These Pennsylvania Towns Were Named After Signers of the Declaration of Independence

Assembly Room of Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall, where Declaration of Independence and Constitution were created. In Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

By Ashley Adams

August 14, 2023

Nine Pennsylvanians signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and centuries later, the state proudly boasts numerous municipalities that share names with those men.

The commonwealth has played a key role in many pivotal moments in history that have helped to shape the country that we know today. In fact, the nation’s very independence began in Pennsylvania.

Working through deep political divisions, 56 representatives from the 13 colonies met in Philadelphia to officially adopt the Declaration of Independence, which gave birth to a new nation and cemented the state’s reputation as a cradle of liberty.

While the document wasn’t actually signed until a month later, the nine signatories from Pennsylvania—the most from any one state—inked their way into the history books with their John Hancocks.

So it’s only fitting that scattered throughout the state are various municipalities that share a name with these nine men.

Benjamin Franklin

By far the most well-known Pennsylvania signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin was a businessman, writer, publisher, scientist, diplomat, legislator, and social activist. Originally from Boston, MA, Franklin served numerous important roles in government, both locally and nationally, and was the first US Postmaster General. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 and played a crucial role in the rebellion against Great Britain. Franklin also assisted Thomas Jefferson in editing the Declaration of Independence.

There are more municipalities in Pennsylvania that share their name with Franklin than any of the other signers. Those municipalities include:

  • Franklin Borough, Cambria County
  • Franklin City, Venango County
  • Franklin Township, Adams County
  • Franklin Township, Beaver County
  • Franklin Township, Bradford County
  • Franklin Township, Butler County
  • Franklin Township, Carbon County
  • Franklin Township, Chester County
  • Franklin Township, Columbia County
  • Franklin Township, Erie County
  • Franklin Township, Fayette County
  • Franklin Township, Greene County
  • Franklin Township, Huntingdon County
  • Franklin Township, Luzerne County
  • Franklin Township, Lycoming County
  • Franklin Township, Snyder County
  • Franklin Township, Susquehanna County
  • Franklin Township, York County
  • Franklin County

Robert Morris

Robert Morris was a Philadelphia businessman who played an essential role in the success in the Revolutionary War. financing it almost single-handedly. Born in England, Morris originally opposed the Declaration of Independence, but didn’t stand in its way and eventually added his signature to the document.

There are five Morris Townships located in Pennsylvania, one each in Clearfield, Greene, Huntingdon, Tioga, and Washington counties. And yes, Robert Morris University in Moon Township is named for him, though he had nothing to do with its founding.

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Rush was a Philadelphia physician who founded a free hospital in the city and helped establish Dickinson College in Carlisle. During the Revolutionary War, Rush was alongside Gen. George Washington when he crossed the Delaware; he treated battlefield casualties behind enemy lines; and later, became a pioneer in the field of mental health.

There are five townships throughout Pennsylvania that share the Rush name. The one in Centre County along with one in Dauphin County were named after Benjamin Rush. The other three, located in Northumberland, Schuylkill, and Susquehanna counties, are named after Judge Jacob Rush, Benjamin’s brother.

Benjamin Rush State Park in Philadelphia was also named for the famed signer of the Declaration of Independence.

George Taylor

George Taylor was born in Northern Ireland and emigrated to the US in his early 20s. Iron production was his principal career all of his life. In 1775 he was appointed to replace a member of the Pennsylvania delegation who refused to support independence. While he arrived too late to vote, he did sign the Declaration of Independence.

Five municipalities in the state share the Taylor name: a borough in Lackawanna County along with townships in Blair, Centre, Fulton, and Lawrence counties.

George Ross

Born in New Castle, Del. and educated in Philadelphia, George Ross established his own law practice in Lancaster at the age of 20 and went on to become one of the area’s wealthiest men and most famous lawyers. While he served on the Continental Congress, he was not a member when the independence vote was taken on July 4, 1776. However, he was again a representative for Pennsylvania by July 20, 1776, and signed the Declaration of Independence in August. Ross died in 1779, before the Revolutionary War was over.

There are three townships in the commonwealth that share the Ross name, one in Allegheny County, another in Luzerne County, and the third in Monroe County.

George Clymer

Pennsylvania-born George Clymer was a Philadelphia businessman who was a leader in the disturbances in Philadelphia resulting from the Tea Act and the Stamp Act. He helped organize and finance the Continental Congress and Army.

Two municipalities in the commonwealth share their name with the Clymer family. Clymer Township in Tioga County and Clymer Borough in Indiana County are named after Clymer’s grandson, William Bingham Clymer.

John Morton

John Morton was a Chester County farmer and surveyor who provided the pivotal vote in Pennsylvania’s endorsement of the Declaration of Independence. Born in Ridley, Morton was elected to the Continental Congress in 1774 where he was a member of several committees and chairman of the committee which reported the Articles of Confederation.

One municipality in the state shares the Morton name, Morton Borough in Delaware County. It was named after Sketchley Morton, his son.

James Smith

James Smith was an immigrant from Ireland who became a lawyer and businessman, and eventually rose to become a brigadier general in the militia. He represented the Pennsylvania back-country in the Continental Congress and also helped draft the commonwealth’s constitution.

Only one municipality in the state shares the signer’s name, and that’s Smith Township in Washington County.

James Wilson

Originally born in Scotland, James Wilson emigrated to America in 1766. He started a law firm in Reading and, after earning a small fortune, he bought a farm in Carlisle. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775, where he was a leading voice in the quest for independence and was a key figure in securing Pennsylvania’s ratification of the Declaration of Independence.

Only one municipality shares its name with this Pennsylvania signer, Wilson Borough in Northampton County.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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