Showing posts from October, 2023

Founding Fathers - Abraham Clark

Abraham Clark Born: February 15, 1726 (Elizabethtown, New Jersey) Died: September 15, 1794 (Rahway, New Jersey) This week we'll take a closer look into the life of the man whose first name shows up at the top alphabetically among the Founding Fathers to learn what else we can about him.  Abraham Clark was the only child of Thomas and Hannah Clark, who lived on a farm just outside of what is today Elizabeth, NJ (the place of his birth is now within the city limits of Roselle, NJ).  On his mother's side, he was directly descended from one of the 80 founders of Elizabethtown, as it was then known, and his family on both sides was well known for public service.  Young Abraham was seemingly a frail child, as his father did not permit him to participate in manual labor on the family farm, and he also did not get much in the way of formal education.  Showing a bit of skill in mathematics, however, Abraham received tutoring at home in that discipline as well as surveying.  On his own,

Founding Fathers - Richard Henry Lee

Richard Henry Lee Born: January 20, 1732 (Westmoreland County, Virginia) Died: June 19, 1794 (Westmoreland County, Virginia) If you've been following this blog for a while, you may remember our study of Francis Lightfoot Lee several months ago.  Today we will dig into the story of his brother, Richard Henry Lee, to complete the only pair of siblings to both sign America's founding document.  As the fifth son of the 11 children who were born to Colonel Thomas Lee and his wife, Hannah, Richard was born just two years ahead of Francis but had a different upbringing.  All of the Lee children were initially educated at their family home, a tobacco plantation named Stratford Hall, but Richard was the last of the sons to be sent to England for additional studies.  While attending Wakefield Academy in 1750 he received news that his parents had died, leaving his oldest brother Phillip in charge of the family.  Richard was directed to return home, but he decided first to travel through

Founding Fathers - Oliver Wolcott

Oliver Wolcott Born: November 20, 1726 (Windsor, Connecticut) Died: December 1, 1797 (Litchfield, Connecticut) My favorite baseball team took a painful loss in the playoffs today, so it seems appropriate somehow that the initials of this week's Founding Father spell out what I'm feeling right now - OW.  And the family he was born into could have easily fielded their own sports team, seeing how Oliver Wolcott was the 14th child of his parents, Roger and Sarah Wolcott.  Oliver had a privileged upbringing as the son of a high-ranking colonial official in Connecticut, and was an exceptional student when he studied at Yale College.  Before he could graduate in 1747, however, New York's Governor George Clinton commissioned the young man to raise a militia in preparation for the French and Indian War.  Oliver completed his studies and was granted the rank of captain.  He served along the northern frontier of New York to defend against invasion from Canada until the war's end i

Founding Fathers - James Smith

James Smith Born: September 17, 1719 (Ulster, Ireland) Died: July 11, 1806 (York, Pennsylvania) Many of the founders of the United States have extensive biographies, but this week we examine the life of one man about whom little is known for certain.  The date of his birth appears to be an assumption, and in fact the exact year may not even be correct.  James Smith was from somewhere in the northern Ireland region of Ulster, and as such was one of just eight individuals from another nation to sign the Declaration of Independence.  As the second son of a wealthy farmer, James crossed the Atlantic with his family in 1729 and settled in Pennsylvania, likely in Chester County.  As a child he was educated by a local minister until he relocated to Philadelphia in order to study under Dr. Francis Alison at the Philadelphia Academy (now the Ivy League's prestigious University of Pennsylvania).  After graduating, James worked briefly as a surveyor before moving to Lancaster, where his broth

Founding Fathers - Francis Hopkinson

Francis Hopkinson Born: October 2, 1737 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) Died: May 9, 1791 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) I assure you that my decision to select this week's subject had nothing to do with his birthday, despite the fact that the timing seems appropriate in light of that detail.  As the oldest of eight children born to Thomas and Mary Hopkinson, Francis Hopkinson enjoyed a privileged upbringing and displayed a wide range of interests at a very young age.  Although his father died when Francis was just 14, his mother made sure he was able to attend the school her late husband had helped found alongside Benjamin Franklin, the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania).  As a member of the very first class, Francis began writing music during his spare time and completed his first work, Ode to Music, soon after enrolling.  He received his B.A in 1757 followed by an M.A. three years later, and in between is credited with composing the first original American s