Charters of Freedom dedication
Published 11:19 pm Thursday, September 19, 2019
Speakers detail history, opportunity for education
COLUMBUS—Polk County and Columbus officials dedicated the Charters of Freedom on Tuesday in front of a large crowd.
The Charters of Freedom are located at Veterans Park in Columbus and are replicas of the Declaration of Independence (1776) on the left, four pages of the United States Constitution (1787) in the middle and the Bill of Rights (1789) on the right.
A ceremony, including the presentation of colors by the Polk County Honor Guard, the National Anthem by the Polk County High School band, speakers, the release of 13 doves, representing the 13 colonies and the firing of cannons was held at the site Tuesday afternoon.
Polk County was gifted the Charters of Freedom by Foundation Forward, Inc. The displays are built to last 300-500 years and include a time capsule that will be opened on Constitution Day, Sept. 17, 2087.
Speakers included Columbus Councilman and House of Flags Museum Curator Robert Williamson. Williamson opened the meeting by speaking of House of Flags Museum founder, the late George Scofield. Williamson spoke of Scofield’s way of stating the pledge of allegiance…with three commas.
Williamson thanked Foundation Forward for the gift and all the volunteers who made the site and the dedication possible.
“To say thank you is not enough,” Williamson said. “The residents of Polk County owe a debt of gratitude to all of you at Foundation Forward, to Vance and Mary Jo Patterson, and all of our local volunteers who helped make these Charters of Freedom settings possible. May God bless all we do, speak and learn in this setting, from this day forward. Thank you.
Vance Patterson spoke of why he and his wife started Foundation Forward. Polk County’s Charters of Freedom is the 23rd nationally and the 14th in the Carolinas. (See part of Patterson’s speech on Tryon Daily Bulletin’s Facebook page).
Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene said Foundation Forward has ensured that future generations of citizens will be able to enjoy these living documents in a beautiful setting for many years.
“It is indeed a fitting day on which to hold this dedication,” Greene said. “On Sept. 17, 1787, the Founding Fathers signed arguably the most influential document in American history, the United States Constitution. Right now in classrooms across Polk County our students are learning about this historic date and the document that established the framework of our government and the rights and freedoms that ‘We the People’ enjoy today.”
Greene said what an awe-inspiring experience for our young people to visit the setting as they learn about our founding documents and the struggle and foresight from which they were born.
“I applaud the chosen location of Polk County’s Charters of Freedom, here in our own Veterans Park,” Greene said. “This county has a rich history of its residents risking and many times giving their lives for the freedoms and principles we hold so dear.”
Polk County Commissioner Chair Tommy Melton thanked the many people for coming out for this great moment in Polk County’s history. Melton said Polk County’s children are the county’s number one asset and that is one of the main reasons when the project was presented in August 2018, commissioners were excited.
“From the beginning, the commissioners agreed this was an exciting opportunity for out county,” Melton said. “The fact that no local taxpayer money would be used in the construction was a bonus, and the way the community has rallied together volunteering with sweat equity to ensure the monuments are honored the way they should be, make us so proud to accept this monument presenting the founding documents of our country to citizens now, and to future generations here in Polk County. Thank you.”
Thank you, Vance and Mary Jo Patterson, and the entire Foundation Forward staff and
We are honored to have these Charters of Freedom in our community, in our Veteran’s
Behind us, to your left (my right) the Military service flags grace the Flag of the United
States of America. These military flags and the persons they portray, we refer to as the
Defenders of Freedom. What a fitting location for our Nation’s founding documents –
documents proclaiming our freedoms and liberties – the frameworks for our Nation.
On behalf of the only House of Flags Museum in America, our Board of Directors, I want to
thank you for gifting these Charters, a permanent educational setting to our County and
our Town, our residents, students, and visitors – our community.
