|John Morton Homestead signboard|
John Morton was born in Ridley, Pennsylvania, in 1725 to descendents of Finnish immigrants. Both Morton and his wife, Anna Justis, were descended from Finns who were among the first settlers in the marshy area along the Delaware River. This area—known as New Sweden—was part of a larger colony controlled by the Swedish crown in the 17th century. Morton's father died before he was born, so the future statesman's stepfather John Sketchley, an Englishman, helped raise him.
We know very little about Morton's childhood and early life. As an adult, he was a qualified leader who earned the respect and trust of his community. Morton was a member and Speaker of Pennsylvania's Provincial Assembly for nearly three decades. He also served as High Sheriff of Chester County (now Delaware County) and as a justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
In July 1776, Morton joined other members of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence, breaking the swing vote in the Pennsylvania delegation. Some say that without Morton's signature, the fate of fledgling republic may have been jeopardized. Morton also chaired the Continental Congress committee that wrote the Articles of Confederation, the predecessor of the U.S. Constitution.
Morton was not able to enjoy the fruits of independence. On April 1, 1777, at the age of 51, he became the first of the signers to die, most likely of tuberculosis. Legend has it that on his deathbed, Morton claimed that appending his name to the Declaration was the most important decision of his life.
|John Morton Homestead pictured in June, 2012|
Morton Homestead is a historic homestead that is part of Morton Homestead State Park at 100 Lincoln Avenue in Prospect Park, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
The homestead was founded in 1654 by Morton Mortenson, a Finnish immigrant, when the area was part of the New Sweden colony.
The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. Here the background writing for the decision:
The Morton Homestead is doubly significant: First for its architecture and also for its association with the Morton family, which was a prominent in Pennsylvania in colonial times.
Architecturally, the Morton Homestead represents the type of dwelling the very earliest settlers in Pennsylvania built. The oldest part is a Swedish-Finnish log cabin built in 1654. An adjacent building of similar design was constructed in 1698. Both were originally of one story. In the late 1790’s the two buildings were connected by stone walls and the whole roof roofed over with clapboard, forming a second story. The last changes were made in 1835, these being alterations to the upstairs room. The building contains late 17th furniture.
Morton Homestead was started by Morten Mortenson, a Swedish (actually Finnish) settler of 1654. The property remained for a long time in the hands of his descendants, the most noteworthy of whom was John Morton (1725-1777), chairman of Pennsylvania’s delegation to the convention which adopted the Declaration of Independence, and a signer of that document.
Here you will find also a very good article about John Morton Homestead written by Sharon Hernes Silverman in Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine.
|More pics of John Morton Homestead|
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