Thomas Lynch, Jr., was born at Hopseewee Plantation in Prince George’s Parish, Winyah, South Carolina, on August 5, 1749. [This handsome home exists today on 58 acres on the Santee River on the gateway to Georgetown city and the Santee River delta. It is not a “restored” colonial property, but rather it has been preserved largely intact by the several private owner families.] The family was an ancient one, and is said to have originally emigrated from Austria to England, where they settled in the county of Kent; sometime after which, a branch passed over to Ireland, and thence some of the descendants removed to South Carolina. Jonack Lynch, the great grandfather of Thomas Lynch, emigrated from Ireland to America. At his death, he left his son Thomas (Sr.) a slender patrimony, which Thomas’s father turned to substantial legacy. The rice fields were its source of income until the Civil War. At one time there were about 13,000 acres owned by the family. This fortune, at Thomas Sr.’s death, was left to Thomas, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Sr., was married to Elizabeth Allston, of Brookgreen Plantation, another Georgetown prominent and wealthy family, and they had daughters Sabina (b.1747) and Esther (b.1748) and one son, Thomas Jr. (b.1749). After Elizabeth Allston died (c.1755), Mr. Lynch Sr. married Hannah Motte, and they had a daughter, Elizabeth (b.1755).
Thomas, Sr., was a distinguished public servant and one of the most important Santee River planters. He was the first President of the Winyah Indigo Society, and was elected as a delegate to the Commons House of Assembly by the people of Prince George, Winyah Parish, where he served until his death(1776). Having early espoused the cause of the colonists, in 1774, he was elected to the First Continental Congress. He was highly esteemed by the founding fathers, who in October, 1775, appointed him along with Benjamin Franklin and Colonel Benjamin Harrison as advisors to General Washington. In February, 1776, he was paralyzed from a cerebral hemorrhage while in Philadelphia, and never recovered his health.
At an early age, young Thomas Jr. was sent to a flourishing school, at that time maintained at Georgetown, South Carolina. Before he had reached his thirteenth year, his father removed him and sent him to England to continue his education. Thomas Jr. entered Eton and eventually made his way to Cambridge. He graduated with honors at Cambridge and studied law in London and then, after some nine years, returned home in 1772.
He soon after married, on May 13, 1772, a beautiful young lady he had known since childhood, Elizabeth Shubrick, daughter of Thomas and Mary Baker Shubrick, of Charleston, SC. They had no children. Interestingly, Elizabeth’s sister, Mary, married Edward Rutledge, and her sister, Hannah, married William Heyward, brother of Thomas Heyward, Jr. Rutledge and Thomas Heyward, Jr., were also signers of the Declaration. Thomas Jr. quickly became much sought after for public service, becoming a member of the colony’s first and second Provincial Congress (1774-1776) and the Constitutional Committee for South Carolina, where he helped draft the state constitution.
In 1775, on the raising of the first South Carolina regiment of provincial regulars, he was appointed to the command of a company. Having received his commission, he soon enlisted his quota of men, in some of the neighboring counties, and at the head of them took up his march for Charleston. Unfortunately, during the march he was attacked by a violent bilious fever, likely via malaria mosquitoes, which greatly injured his constitution, and from the effects of which he never afterwards entirely recovered. He raised his company and they joined his regiment, only to learn a few days later of the sudden and incapacitating illness of his father from a paralyzing stroke in Philadelphia, which caused the father to resign his seat in Congress. The Provincial Assembly elected young Lynch to fill it, and he hastened to Philadelphia to take his seat in 1776. Lynch and his father thus had the unique distinction of being the only father-son team of representatives to the Congress.
When Thomas Lynch, Jr. returned home from Philadelphia, he was a sick man. He retired from public life and lived on at Peachtree Plantation on the Santee River with his wife. The malingering fever contracted from his time in the military service continued wracking his body into worsening health. Upon the advice of his doctors, in 1779 he and his wife decided to travel to France with the hope that therapeutic help there may restore his health. The war, with the possibility of his capture, made ocean travel ever more dangerous, so they embarked for St. Eustatius in the West Indies, to seek out a vessel to transport them to France. On this first leg of the long journey, their ship was last seen when it was but a few days out at sea. Presumably it foundered during a storm and they both drowned, no one survived; ship and passengers and crew all simply disappeared, another mystery of the fabled “Bermuda Triangle” area. At age 26, he was among the youngest to sign the Declaration; at age 30, he was the youngest of the Signers at their deaths.
Having had no children, this Signer has no direct descendants. Interestingly, his will made before the fateful journey includes provisions for his sisters and step-mother, but requires that no one would inherit Lynch land unless “they shall take and use the Surname Lynch and no other…it having been my father’s intention and it being my meaning to limit a part of his estate as far as the law will permit to such of his family as shall use the surname ‘Lynch’….”. Mr. Lynch’s nephew, John Lynch Bowman later changed his name to John Bowman Lynch, he was the only son of the Signer’s sister, Sabina. John Bowman Lynch had three sons and four daughters, all three sons were killed in Confederate service during the Civil War, and left no descendants.