My watching the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on TV on Saturday probably caused my Scottish ancestors to spin in their graves. They left Scotland in the 1760s to get away from restrictive land tenancy laws and a political climate unfavorable to their Presbyterian beliefs.
The Royal Wedding, which I thoroughly enjoyed watching, happened the day before the 243rd anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.
My immigrant ancestors were among the Scottish Presbyterian pioneers who settled old Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Years of discontent in the American colonies were piled on top of the anti-British Crown feelings they brought with them across the Atlantic.
Weary of unfair taxes imposed by the Crown and the discrimination they were subjected to as Presbyterians slowly brought the settlers to the boiling point. An example of the persecution these Presbyterians felt were the Vestry and Marriage Acts of 1769. Those acts fined Presbyterian ministers who dared to conduct marriage ceremonies. Only Anglican marriages were recognized by the government.
In May of 1771 a group of young men from the Rocky River Presbyterian Church congregation in the part of Mecklenburg County that later became Cabarrus County, disguised themselves by blackening their faces and under the cover of darkness ambushed a shipment of Royal munitions traveling north on the Great Wagon Road. The supplies were destined for Rowan County to put down the Regulator Movement.
Blowing up three wagons loaded with gunpowder and other supplies, the teens and young men who perpetrated the deed were declared outlaws by the Royal Governor and had to go into hiding until May 20, 1775 when all the citizens of Mecklenburg County were declared to be rebels against the British Crown.
On May 20, 1775, the citizens of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina declared themselves to be free and independent of the rule of Great Britain. It was a sober and sobering declaration not entered into lightly. Those American patriots meant business, and they knew the risks they were taking.
Archibald McCurdy, an Elder in Rocky River Presbyterian Church, heard the document read from the steps of the log courthouse in Charlotte. When he got home, he and his wife, Maggie, listed everyone they knew of who could be trusted in the coming fight for American independence.
No original copies of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence survive today. The local copy was lost in a house fire at the home of one of the signers. The copy taken to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia by Captain James Jack on horseback was also lost. Later, signers of the document recreated it from memory.
Nevertheless, those of us who were raised on stories of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and the brave souls who risked their lives to sign it know that the document was real. The blood of the American patriots still flows in our veins and their spirit of freedom still beats in our hearts.
Don’t mess with our freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or our freedom of assembly!
Until my next blog post
Remember to watch the first of a new eight-part series on PBS on Tuesday night, May 22, 2018: “The Great American Read.” I wrote about it in last Monday’s blog post, The Lampasas County Asylum. The official website of the series is http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read.
I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Fascism: A Warning, by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.