-to-do family who had founded Bordentown, New Jersey. Ann and her older sister Mary were said to be the handsomest girls in New Jersey. Joseph Borden had a line of stage coaches and boats traveling between New York and Philadelphia.

Francis Hopkinson, the son of Thomas Hopkinson and Mary Johnson Hopkinson, was born on October 2, 1737, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thomas’s early death in 1751 left his wife to care for the children, the oldest of whom, Francis, had just turned fourteen. Mrs. Hopkinson was a lady of superior intellect and well qualified to supervise the education of her children. She had early on recognized indications of genius in her son Francis and made every effort, despite her limited income, to give him the advantages of a superior education.

American Patriot
Francis Hopkinson
Robert Edge Pine, Artist

Mary Hopkinson also had help from her husband’s friend, Benjamin Franklin, who saw Francis through the College of Philadelphia, where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree on May 17, 1757, and a master’s degree in 1760. His mother lived to see him graduate and become an eminent lawyer.

Hopkinson studied law in the office of Benjamin Chew, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania. Hopkinson became an attorney in 1761, and set up his practice in Philadelphia. But his was not a career restricted to law and politics. He cultivated an appreciation for music, writing, heraldry, and art. When not working, he spent much of his spare time in service to the Philadelphia Library, as secretary from 1759 through 1766.

In early December 1765, Hopkinson was debating a trip to England, and he wrote to Benjamin Franklin: “I have finished the Translation of the Psalms of David, to the great Satisfaction of the Dutch Congregation at New York, & they have paid me £145 their Currency, which I intend to keep as a Body Reserve in Case I should go to England.” Finally, on May 22, 1766, he sailed aboard the Hayfield, a ship owned by Redmond Conyngham, a friend of the family.

Hopkinson spent from May 1766 to August 1767 in England in hopes of becoming commissioner of customs for North America. Although unsuccessful, he spent time with the future Prime Minister Lord North and his half-brother, the Bishop of Worcester Brownlow North, and painter Benjamin West.

On October 23, 1767, as he had left, so he returned. He still lived with his mother, and had yet to embark on a career. In one way, however, his experience had been very helpful; realizing that he could not depend upon the patronage of friends and family for his advancement in life, Francis realized the inevitability of hard work to build a career for himself.

He set up shop as a retail merchant offering drygoods, fabric, and wine. This new business brought him £1500 in just four months, added to his work in conveyancing – the branch of law that consists of examining titles, checking their validity, and drawing deeds, for the conveyance of property from one person to another.

It was with this increase of confidence that Francis met and fell deeply in love with Miss Ann Borden of Bordentown, New Jersey. Ann was considered to be an amiable, accomplished, and beautiful girl. Ann Borden married Francis Hopkinson on September 1, 1768. The couple had five children who lived to adulthood: Joseph, Elizabeth, Mary, Ann, and Francis.

Though Hopkinson was now a successful businessman and a new father, he still had the yearning for public service. During the next three and a half years, he did not give up his pursuit of a government appointment and finally, on May 1, 1772, Hopkinson was given the position of Collector of his Majesty’s Customs for the Port of New Castle, Delaware. This, added to his already growing wealth, enabled him to purchase 1060 acres of land from John Penn, in October of 1772.

In 1773, Hopkinson was appointed to the New Jersey Provincial Council by Governor William Franklin. In early 1774, the family moved to Bordentown, New Jersey, Ann’s hometown. There, across the street from his father-in-law, Joseph Borden, Hopkinson built his house. He was admitted to the New Jersey bar on May 8, 1775, and began practicing law in Bordentown.

Patriot's home
Francis Hopkinson House
Built in 1750 on the southeast corner of Farnsworth Avenue and Park Street in Bordentown, this house became the home of Francis and Anne Borden Hopkinson from 1774 until his death. The house was originally only two stories with a gable roof. Flemish bond brick, a pent roof, and a patterned end wall were added in 1850.

During the American Revolution, Bordentown was a hotbed of revolutionary fervor with men such as Francis Hopkinson and Thomas Paine. Patience Wright lived across the street from the Hopkinsons. Patience’s son became a friend of George Washington, painted his portrait, and designed some of the first American coins.

Francis Hopkinson resigned his crown-appointed positions in 1776, and on June 21, he was chosen as one of the New Jersey delegates to the Second Continental Congress. On June 28, he took his seat; he signed the Declaration of Independence a month later. He served in the Second Continental Congress for only five months, from June to November, amd then left the Congress to serve on the Navy Board in Philadelphia.

In May and June of 1778, the British pillaged and burned Bordentown. A party of Hessians suddenly invaded the Hopkinson House residence, and the family only had time to escape with their lives before the invaders began to plunder the house. The house was spared burning because of a Hessian Officer’s appreciation for Hopkinson’s library.

