Thursday, 01 July 2021 19:25

Timothy Matlack, Free Quaker

Written by
Rate this item
(1 Vote)



By Charles Willson Peale - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, online database, Public Domain,

In Lower Providence Township, sits the small private Wetherill cemetery, where the man who probably penned the Declaration of Independence is buried.

Timothy Matlack was born in New Jersey to a Quaker family in 1730 and came to Philadelphia as a young man. When war began with Britain, Matlack declared himself a patriot and was read out of meeting. He was a member of the Provincial Congress of Pennsylvania and later secretary to Charles Thompson (of Montgomery County). Because of his excellent penmanship he was tasked with making final copies of important documents. We know for sure that he transcribed George Washington’s commission as Commander-in-Chief, and he is generally credited with writing up the official copy of the Declaration of Independence that was signed by the Continental Congress.


Matlack was also a colonel in the Pennsylvania militia and crossed the Delaware with Washington. Later he was a trustee at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the American Philosophical Society. In 1781 he served a term as Director of the Bank of North America. He later held several different offices in Pennsylvania government.

He was also a founding member of a group known as the Free Quakers, along with Samuel Wetherill.  These were Quakers who had been cast out of their meetings because of their support for the American Revolution. Originally the group met at Wetherill’s home, but in 1783, they built a meeting house at 5th and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. Matlack was originally buried there when he died in 1829.

The Free Quakers died out in 1836, either literally dying or being allowed back into other Quaker meetings or joining other denominations. With no active congregation, and the city developing quickly, the land the Free Quakers were buried on became very attractive. In 1895, a Wetherill descendant, Col. Francis D. Wetherill, died and in his will he left land to expand the family’s private cemetery to include the Free Quakers. In 1905, their remains, including those of Timothy Matlack, were reinterned in Lower Providence.

Read 1342 times Last modified on Thursday, 01 July 2021 19:32
More in this category: « A photographic mystery Lindenwold »