York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

1776 Declaration of Independence reading in York Town re-enacted in annual ceremony

This drawing from a mid-20th century York (Pa.) Chamber of Commerce publication shows the scene in York, then York Town, upon the arrival of the Declaration of Independence. York attorney and Continental Congress delegate James Smith was part of a delegation carrying the document to York, where it was read to a crowd on July 6. A re-enactment of this reading of the Declaration is set for Sunday, July 4, in York. Also of interest: Declaration signer James Smith gains moment of fame and John Adams: ‘Yesterday the greatest question was decided’ and Events in 1777 helped tip Revolution toward patriots.

James Smith, who later signed the Declaration of Independence, headed a delegation that brought with them the document from Philadelphia to his hometown of York in July 1776.
The “later” signing part is right. He carried the Dunlap Broadside, a printed declaration, signed by John Hancock and Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress.
The familiar, beautifully handwritten Declaration would be ready for signatures in early August, about a month after Smith’s July 6 arrival in York Town.
Four militia companies and 300 to 400 old men, women and boys joined Smith for a public reading… .

After the reading, Smith explained the advantages of independence and concluded by throwing his hat into the air.
Those gathered did the same.
Young John Adlum witnessed the scene.
“I do not believe that the majority, men and women, knew what independence meant,” Adlum wrote years later.
Clearly, by the end of the war seven years later, York countians understood the price of independence.
The war cost them loved ones, and they toiled through war scarcities and the work of accommodating the rest of the Continental Congress and the entire U.S. government for nine months in 1777-78.
That scene in 1776 York Town, set the pace for U.S. citizen reaction to future wars, including the War on Terrorism in the Middle East.
They often start with enthusiasm, and then the toll of wars kicks in as the days, weeks and months drag on. People can’t wait for them to conclude.
About that local July 4 ceremony:
According to regent Beth Grove, the Col. James Smith Chapter, DAR, is sponsoring its annual memorial service at the grave of Col. James Smith on Sunday, July 4, beginning at 10 a.m. The free event will be held at First Presbyterian Church on East Market Street in York. The service includes the Rev. John Morgan of First Presbyterian Church, Phillip Palandro of York County Veterans Affairs, and Commissioner Chris Reilly reading the Declaration of Independance.
Members of the Col. Thomas Hartley Society, Children of the American Revolution, will lead the pledge of allegiance (Emily Grove age 6) ; and the historical life of Col. James Smith will be presented by James McAllister (age 9) and a homeschooled student. Support for the event include members of the Continental Congress Chapter SAR as well as members of the Col. James Smith Chapter, DAR.
For all American Revolution posts from the start, visit: York Town Square.
Source: “Nine Months in York Town”</em>