The flags you see up here beside us are symbols of the Patriot’s battles in the War for
Independence from Great Britain, from King George III and Parliament. But, there is an
earlier symbol that embodied and communicated the drive for freedom and liberty – the
Thanks to a Member of the British Parliament, John Wilkes (a Colonial sympathizer and an
early civil rights activist), and a newspaper illustrator John Hogarth, the Liberty Cap was
launched in a London newspaper in 1763. The Sons of Liberty in the American Colonies
had adopted the Liberty Cap and Liberty Pole, as our very FIRST real symbol of freedom
early in the 1760s.
(Liberty Cap story 350 BC)
The flags from your left (my right):
1765 – Sons of Liberty Flag
The nine stripes of the vertical Sons of Liberty flag represented the nine protesting
colonies that participated in the Stamp Act Congress of 1765. The flag’s 9 vertical red and
white stripes were symbolic of “45” the number of the pamphlet published in 1763 by the
English civil-rights activist John Wilkes, who influenced the American revolutionary
movement. Later, the symbolism of '9' came to apply to the nine states represented at the
adoption of the Constitution on September 17, 1787.
1774 Taunton Flag
The flag was first adopted on 21 October 1774 after the Sons of Liberty had forced out
Colonial Loyalists from Taunton, Massachusetts. The Taunton Flag proclaimed loyalty to
the Crown, laid claim on behalf of the colonists to the rights of Englishmen and called for a
union of the colonies in the quarrel with Britain.
1775 – Red Flag of New England
Bunker Hill Flag – June 17, 1775. The first unofficial flag and naval ensign of New England,
variations of this flag were used by Colonial merchant ships sailing out of New England
1775 – Grand Union Flag (Continental Colors)
The first national flag of Colonial America. First hoisted the on the American Colonial
warship Alfred, in the harbor at Philadelphia, on December 3, 1775, by newly appointed
Lieutenant John Paul Jones of the new Continental Navy. The flag was used by
the Continental Army forces as both a naval ensign and garrison flag throughout 1776 and
early 1777. On January 1, 1776 the Grand Union flag (Continental Colors) was displayed on
1776 – Betsy Ross Flag
Family Legend – Betsy Ross’ grandson William Canby reports that she sewed the first
American flag in 1776. Legend has it that Betsy Ross, who actually made flags for the
Philadelphia Navy Board, made the first U.S. flag for George Washington. Canby's original
paper of 1870 states the legend was passed to him by Betsy herself but that he had
extensively searched government archives and that he found not a shred of evidence for
it. No record of a Committee of Congress in 1776 working on a new flag.
1777 – Hopkinson Flag
The first official flag of the United States. On June 14, 1777 Continental Congress adopted
the following: Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate
red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new
constellation. The design of the first Stars and Stripes by Francis Hopkinson, member of
Congress, had the thirteen stars arranged in the unmistakable outline of the crosses of St.
George and of St. Andrew, as used together on the British flag.1781 – Battle of Cowpens Flag
According to some sources, this flag was first used in 1777. It was carried by the Third
Maryland Regiment at one of the most brilliant victories of the Revolutionary War at the
Battle of Cowpens, which took place on January 17, 1781, not far from here in South
Carolina. The actual flag from that battle hangs in the Maryland State House.
1781 – Guilford Courthouse Flag
The flag was raised over the Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina (Greensboro) on March
15, 1781, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. The battle was the largest and most hotly
contested action in the American Revolution's southern theater and led to the surrender
of British Lieutenant General Cornwallis at Yorktown.
1781 – NC Hornet’s Nest Flag
After being driven out by fierce opposition of Charlotte & Mecklenburg, North Carolina
citizens to British occupation in 1780 during the American Revolutionary War British
General Cornwallis wrote that “Charlotte Town was a hornet’s nest of rebellion.” The date
“May 20, 1775” reflects the date that the citizens of Mecklenburg declared independence
from Britain. North Carolina’s first (unofficial) flag.
There are nearly 300 more flags on display in the House of Flags Museum next door.
