This post is the start of a new, long-term series I’ve been thinking about centered around the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Although I’d say I have an above average interest in American history, I can only name a few of the 56 signers. The most famous like Sam and John Adams, Jefferson and Franklin come easily to mind, but not many others. So who were these men and what signs of them are left for us to see today?
After a bit of research I’m starting with the man closest to my home, one town away in fact. Matthew Thornton was one of three signers from New Hampshire and one of three born in Ireland. He emigrated to America at two or three with his family around 1717. He was trained as a doctor and served as surgeon on a large 1745 campaign to Cape Breton. Although he served in local government he was not part of the Continental Congress until November 1776 – well after the Declaration was finalized – but as a member of Congress during the period when the “engrossed” copy was being signed, he did so on behalf of New Hampshire. That same year he became a judge. In 1780 he purchased a farm along the Merrimack river. The area in the town of Merrimack is now known as Thornton’s Ferry.
The first sign I came across is this actual sign. Well, a New Hampshire historical marker anyway. The monument in the background is to Mr. Thornton as well.
The monument in reads in part:
“In memory of
one of the signers of the
Declaration of Independence”
Though this graveyard was started when Mr. Thornton was still a young man, it has taken on his name.
Mr. Thornton was buried in 1803 beneath this modest headstone beside his wife and their sons. The final words on his gravestone are “The Honest Man”.