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Column: Historic groups lend relevance to Independence Day
by Thornton Kennedy
Northside Neighbor Columnist
July 02, 2013 09:00 AM | 2407 views | 0 0 comments | 94 94 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
Oct. 9, 1775, 23-year-old planter Joseph Howell joined a volunteer company to fight against the British in the American Revolution.

A petition bearing his and 70 other signatures of men living in the South Carolina Saltcatchers and Edisto District was delivered to the Council of Safety at Charleston, denouncing the oppressive actions of the British Parliament.

“We … do find it necessary for the security of our lives and fortunes and above all our liberty and freedom to associate ourselves into the volunteer company agreeable to the Revolution of the Congress. And that we will hold ourselves in readiness for our mutual Security and Defence,” the document reads.

Thus my ancestor took up arms to fight for American independence. First as a member of Col. John Thomas Sr.’s regiment and later with Col. Benjamin Roebuck’s battalion of Spartan Regiment, he participated in the Battle of Kings Mountain, Cowpens and the Siege of Augusta among many others, achieving the rank of sergeant before all was said and done.

Thursday we celebrate the Fourth of July, our nation’s most important holiday because young men like Joseph Howell, a first-generation American whose family came from Wales, put down their plows and took up arms against unfair and unjust practices. When the patriots of the revolution had run the Red Coats back across the Atlantic, they put down their arms, returned to their fields and reaped the benefits of their hard fought freedom. They could not have known — only hoped — that freedom would last eight generations and beyond.

According to the Daughters of the American Revolution, 850,000 people have successfully traced their roots back to the war for independence through the nonprofit. That number leaves out a huge group represented by the Sons of the American Revolution. Both organizations have Atlanta chapters, which is how I learned of Joseph Howell’s service.

His story would be lost were it not for the work of the Daughters’ Atlanta chapter, of which my deceased grandmother, Mary Adair Howell Bird, was a member. Founded in 1891, it is the second oldest in the country. The group meets the second Saturday of each month from August through May and participates in American citizenship ceremonies, joins in Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades and festivities and provides scholarships and awards to college and Junior ROTC students.

Perhaps less well known is the Sons group, which participates in activities similar to the Daughters and was founded in 1921. They meet the second Thursday of each month except July and August.

As we pause Thursday to celebrate our nation’s birth and our independence, I take comfort knowing there are organizations that keep our history intact and can help us understand what roles our ancestors may have played.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlanta and can be reached at

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