By WILLIAM J. KELLY
July 4 is the day all Americans should say a prayer of thanks to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. This signing was the beginning of the struggle against the largest power in the world at that time, England. Our ancestors won the battle and in doing so enabled we Americans to have the greatest freedom ever had by men and women on this earth.
Richard Henry Lee of Virginia had previously presented a “Resolution of Independence” to the member states and on July 2, 1776, in closed session, the congress adopted it. The congress then set up a committee of five with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author to write the Declaration. After the committee had agreed on the wording the “Declaration of Independence” as we know it was approved on July 4, 1776.
Some historians say the Declaration was not signed until Aug. 2, 1776, but John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson all said they signed the document on July 4, 1776. I will take the word of these three great men that it was signed on July 4, 1776. The first recorded use of the term Independence Day was recorded in 1791.
Can you imagine this, the town of Bristol, R.I., first celebrated the fourth of July in 1785 and they have not missed a year since that date. This is the longest continuous July 4 celebration in the country. How about this! The small town of Seward, Nebraska, population 6,000 souls, has a very big July 4 program since 1868. It is so great that the population on July 4 swells to 40,000 people. These people deserve our congratulations and are great examples of patriotism to us all.
In New England towns large Bon-fires were set on the evening of July 3 to usher in the July 4 celebration. There was much competition between the towns to see who could build the highest Bon-fire. In Salem, Mass., the largest bofire ever recorded was 40 tiers of barrels high. It took place on Gallows Hill, the site of the executions of 13 women and six men for allegedly practicing witchcraft in the year 1692.