Susannah Lyme Penn

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer John Penn

John Penn was born on May 17, 1741, in Caroline County, Virginia. He was the only child of Moses Penn, a moderately successful plantation owner, and Catherine Taylor Penn. He was educated at home with only a few years of formal schooling, although his parents could well afford to pay for his tuition. Penn was distant relative of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.

John Penn

Moses Penn died in 1759, and John inherited an ample estate, but he was dissatisfied with the prospects it offered, and decided to continue his education. He began to study law under his cousin and neighbor, Edmund Pendleton, a lawyer, a Patriot, and one of the most accomplished statesmen of Virginia. Pendleton gave young Penn access to his library, which was one of the best in the province.

Penn studied diligently, and remarkably passed the Virginia bar exam at the age of twenty-one, after which he practiced law in Caroline County for twelve years. He quickly became noticed, and soon equaled the most distinguished at the bar. As an advocate, there were few who surpassed him.

On July 28, 1763, John Penn married Susannah Lyme of Granville County, North Carolina, and they had three children.

In 1774, Penn moved to North Carolina with his wife and children, and settled in Williamsboro, Granville County, where he set up a law practice. There, he displayed great ability and eloquence, and his practice flourished, as did his interest in politics.

In 1775, Penn was elected to the Third Provincial Congress, which met at Hillsborough, NC. Shortly thereafter, he was elected to succeed Richard Caswell as delegate to the Continental Congress, taking his seat on October 12. Penn, though very talkative in private, rarely spoke in the Congress, but he was very diligent in public business.

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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

SOURCES
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

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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Abigail Carey Ellery

Wife of Declaration Signer William Ellery

Abigail Carey was born in Bristol County, Rhode Island, on November 12, 1742, the daughter of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Wanton Carey. William Ellery was born in Newport, Rhode Island, to a wealthy mercantile family on December 22, 1727. His father, of the same name, was graduated at Harvard in 1722, became a successful merchant in Newport, and served successively as judge, senator, and lieutenant governor of the colony. Newport was then a unique community where despite many religious differences, there was a degree of tolerance.

The elder Ellery prepared young William for college, and he entered Harvard in 1743. He was not enthused about becoming a merchant like his father, and entertained thoughts of being a lawyer. Ellery graduated in the Harvard class of 1747, and returned home to Newport.

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Eleanor Armor Smith

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer James Smith

Eleanor Armor of Newcastle, Delaware, was born in 1729. She was described as “a young woman of many accomplishments and good family connection.” James Smith was born in Ireland, the second son in a large family, most likely in 1719, and came to Pennsylvania as a boy of ten or twelve years of age. His family settled in York County, Pennsylvania, on acreage west of the Susquehanna River.

His father was a successful farmer, and James received a good education at Reverend Francis Alison’s academy in New London, PA, where he learned Greek, Latin, and mathematics, including land surveying. He later studied law at the office of his older brother George, in Lancaster PA.

American Patriot
Ole Erekson, Engraver, circa 1876

Smith was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar at age twenty-six, and set up an office in Cumberland County, PA, near Shippensburg, as a lawyer and surveyor. This was a frontier area at the time, so he spent much of his time engaged in surveying, only practicing law when the work was available. In about 1750, he moved to the more populated village of York, where he continued the practice of his profession for the remainder of his life. He was the first attorney to practice in York, and remained at the head of the bar of that county until after the Revolution.

Mr. Smith was quite an eccentric man, and possessed a vein of humor, coupled with a sharp wit and the gift of storytelling, which made him a great favorite in the social circle in which he moved.
Smith was endowed with wit and humor, given to storytelling and jovial companionship.

In 1760, when he was 41 years old, James Smith married Eleanor Armor, and they would have five children: three sons and two daughters. Only one of the sons and two of the daughters survived him. Their son James Smith, Jr. died a few months after his father’s death. The daughter, became the wife of James Johnson, a prominent citizen of York.

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Margaret Brown Stone

Wife of Signer: Thomas Stone

Margaret Brown, born in 1751, was the youngest of Dr. Gustavus Brown’s fourteen children. Her mother, Margaret Boyd Brown, was Dr. Brown’s second wife. His Scottish lordship, Edinburgh education, and property holdings in Scotland and Maryland placed Dr. Brown in a social position unparalleled in the colony.

Dr. Brown was also thought to be the richest man in Charles County. He provided for the wealth and education of all his children, not just his sons. Upon marriage or attaining the age of twenty-four, Margaret was to receive 300 pounds sterling.

Thomas Stone was born into an old and influential colonial family at Pointon Manor near Port Tobacco in Charles County, Maryland, in 1743. He was the second son in the large family of David and Elizabeth Jenifer Stone.

signer of the declaration
Thomas Stone

Thomas inherited a fondness for learning from his father and, at the age of fifteen, he studied Greek and Latin in a school operated by a Mr. Blaizedel. This school was more than ten miles from his home, and young Thomas rose early every morning and rode there on horseback.

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