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Mary Borden McKean


Wife of Thomas McKean

Mary Borden, who in 1763,1 became the first wife of Thomas McKean, 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 like his brother-in-law, Thomas McKean, became a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas McKean was the son of well-to-do Irish-American parents who had settled in Chester County. He was educated in the celebrated school of Rev. Francis Allison of Philadelphia, after which he studied law in the office of David Finney, a prominent attorney of Newcastle, Delaware, where before he was twenty years old he was appointed deputy prothonotary and register of the probate court of Newcastle County. The highly active public life of Mr. McKean, from his admission to the bar in the early fifties, almost to the day of his death, in 1817, was not exceeded in usefulness by any other public man of his day. During that period he held at one time or another most of the high official positions in Pennsylvania and Delaware, sometimes filling several offices at the same time.2 In 1777, for instance, he represented Delaware in the Continental Congress, was chief justice of Pennsylvania, and president of Congress. The chief justiceship he held for twenty-two years, after which he was governor of Pennsylvania for nine years.

Mary Borden lived only ten years after her marriage, not long enough to enjoy much of the success that came to her husband later in life, but long enough to bear him six children, who were as follows:

Joseph Borden, born 1754; Robert, born 1765; Elizabeth, born 1767, married Andrew Pettit; Letitia, born 1769, married George Buchanan; Mary, born 1771, died in childhood; Anne, born in 1773, married Andrew Buchanan.

Sarah Armitage of Newcastle became the second wife of Thomas McKean, September 2, 1774. Their first child, a son, died in infancy; Sarah, the second, born July 8, 1777, became the Marchioness de Casa Yrujo; Sophia Dorothea, born 1783,3 and Maria Louisa, born 1785, died unmarried.

Source: Wives of the Signers: The Women Behind the Declaration of Independence, by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. (Aledo, TX: Wallbuilder Press, 1997). Orignaly Published in 1912 as volume 3 of The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons). Pages 215-217. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)

1[From pg. 280, n. 9] 9 This date is erroneously given as 1752, in Sanderson's Lives of the Signers.

2[From pg. 280-281, n. 10] In a letter to John Adams, dated November 8, 1779, Mr. McKean writes: "I have had my full share of the anxieties, cares, and troubles of the present war. For some time I was obliged to act as President of Delaware State, and as chief justice of this (Pennsylvania). General Howe had just landed (August 1777) at the head of Elk River, when I undertook to discharge these two important trusts. The consequence was, to be hunted like a fox by the enemy, and envied, by those who ought to have been my friends. I was compelled to remove my family five times in a few months, and at last fixed them in a little log house on the banks of the Susquehanna, more than a hundred miles from this place; but safety was not to be found there, for they were soon obliged to move again on account of the incursions of the Indians."

3[From pg. 281, n. 11] Sarah McKean, eldest daughter of Governor McKean by his second wife, Sarah Armitage, and familiarly known as "Miss Sally McKean," was a famous belle in Philadelphia society, while that city was the seat of the national government. She was married in 1798 to Señor Don Carlos Martinez de Yrujo, Spanish Minister to the United States, 1796 to 1807; ennobled, 1803, and created Marquis de Casa Yrujo; became obnoxious to President and Cabinet by opposition to the Louisiana Purchase and his recall was requested. Later he was Minister to Brazil until 1813, when he became Minister of Spain at Paris; later was Secretary of Foreign Affairs until his death in Madrid in January 1824. His widow, known after her marriage as Sarah Maria Theresa, Marchioness de Casa Yrujo, died in Madrid in January 1841.


Designed and Edited by John Vinci
Last modified January 5, 2005