Fact Friday 389 - The Mecklenburg Historical Society and Meck Dec Day
Today's Fact Friday comes from the Mecklenburg Historical Society's website.
The Mecklenburg Historical Association (MHA) is dedicated to preserving and publicizing the history of Mecklenburg County through regular meetings, publications, special research groups and work with various historic sites. Founded in 1954 it is the successor to several similar organizations going back to 1875. Today the MHA is a vibrant organization which meets four times each year to share a meal and hear an interesting speaker. Various permanent committees meet at other times to do their work in implementing the goals of the MHA. Read about these activities on this site and in our newsletters, sign up for The History List to receive up to date news of interest to the History Community, and come join us.
The MHA can assist you in your research into the history of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. For genealogical inquiries, contact the Olde Mecklenburg Genealogical Society at https://www.oldemeck.org/index.php .
Mecklenburg County was among the first of the “back country” counties of the Colony of North Carolina. The general area was first settled in the 1750s, and Mecklenburg County was formed out of Anson County in 1763. The principle city of Mecklenburg County is Charlotte, founded in 1768. Today Charlotte is the largest city in the two Carolinas, but it was a small country village up to the time of the Civil War. The county and city were named in honor of Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the new bride of King George III of England.
Although Charlotte was not a large or important town during the early years, some interesting things happened here. Mecklenburg was the first government body in America to declare independence from the Crown of England, on May 20, 1775. This document was the famed Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence which you can read about on this site. Lord Cornwallis came to Charlotte in the fall of 1780 on his way to destroy the Continental Army, but he only stayed sixteen days. The local partisans were just too hot for him, and he later referred to Charlotte as “A Hornet’s Nest of Rebellion” giving rise to Charlotte being called the Hornet’s Nest City today.
The Mecklenburg Declaration Celebrations
The anniversary of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence of May 20, 1775 has been celebrated locally, state wide, and nationally through the years. In Charlotte, 49 anniversary celebrations have been documented, including every year since 1995. In times past children were let out of school for Meck Dec day and sometimes for the entire week. Four sitting U.S. Presidents and several Governors, Senators and U.S. Representatives have appeared at these celebrations. The centennial celebration in 1875 brought 40,000 people on special trains to this town which had a population of only 6,000 people. Go to the May 20th Society website for additional information about the Meck Dec celebrations from the 19th (century) to the present.
In 1995, under the leadership of Marion Redd, the MHA reestablished the tradition of celebrating the Meck Dec each year on its anniversary date of May 20. This has continued to this day, with occasional deviations to move the celebration to a weekday when it would otherwise fall on the weekend. In recent years, this celebration has been planned, funded and executed by The May 20th Society with the help of the MHA and the MHA Docents. The May 20th Society was founded for this specific purpose and holds an annual lecture series and bike ride to commemorate the event.
The May 20th Society extended its charter for the purpose of commemorating the Meck Dec through public art. In 2010 a bronze statue created by renown fine artist Chas Fagan, featuring Captain James Jack riding on his horse at full gallop, was unveiled at the Little Sugar Creek Greenway near Uptown Charlotte.
It was the first of a series of bronze statues depicting Charlotte’s history known as The Trail of History (Charlotte). The Trail of History (Charlotte) organization has been chiefly responsible for this ongoing initiative. These bronze statues celebrate Charlotte’s early history to the present in dramatic fashion.
These annual celebrations are generally held on “the square” at the corner of Trade and Tryon Streets in uptown Charlotte at noon on May 20th. After a brief interruption due to the COVID pandemic in 2020, the celebration resumed in 2021 at Victoria Yards (7th Street and Tryon Street) in Uptown Charlotte. The tradition of holding the Meck Dec celebration at Trade and Tryon Streets at noon resumed in May 2022. These celebrations include a number of political speeches reflecting pride in Charlotte’s rich historical legacy, the presentation of a proclamation, a reading of the Meck Dec followed by cannon and musket firing salutes from 18th century reenactors that are accompanied by shouts of “Huzzahs” from the attending crowd. Finally, a procession of an SAR honor guard marches to Settler’s Cemetery, fires a musket salute, and lays a wreath at the grave of Thomas Polk, the founder of Charlotte.
Until next week!
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“History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” - James Baldwin