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A Day of Thanksgiving: July 4, 1783

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Picture of Alexander Martin  Late in June of 1783, Governor Alexander Martin of  the newly elected state of North Carolina, at the urging of the legislature, issued a proclamation stating that July 4 should be celebrated as a “Day of Thanksgiving and Peace.”

The proclamation read, “Resolved that the fourth Day of July, be and is hereby appointed a Day of General Thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God for the gratious Interposition of divine providence in behalf of this Nation: that it hath pleased him to deliver us from the Calamities of War, and Crown our wishes with the Blessings of peace; and that His Excellency the Governor notify the same by Proclamation.”

The Moravians were an industrious, inventive, highly organized, devout people who valued education for all. Their way of life can be observed today at a living museum called Old Salem.

They also had a strong pacifist tradition, dating to their founding amid the religious struggles of the 15th century as a “peace church.” Members were forbidden to serve in the military. They lived by the teachings in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.

It’s little wonder that by 1783, the Moravians in Salem were thrilled that the battles were over. During the Revolution, both British and rebels harassed them, collected fines, and even attacked them physically. Some young men hid in the forest to escape being pressed into service. A few did join with the rebels; the church forgave them later.

The Moravians kept detailed records and diaries of each day in their community, and these words commemorate that day in 1783.

“According to the order of the government of this State we celebrated a day of thanksgiving for the restoration of peace. The congregation was awakened by the trombonists.

At the beginning of the preaching service the Te Deum was sung, with trombone accompaniment.

The Watch-Word for January 20th, the day on which the Peace Preliminaries were signed, was: The God of Jacob is our refuge, which was preached by Br. Benzien. The service closed with the singing of: Glory to God in the highest.

At two o’clock there was a happy love feast, during which a Psalm of Joy was sung with thankful hearts.

In the evening at eight o’clock the congregation again assembled in the Saal, and the choir sang: Praise be to Thee, Who sittest above the cherubim.

Then the congregation formed a circle in from the Gemeinhaus, and from there passed in procession through the main street of the town,with music and the antiphonal song of two choirs. The street was illuminated. Returning to the Gemein Haus the congregation again formed a circle, and with the blessing of the Lord was dismissed to rest.

Hearts were filled with the peace of God, evident during the entire day and especially during the procession, and all around there was silence, even the wind being still.” (from Records of the Moravians in North Carolina)

The Love Feast, a Moravian tradition that is more a celebration of community than a sacrament, was a regular part of this community. The simple meal included coffee heavy with cream and sugar, plus a sweet bun.

The log Gemenhaus, built in 1756,  burned and was rebuilt in 1788.

The church, call the “Gemeinhaus” even in the earliest records of the community of Bethabara, served as a residence for the minister and other church workers and had a “Saal” – a “meeting hall” – for the congregation; the most accepted translation of “Gemeinhaus” being “congregation house.”

Image result for pictures of love feast of moravian

Moravians believe in the clear word of God;“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:22,23 The first printed edition of the Daily Texts (Losungen) was published in Herrnhut, Saxony, in 1731. The title page of that edition quoted this passage from Lamentations and promised a daily message from God that would be new every morning.

For each of the 365 days in the year, they read from the Daily Texts that give them a specific Word/watchword for the day and a doctrinal response.

During the crucial days of the Revolution, the German-language edition was printed in Philadelphia by Heinrich Miller, who had worked for Benjamin Franklin when he first came to America. The daily text for July 4, 1776, was from Isaiah 55:5-“Behold, you shall call nations that you know not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you” (RSV).

This all-day celebration is the first one documented in our country, and this is still reenacted today in Old Salem.

Several years ago, John and I participated in the walk around the square on July 4. Just like in the year of 1783, there was singing thankfully of the day we celebrated. As I look forward to July 4, 2016, I am truly grateful to be an American. Learning about the lives of those that fought for our country during the Revolutionary War, I am amazed at their courage and perseverance to battle against England; they were fearless.

Happy Fourth of July!




He Doffed His Hat To Me!

Walking toward the visitor’s center at Musgrove Mill Historical Site on Saturday, I met a re-enactor. He, not only bowed to me, but doffed his hat! In response, I nodded my head.

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The action of respect took me aback. Silent words of greeting were spoken, and for a moment, I felt like a queen. No, I was not attired as one; there was no crown on my head or long gown trailing behind me, but my presence had been noted with 18th century courtesy. In those years, this cultural expression was one of recognition, respect, gratitude, or simple greeting between two persons.

In retrospect, I believe I might have straightened my shoulders a bit and walked on with a slight smile. The unexpected salutation made me more aware of the manners that have changed in our world.

There is a connection between doffing and donning. One of the first uses of it in print can be found in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, published around 1470. He wrote, “Doffe of thy clothes, And knele in thy kyrtylle” (tunic or petticoat).

