First monuments in Burke County, NC

Brittney Burns — Staff Writer

Foundation Forward is an education project building “Your Charters of Freedom” monuments that display The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights in communities across the country.

“Our passion is to provide easy access for all to visit these founding documents. Our vision is to provide this access and education in all communities across the United States of America. Our goal is to educate and preserve American history,” reads Foundation Forward’s mission statement.

On Tuesday night. Ron Lewis with Foundation Forward presented to Macon County commissioners at the request of Commissioner Gary Shields about the project.

In the fall of 2011, Vance and Mary Jo Patterson were in Washington, DC meeting with some members of Congress and various organizations. They had some free time and decided to go to the National Archives because they had never seen The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. Walking through the large bronze gates, they entered the rotunda. There, on the other side of the room, were the founding documents on display –The Declaration of Independence on the left, four pages of The United States Constitution in the middle, and on the right, the original proposed amendments which contain the Bill of Rights. These three original documents are known as Charters of Freedom.

In the spring of 2012, Vance tells how he remembers “sitting with Mary Jo on the Old Courthouse Green in Burke County, N.C., for a National Day of Prayer meeting, and towards the end of the service the thought came to him, ‘what if I could take the experience Mary Jo and I had up in Washington at the National Archives the first time we saw the Charters of Freedom – what if we could bring that experience back to the citizens of Burke County?’ I started getting excited about it. After the meeting, I mentioned the idea to Mary Jo and we actually walked around picking out possible locations.”

Later that year, Vance began working on a project. It turned out to be an education project: to build a Charters of Freedom Monument on the Old Burke County Courthouse Green. Two years later on July 2, 2014, the first Charters of Freedom Monument outside of Washington, DC was dedicated in downtown Morganton, N.C.

Foundation Forward does not seek any government funding or grants to build the Your Charters of Freedom Monuments.  All Monument monies are from private donations:  Individuals, Organizations, and Institutions.

The goal of Foundation Forward is to bring these documents to local communities in life size replicas of the monuments in the National Archives. Charters of Freedom Monuments are placed in a location central to the community, with 24 hour access, high visibility, high foot traffic, and easy access for school children.

Since the first monuments were built in Burke County, the monuments have been replicated throughout North Carolina and have also been constructed in other states in the country. Most recently, Foundation Forward has worked with Jackson County to construct a brick monument displaying the Charters of Freedom.

On Tuesday night, Lewis informed commissioners that if they would accept the gift from Foundation Forward, the organization was prepared to gift Macon County their own monuments at no charge. The display would be made of brick like that in Jackson County and would cost the organization about $25,000. Other options such as limestone and granite are also available if Macon County would like, but would costs double and would require community  contributions.

The Macon County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to accept the gift from Foundation Forward and made the commitment to begin deciding which type of monument to construct and where the display will be located.