Dorothy Quincy Hancock, the beautiful Boston bride of John Hancock, had the honor of being the wife of the first “signer.” John Hancock was the first man to sign the Declaration of Independence because he was the presiding officer of the Continental Congress of 1776.
Dorothy Quincy was born on May 10, 1747, the youngest child of ten children born to Judge Edmund Quincy and his wife Elizabeth Wendell Quincy. She grew up in a wealthy and well-regulated home in New England and thus had a sheltered life.
One of her admiring descendants wrote the following about Dorothy Quincy: “Carefully reared under a gentle mother’s watchfulness through the early part of her life, when old enough she launched in the social world under more favourable auspices than usually fall to the lot of a young girl. Cultured and agreeable, she drew friends and attracted admirers; she won all hearts and a place in society from which nothing could dethrone her. Admired and sought after, Dorothy Quincy steered through the dangerous shoals of high-seasoned compliments to remain a bright, unspoiled beauty, that no flattery could harm” (Wives of the Signers - The women behind the Declaration of Independence, pp 20-21).
Dorothy’s mother, Elizabeth Wendell, came from a family in New York and was an educated and accomplished woman of high character. She enjoyed social life and especially liked being in the society of young people. The Quincy home, with several beautiful daughters, had many visitors including John Hancock and John Adams.
Dorothy Quincy was present at the Battle of Lexington because she accepted an invitation to visit Lydia Hancock, John’s aunt, at the old Hancock homestead in Lexington. John Hancock and Samuel Adams left after being warned that the British were coming, but Dorothy and Aunt Lydia remained in the house. Dorothy and Aunt Lydia were eye witness of the first battle of the Revolutionary War. Dorothy wrote, “Two men are being brought into the house. One, whose head has been grazed by a ball, insisted that he was dead, but the other, who was shot through the arm, behaved better.”
Dorothy wanted to return to her home in Boston but was convinced that it was unsafe to do so. She went with Aunt Lydia to Fairfield, Connecticut, a few days after the Battle of Lexington. She stayed for an indefinite period at the home of a leading citizen, named Rev. Thaddeus Burr. On August 23, 1775, Rev. Andrew Elliott performed the marriage of Dorothy Quincy to John Hancock in the home of Rev. Burr.
John Adams wrote of the marriage: “His choice was very natural, a granddaughter of the great patron and most revered friend of his father. Beauty, politeness, and every domestic virtue justified his predilection.”
John Hancock was very much in love with Dorothy and wrote many affectionate and respectful letters to her during their many separations. Most of his letters contained complaints about her not writing to him.
John and Dorothy Hancock were blessed with two children, a daughter who died as a baby and a son who died at age 9 years. John Hancock died in 1793. Several years later Dorothy married Captain Scott who died in 1809. Dorothy lived a retired life in Boston until she died several years later.
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