Let me shift gears: I was elected to the Town Council, Town of Columbus in November
2017. In the fall of 2018, the Polk County Appearance Commission asked for our help in
selecting the site for these Charters of Freedom. Since the Polk County Board of
Commissioners and the Columbus Town Council approved this fabulous location I have
looked forward to this day of dedication.
On behalf of the Town of Columbus, manager and staff, our Mayor and Town Council, I
express a heartfelt thank you to the Foundation Forward management and staff and to
Vance and Mary Jo Patterson for your generosity.
We came to know and appreciate all the hard work by Don Ramsey here. He had a hand in
everything you see in these Charters behind me. Recently Dave Streater helped paint the
frames and trays and Perry Snider pitched in to mount the documents. Mike Unruh has
been tireless in his coordination with us.
Bryan Sommers Masonry and his crew, his sons, from Hiddenite, NC formed the
foundations and cores, placed concrete donated by Southern Concrete, and laid nearly
3,000 bricks donated by Statesville Brick Company.
Locally, we were blessed with nearly 400 volunteer manhours of help in prepping this
site, moving things and finishing all the landscaping and cleanup. More specifically …
The Polk County maintenance crew provided support and equipment.
Mickey Edwards, Jason Jolley, Jeff Reid, Randy Herring. Thank you!
The Town of Columbus maintenance crew provided support and equipment.
James Smith, Chris Cochran, Ricky McGuinn, Dewayne Elliott, Jason Phillips. Thank
Myron Steppe of Steppe Construction used his track hoe to dig the holes for the concrete
foundations. Thank you!
The Columbus Fire Department also assisted the Town and County crews with some heavy
lifting needs for these 12 concrete trays and frames. (8,000 pounds!).
Lewis McSwain and Andrew Kegley. Thank you!
Rodney McCaig and his forklift unloaded bricks from the County trailer here on site. Thank
Local Veteran’s organizations and townspeople helped with our weekend workdays:
Terry Bradley, George Leimann, David Fleming, Nathan Shields, Paul Stout II, D.
Michael Collins, Larry Spring, Budd Denner, George Toman, Nadine Naujoks, Janet
Wooley Sciacca, Thomas Bolling, Steve Christopher, John Thurow, Deb Williamson,
James Metcalf, Bob Moss. Thank you!
A short brick wall to prevent further mudslides was constructed with volunteer skills
provided by Jason Phillips, a Town employee. Thank you!
The Polk Honor Guard presented the modern colors here today. And the Sons of the
American Revolution from Hendersonville presented our Colonial colors. Thank you!
To say “thank you” is not enough. The residents of Polk County owe a debt of gratitude to
all of you at Foundation Forward, to Vance and Mary Jo Patterson, and all of our local
volunteers who helped make these Charters of Freedom settings possible.
May God bless all we do, speak, and learn in this setting, from this day forward.
13 white doves, randomly flying overhead represent our first 13 Colonies.
13 white doves gathering together represent the forming of our new nation.
13 white doves heading home represent our nation’s journey that continues
to this very day.
“And Grace will lead us home”
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, Elected Officials, and
Distinguished Guests! It is an honor for me to participate in today’s
dedication ceremony. I would like to begin my remarks by offering
my sincere appreciation to Foundation Forward for their wonderful
gift of Polk County’s Charters of Freedom. They have ensured that
future generations of citizens will be able to enjoy these living
documents in a beautiful setting for many years. On behalf of Polk
County Schools, the Polk County Board of Education, and all our
students and staff we thank Foundation Forward and all the donors
and volunteers who worked hard to make this setting a reality.
It is indeed a fitting day on which to hold this dedication. On
September 17, 1787, the Founding Fathers signed arguably the
most influential document in American history, the United States
Constitution. Right now in classrooms across Polk County our
students are learning about this historic date and the document that
established the framework of our government and the rights and
freedoms that “We the People” enjoy today. They are learning
about The Bill of Rights, part of the initial ratification of The
Constitution and its intent to defend individual liberties from an
oppressive government. Our students also learn about the July 9,
1776 approval of The Declaration of Independence. The
Declaration identified Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as
unalienable rights, and made clear Government derives its power
from the consent of the governed in securing those rights. Our
students are taught that these documents, our Charters of
Freedom, live on today, guiding our Democracy and those who lead
it. This setting will serve as a tangible and impactful reminder of
how profound these words and ideas have been in the formation of
our country, and how important it is for us to preserve and rely on
them as our nation moves forward.