As part of the fledgling nation’s government, Hopkinson was treasurer of the Continental Loan Office in 1778, and was appointed judge of the Admiralty Court of Pennsylvania in 1779.

Hopkinson is also credited as America’s first poet-composer at a time when Philadelphia and the colonies were not well known for the arts. He wrote popular airs and political satires in the form of poems and pamphlets. Some were widely circulated, and powerfully assisted in arousing the spirit of political independence in the colonies. His song, My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free, is regarded as the earliest surviving American secular composition.

Probably Hopkinson’s best-known and most popular work was The Battle of the Kegs (1778), a humorous ballad describing the alarm that was caused when the patriots of Bordentown floated kegs filled with gunpowder down the Delaware River in an attempt to blow up the British fleet anchored at Philadelphia.

Patriot's name
Francis Hopkinson Signature
On the Declaration of Independence

After the war, he served as a member of the convention at which our national Constitution was drafted. When the Constitution was put before the people in 1787, Hopkinson gave his full support, with both his voice and his pen, and helped ratify it. He also maintained a steady correspondence with Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson.

On September 24, 1789, he was nominated by President George Washington to the newly created position of judge of the United States District Court of Pennsylvania. He was confirmed by the United States Senate, and received his commission on September 26, 1789. He served in that position until his death. This was an important and dignified position that he was well qualified and suited for, giving stability and dignity to the new national government.

Francis Hopkinson died suddenly from an epileptic seizure on May 9, 1791, at Bordentown, at the age of fifty-three. He was buried in Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia. Surviving him were his widow and five children.

Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote:

“He had been subject to frequent attacks of the gout in his head, but for some time before his death, he had enjoyed a considerable respite from them. On Sunday evening, May the 8th, he was somewhat indisposed, and passed a restless night after he went to bed. He rose on Monday morning at his usual hour, and breakfasted with his family. At seven o’clock he was seized with an apoplectic fit, which in two hours put a period to his existence, in the 53rd year of his age.”

Upon his passing, his mother Mary Hopkinson wrote

“My Dear Son Francis Hopkinson departed this life May the 9th 1791. O my God, grant that he and all that I have lost may be happy in the arms of thy Redeeming Love.”

Following the custom of the times, Ann Hopkinson made a mourning brooch to commemorate her bereavement. A lock of Hopkinson’s hair is contained on this brooch, with these engraved words: “Francis Hopkinson Departed this Life 9th of May 1791. Forgive the wish that would have kept you here.” Hopkinson House went to son Joseph Hopkinson of Philadelphia, best known as the author of Hail Columbia.

Francis Hopkinson was quite versatile in his talents, being proficient in mechanics, chemistry, mathematics, music, and writing. Beloved son, adoring husband, loving father, a flawed but dependable and service-minded Christian, patriot to a young nation; truly, a Founding Father of our country. He contributed to the design of numerous important symbols and seals for the United States in the nation’s infancy. Among them are the seal of New Jersey, the Continental Board of Admiralty seal, the seal of the American Philosophical Society, theTreasury seal, and the Great Seal of the United States.

The literary and artistic talents of this versatile signer brought him more acclaim than his political and legal activities. Although a lawyer and judge by profession, he achieved more eminence as an essayist, poet, artist, and musician. His verse and satirical essays rank among the better literary efforts of the Revolutionary and early Federal periods.

Ann Borden Hopkinson died on August 12, 1827, at Middleton, Monmouth County, New Jersey, at age 80.

Patriot's grave
Francis Hopkinson Gravesite
Christ Church Burial Ground
Philadelphia, PA

History of Bordentown
Francis Hopkinson Biography
Wikipedia: Francis Hopkinson
Francis Hopkinson: New Jersey
The Hopkinson Family – PDF File
The Francis Hopkinson Flag Story
The Other Life of Francis Hopkinson

Sarah Cobb Paine

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer Robert Treat Paine

Robert Treat Paine
Edward Savage and John Coles, Jr., Artists

Sarah Cobb was born on May 15, 1744, in Taunton, Massachusetts, where her father, Captain Thomas Cobb, was a prominent citizen, magistrate, and member of the legislature. Her mother was Lydia Leonard, whose father and grandfather were both called Captain James Leonard, had been prominent in the early history of Bristol County. Her brother, General David Cobb, served all through the Revolution, three years of that time as an aide on the staff of George Washington. Sarah’s early life and education were similar to that of other daughters of well-to-do citizens of the commonwealth.

Robert Treat Paine was born in Boston on March 11, 1731, the son of Reverend Thomas Paine and Eunice Treat Paine. He could trace his ancestry back to a colonial governor, an acting president of Harvard, and a signer of the Mayflower Compact. His father, Thomas, was pastor of a church in Weymouth for several years, but because of impaired health, resigned and engaged in mercantile pursuits in Boston.

