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Matthew Thornton (March 17, 1713 – June 24, 1803) was an Irish-born signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New Hampshire.

Matthew Thornton
Matthew Thornton.jpg
BornMarch 17, 1713
DiedJune 24, 1803(1803-06-24) (aged 89–90)
Resting placeThornton Cemetery, Merrimack, New Hampshire
Known forSigner of the United States Declaration of Independence
Matthew Thornton signature.png


Background and early lifeEdit

Thornton was born in Limerick, Ireland the son of James Thornton and Elizabeth Jenkins. In 1716 Thornton's family immigrated to North America when he was three years old, settling first in Wiscasset, Maine.[1][2] On July 11, 1722, the community was attacked by Native Americans.[2] James and Elizabeth Thornton fled from their burning home with Matthew, moving shortly thereafter to Worcester, Massachusetts.[3] Thornton completed studies in medicine at Leicester.[2] He became a physician and established a medical practice in Londonderry, New Hampshire.[2] He was appointed surgeon to the New Hampshire Militia troops in an expedition against Fortress Louisbourg in 1745.[4] He had royal commissions as justice of the peace and colonel of militia.

In 1760 Thornton married Hannah Jack, and the couple had five children.[2] Thornton became a Londonderry 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.

Continental CongressEdit

He was first President of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and Associate Justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire.[3] He was elected to the Continental Congress after the debates on independence had occurred, but as he did not arrive in Philadelphia until November 1776, he was granted permission to actually sign the Declaration of Independence four months after the formal signing in July.[5]

Later lifeEdit

He became a political essayist. He retired from his medical practice and in 1780 moved to Merrimack, New Hampshire, where he farmed and operated Thornton's ferry with his family. Although he did not attend law school, he was given duties as an associate justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court about 1777.[5] From 1784 to 1787 Thornton was a member of the New Hampshire State Senate and combined this with the role of State Councillor from 1785 to 1786.[2] His wife Hannah (Jack) Thornton died in 1786.

Thornton died in Newburyport, Massachusetts, while visiting his daughter. He was 90 years old.[5] Matthew Thornton is buried in Thornton Cemetery in Merrimack, and his cenotaph reads "The Honest Man."[6]

Legacy and familyEdit

Thornton's old inn which he ran with his wife Hannah Jack, whom he married in 1760, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. It is located across from his gravesite and close to the former Thornton's Ferry landing site, which he also ran with his wife

The town of Thornton, New Hampshire, is named in his honor, as is a Londonderry elementary school, and Thorntons Ferry School in Merrimack. Thornton's residence in Derry, which was part of Londonderry at the time, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thornton was the uncle of Matthew Thornton, a suspected Loyalist who was tried for treason related to actions just before the Battle of Bennington in 1777. Some of his descendants live in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, California, and even Paris, France.[citation needed]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f Reynolds, Alistair, "Matthew Thornton" Archived 2013-10-23 at the Wayback Machine Maine Ulsterscots Project, retrieved Oct. 8, 2014
  3. ^ a b Ferris, Robert, and Morris, Richard, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Interpretive Publications Inc., Flagstaff, Arizona, 1982, ISBN 0-936478-07-1, p. 139
  4. ^ "Glimpses of the Past", St. Croix Courier, St. Stephen, New Brunswick, April 26, 1894, retrieved 12-03-11
  5. ^ a b c Ferris and Morris, p. 140
  6. ^ Matthew Thornton at Find a Grave

External linksEdit