As we go out with our families and friends to celebrate the 4th of July holiday, we should take a few minutes to reflect on how fortunate we are today that men gave their lives and treasure to secure the freedom of the colonies. Although many of the colonial leaders at the time wanted to reach a diplomatic solution, when it became apparent that the only way to win freedom was war, they were willing to take a stand.
Why do we celebrate Independence on July 4th?
Its an interesting bit of history … On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that history had been made. The day before, on July 2nd, the Continental Congress had officially declared independence and a resolution was passed, without one dissenting colony.
John Adams predicted that July 2nd would become a day of annual celebrations, where all citizens would celebrate independence with parades, speeches, songs and “illuminations” (fireworks).
He got the party right, but not the date!
In fact, the country ended up celebrating Independence on July 4th. Why, you may ask? Nothing of any historical significance actually happened on July 4th, but it was the day that the Declaration of Independence document was sent to the printer, so that was the date printed on each copy!
Even if the date was slightly off, it was cemented in stone once two of the original signatories – Thomas Jefferson and John Adams – both died on July 4th.
When was the Declaration of Independence signed?
Did you know that not everyone who signed the Declaration of Independence did it on July 2nd (or 3rd or 4th)? In fact, we were surprised to learn that signatures were added to the document up through November of 1776.
Who signed the Declaration of Independence?
There were 56 signatories from the 13 original colonies – Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia,
You can see the complete list, commemorated by the National Park Service at Constitution Gardens in the National Mall in Washington DC.
When you think of the names of people who signed the Declaration of Independence, who comes to mind? Most people are likely to think of John Hancock, Sam Adams, Benjamin Franklin …
How about Thomas Stone? That’s not a name that comes readily to the tongue, but he was one of the 56 – a lawyer and planter, and a representative from Maryland at the Continental Congress 1775-1778.
Thomas Stone National Historic Site
Thomas Stone even has a national park unit – Thomas Stone National Historic Site.
Not much is known about him; there are no papers or accounts left of his life, but the home he built “Habre De Venture” has been preserved by the National Park Service to celebrate and preserve the history of the founding of our nation.
You can walk around the property; enjoy the visitor center; stroll along the trails; see the family farm and cemetery, and take a ranger-led tour of the house.
Check the times, days - the house isn’t open every day of the week.
It is a lovely place to visit, especially on a nice sunny day. What we really enjoyed was hearing how much a part of the community the historic site has become. Even if not many people know about Thomas Stone, locals enjoy the park and events that they host. The ranger told us that it is a great place to watch rockets launched from the NASA facility nearby. Every December, it hosts a Christmas event, and July 4th it hosts a huge celebration.
If you are in the area, that might be your best destination for the 4th of July!