A bright, well-bred, popular youngster, Robert Treat Paine studied for seven years at the Latin School, then went on to Harvard College. While still a student at Harvard, his father’s business failed; upon graduation in 1749 at the age of eighteen, Paine had to teach in a country village – instead of running the family business as he had expected. He gave up teaching after one school term, and served as Chaplain of the military expedition to Crown Point in 1755.

Because of frail health, Paine set out to build up his strength by working on the sea. He spent some years as a merchant marine visiting the southern colonies, Spain, the Azores, and England. About this time, he decided to forsake the ministry for the law, in which he had become interested during his theological studies.

When he returned home in 1754, he began to study law in the office of Benjamin Pratt, later Chief Justice of the Colony of New York. Paine was admitted to the bar in 1757, two months after his twenty-sixth birthday. That same week his father died, passing on to his son the remains of a still-failing business. Paine first set up office in Portland, Maine (then part of Massachusetts), but in 1761 relocated to Taunton, Massachusetts, where he practiced law for many years.

In the 1760s, Paine was active in the resistance movement to the hated Stamp Act and Townshend Acts, and quickly became a patriot for the cause of independence. In 1768, he was a delegate to the provincial convention which was called to meet in Boston after the dissolution of the general court by Sir Francis Bernard, Royal Governor of Massachusetts.

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Rebecca Lee

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer Francis Lightfoot Lee

Francis Lightfoot Lee

There are no known portraits
of Rebecca Tayloe Lee

Rebecca Tayloe was born in 1753, one of the eight daughters of John Tayloe of Mount Airy, a mid-Georgian plantation house in Richmond County, Virginia. Tayloe, a fourth generation tobacco planter, began construction of the house. The project was started around 1748 with completion in 1758. Its twenty-five spacious rooms afforded generous accommodation for the guests who were eager to accept the invitations of Colonel and Mrs. Tayloe.

Francis Lightfoot Lee was born on October 14, 1734, to Thomas and Hannah Ludwell Lee at Stratford Hall Plantation, the family estate in Westmoreland County on the Northern Neck – a peninsula (traditionally called “necks” in Virginia) nestled between the Potomac and the Rappahannock Rivers. He was the sixth son and eighth child of the Lees, one of the most famous families in Virginia. His brothers, William, Richard Henry, and Dr. Arthur Lee were also American Patriots.

Francis was raised at Stratford Hall Plantation, and like most male children of the Virginia planter class, he was educated at home by a private tutor and was well read in Classical literature, history, and law. He did not have the advantages, which were enjoyed by the elder sons, of an education at the English universities.

The year 1750 was painful for Francis and his younger siblings. While their older brothers were still in England, both parents died that year when Francis turned 16. The children inherited a combination of land, money, slaves, and company stock for land speculation in the Ohio River Valley. Francis was left Coton, a family estate in northern Virginia.

In 1758, he moved to Coton, then in the newly created Loudoun County and became a founder of the village of Leesburg, with his brother Philip Ludwell Lee. He was chief of the local militia, and from 1758 to 1769 served as member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. Although usually quiet and reserved, he did show his strong resistance to the British after the Stamp Act – all the while insisting, “What damned dirty work is this politics!”

During his time as a Burgess, Lee remained attentive to the political scene of not only Virginia, but also of the colonies. He became an opponent of taxation without representation and other British offenses, which he protested not only through personal letters, but also in signing his support to important documents, including the Westmoreland Resolves of 1766. As a member of a committee appointed to protest British policies toward the colonies in 1768, Lee maintained an active role in opposition to the British.

Lee joined the Revolutionary movement at an early date. From the time of the Stamp Act (1765) until the outbreak of war a decade later, he participated in most of the Virginia protests and assemblies. Frank Lee, as he was known to those close to him, was regarded by his brothers as the keenest of them all in political judgement. He had no taste for public life, but the responsibilities that came from bearing the Lee name during the turbulent times of the American Revolution eventually propelled him into service.

Rebecca Tayloe was sixteen when Francis Lee fell in love with her. Her father, John Tayloe, was a member of the King’s Council, who had his family join him to “spend the season” in Williamsburg. Lee, in the capital city as a Burgess, was considered “the catch of Williamsburg,” and Miss Tayloe was one of the belles of colonial society. The two were very happy together, and their courtship seems to have been one of the major events in the social news of 1768 and 1769.

On April 21, 1769, Francis Lee married Rebecca Tayloe. He was 35; she was 16. Rebecca’s father was devoted to his daughter, and did not want her to move very far from him. Instead of the cash dowry he bestowed on the husbands of his seven other daughters, Tayloe gave his daughter and her new husband a 1000 acre parcel of land on his Richmond County plantation, Mount Airy, and agreed to build a house, domestic outbuildings, and plantation structures for a man of high social and political rank, which they named Menokin. The newlyweds resided at Mount Airy with Rebecca’s parents until Menokin was completed in 1771.

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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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