This Day in History: The Signer who disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle
On this day in 1749, a signer of the Declaration of Independence is born in South Carolina. Thomas Lynch, Jr.’s life would come to a tragic end a mere 30 years later when he was lost at sea, possibly in the Bermuda Triangle.
Both Lynch and his father worked hard for the Patriot cause.
The senior Lynch was elected to the Stamp Act Congress and the Continental Congress. In the meantime, his son was at work within the state of South Carolina. The junior Lynch helped to draft the state Constitution, and he served in the Provincial Congress. He wanted to serve in the military, but he and his dad had a bit of a disagreement over THAT. Lynch, Jr. was commissioned as a Captain in the First South Carolina Regiment of Continentals. Lynch, Sr. felt the title wasn’t good enough for his boy. He wanted to use his influence to obtain his son a higher rank. To his credit, Lynch, Jr. refused.
Sadly, Lynch’s rank ended up not mattering too much. He was stricken with a “bilious fever” not too long after he joined the military. He became quite sick and never truly recovered.
In some ways, it is surprising that the son, and not the dad, ended up signing the Declaration. But Lynch, Sr. ended up with his own health problems.
Early in 1776, the senior Lynch suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed. He was unable to continue his service in the Continental Congress. Lynch, Jr. was soon elected as a new delegate. Despite the fact that he was still somewhat sickly, the younger Lynch went to Philadelphia to join Congress and do his part. Lynch, Jr. arrived in time to join the debates regarding whether America should declare its independence.
The elder Lynch was sorely missed when it came time to sign the Declaration. Indeed, two of the South Carolina delegates, Thomas Heywood and Edward Rutledge, left a blank space between their names on the document. They hoped that Lynch, Sr. would one day be able to sign the document himself. It never happened. Unfortunately, the elder Lynch died later that year.
After his father’s death, Lynch, Jr. was still unwell. He resigned from public life and stayed at home, hoping to restore his health. Ultimately, he and his wife decided to head to the West Indies, then France. They’d been told that the change in climate might prove restorative for Lynch.
Unfortunately, the couple never made it. The ship was lost at sea and may have sunk in the Bermuda Triangle.
P.S. The picture shows South Carolina’s signature block on the Declaration. See the missing space between Heywood and Rutledge, on the left?
Benson John Lossing, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence (1866)
Carroll Judson, A Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence: And of Washington and Patrick Henry (1839)
Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (1832)
Dennis Brindell Fradin, The Signers: The 56 Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence (2003)
Sanderson’s Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (Robert T. Conrad ed. 1865)
South Carolina Department of Archives and History, National Register Properties in South Carolina: Hopsewee, Georgetown County