Our Country’s Founding Fathers and Influencing Citizens – Matthew Thornton

Published 4:57 pm Monday, January 31, 2022

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Polk County’s Charters of Freedom was dedicated on Constitution Day, September 17th, 2019, in Veteran’s Memorial Park on Gibson Street next to the House of Flags Museum in Columbus.  These are full size replicas of the original Charters of Freedom on permanent display in the National Archives, Washington, DC.  The Charters of Freedom consist of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. 


Our history comes alive when we begin to know more about our Founding Fathers and the documents, they prepared to charter a new form of government for a new nation – the United States of America.

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The following is the ninth in a series introducing our Nation’s Founding Fathers and other influencing citizens prepared for us by Dr. David W. Streater, Education Director at Foundation Forward.  This is the educational organization that made the Polk County Charters of Freedom possible.  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 the Polk County Charters of Freedom setting in Columbus, NC at the corner of Gibson and Ward Streets beside the House of Flags Museum.  Visit the website of chartersoffreedom.com to learn more.  Our appreciation goes to Vance and Mary Jo Patterson, the founders of Foundation Forward, a 501(c)3 education nonprofit organization, that made the Polk County Charters of Freedom possible.


Teachers are encouraged to contact Dr. Streater for information and complementary student education materials to enhance experiential field trips to a Charters of Freedom setting.  Everyone is welcome and urged to obtain a personalized engraved legacy paver for placement at their Charters of Freedom perpetual display. Please contact Dr. Streater (david.streater@gmail.com) for an engraved legacy paver and free educational materials.


Dr. David Streater is the director of education for Foundation Forward, 501(c)3.  He is a retired college instructor/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, North Carolina.   


Submitted by Robert Williamson, House of Flags Museum