What really happened July 4?
By THE HISTORY CHANNEL
The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4th— has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.
A History of Independence Day
When the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radical.
By the middle of the following year, however, many more colonists had come to favor independence, thanks to growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary sentiments such as those expressed in the bestselling pamphlet “Common Sense,” published by Thomas Paine in early 1776.
On June 7, when the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.
Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, but appointed a five-man committee—including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York—to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain.
On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”
On July 4th, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Jefferson. Though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd, from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.
In the pre-Revolutionary years, colonists had held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday, which traditionally included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions and speech-making. 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.
Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence, beginning immediately after its adoption. Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777, while Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war.
George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781, several months before the key American victory at the Battle of Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.
After the Revolutionary War, Americans continued to commemorate Independence Day every year, in celebrations that allowed the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity. By the last decade of the 18th century, the two major political parties at the time — the Federalist Party and Democratic-Republicans — began holding separate Fourth of July celebrations is many cities.
Fourth of July Fireworks
The tradition of setting off fireworks on the 4 of July began in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, during the first organized celebration of Independence Day.
Clips from available Mountain Eagle pages since our founding in 1907
THURSDAY JULY 4, 1940
Mid Freeman, well-known L&N brakeman, lost his life at the Neon crossing. Mr. Freeman was braking on a coal mine run and had come to the crossing to flag traffic. Upon seeing a truck coming he proceeded to try to stop it and keep it from running into the train. The truck was evidently going very fast, and when it could not stop, knocked Freeman down. The train then passed over his body, killing him instantly.
We, the citizens of Letcher County, should be very proud of the Pack Horse Library that is located on Webb Avenue in the Fields Building, and we should do all that we are able to do, individually, to aid this fine library in its growth. The library belongs to our community and our county, and is here to serve us. The personnel is always ready to serve and lend us books, and to help and advise us in our selection.
“Friday evening our group was pleasantly surprised by a large truckload of Adult Students from Jeremiah arriving at Eolia to visit us and play our team in basketball,” says the Eolia Adult School News. “A very hard–fought game resulted in the visitors going home with a victory of 3 points, as the score was Jeremiah 16 and Eolia 13. Splendid sportsmanship was demonstrated by both teams.”
“Young Tom Edison” starring Mickey Rooney will play at the Bentley Theatre in Neon this week. Showing at the Kentucky Theatre in Whitesburg will be “The Grapes of Wrath” with Henry Fonda.
THURSDAY JULY 6, 1950
Whitesburg and Neon both held huge but orderly celebrations on the Fourth of July holiday. Whitesburg’s festivities got off to a start with a parade of several floats, which started at the depot and continued to the ballpark where various contests were held. The main attraction of Neon’s celebration was the giving away of a 1950 Ford convertible. The winning number was held by Odell Potter of Jackhorn.
The Kentucky State Police force has opened an office in Whitesburg. The local office, which has its headquarters in Pikeville, is located in the courthouse in Whitesburg.
Effective July 1, the Winters Mine at Farraday will be closed for an indefinite period, it was announced by company officials. This mine has been operated by Consolidation Coal Co., a division of Pittsburgh Consolidation Coal Co. There have been 120 men employed at the mine, and the daily production has been 900 tons. Reason for closing is inability to sell enough of the type of coal produced at this mine to obtain enough work days to permit operation at a profit.
Several raids were made during the past week, which resulted in the arrest and conviction of a group of county men on charges of gambling and possessing untaxed beer and whiskey.
THURSDAY JULY 7, 1960
Coal miners will be cut off from hospital-medical and death benefits after being unemployed for a year under new eligibility rules announced this week by the United Mine Workers Union Welfare and Retirement Fund. The rules also state that miners will lose eligibility to hospital medical benefits and to death benefits, payable to survivors, when the miners become “self-employed or in any way connected with the ownership, operation or management of a mine.”
The new Letcher Circuit Court, created by the 1960 General Assembly, launched its first session Tuesday with J.L. Hays, appointee of Gov. Bert Combs, on the bench. The 47th Judicial District was set up by separating Letcher from Perry County.
Sanford Adams, former principal of Eolia School, will head the Letcher County public school system for the coming two years. Adams is a graduate of Morehead State College and holds a master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky State College. He had done work toward his doctorate at the University of Kentucky.
Whitesburg City Council will meet Friday to discuss the need for bridge repairs, parking space for taxicabs, and city water problems. Taxicab parking may be moved to around the courthouse. Under the proposal, cabs would be allotted space in front of the courthouse and around one side.
THURSDAY JULY 2, 1970
State highway officials met with residents and city officials in Whitesburg in an effort to calm opposition to the proposed Whitesburg bypass. Generally, highway officials appeared surprised by the extent of opposition to the proposed bypass route. The bypass, which would take KY 15 traffic off Whitesburg’s Main Street, has drawn heavy opposition from city officials and residents who argue that the route is on the wrong side of town, and would bring more damage than benefit to the city. The route that was settled upon by the highway department cuts through the Cowan Street-Whitesburg Elementary and High School area, then through a portion of the Upper Bottom and then through the Whitesburg Hospital grounds.
Mrs. Lillian Russell Fugate Webb, 52, mayor of Neon, died June 26 on her way to the hospital. She had been hospitalized earlier in the week for treatment of a blood clot in her leg. Mrs. Webb had been a teacher in the Letcher County school system for 34 years, the past 26 of them at Fleming-Neon High School. She was the first woman elected mayor of Neon, and had taken office in January.
