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Tragic Life of Thomas Lynch Jr an Irish Signer of Declaration of Independence

Updated on November 5, 2014

A Fourth Generation Irish American

Thomas Lynch Jr. was a fourth generation South Carolinian who was born into a wealthy family of landholders.

While he has the distinction of being one of the eight signers of the Declaration of Independence who were of Irish descent he also, by cruel twist of fate narrowly missed becoming a part of the only father and son team to sign the Declaration. Thomas Lynch Jr. was also among the earliest of the signers to die.

Jonack Lynch, Thomas' great-grandfather migrated to the southern part of the Carolina colony from his native Ireland during the early years of its settlement. Jonack obtained and worked a small farm in the low country along the Atlantic coast. While a hard worker, Jonack had only modest financial success in life and, when he died, left his small holdings to his son Thomas Lynch.

Thomas Lynch Jr

Public Domain Photo courtesy of ( )
Public Domain Photo courtesy of ( )

Grandfather Thomas Lynch Secured the Family Fortune

This first Thomas, grandfather of our subject, proved to be both hardworking and shrewd.

Through his labors he began to increase his income from the farm he inherited from his father while at the same time buying and cultivating surrounding lands. He owned and managed as many as seven plantations in the area with the result that he became very rich from his growing of rice and indigo the two major cash crops of colonial South Carolina.

Sometime between 1730 and 1740 the Lynch family selected a site on their lands along the North Santee River, called Hopsewee by the town of Winyah in Prince George’s Parish, to build the mansion that became the family home for the following generations.

Upon the death of this first Thomas, which occurred about 1738 his vast lands and fortune passed to his son, also named Thomas, who had been born about 1729 and was the father of the Thomas Lynch who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Father's Stroke Resulted in Thomas Jr Being Sent to Continental Congress

Thomas Lynch Sr. (1729 – 1776) was both a prominent landowner and active member of the community. He served in the colonial legislature and was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765, the First Continental Congress and the Second Continental Congress.

As a member of the Second Continental Congress, Thomas Lynch Sr. should have signed the Declaration of Independence. However, early in 1776, while in Philadelphia serving in the Congress, he had a stroke which left him paralyzed and forced him to leave Congress.

When word of his condition reached South Carolina the provincial congress there appointed his son Thomas Jr. to join his father as part of the South Carolina delegation. While both men were members of the delegation, the elder Lynch’s paralysis prevented him from joining his son in signing the Declaration of Independence even though a space was left on the document for his signature.

While Thomas Jr. and his father have the distinction of being the only father and son team to serve in the Second Continental Congress they were denied the further distinction of being the only father and son team to sign the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Lynch Sr. died as the result of a second stroke which occurred in December 1776 in Annapolis, Maryland while attempting to return home to Hopsewee. He was buried in Annapolis.

Thomas Jr. Education and Early Life

Thomas Lynch Jr. was born on August 5, 1749 at the family plantation at Hopsewee near the town of Winyah in Prince George’s Parish, South Carolina. He was the youngest of three children born to Thomas Lynch and his wife, the former Elizabeth Allston of nearby Brookgreen Plantation.

Thomas Jr. was the only son with two older sisters Sabrina born in 1747 and Esther born in 1748. His mother died about 1755 and his father married Hannah Motte shortly after. A daughter, Elizabeth, was born to Thomas and Hannah later in 1755 or 1756.

Thomas was educated at a prominent local school and, at the age of thirteen send to a private school in England by his father.

Upon graduation, Thomas entered Cambridge University where, after earning his degree, studied and then practiced law in England. Returning to South Carolina about 1772, Thomas Jr. gave up the practice of Law and joined his father in civic affairs and the management of their estates.

Thomas Lynch Jr's Activity in the American Revolution

In 1775 Thomas Jr. was given a commission in the South Carolina militia and given command of a company in the South Carolina regiment. As was customary, he was responsible for recruiting and outfitting the necessary recruits to fill the company.

However, almost as soon as he had recruited and formed his company he fell ill and had to give up his command.

Not long after this he was called upon in 1776 by the revolutionary government of South Carolina to join his father in Philadelphia as a member of the South Carolina delegation to the Second Continental Congress. Still plagued by his illness, we traveled to Philadelphia where he joined his father and became the fifty-second signer of the Declaration of Independence. 

With his health declining, he was forced to leave Congress and Philadelphia late in 1776. Joining his father, who was also in ill health due to his stroke, the two headed home to South Carolina. However, they only made it as far as Annapolis, Maryland before his father's health gave out and he died.

Early Death at Sea

Following his father’s death in Annapolis, Maryland in December of 1776, Thomas Jr. continued his journey home to his wife, the former Elizabeth Shubrick. Due to his ill health, he and Elizabeth retired to Peachtree Plantation, one of the many that they owned, on the South Santee River.

