Declaration of Independence Signer. Born in Kingston, New Jersey, to a Quaker family, he worked as an apprentice to a Philadelphia merchant. At age 25, he moved to Edenton, North Carolina, where he became a successful merchant. Just days before he was to marry a young woman named Isabella Johnston, she took sick and died. Heartbroken, he would never marry. For the ten years prior to the Revolution, he served in North Carolina’s legislature, and in 1774, he was elected to the First Continental Congress. He served in the First and Second Continental Congresses, from 1774 to 1777, and again in 1779. A workaholic, he was often found laboring at his desk, from dawn to dusk, often without pausing to eat or drink. Because of his experience with shipping, he was made Chairman of the committee that helped establish the US Navy. Hewes became the first executive head of the United States Navy, although he did not have this official title at that time. In December 1775, he appointed John Paul Jones a Navy officer, and provided him with his first ship; John Paul Jones would become one of America’s greatest naval heroes. His war efforts brought him more problems – in 1775, the Quakers, who hated war, denounced the Continental Congress. John Hewes broke with his Quaker faith and never returned. Hewes himself was torn by the thought of independence. Even after several battles and after helping to establish the Navy, Hewes still had reservations about declaring independence. On the critical day of the vote for independence, he suddenly cried out that he would vote for independence, and suddenly praying aloud, “It is done and I will abide by it!” Illness forced Hewes to leave the Congress on October 29, 1779, and twelve days later, he died at the age of 49. Many believed that he died from overwork.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson