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Founding Fathers — Matthew Thornton

By David Streater, PhD

Burke CountyDavid Streater Burke County founding fathers matthew thornton


This is an American history educational moment of those who made a difference during the Revolutionary War era and how they served our Country.

Matthew Thornton was born in 1714 in Ireland. His family initially arrived in Maine in 1718, and soon after settled in Massachusetts. In 1740, Thornton earned his medical degree in Leicester, Massachusetts, and moved to New Hampshire to be a surgeon.  Being a reputable medical doctor, he was appointed as a physician to the New Hampshire militia during King George’s War (1745-1748).

In addition to becoming a substantial landowner and respected surgeon, Dr. Thornton held various political positions.  While president of the Londonderry Provincial Assembly and a member of the Committee of Safety he created New Hampshire’s constitution.  This was significant because New Hampshire was the first state to have a constitution during the initial hostilities with Britain.

Thornton’s platform was to criticize England’s unjust actions against America.  He was elected in 1776 to the Continental Congress and therefore could sign the Declaration of Independence.  Matthew was one of the last 56 Founders to sign.  A year later, Thornton returned to New Hampshire to serve as a legislator and a judge until he was 75.

Matthew died at age 89 in 1803 in Newburyport, Massachusetts while visiting his daughter. His epithet reads, “An Honest Man”. Thornton, New Hampshire is named in his honor.

Please visit your Charters of Freedom setting in most western North Carolina counties.  A Charters of Freedom setting consists of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  They are on permanent display analogous to the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives, Washington, DC.  Please visit our website ( to learn more about our existing settings.

Teachers are encouraged to contact Dr. Streater for information and complementary student education materials to enhance experiential field trips to a Charter of Freedom settings.  Everyone is welcome and urged to obtain a personalized engraved legacy paver for placement at their Charters of Freedom setting.  Please contact Dr. Streater ( for an engraved legacy paver information and complementary educational materials.


Dr. David Streater is the director of education for Foundation Forward.  He is a retired college instructor and administrator, and a retired probation and parole officer/administrator.  David is a criminologist who has an acute history interest, served in the Navy, and is a resident of Burke County, NC.

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