What an awe-inspiring experience for our young people to visit the
setting as they learn about our founding documents and the
struggle and foresight from which they were born. I applaud the
chosen location of Polk County’s Charters of Freedom, here in our
own Veteran’s Park. This county has a rich history of its residents
risking and many times giving their lives for the freedoms and
principles we hold so dear. Placing the setting here gives all who
visit an opportunity to honor their service and reminds us of why
Charters of Freedom Dedication
September 17, 2019
they fought and died. It will help our young people better
understand patriotism, and why taking pride in our country also
means saluting those whose effort and sacrifice built and preserved
this great nation.
Thomas Jefferson proposed the idea of public education in 1779
and he advised, “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people.
They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” I
believe strongly in Jefferson’s words and that our charge is clear.
We must continue to educate our young people about the
beginnings of our Democracy. We must encourage them to study
these documents of freedom and liberty and to understand and
appreciate their significance. We must ensure they know our
Charters of Freedom still guide and protect us even today. This
responsibility is one shared by our entire community, and I am
thankful we have this amazing permanent classroom that can be
utilized by all. I can assure you Polk County Schools will gratefully
employ this gift to benefit our students. I am excited to see them
encounter the setting up close, to engage with their teachers and
each other as they learn about these historic documents. I am
hopeful that by visiting the Charters of Freedom we can light their
candles of curiosity and realize Jefferson’s promise of education in
preserving our liberty.
It is a special day for Polk County. Again I want to thank
Foundation Forward and encourage everyone to continue
supporting the Charters of Freedom project. Thank you for your
attention and for the opportunity to be a small part of today’s
In the early 1770's the cry for liberty was being heard across the British Colonies in
America – places like Boston, Philadelphia and Charleston.
Patriots were organizing and readying for the coming Revolution.
We come here today to dedicate a display honoring our three founding documents
that were born through the cry of liberty and the War of Independence that followed.
In most school textbooks, the vague short descriptions of events in the War of
Independence are mostly focused on events in places like Boston, Lexington,
Concord, Valley Forge, Trenton, and Yorktown.
However here in our sacred land, including the future county of Polk, residents of the
pioneer frontier farms and plantations along White Oak creek, Pacolet Rivers, and the
Green River, the men and women who inhabited these hallowed lands began desiring
freedom and liberty themselves.
North Carolina residents had signed a declaration themselves in close by
Mecklenburg County. Known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence of May
20 th , 1775, it preceded Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence by more than
a year. The 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration itself claimed throughout history to be the
first American Declaration of Independence but is little known to most Americans.
Those who signed Mecklenburg Declaration believed to be from the area that
eventually became Polk County were:
James Miller, and
Most of these men who later joined the cause and picked up muskets and even
commands in the coming war.
In rebellion to the King’s appointed Governor William Tryon, our area residents and
leaders in the new North Carolina government, discarded their Royal Governor’s
name and changed the name of Tryon County to Rutherford and Lincoln Counties in
1779, in honor of two Patriot leaders, Griffin Rutherford and General Benjamin Lincoln.
Much later we would also honor a North Carolina Patriot colonel, William Polk, in
naming our new county in 1855.
As the call for troops came throughout our Polk County area, young men and even
teenage boys would join and heeded to the call.
My ancestor Lieutenant Anthony Metcalf, a French and Indian War veteran, would
leave his home on the Green River to serve with Elijah Clark in campaigns in southern
Georgia, Florida and lower South Carolina.