Warren Wright, Burdine, has been named director of the Council of Southern Mountains, Berea. Wright has been an active opponent of strip mining and has served as his own attorney in cases against coal companies.
The Summer Puppetry Caravan for Appalachia will be in Blackey next week for a free puppet show and workshop. The Caravan, sponsored by Berea College and the Rockefeller Foundation, will present two plays, “Wicked John and the Devil” and “The Golden Bird.”
THURSDAY JULY 3, 1980
Letcher County Property Valuation Administrator Paul Mason resigned Monday. Mason, who had held the PVA position 31 months, resigned after officials in the state Department of Revenue ordered that his office reassess its 1980 tax base on county properties — a move Mason said could increase property taxes by 30 percent. “I just wouldn’t do that to my neighbors and friends,” Mason told The Mountain Eagle.
For the first time since last October, Letcher Fiscal Court now is the sole overseer of county financial matters. The State Department for Local Government rescinded the State Local Finance Order the department issued October 10, and returned control of county finances to the court. The announcement came after the fiscal court approved a $1.3 million budget for the year ending June 30, 1981 — a budget which should clear the county of its $384,936 debt.
Temporary classrooms were moved this week from Cowan School onto the site of the Whitesburg Middle School building, which was destroyed by fire last winter. The classrooms will house Whitesburg Middle School until a new building can be obtained.
A July 4 celebration will be held beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, sponsored by Letcher Jaycees and Jayceettes, Upsilon Eta Omicron Sorority and Letcher Fire and Rescue Squad. The celebration will include a dish throw, a raffle wheel, basketball, tennis, an egg throw, a dart throw, Bingo, duck-in-a pond, horseshoes and a square dance. Fireworks will begin at 10 p.m.
WEDNESDAY JULY 4, 1990
Fireworks will light up the sky on both sides of the Kentucky/Virginia border tonight as cities in both states celebrate Independence Day. The Whitesburg Fire Department will kick off its annual celebration with a dance at the Whitesburg Little League Field at the Whitesburg Industrial Site. The fireworks display will begin at 10 p.m. In Virginia, the Wise Police Department will handle the fireworks display at the close of a day of games and contests.
The Letcher County Fiscal Court has passed the first reading of a mandatory garbage collection ordinance, but at the same time voted to continue using franchised garbage haulers. The court voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the law which would require every household and business in the county to subscribe to garbage collection service by August 1.
The Letcher County Board of Education began answering criticism of its management practices by establishing two new supervisory positions and re-establishing another. The board voted unanimously to create the positions of assistant superintendent of educational services and of principal of Letcher Elementary School. It also agreed to hire a supervisor to oversee the district’s federally paid Chapter I program.
Improvements being made at a sewage-treatment plant caused contamination that prompted an advisory against swimming along 163 miles of the North Fork of the Kentucky River, state officials say. Efforts to upgrade plants in Whitesburg, Jackson and Hazard apparently enabled untreated sewage to bypass the plants and go directly into the river.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 28, 2000
A federal grand jury has indicted former Fleming-Neon Mayor James Seals on charges of lying on documents required to get assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after a flood in 1998. Seals is charged with certifying in October 1998 that all costs claimed to repair flood damage that occurred in April 1998 were eligible for FEMA disaster aid when he knew they were not. Seals is the second former official from Fleming-Neon to be indicted this year. Former Police Chief Neil Yonts, who was hired by Seals, pleaded guilty to helping rob the Community Trust Bank branch in Fleming-Neon in February 1998.
U.S. 119 was blocked for about eight hours after a tanker carrying liquid nitrogen overturned near the base of Pine Mountain. Kentucky State Police said the truck turned over on its side in a curve as it was coming down the mountain road toward Whitesburg. The rear of the vehicle was over the edge of the mountain. Police blocked the highway while another tanker drained the wreck tanker of its cargo and wreckers pulled it upright.
Police destroyed 41 marijuana plots containing 1,838 plants in Letcher County. Kentucky State Police and officers from the Governor’s Marijuana Task Force located and destroyed the plots, most of which were in the Kingscreek area. No arrests were made.
“Shaft” and “Big Momma’s House” are playing at the Jeremiah Drive-In Theatre on Friday and Saturday nights.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 30, 2010
Homeowners in Letcher County will see their monthly electric bills rise by as much as 17 percent under a rate increase approved by the Kentucky Public Service Commission. The PSC announced its approval of a settlement granting a 12.5 percent residential rate hike to Kentucky Power Co., which had requested a hike which would have caused an average monthly bill to increase by 34 percent.
Ferus Inc., a Canadian company, is building a liquid nitrogen plant in Letcher County. The company says it would like to hire Letcher County residents to fill 35 job positions after it finishes its $30.8 million facility at the Gateway Industrial Park near Jenkins.
Funeral services for Lois A. Baker, the founder and past chief executive officer of Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, will be held today. Mrs. Baker, 79, attended Stuart Robinson High School, Fugazzi Business College in Lexington and the University of Michigan School of Health. Before helping MCHC become one of the country’s most successful rural health providers, she had worked in the coal business and operated a furniture plant.
Jenkins Independent Schools Superintendent Deborah Watts told the Board of Education she has received a number of applications for the vacant principal position at Jenkins Middle High School and is current evaluating them.