George Taylor, From Indentured Servant to Signer of the Declaration of Independence

George TaylorBorn in northern Ireland in 1716, Taylor arrived on American shores in 1736 as an indentured servant to an ironmaster in Coventry Forge, near Philadelphia. Originally, Taylor was a “filler” for the iron furnaces, but because he had some formal education, he was appointed a counting room clerk by his employer Samuel Nutt. Nutt died soon after, in 1737, and in accordance with his will, left his iron and furnace properties to Samuel Savage, Jr., and Savage’s mother, Anna Rutter Savage Nutt. Mrs. Nutt and her sons from her first marriage founded Warwick Furnace, and George performed the role of clerk for the new establishment. Samuel Savage, Jr., died in 1741, and George Taylor married Savage’s widow the following year. Under his control, the Warwick Furnace prospered. Taylor and his wife had two children, James and Ann (who died in childhood).

In 1747, Taylor joined a militia group organized by Benjamin Franklin. When Samuel Savage III became of age, Warwick Furnace was turned over to him (according to the original will). In 1753, Taylor and Samuel Flower leased the Durham Iron Works. The Taylors moved into the mansion house on the property. The iron works produced ammunition for the Provincial Pennsylvania government during the French and Indian War.

When the lease on the iron works ended, Taylor he bought a small stone house in Easton, PA at a sheriff’s sale on December 23, 1761 for £117, 15 s, 10d. Taylor often served as a justice of the peace and he helped in the construction of the new courthouse in Easton.

George_Taylor_Delegate“In March 1767, Taylor purchased a 331 acre tract known as the ‘Manor of Chawton’ located approximately 15 miles west of Easton. There he built an impressive two-story Georgian stone house on a bluff overlooking the Lehigh River. He hired carpenters from Philadelphia to erect the home in 1768. This home still stands, identified as the George Taylor Mansion. Tragically, his wife Ann died that year. It is not known where she was buried. Among the possibilities suggested by historians are the new property, in Easton, and the Gallows Hill Cemetery. Taylor leased most of the property out in 1771 and in 1772 appears to have been living with his son, James, who had moved to what is now Allentown, PA.

“Taylor returned to Durham in 1774, having entered into a five-year lease with Joseph Galloway, the owner of the Durham Iron Works, leasing mines, quarries, forges, and blast furnaces in PA and NJ. At the time Galloway was a prominent Philadelphia attorney and speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly. The production of the Iron Works included pig iron and bar iron made at the forges in New Jersey, castings, and stoves, including Franklin stoves. In August 1775 Taylor secured a contract from the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety for cannonballs. From 1775 to 1778 Durham Furnace produced grape shot, cannon balls, bar shot and cannon for the Continental Army. Taylor received limited compensation for his contribution to the war effort, and his wealth diminished as a result. At the July 1775 meeting of the Assembly, a month after the Battle of Bunker Hill, Taylor was commissioned as a Colonel of the 3rd battalion of Militia. This meeting represented the first step in the county arming for conflict with England. He reportedly took part in drilling and in the organization of the battalion.” (The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence)

176“In 1775, he was part of the Pennsylvania delegation. Originally, the delegations were instructed to vote against separation. “When several delegates, including John Dickinson, chose not to vote in favor of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, the Assembly chose five replacements on July 20. They were George Taylor, George Ross, George Clymer, Dr. Benjamin Rush and James Smith, all of whom joined Congress and subsequently signed the Declaration of Independence when the engrossed copy of the document was ready for signatures on August 2, 1776.

“Taylor’s lease of the Durham Iron Works continued through 1779. The property was then seized because Joseph Galloway, the owner, had been attainted of treason for siding with the British. An attempt was made to evict Taylor but the Supreme Executive Council allowed him to remain until the end of the first 5-year term of the lease. The Durham property was then sold by the Commissioners of Forfeited Estates and purchased by four colonels: George Taylor, Richard Backhouse, Isaac Sidman and Robert Hooper Jr. Backhouse took over management of the Works, and Taylor moved to Greenwich Township, NJ to lease and operate the Greenwich Forge in Warren County, New Jersey.

“In early 1780, Taylor moved back to Easton, PA. He had sold his estate along the Lehigh River in February 1776 and his house and stable on Northampton Street in Easton in 1779. He leased a stone house at the corner of Fourth and Ferry Streets.

“George Taylor died in February 1781, His estate included two slaves, Tom, who was sold for 280 bushels of wheat valued at £77 and crippled Sam who fetch £15, one horse and three cows, and a 24-hour eight day clock with a walnut case valued at £24. After bequests to his executors and housekeeper he left in his will dated January 1781 half of his estate to his five grandchildren, George, Thomas, James, Ann and Mary, his son James having died in 1775. The second half of his estate was left to the five children Taylor fathered with his housekeeper, Naomi Smith: Sarah Smith, Rebecca Smith, Naomi Smith, Elizabeth Smith and Edward Smith. “(The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence)

 

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
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