John Hart

John Hart

DAR Ancestor Number:  A051538
Service: Signer of the Declaration of Independence / Patriotic Service, NJ
Residence: Hopewell Twp., Hunterdon Co., NJ
Birth: bapt. 21 Feb 1713, Maidenhead Twp.,
Burlington Co., NJ
Married: Deborah Scudder 1740
Death: 11 May 1779, Hopewell Twp., Hunterdon Co., NJ
Burial: First Baptist Church, Hopewell Twp.,
Hunterdon Co., NJ
Proven children: Jesse, Nathaniel, John, Susannah, Abigail, Edward, Daniel, Deborah, Sarah

John Hart's Biography

This biography is taken from the book titled, “The Signers of the Declaration of Independence” written by Robert G. Ferris.[1] Other additions are footnoted accordingly.

Signing the Declaration represented John Hart's one significant act during an ephemeral tour in the Continental Congress, his only role in national politics. Yet, like most of the signers, he was dominant in community and State affairs. And he and his family directly experienced the tragedy of the war. Unfortunately, he died before the attainment of victory.

The year after Hart's birth in 1711 at Stonington, CT, his parents emigrated to New Jersey and settled on a farm in the Hopewell vicinity. Hart was to live there and till the soil all his life. In 1740 he married Deborah Scudder, b. 11 May 1721, d. 28 Oct 1776[2] and began raising a family of 13. According to verified NSDAR applications for John Hart, # A051538, he and Deborah had the following children born in Hopewell Twp., Hunterdon Co., NJ: Jesse b. 19 Nov 1742, d. p. 180, m. Martha Mathison; Nathaniel b. 29 Oct 1747, d. 1825, m. Elizabeth Stout; John b. 29 Oct 1748, d. 22 Mar 1790, m. Catharine Knowles; Susannah b. 2 Aug 1750, d. 4 Feb 1832, m. John Polhemus; Abigail b. 10 Feb 1754, d. 8 Dec 1799, m. Moses Stout; Edward b. 20 Dec 1755, d. 6 Oct 1812, m. Nancy Ann Stout; Daniel b. 13 Aug 1762, d. 15 Sep 1848, m. Margaret Bunn; Deborah b. 21 Aug 1765, d. unknown, m. Joseph Ott; Mary died unmarried, no issue; and Sarah b. 16 Oct 1742, m. Jacob Wyckoff.[3] Sarah’s birthdate is an error because her brother Jesse was born one month later.

Photo provided by Nate Winkleman, FAG ID # 47256657, used with permission.

In time, while gaining the sobriquet "Honest John," he acquired considerable property, including grist, saw, and fulling mills, and emerged as a civic leader. From the 1750's until the outbreak of the War for Independence in 1775, despite a paucity of education, he worked his way up the political ladder in Hunterdon County and the state. He held the offices of justice of the peace, county judge, colonial legislator from 1761-1771, and judge of the New Jersey court of common pleas. In the legislature's dispute with the Royal Governor, Hart opposed parliamentary taxation and the stationing of British troops in the colony. During the years 1774-1776, he attended the New Jersey provincial congresses, where he achieved the vice-presidency, and won appointment to the council of safety and the committee of correspondence. In June 1776 he and four other Delegates were chosen to replace the incumbent conservatives in the Continental Congress. The new delegation arrived at Philadelphia just a few days before the votes for independence on July 1 and 2 and cast affirmative ballots.

In August 1776 just after Hart signed the Declaration, he departed to accept the speakership in the lower house of the New Jersey legislature. That winter, during the British invasion of the province, the redcoats wreaked havoc on his farm and mills and drove him into hiding among the hills surrounding the Sourland Mountains. When he ended his exile in the wake of the American victories at Princeton and Trenton, he discovered that his wife ill at the time of the attack, had died and his family scattered. In 1777-1778 he sat again on the council of safety, but failing health forced his retirement. He died the next year in 1779, at the age of 69, on his Hopewell farm. He is buried in the yard of the First Baptist Church (Hopewell Baptist Meeting House Cemetery) at Hopewell, Hunterdon Co., NJ.[4]

On 4 Mar 1891 just over one hundred years after John Hart died, Minerva Reno Darragh Linton was the first daughter to establish John Hart as a patriot. As of March 2022, there are over 710 daughters in NSDAR across the country who are descendants of John Hart; it is no wonder given the large family he had.


[1] Robert G. Ferris and Richard G. Morris, The Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Arlington, VA: Interpretive Publications, 1982, p. 71.


[3] NSDAR Genealogical Research Database Patriot # A051538.