Charters of Freedom time capsule

Published 12:20 pm Monday, March 9, 2020

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Polk sets date for time capsule to be open in 67 years

COLUMBUS—Polk County will soon bury a time capsule that will not be open for another 67 years. 

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and heard from Columbus Town Councilman Robert Williamson. 

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Williamson reviewed the history of the U.S. Constitution, with commissioners setting a date this summer to bury the time capsule. 

The date commissioners selected is Saturday, July 11 of this year, sometime between 2-3 p.m. 

The time capsule will be open on the constitution’s 300th anniversary, on Sept. 17, 2087. 

Polk County and the Town of Columbus worked together last year to get the Charters of Freedom in Columbus’ Veterans Park. Foundation Freedom Inc. gifted the Charters of Freedom to the county. The Charters of Freedom are replicas of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence in structures that are supposed to last 300 years. 

The time capsule will contain names of donors to the Charters of Freedom; names of people who attended the dedication ceremony on Sept. 17, 2019; a photo timeline of the construction and dedication of the Charters of Freedom; names of volunteers who helped build the Charters of Freedom and letters from elected officials. 

Following is the presentation Williamson made to commissioners Monday night: 

On September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia (PA), our Founding Fathers signed a revolutionary document that, even today almost 233 years later, continues to change the world and inspire passionate conversation.

The Signing of the United States Constitution occurred on September 17, 1787, at

Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, representing 12 states, endorsed the Constitution created during the four-month- long convention. Among these 39 were North Carolina’s three delegates: William Blount, Richard Dobbs Spaight, and Hugh Williamson – OUR “Founding Fathers.”

How well do we know these men who shaped our nation? I would like to take this opportunity to briefly share what we know about North Carolina’s drafters and signers of the Constitution from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, edited by William S. Powell, UNC Press.

William Blount, governor and senator, was born in Bertie County (NC) in 1749, to one of the Colony’s earliest families. He obtained a good education in the private schools of the colony and served as paymaster of Continental troops during the Revolution.

His four terms in the state’s lower house, beginning in 1781, were followed by two terms in the senate. He also represented his state in the Continental Congress and in the convention of 1787 that drafted the Constitution of the United States. After North Carolina at first refused to join the new government (1788 state convention in Hillsborough), Blount won election to the second convention in Fayetteville, in which he helped bring about the state’s ratification of the federal Constitution.

Richard Dobbs Spaight, governor, congressman, and signer of the Constitution, was born in 1758 in New Bern (NC) to Richard and Elizabeth Wilson Spaight. At the death of young Spaight’s father in 1763, Governor Dobbs and Frederick Gregg were appointed his guardians.

At age nine the orphaned lad was sent to Great Britain for his education. After attending schools in Ireland and the University of Glasgow in Scotland, he returned home in 1778 to begin a varied public career. Within little more than a year, he presented a certificate of election to the House of Commons from the borough town of New Bern, but the election was ruled illegal because of alleged irregularities at the polls.

As aide to Major General Richard Caswell, commander of the state militia, he participated in the ill-fated Battle of Camden. Although he was made first major of the militia in 1781 and later promoted to lieutenant colonel as commandant of artillery, he resigned his military commission in 1789; by then, his chief interest was politics.

His support of American forces continued throughout the War of Independence. When General Nathanael Greene was in New Bern near the end of the conflict, Spaight is said to have pledged his personal assets and influence, so greatly encouraging the Patriot leader that the scene of their conference under an ancient cypress tree in his yard on the Neuse River was visited in reverence by President George Washington in 1791.

From 1781 to 1783 Spaight represented New Bern in the General Assembly, and from 1783 to 1785 he served in the Continental Congress.

Resigning from the Congress and declining to accept reappointment, he represented Craven County in the House of Commons from 1785 to 1787 and was elected House speaker.

In March 1787, the NC General Assembly elected Spaight as a delegate to the federal constitutional convention.

Having signed the Constitution, he spoke eleven times, arguing strongly though in vain on its behalf at the 1788 state convention in Hillsborough. Publication of the debates, however, helped secure ratification of the document the next year (1789) at Fayetteville.

He was the eighth governor of the state of NC (1792-1795) and the first NC born governor of the state.

And, finally, my distant relative…

Hugh Williamson, born on December 5th , 1735 in Chester County, PA. He was an educator, physician, legislator, merchant, scientist, scholar, author, and signer of the U.S. Constitution for North Carolina.

So, how did Mr. Williamson get connected to North Carolina for such an important calling? In 1777 he entered into a mercantile business venture with his brother John and sailed from Pennsylvania to Charles Town (SC). On the return journey to Baltimore (MD) with a ship’s cargo, Williamson stopped his journey at Edenton (NC) because of the southward movement of the British troops under Lord Howe.

Finding this part of NC to his liking, he decided to remain in Edenton and tried to help the war effort by engaging in shipbuilding operations at Winton and working with a tannery in the Edenton area. He continued in the mercantile business and also reentered private medical practice.

With his election to the North Carolina House of Commons from the Borough of Edenton in April 1782, Williamson embarked on both a political career and eleven years of service to his adopted state.

His first three terms in the Continental Congress (1782–85) he lived in Philadelphia and New York while attending the congress.

In March of 1787 he was appointed to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. Arriving on June 14th, he remained in Philadelphia for the entire convention and signed the Constitution for the state of North Carolina on September 17th.

During the decades he spent in New York, he wrote numerous scholarly works before his death in 1819, including a two-volume History of North Carolina (1812) that stands as the first post- Revolutionary history of the state.

Looking forward

In 67 years, on September 17th, 2087 the U.S. Constitution will celebrate its 300th anniversary.

(Mark your calendars!) On that date, here in Columbus, North Carolina our citizens will have the opportunity to open the Time Capsule locked in a safe inside the Charters of Freedom in Veteran’s Memorial Park where the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights are displayed. And, on that date, share our stories from Polk County and the Town of Columbus of the years 2019 and 2020.

Now is the time to prepare the contents of our Time Capsule and plan the ceremony later this spring (a date to be determined).

The time capsule will contain:

 The names of donors to our Charters of Freedom

 The names of those who attended the Charters of Freedom dedication ceremony on September 17th , 2019.

 A photo timeline history of the construction and dedication of the Charters of Freedom.

 The names of all who helped build the Charters of Freedom from the initial site preparation to completion.

 Letters from the elected officials who participated and represented Polk County government and the Town of Columbus.

Time capsule contributions are being collected by Robert Williamson, (Columbus Town Council and the House of Flags Museum). He can be reached at 828/817-9428 or email

Legacy Pavers are also available to emblazon your names and sentiments for the future of our Constitutional Republic in the Charters of Freedom plaza. Military service recognition logos are included at no extra cost. Mail-in order forms are at Town Hall and the Polk County Administrative office. Or, the pavers can be designed and ordered online at