Weekly Features

Historically Speaking


   Independence Day (more commonly known as the 4th of July) has been celebrated as a federal holiday by Doddridge Countians along with most American citizens since 1941.  Though not a federal holiday, Americans have celebrated Independence Day since July 4, 1777.  The photo included in this article shows a 4th of July being celebrated in 1920 in West Union at the field where the carwash is now located.  The second photo is of Cecil and Doc in their buggy during a 4th of July event.  Notice the decorations on the horse harness.  The year is not known for this photo.

   Many Doddridge Countians can trace an ancestor or ancestors to the War for Independence.  In my research for this article, I found 12 of my own grandfathers who served during the Revolutionary War.  One of whom I was exceptionally proud was Nathan Davis, who donated the land upon which the courthouse now stands.  I am confident most of you would find similar results should you do a little research into your family’s history.  We at the Historical Society would be happy to assist in that search, should anyone be interested.

   Now, back to the holiday… I wonder how many of our fellow citizens know the history of the 4th of July holiday. 

   It all began on July 2nd, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress (U.S.A.) convened and voted in favor of independence when they approved the Lee Resolution which was also known as the “Resolution of Independence”.  Two days later delegates from the 13 colonies (NY, NJ, MA, CT, RI, NH, DE, MD, PA, VA, NC, SC, and GA) adopted the Declaration of Independence.  This most sacred of our nation’s documents was drafted by a committee of five, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert R Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson who was the principle author. Since that fateful day on July 4, 1776, July 4th has been celebrated as America’s birthday.  (Doddridge County was part of Monongalia County, VA at that time, and West Virginia was years away from gaining statehood.)   

   The Fourth of July (Independence Day) is usually filled with parades and concerts often climaxing with a broad and breathtaking fireworks display throughout America. We, Doddridge County citizens, look forward to the great fireworks display offered to the public at the Doddridge County Park each year under the careful supervision of park director, Greg Cottrill.  This year, citizens may attend the event at Park this Saturday, July 4th at 9:30 P.M.  

Remember this holiday that wearing masks and keeping a 6’ distance where appropriate makes it possible for all of us to safely enjoy good food on the grill, great friends and family at the table and an abundance of American flags flying in many driveways.  

I have to ask, “How much do you the reader remember from your American History Class about the War for Independence?  Do you remember the grievances that were given and to whom the grievances were against?    Who fired the first shot?  Who were the Yankees and from where did that name come?”  

   Firstly, why did our ancestors want to gain independence from England? What was really going on back then?  I think that this impressive list of grievances as listed in the Declaration of Independence gives us a fairly good idea.  They are as follows:

1. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

2. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

3. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

4. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

5. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

6. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

7. He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose, obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

8. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

9. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

10. He has erected a multitude of New Offices and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

11. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

12. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

13. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

14. For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

15. For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

16. For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

17. For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

18. For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

19. For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

20. For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for 

introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

21. For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

22. For suspending our own Legislatures and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

23. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

24. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

25. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

26. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

27. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

   The first shots fired after that declaration of independence were fired just after dawn in Lexington, MA on the morning of July 19, 1775.  The “shot heard around the world,” as it was called, was fired by colonial militia.  The band of 500 men were outnumbered and were initially forced to retreat.  The American militia was able to reform and met the British at the North Bridge in Concord where they forced the British south to Boston.  The militia blockaded the narrow land accesses to Charlestown and Boston, known as the Siege of Boston.  At this point, the Revolutionary War was officially on.

   It’s believed by many that it was during this period that the term “Yankee” was first used. The song “Yankee Doodle” started out as a well-known British song, dating back to the early 1700s. Its lyrics were sung originally by British military officers to mock the amateur “Yankee” soldiers of the American Colonies.  Others say the word comes from the Cherokee word eankke, which means coward. Some say it comes from a Dutch word, since many immigrants from the Netherlands settled in the northeast part of the United States.  No one know for sure and I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself.

   Did you know that John Adams believed Independence Day should be celebrated on July 2nd?  It has been reported that he would turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest. 

   Another interesting bit of history is that both Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

   Did you know that before the Revolutionary War, colonists held annual    celebrations of the king’s birthday, which traditionally included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions, and speechmaking. By contrast, during the summer of 1776 some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a way of symbolizing the end of the monarchy’s hold on America and the triumph of liberty.

   Did you ever wonder when the first fireworks were used to celebrate the Fourth of July?  Fireworks have been around since 200 BC. Setting off fireworks on the 4 of July began in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, during the first organized celebration of Independence Day. Ship’s cannon fired a 13-gun salute in honor of the 13 colonies. The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported: “at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.” That same night, the Sons of Liberty set off fireworks over Boston Common.

   In recent years, Independence Day has lost some of its importance in the   world of government as time gave way to the vicious battleground of politics.  Yet it has remained an important national holiday for Americans and has become a way to declare our patriotism.  It is the one day above all other days, that we proudly fly our American flag and stand for the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  

   The birth of the United States was made possible because our founders were willing to offer up their own lives and livelihoods to form a better life in the new world for their people.  These men were not perfect.  No one believes that they were.  Their lives reflected the culture of the era.  It doesn’t mean that culture was right.  We all know that what was accepted as normal in that day is repulsive to Americans and the world today.  

   Still with all their imperfections, men like George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and managed to make the most positive impact on the world that was ever made.

   Franklin said it best when he said, “We must hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  These brave men knew that they were facing death if the newly formed United States of America did not survive.

   After the war was over, the fledgling nation’s independent states were   finding it difficult to trust each other.  The republic was falling apart until the John Madison and Thomas Jefferson asked even more of the war weary George Washington (the one man trusted by nearly everyone).   His response was, “Have I not given enough for my country already?”  

   The rest is history.  

   It is our responsibility to learn and to protect our nation’s history as well as our state and county history.  It is up to us to teach this history to our children and grandchildren.  The time is passed when we have the luxury of relying on others to do this for us.

God Bless and Stay Well

Patricia Richards Harris

Doddridge County Historical Society