Sign commemorates Matthew Thornton, 1 of 3 New Hampshire men to sign Declaration of IndependenceNovember 27. 2015 8:04PM
Where: The sign is located adjacent to the northbound lane of Route 3 in the village of Thornton's Ferry, a part of Merrimack.
Date erected: Historic marker 79 was placed in 1971.
What the marker says: “One of three New Hampshiremen to sign the Declaration of Independence. Matthew Thornton, physician, soldier, patriot, agitated against the Stamp Act of 1765, presided over the Provincial Congress in 1775, served in the State Senate and as an associate Justice of the Superior Court. The nearby monument honors his memory. He is buried in the adjacent cemetery. His homestead stands directly across the highway.”
Thornton's house and the Matthew Thornton Cemetery were listed on the National Register in 1978. Thornton's previous residence, in Derry and known as the Matthew Thornton House, was listed on the National Register and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971.
The back story: Matthew Thornton (1714–1803), was a signer of the Declaration of Independence as a representative of New Hampshire.
Born in Ireland, his family emigrated to North America when he was 3, settling first in Brunswick, Maine, and later in Worcester, Mass.
Thornton completed studies in medicine and became a physician in Londonderry. He was appointed surgeon to the New Hampshire Militia troops in an expedition against Fortress Louisbourg in 1745, and he had royal commissions as justice of the peace and colonel of militia.
In 1760, Thornton married Hannah Jack, and they had five children. He 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.
Thornton later became the first president of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and associate justice of the Superior Court of New Hampshire.
He was elected to the Continental Congress after the debates on independence had occurred and did not arrive in Philadelphia until November 1776, three months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. However, he was granted permission to sign the document.
Returning to New Hampshire, he became a political essayist. He retired from his medical practice, and in 1780, moved to Merrimack, where he farmed and operated a ferry on the Merrimack River at Thornton's Ferry.
From 1784 to 1787, Thornton was a state senator and combined this with the role of state councilor from 1785 to 1786.
He died in Newburyport, Mass., in 1803 while visiting his daughter. He is buried in Thornton Cemetery in Merrimack, and his stone reads “The Honest Man.”