By Tamie Dehler
TERRE HAUTE — As American children, we all learn about the importance of the Declaration of Independence and many of us eventually visit Washington, D.C., to view this historic document in its climate-controlled and secure setting. But was the Declaration, adopted in 1776, the first document to be signed by elected representatives asserting our liberties and independence? Many think not.
In 1775, an elected committee of 34 of men in Harford Town (also know as Bush because it was on the Bush River) in Harford County, Maryland, met to discuss and vote on the resolutions of the Continental Congress and the resolutions of their own state’s Annapolis Convention. These resolutions included the right of the colonists, as British citizens, to be “entitled to life, liberty and property: and they have never ceded to any foreign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.” (See Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress, Oct. 14, 1774, at avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/resolves.asp). The document they signed is known as the Bush Declaration.
The 34 elected men, representing their constituents, signed this document on March 22, 1775. It is often referred to as “the first Declaration of Independence made by any representative body in America,” (freepages.genealogy.rootsWeb.ancestry.com/~susanb/bush_declaration.htm).
Although it asserted the rights of the colonists, it did not call for cutting ties with England.
The following men signed the Bush River Declaration:
Aquila Hall, Josias Curvil Hall, George Patterson, William Morgan, Francis Holland, Samuel Caldwell, Aquila Paca, James Lytle, Aquila Hall, Jr., Robert Morgan, Robert Lemmon, Thomas Brice, John Patrick, Daniel Scott, Benjamin Bradford Norris, James Harris, Edward Prall, Thomas Johnson, Alexander Rigdon, Edward Ward, Abraham Whitaker, Charles Anderson, William Fisher, Jr., Richard Dallam, John Durham, James McComas, William Bradford, William Smithson, John Donahuy, Greenberry Dorsey, John Archer, W. Smithe, William Webb, and John Taylor.
Are you related to a signer of the Bush Delcaration? If so, you might want to check out the Hereditary Order of Signers of the Bush Declaration. To join the Order, your ancestor must be descended from, or related by kinship to, an original signer of the Bush Declaration. Relationship includes direct descent (you are directly descended from a signer); collateral descent, or first degree of kinship, (your ancestor and the signer have the same parents); or consanguine relationship, or second degree of kinship, (your ancestor and the signer have the same grandparents).
Joining the Order seems to be free of charge. Just submit proof of your relationship. The Order’s objectives include collecting historic information concerning the signers of the Bush Declaration and building a body of genealogical information about the signers. For information on the Order, visit their Web site at bushdeclaration.org/index.html. The Web site lists all the signers with a brief biography and genealogy of each. On this site, you can also purchase a copy of the Bush Declaration for $6 that is suitable fro framing. The Order is recognized by the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR).
The actual place where the Bush Declaration was signed is low-key and marked only by a historical marker and modest stone monument. To view some pictures, visit www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker.