Founding Fathers - George Taylor
Born: 1716 (probably Ulster, Ireland)
Died: February 23, 1781 (Easton, Pennsylvania)
To be perfectly honest, when I initially began my usual research process I had to check to make sure that we hadn't studied this week's patriot before. Tell me if this sounds familiar: George Taylor was born in northern Ireland, but neither the date nor the location can be reliably determined. Just because certain facts of his life are clouded in mystery, however, does not mean we shouldn't pay attention to a man who overcame tremendous obstacles to serve such an important role. Likely the son of a minister, George was 20 years old before anything conclusive was recorded. It was then, in the year 1736, that he became an indentured servant to Samuel Savage, Jr., an ironworker who owned the Coventry Forge just outside of Philadelphia and who paid for George's trip across the Atlantic. After initially working as laborer, it was determined that George's education prior to emigrating had prepared him for more advanced work, and by 1737 he was promoted from shoveling coal to an office clerk, eventually working at Savage's second location, Warwick Furnace. When his boss died in 1742, George's fortunes took an unexpected twist when he married the widow, Ann, and took over the operations of both businesses. George and Ann would have two children together, a son and a daughter.
After nearly ten years, the surviving son of Samuel Savage had grown up and George Taylor had to relinquish the Coventry Forge and Warwick Furnace to him. Moving to nearby Durham, PA, Taylor and a partner signed a lease on an iron furnace for ten years. The French and Indian War provided plenty of demand for munitions, and Taylor prospered as an important member of the community - enough so that he began to focus on public service, initially acting as Buck County's justice of the peace for three terms. When the lease on his business ended in 1763 Taylor moved his family to Easton, PA. He was selected to join the Provincial Assembly, holding a seat for several years while also continuing to act as a justice of the peace for Northampton County. Taylor purchased property in Allentown, PA, to build a large stone house near the Lehigh River, but shortly after it was completed his wife tragically died in 1768. After moving in with his son in 1771 for a period of time, he decided to sell the property and move back to Durham to once again lease the ironworks there. It was 1774 and once again a war created a demand for the product that Taylor sold, as he secured the a contract from Pennsylvania to produce cannon shot and eventually became the first provider of munitions to the new Continental Army.
Although George Taylor was considered a political moderate, he had attended gatherings with those who favored independence and was a member of the militia. Five of the delegates from Pennsylvania refused to vote for independence at the Second Continental Congress, which was a majority of the nine present on behalf of the hosting colony. The assembly quickly forced the Loyalists to resign their positions, and Taylor was one of five men sent to replace them. Although he arrived after the vote and his time in Congress only lasted seven months, he was able to sign the Declaration as well as help negotiate an Indian treaty. When Pennsylvania named delegates for a new term beginning on February 17, 1777, Taylor was not chosen to retain his seat. One month later he was elected by Northampton County to represent them on Pennsylvania's newly-formed Supreme Executive Committee, but a severe illness soon led him to resign what would be his final public post. Taylor continued to operate the Durham Furnace and supply the war effort until his lease expired in 1779, at which point he created a new partnership to lease a forge in Greenwhich, NJ. After just two years his health began to deteriorate once again and he moved back to Easton, PA, where he leased a small home. Upon his death in 1781, his will revealed that Taylor had fathered five children with his housekeeper and companion, Naomi Smith. Although he requested that half of his estate be given to her and their children, by the time the will was settled his assets were minimal and the estate was declared insolvent. Taylor, one of just eight signers born overseas and the only one to have been an indentured servant, was buried across the street from his final home in the St. John's Lutheran Church cemetery. In 1870, he was re-interred in front of a large marble monument placed in his honor at the Easton Cemetery.
The signature of George Taylor can be found as the seventh name on the fourth column beneath the Declaration of Independence.