Family visits gravesites of all 56 Signers

 

The seeds of our journey were planted while on vacation in the oddest of places for such a quest – Hawaii.  As we walked to the Kailua-Kona 4th of July parade my oldest daughter, then 7 years old, asked a simple question:  What is the 4th of July all about?  Eschewing a short answer, I opened the Declaration app I had on my iPhone and proceeded to read the Declaration to our two daughters, discussing it as we went along. They were surprisingly attentive and particularly appalled at the transgressions of the British.

We then turned our attention to the bios of the Signers on the app. With both sets of grandparents living on the East Coast we realized there are many Signers buried near their houses. The idea of “It would be neat to visit some of them” quickly turned into, “Let’s go visit ALL of them!” And thus the concept of the quest was born.

Needless to say there is a bit of logistical planning needed to tackle this quest. With summers off, as ours is a house of teachers, we devised a plan to visit the gravesites over four years in conjunction with our annual visits to family and friends back East. A massive three-ringed binder housed our research. Each Signer had a page with a brief bio, the Erekson engraving of the Signer, picture of the grave, and any relevant info (contact info for the church/graveyard, map of graveyard, latitude/longitude of the grave, etc.)

With binder in hand, we headed off to our first Signer, Thomas Nelson, Jr. in Yorktown, Va. From this first visit we developed our routine: Prior to arriving at the grave we would read about our next Signer.  One daughter would be in charge of finding the grave.  The other would plant a small American flag at the base of the grave. Our daughters wrote a word of thanks for us to recite and they kept it short and sweet: “We the Webbs thank you for your great service to our country.  Thank you for signing the Declaration of Independence. We honor your courage and bravery.”

Our routine – read, find, plant, recite – was repeated 56 times in 46 different graveyards/monuments, in 41 different towns across 10 states and three commonwealths. Along the way we met some wonderful people and visited so many beautiful parts of our country. Amazingly, not a single grave was visited in the rain!

We finished our quest recently with, appropriately, Thomas Jefferson.  Upon hearing of our quest, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in conjunction with the Monticello Association rolled out the red carpet for us. It was a memorable day and a great way to wrap up our quest.

With the quest over, my wife and I feel a bit empty. The joy in the quest was the adventure, the journey, not the goal of 56. But we’ve made memories to last a lifetime and hopefully gave our daughters a better understanding of the history of these United States.

 Craig Webb

Glendora, California

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4 Responses to Family visits gravesites of all 56 Signers

  1. Lee Wright says:

    Craig, would you consider sharing your road trip with others? We’ve just added a Travel section (http://www.thehistorylist.com/travel) to The History List and are compiling, with the help of our community, a series of Historic America Road Trips, starting with the homes of many of the founding fathers (http://www.thehistorylist.com/travel/visiting-the-homes-of-america-s-founding-fathers-on-a-historic-america-road-trip). What you’ve just completed is exactly the kind of trip others would greatly enjoy learning about.

    In fact, the way I found out about SDSI was from a reader commenting on the first trip we posted.

    Sounds like you’ve got an incredible amount of information. Send me a note and let’s discuss how to provide some of the basics so that readers can consider taking all or part of this same trip.

    – Lee Wright | Founder | The History List | History Camp

  2. Kim Clark says:

    I hope next time you & your family will visit the places where the Signers lived!
    Here in Providence, a couple of miles from the grave in the North Burial Ground, there is an active museum in the 43-year home of Stephen Hopkins, Rhode Island’s own Founding Father. We’re open to the public Wednesdays & Saturdays.
    For more information, go to
    http://www.facebook.com/stephenhopkinshouse

    Hope to see you!

    • Craig Webb says:

      Kim-

      I can’t thank you and so many others like you enough for the hard work given to preserving the history of your country. If it was not for the dedication of so many people like you and the DSDI our little nerd quest would not have been possible.

      Logistically this was a very difficult adventure for us. Our visit to Stephen Hopkins grave is a great example. We left Wellfleet, MA early on a Sunday morning in July to fly back to California. On our way to TF Green we visited North Burial Ground and found the grave and then continued on to the airport for an 11 am flight.

      Thank you again and we hope to visit the Stephen Hopkins House some time in the future.

  3. joe says:

    How did you manage to get into the Doughoregan manor chapel to visit Charles Carroll of Carrollton? I haven’t been able to do it. Thanks

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