Signer of the Declaration of Independence

This outline gets its information from :


by Cleon E. Hammond, published by Pioneer Press.

Its the best book available on the signer and I recommend it to anyone interested in the colonial or Rev. war period.

It is out of print, but you may be able to get it through inter-library loans, or the used market.


There is no known picture of John Hart, signer, from during HIS LIFETIME, or I would have put it here. There is a claim of a picture which was painted in the 1860's, supposed copied from an original, but the family knew of no picture when the first biographies were done around 1800.

See an artist conception of John Hart, based on family resemblences at:

Images of VIPs of NJ during the Revolution



Signitures of the signers from NJ- Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark.

First, common mistakes in John Hart histories:

John Hart's father did not come from Connecticut, his grandfather came from Long Island, but may have been born across the Sound in Connecticut. The signer was born in Hopewell township.

John Hart did not have to hide for months from the British. They were not in the area but from December 8th. 1776, when Washington retreated into Pennsylvania, until at most December 26th, when he captured Trenton. In reality, the actual time was a few days when troops were in the area. They damaged his house and farm, but it was not destroyed. As the outline shows, his wife died in October, so the British did not drive him from her side. Most of his children were grown, so he did not lose them. The two minors went to family nearby while he hid, then everything went back to "normal" after a few days. He did not die a "broken man" from losing his family- he did not lose them, he died of kidney stones after a long, very painful illness- surrounded by family, in his intact home, on his large, still working, farm.


The facts as known:


John Hart lived in Hopewell Township, in what is now the town of Hopewell, and was then known as Baptist Meeting House, for the church there. He was the son of Edward Hart, a Justice of the Peace, public assessor, and farmer. John Hart, signer, was the grandson of John Hart, a carpenter who came to Hopewell from Newtown, Long Island.

John Hart, signer, was born in 1713. The signer was taught to read, write and do figures, but like most men of his day, had little formal schooling. His spelling was poor, but at the time most people were casual about spelling, if they could read at all. He was well know for his common sense, and may have been well read for his day, and at least later in life knew the law, and was considered informed on money and business matters.

In 1742 He and his father together repurchased 100 acres of their own land . Edward had bought 50 acres years before, and they added 50 acres of Edwards brother John Jr's adjacent land. In a land title dispute that lasted many years and involved many people who had purchased land in the area, they were forced to repurchase the land from the estate of John Coxe, of the NJ proprietors, for 144 pounds, 13 shillings and 6 pence. The original price paid was 10 pounds per hundred acres.

In 1746, Edward was granted a warrant to assemble a company of militia to fight the French in Canada by the NJ provincial government. Unfortunately, when they arrived in Perth Amboy 6 weeks later, they were the 6 th company of 5 agreed to by the government. Since at the time, the man assembling troops paid their expenses until taken by the government, this seemed a great loss to both Edward and his supporters in the government. The royal governor John Hamilton, considered the company "by far the most likely and able-bodied Men that had been raised."

The Governed then recommended to the State of New York that NY take them as part of their allotment. He further set aside some of the outfitting money from the state for the militia, to feed the men while Captain Edward went to Albany to get approval. This was done, and the company went to Albany to await deployment.

Fifteen miserable months later the company was dismissed. The entire project of invading Canada at the time was a fiasco. Neither the Royal treasury, nor the Provinces wanted to foot the bills, and Captain Edward Hart spent his remaining years trying to recover his expenses. He died in 1752.

Around 1739-1740 John Hart bought the "homestead plantation" of 193 acres on the north side of what is now the town of Hopewell.

In 1747, he donated to the Baptists, who wanted to build a church in a convenient spot in the area, a parcel of ground for a church from his front meadow. He was a Presbyterian, and this endeared him to the Baptists in the area, who may have supported him later when he ran for office. Until well after the revolution, the area was thereafter call Baptist Meeting House.

In 1739 he married Deborah Scudder, daughter of Lt. Richard Scudder of Shudder's Falls.

In 1750, John Hart was elected Freeholder for Hunterdon County, the highest elected office in the county.

In 1751, he and his brother bought a mill which was known as Daniel Hart's Mill.

In 1755 he was named a Justice of the Peace, which made him a gentleman, and he was thereafter called John Hart, Esquire. A Justice acted in minor legal issues, and was important in county business affairs, such as tax collector audits.

In 1757, he did not run for election for Freeholder, and Daniel was elected in his place.

In 1761, John Hart was elected to the provincial Assembly of New Jersey. He was one who pressed for NJ participation in the Stamp Act Congress, in NY, in 1765.

In 1766 he and his brother Daniel sold their Mill.

In 1768, he was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas, which held appeals from the Justice courts and other higher issues.

In 1772, John Hart did not campaign for reelection to the Assembly, and Samuel Tucker was elected. This year he bought an additional 230 acres, and became the largest landowner in Hopewell township, with over 600 acres.

