Independence Days!

John Adams, an American Founding Father, and the second President of the United States, predicted how Americans would spend our future Independence Days when he wrote to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776, the day after the Second Continental Congress made its decree for freedom: " I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more." The next day, Congress formally adopted the Declaration, sounding the bell at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Pen would not actually be put to paper until August 2, but six long years of struggle for independence had begun.

Revolutionary Times

In New Jersey we are fortunate to be able to celebrate our independence on hallowed ground, the Crossroads of the Revolution, where so many crucial moments in the war took place. For the sixth year in a row, Morris County will celebrate the 4th of July the way the Founding Fathers might have imagined it at the annual Revolutionary Times. Celebrate the country’s independence by participating in the festivities on the Morristown Green. The reading will take place at noon on Wednesday, July 4th. The event is free to the public and appropriate for all ages.

Morristown National Historical Park, the nation’s first historical park, is a major sponsor of the event, along with the Morris County Tourism Bureau. The park will welcome visitors on July 4th from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm and admission is free.

On Wednesday, July 4th at 10:00 am, The Hanover Township Landmark Commission will give a free “Living” tour of its 1718 Burying Yard located on Route 10 East, Whippany. This one-hour tour will highlight the earliest settlers of Morris County. Please pre-register by calling 973-631-5151 or signing up at

At 11:30 am, beginning at the Ford Mansion, fall in with costumed Revolutionary War soldiers and march to the Morristown Green for the reading. Also at 11:30 am, Gordon Thomas Ward will be at the Morristown Green leading a patriotic sing-a-long to welcome the marchers.

At noon at the Morristown Green, Park Place, costumed interpreters will read the Declaration of Independence, an annual Morris County tradition. Audience participation is encouraged. There will be music and musket salute, followed by free guided walking tours of the Presbyterian Church’s Colonial-era graveyard, est. 1733. In case of rain, the reading of the Declaration will move indoors to the Methodist Church, 50 South Park Place, Morristown.

Join the Morris County Historical Society at Acorn Hall for a hike along Patriots’ Path to the archaeological site of New Jersey’s Revolutionary War Powder Mill along the Whippany River. Learn about the history of the Powder Mill, the significant role it played locally during the Revolutionary War, and plans for its future. Two tours are scheduled, for 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, starting at Acorn Hall, 68 Lafayette Avenue, Morristown.

For more information about all the July 4th holiday happenings, contact the Morris County Tourism Bureau at or call 973-631-5151.

Fourth of July patriotic exercises also traditionally occur at the 20-acre park operated by the Washington Campground Association at 1761 Middlebrook Rd., in Bridgewater. The park commemorates the two major Continental Army encampments at Middlebrook, in spring of 1777, and winter of 1778-79. For well over a century a solemn Independence Day Ceremony there, well-attended by dignitaries, has consisted of a changing of the 13-star flag and the reading of the Declaration, followed by a keynote speaker and an historical address. Ceremonies begin at 10:30am. 732/469-6453

As for "shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations", the Somerset County Park Commission holds an Independence Day Family Festival at North Branch Park, in Bridgewater. The free annual event offers children's entertainers and activities, including horse rides, moonwalk, giant slide, magic show, sing-alongs, and cartoon characters. Other activities include stage performers and Revolutionary period groups. The festivities begin at 5pm and culminate with fireworks at 9:30.

Lighting up Mountain Lake, Warren County. Photo by Frank Cheh.

Long-time followers of New Jersey "illuminations" will tell you that the fireworks at the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club are hard to beat, especially if you've got a view from a boat. More fireworks over water are known to occur at Mountain Lake in Warren County.

And if you plan to be out of town on the Fourth, you can join the parade down Main Street and gather at the green for a patriotic speech at Millbrook Village in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on Saturday, June 23. There will be lots of old time games for kids of all ages as well as tours and demonstrations all around the historic village during the Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration. The event starts at 10am. Click or call 908/537-7079.

This story was first published: Summer, 2013
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