Elizabeth Montgomery Witherspoon
Wife of Rev. John Witherspoon, D.D., President of Princeton College and Signer of the Declaration of Independence
1722 – 1789 A.D.

Rev. John Witherspoon, D.D., who became President of Princeton College and a signer of the Declaration of John WitherspoonIndependence, was married to Elizabeth Montgomery in Scotland, shortly after completing his education in Edinburgh University in 1743. His biographers say of her: “She was a Scotch woman of little education, but whose piety, benevolence, and graciousness made her beloved by all who knew her.”

Dr. Witherspoon (sometimes spelled Wotherspoon) was the son of a minister descended from John Knox, the great Covenanter, and as a young man, had established a wide reputation for learning and other sterling qualities. He was offered the presidency of Princeton in 1766 but declined because of financial embarrassments and the opposition of his wife who did not wish to leave her family and friends and journey into a strange land. In 1768, Richard Stockton, then travelling [sic] in Scotland, visited Dr. Witherspoon and, acting for the trustees, again urged his acceptance. His arguments prevailed and Dr. Witherspoon and his family arrived in Princeton, in August 1768.

The Witherspoons had ten children, five of whom died before they left Scotland; three sons and two daughters accompanied their parents to America.

Elizabeth Montgomery Witherspoon died in 1789. Eighteen months later, Dr. Witherspoon married the young widow of Dr. Dill of Philadelphia, aged twenty-three.


Reference: The Pioneer Mothers of America: A Record of the More Notable Women of the Early Days of the Country, and Particularly of the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods by Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green, A.B. Third Volume, Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.