Under a beautiful clear sky Friday morning, the Charters of Freedom display was formally presented to McDowell County officials and dedicated with the hope that future generations can learn from them and get a deeper understanding of how our nation was founded.
In front of the McDowell County Courthouse in downtown Marion, the Charters of Freedom settings now contain bronze replicas of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
These settings were formally dedicated during a ceremony on the courthouse lawn involving officials from the county, the city of Marion, the town of Old Fort, the McDowell Chamber of Commerce, local veterans and more than 100 local residents.
“Many of our Founding Fathers realized that by signing these documents they were doing so at great peril to their own lives,” said Commission Chairman David Walker. “These documents define us as a nation.”
The McDowell High NJROTC presented the nation’s colors and the Rev. Danny Hampton gave the invocation. The ensemble band played the National Anthem.
Then, Vance Patterson, founder of Foundation Forward Inc., spoke about the history behind his non-profit organization which donates displays such as this to communities across North Carolina and other parts of the country. Patterson, a business owner from Morganton, and his wife Mary Jo visited the National Archives in Washington, D.C. seven years ago where they saw the original documents up close. They had the idea of creating replicas of our nation’s founding documents and donating them to communities where young people could have easy access to them.
Patterson started the Foundation Forward organization to make this happen. The first Charters of Freedom display was dedicated in Morganton at the Old Burke County Courthouse on July 2, 2014. Since then, others have been placed and dedicated in surrounding cities like Asheville, Cherokee, Murphy, Bryson City, Franklin, Hendersonville and Burnsville. The organization had donated these settings to cities in other states like Indiana and Illinois and as far west as Carson City, Nev.
The Charters of Freedom display for McDowell County is the 20th such setting donated by Foundation Forward Inc., said Patterson. The bronze replicas are life size and protected by an unbreakable glass.
“These settings are designed to last 300 to 500 years,” said Patterson. “We believe it gives us a direct link to our Founding Fathers. Our hope is our future generations will grow up in these communities with the Charters of Freedom.”
Patterson said at these dedication ceremonies people often express their gratitude for donating these displays and ask him what they can do in return.
“You bring your child, your grandchild, your niece and your nephew and see the Charters of Freedom and then have the talk (about what they mean),” he said. “You do that and we’ll call it even.”
Then, Vance and Mary Jo Patterson formally donated the display to the McDowell County Commissioners by giving them a certificate.
“We’re excited to receive this setting today,” said Walker.
Commissioner Lynn Greene gave printed copies of the Constitution to two young children attending the ceremony.
The Charters of Freedom has a time capsule inside the back section. This time capsule will have the signatures of all those attended Friday’s ceremony, letters from county officials, Patterson and other leaders. It will be opened Sept. 17, 2087, the 300th anniversary of the Constitution.
Emily Latimore sang “America the Beautiful.” At the conclusion, the commissioners fired seven cannon volleys for each of the seven articles of the Constitution.
In April of 2018, the commissioners agreed to accept this donation of the Charters of Freedom at no cost to the county. The only thing expected from the county would be to identify and prepare the site.
Since then, the courthouse lawn has been upgraded with a new concrete courtyard and the veterans memorial has been cleaned and placed back but facing the Charters of Freedom. The flagpole now stands in the center of the courthouse lawn.