May 20th, 2021, marks the 246th anniversary of the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, which preceded the signing of the more famous Declaration by more than a year. Influential Charlotte (then called Charlottetown) men declared themselves “free and independent” of the British crown. The declaration was read on noon of May 20th from the courthouse steps. Then a second document, the Mecklenburg Resolves, was written.
James Jack, a tavern owner and future Revolutionary War officer, rode by horseback from Charlotte to Philadelphia to deliver copies of the Mecklenburg Declaration and Mecklenburg Revolves to the Second Continental Congress. On the way he stopped in Salisbury to read the documents publicly in district court.
What happened when he got to Philadelphia? Well, not much. The North Carolina delegates were still hoping for a reconciliation with England. And what happened to the original documents? It’s unclear, but it’s said that they were destroyed in an 1800 file. In 1819 U.S. Senator Nathaniel Macon presented a recreated document to the Raleigh Register.
Thomas Jefferson, who was accused by John Adams of plagiarizing the Mecklenburg documents, asserted that there were no Mecklenburg documents, that the whole thing was a hoax. Today there’s controversy about what really happened. Read more in Five Facts to Know about Meck Dec Day, from UNC Charlotte.
But, regardless of any controvery, Charlotte celebrates Meck Dec Day every year.
It is the day of the year that you’re most likely to see people in Colonial garb, and horses, in Uptown Charlotte.
Read on to learn how we will be celebrating Meck Dec Day this year.
Noon Meck Dec Day Commemoration
This year the annual commemoration will take place at Victoria Yards, 408 N. Tryon Street (the corner of 7th and N. Tryon.)
This traditional celebration has hosted four former presidents, military generals, and many more dignitaries.
The celebration will include:
- Military and colonial reenactors
- Historic readings
- Military parades
- Cannon firing
- Free North Carolina banner flags!
Also, the Chili Man food truck will be there!
The Mecklenburg Declaration will be read from a re-enactor, on the steps of a reproduction of the original Court House. You can expect a series of toasts, quoted from the 1825 celebration. The proper response to each is, “Huzzah!”
Following the toasts there will be a volley of musket and cannon fire. Typically the crowd then parades down the street to Old Settler’s Cemetery to place a wreath on the grave of Thomas Polk, the founder of Charlotte, although it’s not clear if that’s happening this year, since the celebration was moved from Trade & Tryon to Victoria Yards.
This is a free celebration. Check for updates on the Facebook event.
Captain James Jack Bike Ride
Meet up at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, 4150 Yancey Road, on Sunday, May 23rd, 2021, at 2 p.m., and go on a two-hour bike ride to visit historical spots in Charlotte, returning to OMB for a social.
This revolutionary historical bike ride follows the path of the Charlotte Liberty Walk and Captain Jack. There will be multiple stops to discuss the revolutionary history leading up to the ride that delivered the Meck-Deck which would have declared Charlotte’s independence from the British on May 20th 1775, more than a year earlier than the national Declaration of Independence.
The bike ride will be approximately 10 miles and travel on a series of open streets, greenways and residential thruways. All riders are expected to wear Helmets and have lights or reflectors. The ride leaves and returns to Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.
Charlotte Museum of History
Charlotte Museum of History is offering two virtual events for Meck Dec Day in 2021.
On Tuesday, May 18th, 2021, at the 12 p.m., the history museum will premiere a new video with Scott Syfert, who will take viewers inside his extensive collection of MeckDec memorabilia. Syfert is a local attorney and author of “The First American Declaration of Independence? The Disputed History of the Mecklenburg Declaration of May 20, 1775.” You can watch on Facebook or YouTube.
On Thursday, May 20th, 2021, at 10 a.m. the museum will live stream a reading of the MeckDec from the steps of Charlotte’s oldest house, the 1774 Alexander Rock House. Historic re-enactor Robert Ryals, dressed in period costume, will publicly proclaim the MeckDec as it may have been heard in 1775. Watch on Facebook.
More about Meck Dec Day
Some Meck Dec related sites to visit
- Charlotte Liberty Walk has a marker for the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.
- The Captain Jack Statue, part of the Trail of History, is on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, at CPCC. You might find our self-guided tour of that section of Little Sugar Creek Greenway helpful.
- The Matheson Bridge Mural, by William Puckett, visually depicts the story of the Meck Dec. You’ll find it under the Matheson Street Bridge, on North Davidson Street. It’s been a few years since we’ve checked it out, so we can’t vouch for the mural’s condition,