Charters of Freedom

This photo from Burke County, North Carolina, shows a setting that is similar to the Charters of Freedom monument that is coming to the Cass County Courthouse.

By Veteran’s Day, the history and heritage of our freedoms will be on display outside Cass County’s government building.

Bronze replicas of the Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution and Bill of Rights will be put in a permanent setting on the lawn at 200 Court Park in Logansport.

The project is an agreement between the Cass County Commissioners and Foundation Forward Inc., a nonprofit that intends to put similar structures containing copies of all three documents in each county, parish or borough (depending on the state’s divisions) in the U.S.

“The original founding documents are very important,” said District 2 County Councilman Ralph Anderson. “I think it’s important for the youth (to study). I think it’s important for the armed services to see what they fought for,” as well as for first responders to see them and for people coming in and out of the courthouse to see that we’re a nation of laws.”

Construction will start the second week of September on the setting for the documents.

It won’t be a monument that pays tribute to a past event or someone who has died, explained Mike Unruh of Foundation Forward.

“These are living, active documents that continue to hold meaning and will continue to do that well into the future,” Unruh said.

The dedication for the Charters of Freedom, as they and the setting are called, will be at 2 p.m. on Nov. 10, the Sunday of Veteran’s Day weekend and the anniversary of the Marine Corps founding.

“The dedication ceremony and gifting of the Charters of Freedom to the Citizens of Cass County will include a Presentation of The Colors, speeches, patriotic events, and conclude with a cannon salute to the United States Constitution,” according to a county press release.

The settings for the Charters of Freedom differ slightly from place to place.

For Cass County, copies of the documents will rest behind two inches of shatterproof glass in a 20-foot wide and 12-foot deep monument structure with a concrete core, brick facade and Indiana limestone trim around document chambers.

Cass County will be the 23rd recipient of a Charters of Freedom setting, and it will cost nothing to residents.

“This will be done without any taxpayer dollars or government expense,” Anderson said. “This is literally a gift to the county.”

Foundation Forward runs on donations from businesses — local ones and national ones — and from individuals, Unruh said.

That includes from people buying paver stones — bricks that have names on them. Anderson said 450 pavers will surround the one in Cass County.

Those donations don’t pay for the immediate Charters of Freedom but for future ones, allowing each place to “pay it forward,” Unruh said.

Anderson said the name pavers will happen over time.

Along with the dedication ceremony, Foundation Forward will six months later put a list of everyone attending the dedication into a time capsule safe, as well as letters from local officials detailing their jobs and what bringing Charters of Freedom meant to their organizations and the community, Unruh said.

The safe combinations would be passed on through local officials and also kept in a national trust so all the safes can be opened on a national Constitution Day celebration Sept. 17, 2087 — the 300th anniversary of the Constitution.

Vance and Mary Jo Patterson of Burke County, North Carolina, created Foundation Forward in 2013 as an educational organization after their first visit to the National Archives to see the original founding documents.

“Seeing something our founding fathers had actually penned, and then seeing their signatures — Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Rutledge, Wilson and the others — I just got goose bumps,” Vance Patterson said, according to Foundation Forward’s literature. “And, then when we moved over and saw those first three words of The Constitution, ‘We The People,’ I actually got a lump in my throat. I looked at Mary Jo, and she had tears in her eyes. It was really an emotional experience for us,”

They wanted to bring that to others and so far have them in North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, and as far west as Carson City, Nevada.

Cass County was chosen as one of the earlier sites because the Pattersons are originally from Kokomo, and he went to Huntington University, both of which received Charters of Freedom, Unruh said. Those are the only other installations in the state.

Several counties in North Carolina have Charters of Freedom settings because the couple knows people there, so it’s easy to make connections through friends.

Other places have them because they’ve seen Charters of Freedom settings someplace or heard of the program.

All Cass County had to do was find a place where the Charters of Freedom could go permanently.

Foundation Forward first approached Cass County officials about the project two years ago but approved the site, on the east side of the county building by the entrance, last week.

It had to be easily accessed and outside, Anderson said.

County Commission President Jim Sailors said although the county building has copies of the three documents and other significant United States documents on the first floor walls, this will allow more to see them.

“We have people willing to help us out to bring the documents outside and closer to the people — everything that’s important to government where you can see it,” Sailors said.

Currently, there are 21 Charters of Freedom settings in eight states.

For more information or to suggest a county for a Charters of Freedom setting, visit www.chartersoffreedom.com or call 828-522-1400.

Pavers for this one can be purchased from Foundation Forward for a tax-deductible donation when you visit https://chartersoffreedom.com/in-the-works/cass-county-indiana/ or through the county.

Reach James D. Wolf Jr. at james.wolf@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5117.

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