Image result for 18th century American doff

The English bard, William Shakespeare, frequently used  ‘doff,’ often in a figurative manner. In the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet entreats Romeo to change his name with the words, “Romeo, doff thy name.” In the The Taming of the Shrew,  Baptista chides the bridegroom with “Fie, doff this habit, shame to your estate”.

Obviously, we can don hats, clothes, or even character traits. Equally easy, all can be later doffed. These archaic words simply describe the actions of “do on” or “do off.”

A minister calling on a parishioner

From the 16th to the 18th centuries in England, the donning and doffing of hats was governed by a code of etiquette and custom that it is hard for us now to appreciate. Each man of standing wore a hat, and the form of hat and the rules were a part of society. This custom filtered down in society to the working classes, who greeted the gentry with a doff.

English settlers brought this custom with them, and polite society expected this courtesy on a new continent.

In the 21st century, men no longer routinely wear hats. Both my grandfathers and great-grandfathers traditionally wore hats when they left their homes. When they entered a building, they removed their hats. My dad owned a few hats and wore them occasionally for specific times; he owned a rain hat, a golf cap, a Master’s hat, and a Derby hat. Slowly hats have lost their places.

Whether a national leader or a farmer, men doffed their hats well into the 20th century.

Image result for art print: british prime minister winston churchill doffing hat outsidBritish Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill

On July 4, 1892, there was a joint meeting to celebrate our nation’s birthday. This clear, sunny day was lightened with a calm breeze off the Potomac River.

The Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Sons of the Revolution, and the Order of the Cincinnati met together at 9:00 at the Church of the Epiphany in our nation’s capitol. The organ refrain of God Save the State was as loud as the singing of America in this special religious and patriotic service.

A Chaplain gave directions for the order of the processional to the monument, and the men and women, on foot and in carriages, took their places. The Daughters of the American Revolution were at the end. As the parade reached the corner of G and the Fifteenth Street, business men hurried out of a hotel.

Police held back people and cars from interrupting the walk. Seeing the elegantly dressed men and women in the street, a gentleman asked, “Officer, what is this?”

The response was, “The Sons and Daughters of the Revolution.”

In one motion, that same man doffed his hat. All down the street, man after man followed suit as the men and women passed. Until all in the procession passed, no hats returned to their respective heads. It was a tribute to not only those who walked the streets of Washington, DC, but also for the memory of those who fought during the Revolutionary War. (from First “Safe and Sound” Movement by Helen Hardin Walworth, Founder and Honorary Vice President General NSDAR)

There are no photographs of this scene, but in my imagination those doffed hats respectfully speak to both the past and the future of our nation.

Golf has been dubbed the gentleman’s sport. I grew up in a family of golfers and was privileged to attend the Master’s on several occasions. There is something about how the golfers greet their fans as they walk up the fairway. Standing to their feet and loud clapping greet the golfers, and the players respond with a doffed cap or visor.

Phil Mickelson

Albert Einstein said, “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.”

No, doffing one’s hat is neglected in society these days, but respect is always in fashion.


Happy Fourth of July Newsletter

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Happy July 4, 2014!
Growing up, fried chicken and blackberry cobbler were the mainstays of our July 4th celebration. The chicken was finger-lickin’ good, and often there was homemade vanilla ice cream as a topping for the cobbler. Mother cooked the chicken in a large black skillet with Crisco, and there were always plenty of crunchies left in the pan for making gravy, if desired.
We went to pick the wild blackberries on Highway 29; they grew up the shoulder. I have no snake stories, but there were always scratches from the stickers. Filling the buckets took quite a while, because Critt and I tended to eat three or four, before one hit the bucket.
There were no laws to keep us from shooting off fireworks. Rockets, firecrackers, and sparklers were our favorites. The sparklers fascinated me, and I was amazed at the lighted stars. There were never enough of them, in my opinion, no matter how many were bought.
So minus the fireworks, I will serve fried chicken, probably bought from either Publix or KFC, on Friday. I bought the blackberries and will make the crust especially for our guests that need gluten-free dishes.
The ice cream is another story entirely; I will use Mother’s recipe that calls for Eagle Brand milk and whole milk. At least there is an electric churn, rather than the hand crank we used to use. We all put our time in turning the crank, so we earned our big scoops.
Since we haven’t made any ice cream since last year, I might just have dessert first!
There is something about the tastes, sounds, sights, and smells of yesterday that never leave us, and that is a blessing in my book.
This newsletter will be posted on my blog this month. In fact, I am thinking that I will include it as one of my blog posts. If you haven’t visited my web page, I believe you might enjoy some of the posts.
One of you readers has a chance to win a free signed copy of my latest book, Brave Elizabeth. It is the biography of Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson, the mother of President Andrew Jackson. I will mail it to someone who makes a legitimate post about your remembrances of July 4.
Book Signing:
July 19-24 – National Sons of the American Revolution Convention at Hyatt in Greenville, SC