His youngest son, 12-year old William Metcalf, was one of two young pre-teen troops
from our area who served as drummer boys. The other being young John Earl, the
son of Colonel John Earl Sr.
Other families in the Polk area such as the Walkers, Hogans, Jacksons, Hamptons
sent their sons and fathers to war.
Sergeant James Grey and a young 17-year-old Captain James Howard would also
lead Patriot Militia against the British and their Cherokee allies who went on a
rampage against settlers early in the war supported by local “Loyalists” fighting for the
Crown. These Patriot Militia and were called “Rebels” by the British and Tories.
One of the wealthiest members of our community Ambrose Mills, received large land
grants from the King held on to loyalty to the crown. He and his son would fight
against his neighbors on several occasions including the Battles of King’s Mountain
and Earl’s Ford.
My ancestor William Metcalf in his 1833 pension statement testified that he his
brothers and father went off to fight the War in Georgia, Florida, and lower South
Carolina, many times having only the forest floor for his bed and rocks for his pillow,
supplying their own ammunition, muskets, and supplies.
Upon returning to their home county they found it overrun with Tories and Cherokee.
They proceeded to build forts and fight along the “frontier” which was how our future
Polk County was described in those early days of our nation.
In our area gunshots were heard in many communities at Earl’s Ford, Round
Mountain, the Tyger River, Fort Prince and Fort Gowan.
In the fall of 1780, a large body of mountain militia from across state lines of
Tennessee and Georgia and from our Carolinas and Virginia camped in our county at
the Green River.
It was here, at what was to be later known as Alexander’s Ford, that the Patriot
Overmountain men received word from a messenger that British colonel Ferguson and
his troops were encamped at Kings Mountain.
This message turned the Overmountain Troops and Rutherford County’s finest men to
have an edge on a surprising attack on King’s Mountain in which Ferguson was killed
by 8 musket balls and his Torie troops including Ambrose Mills from the future Polk
County who would be the first of 9 captured men who were hanged nearby.
The Patriot victories at Earl’s Ford on the North Pacolet River and the nearby battles
of Cowpens, King’s Mountain, and Musgrove Mills in Spartanburg County greatly
weakened the British southern armies and boosted the morale of Patriots in the south.
The following year in October 1781 the British would unconditionally surrender and
America would gain its liberty.
The Patriot men of Polk County as victorious veterans were awarded land grants in
our area and the future Henderson County. Many of these veterans would help build
our County into what it became today.
In 1833, as these Patriot veterans were aging fast, the Federal Government awarded
monetary pensions to those remaining. William and Danza Metcalf, James Grey,
James Miller and others were among those who received pensions.
In 1854. one year before the founding of Polk County the last man in the area who
claimed to be a Revolutionary veteran, my gggg grandfather Benjamin Staton, died at
the age of 103 on top of one of OUR Saluda Mountains straddling the Henderson/Polk
County line. He lies today in our family cemetery in the woods above my home.
Almost 30 years later the last surviving woman who could vividly recall the Revolution,
Cecilia Rhodes celebrated her 100th birthday. The newspapers in our area printed her
recollections of growing up in ROWAN County during the Revolution and her
hometown being occupied by the British. She, being one of the last of a generation
who witnessed the birth of our American Nation died in her home in the Pacolet Valley
just a few years later. Mrs. Rhodes, one of our state’s oldest citizens is buried on a hill
not far from here overlooking Tryon’s Harmon Field.
These Patriots of our Polk County area are long forgotten. But on this day may we
pledge to never forget their dedication to fight for the cause of liberty against tyranny.
War and conflict would arise time and time again in our nation in the following two
centuries. Men and women of our county would gloriously serve when the call came,
and many of our county soldiers would never return from these many wars.
Sacrificing their lives again to preserve our nation’s freedoms that our forefathers had
achieved in those 18th century years.
Every time we view our American flag flying proudly on a POLK county flagpole let us
always member the ones who sacrificed and served in those days long gone so that
our American nation would be born, and liberty would be preserved from tyranny to
God bless and preserve America.