MORTON, John, one of the most sterling patriots of our Revolutionary era, was born in the township of Ridley, Chester (now Delaware) Co., in the year 1724. His family was of Swedish origin. He was chosen a member of Assembly in 1756, in which situation he was continued nearly twenty years; and wherever good service was required in any important department of the government, so long as he lived there we are pretty certain to find the name of John Morton. When the day of trial came on the great question of independence, the Pennsylvania delegation to the Continental Congress, on the 4th of July, 1776, stood four in favor and five against that momentous proposition. The delegation consisted of the following members, viz: John Morton (Speaker of the Assemble at the time of their appointment, Nov. 4, 1775), Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, James Wilson, John Dickinson, Charles Humphreys, Edward Biddle, Thomas willing, and Andrew Allen, Esquires. The first four were in favor of the measure, but, being in a minority, the State appeared to be against it.
There were but five of the Pennsylvania delegation, however, occupying their seats on the occasion of the final vote. These were Franklin, Wilson, Morton, Humphreys and Willing. The first three voted in favor of the Declaration and the last two against it, and thus the vote of Pennsylvania, which, on the adoption of the resolution of independence on the 2d of July, had been cast against it, was now cast in favor of the Declaration, and the unanimity so important was secured.
Dickinson and Morris, who had voted against the resolution of independence on the 2d of July, were not present on the 4th of July, when the final vote was taken, or if present did not occupy their seats. It is said by some writers that they were not present, and that their absence was brought about by the influence of Samuel Adams, on of the warmest friends of independence. Thomas McKean, one of the delegates from Delaware, in a letter written in 1817, says that they were present, but did not take their seats on that day. At all events, they did not vote, and thus permitted the Declaration to be adopted. The probability is that, seeing that all the colonies except Pennsylvania had now a majority of delegates in favor of independence, and that the Declaration would certainly be adopted, they were not willing by their votes to place Pennsylvania in the position of being the only colony in opposition to it, and hence, although they doubted the expediency of the measure, withdrew, and permitted the vote of the delegation to be cast in its favor.
John Morton lived in a section of the country which was very hostile to independence. His neighbors and friends, almost to a man, entertained views on this subject different from his own, some because they were favorably disposed to the crown, and others because they believed the day of reconciliation had not passed, and that the time had not come when the colonies could safely sever their connection with the mother-country. When the subject was before Congress, they sought to induce him to vote against the measure, and admonished him of the disastrous results which would inevitably follow if the colonists should fail, as in their opinion they undoubtedly would. Their efforts, however, were of no avail, and he enrolled his vote in favor of independence, and thus secured that unanimity so essential to the success of the cause.
John Morton did not live to see the result of the effort to achieve independence. Having affixed his signature to the immortal document, he closed his valuable life in the month of April, 1777, at the age of fifty-three years. He was so conscious that he had performed an act which would commend him to posterity that on his death-bed, when the censure of his friends was strongly present to his mind, and when the cause of the colonists was gloomy in the extreme, he sent to them this prophetic message: "Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country."
As a private citizen, he possess an unusual share of esteem; his moral character was above all stain, and every act of his life, of which we have any knowledge, shows that he possessed that rarest of mental faculties,-good judgment. He was the first of the signers of the Declaration who died.
It may be added that when the British army passed through the
neighborhood of his late residence, after the battle of Brandywine, they
despoiled his widow and children of property to the value of three hundred
and sixty-five pounds,-Pennsylvania currency, nearly equal to one thousand
dollars,-a very considerable sum in those days.
Robert W. Morton.-James Morton emigrated from the northern part of Ireland, near Belfast, just previous to the Revolutionary war. He first settled near Hoopes' Mills, in Honeybrook township, and married, after his arrival in Chester County, Isabella Mann, who was born in his native place in Ireland. To them were born six children,-three sons and three daughters.,-of whom Robert was the eldest. He was born Oct. 2, 1779, and married Elizabeth Moore (his first wife), by whom Robert Whitehill Morton was born, Oct. 2, 1817. He worked on his father's farm until he was twenty-one, and was educated at the neighborhood subscription schools, working in the summer and attending school in winter. He studied surveying with Squire Beynard Way, a noted surveyor of that day. He began farming on his own account in 1842, in which he continued to 1855 on the old farm. He then farmed in Lancaster County until 1869, during which time he was ten years justice of peace, and engaged in conveyancing and surveying. The First National Bank of Honeybrook was organized February, 1868, with $100,000 capital, and he was in April following elected its cashier, which position he has held to this time. This is the only bank in this section of the county, and does a very large business, and has the entire confidence of the business world and public generally. He was married April 16, 1846, to Jane, daughter of John Robinson, Esq., of Salisbury, Lancaster Co. He has served three terms of three years each as school director, and is very active in school matters. He is strongly attached to the principles of the republican party, but has always refused to be a candidate for office. He is of Scotch-Irish extraction on both sides of his family, and comes of the old Presbyterian or Seceding element. he owns a farm in Lancaster County, on which is a saw and clover-mill, also a farm in Honeybrook township, on which is a grist-mill. He is a man highly esteemed in the business and social world. John W. Morton.-Robert Morton, son of James, the emigrant, from near Belfast, Ireland, married for his second wife Nancy Walker, by whom he had only one child, John Walker. He was born April 29, 1824, in Honeybrook township. He spent his boyhood on the farm, and received the usual educational advantages the country schools then afforded. He was married Nov. 27, 1862, to Victoria, daughter of William E. Lewis. She died April 12, 1876.
He was the second time married, March 12, 1878, to R. E. Dorlan, daughter of Samuel B. Dorlan, of Dorlan's Mills, Upper Uwchlan township, by whom he has had one child, John Ralph, born March 13, 1879. He owns, in the southern part of Honeybrook township, one hundred and fifty acres of land, a part of the original Morton homestead tract. In 1879 he was elected a justice of the peace for the term of five years, the same office his father, Robert, and his two half-brothers, Robert W. and William, once filled. He served in the 47th Regiment of Pennsylvania militia (three months men) in the summer of 1863, in the Rebellion. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church, and a ruling elder in the same, as was his father before him. He has been Sunday-school superintendent. He is a Republican in politics, and has ever been active for his party.
He removed in 1878
from his farm to the borough of Honeybrook, where he now resides in easy
retirement, renting out his fine farm. His father, Robert, died April 11,
1852, aged seventy-two years; his mother, Nancy (Walker), died May 10,
1865, aged seventy-six years. He enjoys the respect and esteem of his