Elizabeth King Horton

1749 - 1823

Wife of Continental Army Doctor

I was born July 1749 on Long Island, New York and my family moved to Black River, now Chester, in Morris County. In 1768, I married Doctor Jonathan Horton. Jonathan and I lived in Roxbury, Morris County and when the war broke out, the militia and the Continental Army needed doctors to treat the sick and wounded men. Jonathan served as a militia surgeon and then as surgeon in Colonel Ephraim Martin’s Regiment in the New Jersey State militia levies, enlisted to assist in the defense of New York City. After the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777, the army marched to the vicinity of Morristown for its winter encampment. Jonathan became assistant surgeon to a Continental Artillery regiment, and was assigned to the army hospital at Mendham, to help treat soldiers with smallpox. I lost Jonathan on May 24, 1777, to a putrid sickness he caught while treating the smallpox patients. Eighteen days later I gave birth to our son, Jonathan. I was now a 28-year-old widow with four small children under the age of seven. At the time, there were no provisions to assist widows of men who died while serving in the army. I fought through many obstacles for 32 years to be granted a consistent pension and died on October 3, 1823 in Hanover Neck, Morris County.

Learn More About Elizabeth King Horton…

I was born to Constant and Phebe King in July 1749 Long Island, New York.  My family moved to New Jersey and settled at Black River, now Chester, in Morris County, where my younger brother and sister soon joined our family in 1752 and 1754. On February 29, 1768, I married Doctor Jonathan Horton;, I was eighteen and he was twenty-two. Jonathan was the son of Rev. Azariah and Eunice Horton of Bottle Hill, now Madison, New Jersey. Jonathan’s father was a 1735 graduate of Yale College, had served as a Presbyterian missionary in the 1740s to Native Americans living on Long Island, and was a founder of the Presbyterian Church in Bottle Hill. Jonathan was one of seven children and his parents were kept very busy running the family store and farm. In addition, they founded a classical school affiliated with their church.

Jonathan and I lived in Roxbury, Morris County where our first three children were born between 1770 and 1774. Presbyterian ministers and their families frequently opposed the actions of the British Parliament that eventually led the colonies to declare independence, and we were no exception. When the war broke out, the militia and the Continental Army needed doctors to treat the sick and wounded men. Even before independence was declared, from February to June 1776, Jonathan served as surgeon for the Western Battalion of the Morris County Militia. Jonathan was not the only member of our families to serve in the war. His brother, Caleb, was a Morris County minuteman and then commanded a company in the Western Battalion.,Caleb died during the Revolution. My brother, Frederick, served as quartermaster of the Eastern Morris County Battalion. Beginning in June 1776, Jonathan served as surgeon in Colonel Ephraim Martin’s Regiment in the New Jersey State militia levies, enlisted for five months of full-time service to assist in the defense of New York City. Jonathan’s younger brother, Foster, was a captain’s clerk and my brother, Joseph, served as an adjutant in the regiment. Their regiment fought at the Battle of Long Island, where Foster was captured and suffered three months of brutal imprisonment before being released.  When their five-month enlistments expired about December 1, New Jersey and the Revolution were in a desperate situation, with the British Army pursuing our battered, demoralized, and disintegrating army through the State towards Trenton. Many of the five-month men went home, while others joined up with their old militia companies and rejoined the American army encamped on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River.

Jonathan came home, but was soon asked to join the Continental Army because of a smallpox epidemic. After the Continental Army won the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777, it and marched to the vicinity of Morristown for its winter encampment. There was a great deal of sickness among the troops during that winter and smallpox was an especially feared disease. Jonathan became assistant surgeon to Dr. Isaac Spafford of Crane’s Continental Artillery Regiment, which was formed on January 1, 1777, and was assigned to the army hospital at Mendham, not far from our home. His father, who had studied some medicine in college, also ministered to the sick at one of the army hospitals, and tragically died of smallpox himself in March. Throughout the time Jonathan was with the army in New York during the fall and then while he was caring for the ill during the winter, I was pregnant with our fourth child. Late in my pregnancy, I lost Jonathan on May 24, 1777, to a putrid sickness he caught while treating the smallpox patients at Mendham. Eighteen days later, on June 11, I gave birth to our son, Jonathan K. Horton. I was now a 28-year-old widow with four small children under the age of seven.

At the time, there were no provisions to assist widows of men who died while serving in the army. I petitioned the Morris County court for a pension in September 1779, well over two years after Jonathan died. General Knox and Surgeon General John Cochran attested to Jonathan’s service on my behalf. On March 17, 1780 the New Jersey General Assembly approved a pension for me of twenty dollars a month, as long as I remained a widow, and approved payments retroactive to May 24, 1777, the date Jonathan died. Due to the terrible inflation, most of the payments I received were in practically worthless Continental money. I couldn’t believe it when the payments stopped inexplicably in 1784. Two years later the Assembly revoked my pension, because they said I had received huge sums of money and Jonathan had died from disease, not from wounds. It wasn’t until 1818 that the New Jersey legislature corrected things and my pension was finally reinstated, 32 years after it was revoked. I died on October 3, 1823, in Hanover Neck, Morris County.

Sanford, Stephen D. “Elizabeth King Horton’s Fight for Half-pay Pension.” American Ancestors 16 (2015): 32-36.

Burstyn, Joan. Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1997, 24.

“Revolutionary Pension Records of Morris County.” Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, New Series I (1916): 89-91.

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