In 1779, on the advice of his doctors, Thomas and Elizabeth decided to make their way to the south of France in an attempt to recover his health. They set sail for St. Eustatius, a Dutch Island in the West Indies whose governor and population were supporters of the Americans and their revolution, where they planned to transfer to a ship bound for France. However, the ship and all of its passengers vanished at sea. 

Although only thirty at the time of his death,Thomas Lynch had left his mark on American history. Born to wealth, he elected to work and serve his family and country rather than resting in the comfort and security his wealth offered to him.

Hub 14 for 30 Hubs in 30 Days Challenge

My assistant, Chika, and I trying to write and publish 30 Hubs in 30 Days
My assistant, Chika, and I trying to write and publish 30 Hubs in 30 Days | Source

© 2010 Chuck Nugent


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    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Alistar Packer - thanks for sharing that bit about the Lynch family's suffering from Sherman's march.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Occasionally the S.C. Lynch family is chanced upon while researching. This article has added greatly to what was already known about them. So Lynch Senior just missed out on signing the Declaration with his son, how about that. As an added piece of info the Lynch family seems to have suffered much in Sherman's march through the state.

    • Rose Ella Morton profile image

      Rose Ella Morton 7 years ago from Beverly Hills, Michigan

      I sure you know all these were slave owner. That is were there wealth came from. I believe the word Plantation means always planting. You forgot about Arthur Middleton who was a signer and also the owner of my ancestors. His father Henry Middleton was to also sign Declaration of Independence but was off getting married for the third time. A space was left next to his son so he could also sign.

    • sweetie1 profile image

      sweetie1 8 years ago from India

      Nice hub..thanks for the info.

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Thanks Chuck, I found it but your link has an extra "fcab/" in it and doesn't work--I think this is the correct url---


    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 8 years ago from Upstate New York

      I thought I read this hub already, and it was well worth another read. Thanks for an interesting hub.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Darlene - Thanks for the comments. As to your first question, I haven't seen the show you described but it sounds good.

      As to your second question, my Internet service went down last Friday morning and, after many calls to my provider, the best I have gotten so far (and this is Tuesday) is that a tech will try to come to my house sometime tomorrow between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. - hopefully it is in the morning because I have to work all day and my wife has to leave for work at 2:30 - that leaves just Chika to deal with the technician. There will be a Hub about this soon.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Winsome - As a matter of fact I do have a Hub on Hugo O'Connor. He did more than just found the city of Tucson (where I now live) but at one time he was the Spanish acting Governor of Texas (which included most of the present day American Southwest) and his cousin, Alexander O'Reilly, was Spanish governor of the Louisiana territory (the entire territory from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, which made up the area the made up the territory that President Jefferson later purchased from Napoleon Boneparte as the "Louisiana Purchase". Between the two cousins they ruled much of what is now the western half of the United States. Here is the link:

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 8 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      I love to read about our history, the people that played the roles in our freedom. Have you ever watched a show on cable where a man dresses like Thomas Jefferson and takes on his role, the audience asked question, it's so cool. this 30 hub is killing me, I have to make up for a few days, I am so beat up, how are you doing, Oh I know you are relaxing and enjoying your coffee, while you best friend is doing all the work. But, I am not here to judge, lalalalala

    • Carol the Writer profile image

      Carolyn Blacknall 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Love the Chika photo! Good luck in the 30 Hubs in 30 Days Challenge!

    • Winsome profile image

      Winsome 8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Chuck! Congratulations man on your 500th Hub! That is huge. This is the first I have read and if the other 499 are as good I will be working hard to match my reading them with your writing new ones. =:) You probably have a hub on this guy but if not...."An Irishman, Don Hugo O’Connor, founded the Spanish city of Tucson. He was an Irish expatriate hired by the Spanish Empire to upgrade frontier defenses against Apache raids and Pima discontent. He visited Tucson in August, 1775, and seeing that it was a strategic location, ordered that it become the Spanish military presidio." Cheers and again..CONGRATULATIONS!!

    • bobmnu profile image

      bobmnu 8 years ago from Cumberland

      This is something that our children should learn in school. They need to understand that our leaders, unlike today, were not in it for the money. They were out to create a country where everyone had the opportunity to be successful and gain wealth. They wanted to give everybody the fruits of their labor and to be free to grow.

      Great Hub. Such hubs should be read by every school teacher so they fully understand the history of our country.

    • profile image

      AARON99 8 years ago

      A very informative hub, must say. Keep writing.

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 8 years ago from I'm outta here

      Good glance into our history. LOVE the pic of your pup...

      Peace :)

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 8 years ago

      It's interesting to learn about these men of old.