Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Hannah Jack Thornton


Wife of Matthew Thornton

Hannah Jack, who married Dr. Matthew Thornton, in 1760, was of Scotch-Irish descent, as was her husband. She was eighteen years old at the time of her marriage to Dr. Thornton, who was himself a man of middle age, having been brought to this country at the age of three years, in 1717, by his father, James Thornton, who settled in Wiscasset, Me. After completing his medical studies, young Thornton removed to Londonderry, N. H., to practice.

Mrs. Thornton was a daughter of Andrew Jack, who settled near Chester, N. H., prior to 1747, at which time his name appears on the Presbyterian records as warden. He had emigrated to New Hampshire from Londonderry, Ireland, but his family was originally Scotch, as was that of his wife, Mary Morrison.

Dr. Thornton, like Dr. Bartlett, had held appointment as an officer in the State militia and a commission as Justice of the Peace, under Governor Wentworth, and, upon the abdication of that Executive in 1775, he was appointed. a member of the provisional government. In September of the same year, he was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress and was permitted to add his signature to the Declaration although that measure had been adopted four months previously. He was again a member of Congress in 1777 and afterwards was a judge of the Superior Court. He died in 1803, having outlived his wife about seventeen years. Both were buried at Thornton's Ferry, N. H.

Five children were born to Dr. and Mrs. Thornton, four of whom grew to maturity. James, born in 1765, was married to Mary Parker, and one of his sons, James Shepard Thornton, had a distinguished career in the U. S. Navy. The torpedo boat Thornton was named. in his honor. Matthew Thornton, the youngest son married Fanny Curtis of Amherst. He became a prominent lawyer of his native State. Mary Thornton married Hon. Silas Betton of Salem, N.H., and Hannah married John McGaw, of Bedford, N. H.*

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 16-18. (Some minor spelling changes may have been made.)

* [From page 149] Mrs. Clyde, a niece of Matthew Thornton (signer) fled from Indians into the woods with her eight children, one a babe in arms. She hid for twenty-four hours behind logs, near where Indians were passing. Exhibiting wonderful strength and endurance she finally reached the fort in safety.--American Monthly Magazine


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Last modified January 5, 2004