I must be living right. For the second year my column falls right before the Fourth of July, which happens to be my favorite holiday — especially how it’s celebrated in the Santa Clarita Valley.
As I grew up in Newhall my street was filled with nearly a dozen kids, all within a few years of each other.
Our Independence Days started with a trip to the pancake breakfast, followed by the parade. The rest was spent swimming, playing football in the street and finally closing it out with food, our own fireworks (which were legal back then) and then finding the best spot to watch the community show.
What I now love about Santa Clarita is that I am doing many of the same things with my kids (personal fireworks excluded), but also adding our own traditions like running in the 5k and discovering our own secret spot to see all three firework shows in the valley.
In my Independence Day column last year, I shared the forgotten history of many of the less-well-known signers of the Declaration of Independence, who were as equally heroic as the household names we all know, and I wanted to do that again. America is in a crisis and it is more important than ever to be reminded of what our founding fathers sacrificed in order to build our country.
Were they perfect men? No, of course not. But that’s what makes their stories — and quite frankly the story of our nation — so remarkable. With courage and sacrifice, anything is possible in America.
Francis Lewis, New York: his home and estates plundered and destroyed by British soldiers. His wife was captured and, though later exchanged for two British prisoners, she died from the effects of the abuse suffered during her imprisonment.
William Floyd, New York: escaped with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees for nearly a decade.
Philips Livingstone, New York: all his holdings were confiscated and his family driven out of their home.
Louis Morris, New York: saw all his commodities (Lumber, crops, livestock) taken. He was barred from his home and family until the end of the war.
John Hart, New Jersey: One of the older delegates at age 65, he risked his life to return home to see his dying wife, only to be turned away by pursuing soldiers.
When he finally reached home he found his farm burned, his wife dead, and his 13 children taken away. He died in 1779 without ever finding his family.
Richard Stockton, New Jersey: rushed back home to evacuate his wife and children. Despite finding refuge, they were ultimately betrayed as Stockton was brutally beaten and thrown into jail, where he was deliberately starved.
Eventually he was released after becoming an invalid, He returned home to find his estate looted and his family forced to live off charity.
Robert Morris, Pennsylvania: He met Washington’s continual pleas for money during the war. He built and raised arms and provisions, making it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware.
In the process of supporting the war effort, he lost 150 ships, nearly going bankrupt.
George Clymer, Pennsylvania: escaped with his family, but their property was completely destroyed by the British.
Dr. Benjamin Rush, Pennsylvania: forced to flee to Maryland. As a surgeon with the army, Rush saved the lives of countless soldiers.
John Martin, Pennsylvania: After signing the decoaration, he was ostracized by many neighbors and relatives He died lonely and broken in 1777.
William Ellery, Rhode Island: His property and home were burned to the ground.
Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., South Carolina: All three were taken by the British during the siege of Charleston and held as POWs.
Eventually exchanged at the end of the war, they were released to learn the British fully devastated their significant landholdings and estates.
Thomas Nelson, Virginia: while in command of the Virginia military forces, he fired the shot that destroyed his own home, which was being used as the British headquarters by General Cornwallis.
If that weren’t enough, he raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own holdings. When the loans came due, Congress refused to honor them and Nelson’s property was forfeited.
He was never reimbursed. He died broke at the age of 50.
Quite possible the most heart wrenching story befell Abraham Clark of New Jersey: Two sons who joined the officer corps were captured and sent to the British prison ship called “hell ship Jersey.”
The men were treated with a special brutality because of their father. With the war concluding, Clark was offered his sons’ lives if he would recant his signature and come out for the king and Parliament.
His answer? “No.”