In 1773 he bought the Mills at Rocky Hill, with a grain mill, fulling mill, barns, buildings and residences, orchards and fields. One third was owned by his son-in-law John Polhemus. Polhemus managed the mill, and workers operated it for the absentee landlords, Hart and Polhemus. Polhemus would later become a captain, first in the militia, then in the Continental Army

In 1774, He was elected to a committee to "elect and appoint delegates " to the 1st Continental Congress to protest the Tea Act. Elected to the NJ Provincial Congress for Hunterdon County.

In 1775 Hart was elected to the Committee of Correspondence of NJ by the NJ Provincial Congress. He then served on the Committee. of Safety-"to act in the public welfare of the colony, in the recess of the Congress". Family members enlist in the militia.

In 1776, he was designated one of the officials to sign the new Bill of Credit notes issued as money for the state. He signed each of the notes issued for the western NJ division of the treasury-15,583 notes legibly signed. He was paid 12. pounds, 10 shillings and 10 pence which was about the value of 3 muskets. In May he was reelected to the Provincial. Congress. On June 22nd he was elected as one of 5 delegate to the 2nd Cont'l Congress-"any one member with full rights to cast a vote" for the state July 4 th 1776 he signed the Declaration of Independence , with the other 4 delegates from NJ. August.13 th elected to the new STATE ,not colony, Assembly. Aug 29 th elected to Speaker of the Assembly. Oct. 5 th he returned home to see his sick wife, a Saturday. On Monday the 7 th he returned to the Assembly, but was called home again. On Tuesday the 8 th, the Assembly adjourned until Nov. 13 th because they could not hold business without the Speaker. That day-Oct.8 th 1776-Deborah Hart died. On November 13 th British invaded the state, and Washington could not stand against them, and retreated across the state. In mid Dec. John Hart has to hide from The British and Hessians who are searching for him, at one point hiding in a natural rock formation call the Rock House, an unpleasant experience in the winter for an elderly man. The Hessians damage his farm, but do not destroy it. In comparison,an associate, Samuel Tucker, President of the Joint meetings of the NJ legislature, signs a loyalty oath to the British crown after excepting amnesty, and so does Richard Stockton, fellow signer, both after being captured and held under deplorable conditions. These were the crisis times of the Revolution.

Jan 3 rd, Geo. Washington wins at The Battle of Princeton, and the British and Hessians begin to pull out of most of the state- John Hart calls for the Assembly to convene at Pittstown on the 22 nd.

From 1777 to 1778 the Assembly met 10 times, in session for 270 days. Twice John Hart was reelected Speaker. In 78 he was elected to the Council of Safety, who were given 'extraordinary and summary powers" to conduct the most urgent affairs of the state.Also elected as President of Joint meetings of the NJ Congress, replacing Samuel Tucker. Served as Treasurer of the Council of Safety, and Commissioner of the NJ Loan Office, signing more bill of credit notes in 1777-78.

On June 22nd 1778 he invited the American army to encamp on his farm. Washington had lunch with him, then had his famous Council of War at the nearby Hunt House. 12,000 men camped on his fields-during the growing season. After resting and preparing for battle the troops left on the 24 TH. On June 28 th was fought the Battle of Monmouth.

On Nov 7 th 1778 he returned home. On the 9 th he was too ill from "gravel" or kidney stones, to return to Trenton and the Assembly. He remained too ill to travel until his death on Tuesday, May 11th 1779, age 66, at his home.

May 19,1779 The NJ GAZETTE said: On Tuesday the 11 th instant, departed this life at his seat in Hopewell, JOHN HART, Esq. the Representative in General Assembly for the county of Hunterdon, and late Speaker of that House. He had served in the Assembly for many years under the former government, taken an early and active part in the present revolution, and continued to the day he was seized with his last illness to discharge the duties of a faithful and upright patriot in the service of his country in general and the county he represented in particular . The universal approbation of his character and conduct among all ranks of people, is the best testimony of his worth, and as it must make his death regretted and lamented, will ensure lasting respect to his memory.

John and Deborah Hart had 12 children: Sarah, Jesse, Martha, Nathaniel, John, Susannah, Mary, Abagail, Edward, Scudder, Daniel and Deborah. Only Daniel and Deborah were still minor children during the war and at his death.

John Hart died owing money, and due to the shortage of hard money, depreciation of colonial money, and a glut of land on the market as Loyalist land was confiscated and sold, most of his property was sold for a pittance. His sons later moved to the frontiers, his daughters married area men.

Want genealogical information on John Hart? Contact Alice Smith, a Hart genealogist at:< >

I am not a genealogist, and do not have much of a listing- my family history was done by others- I just read about the signer! Those question I am happy to help with!

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I recommend also Outwater's Militia web page.


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