Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - Bill of Rights

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Preservation and Proposition

Our mission is to document the pivotal Second Amendment events that occurred in Frontier Mercersburg, and its environs, and to heighten awareness of the importance of these events in the founding of our Nation.

We are dedicated to the preservation of the place where the Second Amendment was "born" and to the proposition that the Second Amendment (the "right to bear arms") is the keystone of our Liberty and the Republic.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Digging for the Birthplace of the "Right to Bear Arms"

Soil from Mercersburg's Smith House searched for artifacts

By MARCUS RAUHUT Staff writer -

MERCERSBURG -- Standing atop a dirt pile in Mercersburg, historian Tim McCown believes he's on the spot where the American Revolution began.

After the Justice William Smith House was taken down piece by piece, it now awaits reconstruction at its new site, divided among several piles of brick, stone, wood and soil.

Supporters of preservation of the house say it is linked to the first settler uprisings against the British, years before the Boston Tea Party.

With McCown's help on Saturday, children sifted through the earth piles in search of pieces of the house's history.

"The American Revolution started in this dirt," McCown said, holding a piece of plate that was discovered.

The archeological dig served as both an educational event and also as a kick-off to the fundraising campaign to reconstruct the house, according to Dr. Paul Orange, who purchased the pieces of the house.

About a dozen children, including Orange's 12-year-old daughter Bailey, searched through the soil for artifacts.

"I wanted to come out and see if I can inspire other kids, so that future generations can see what history is all about," she said.

Hailey Young, 10, found a piece of a glass plate, as well as five or six pieces of pottery.

"I thought it would be a lot of fun, because there's a lot of history in the house," Young said.

Supporters say the house has links to the creation of the Second Amendment of the Constitution, as well as the Black Boys Rebellion in 1765.

"We contend -- and scholars -- that the revolution really started in the Pennsylvania frontier," said Jerry Ross, president of the Birthplace of the Nation Foundation, the group preserving the house.

Ross said they will likely break ground in the spring for the building at its new site.

In the meantime, the structure remains in pieces. All of the stones were numbered during the deconstruction process so that they could be reassembled the same way.

"The masons and carpenters took extensive notes, so when it goes up, it will be exactly as it was when it went down," Orange said. "The pieces are in very good condition for their age."

Mercersburg Montgomery Peters and Warren Volunteer Fire Company had purchased the property in 2009 with plans to use the land for expansion. The fire hall is on the adjacent lot.
Preservationists fought the demolition of the building. In February, the house was taken down, but the fire company agreed to sell the building pieces to Orange, who plans to rebuild the house across the street at the former site of an Exxon station.

It wasn't exactly the outcome supporters of the house had wanted, but as historian Douglas Claytor of Frederick, Md., put it, it was the next-best thing.

"The whole premise is education. This is an opportunity to teach. You have to look at it in this light," he said. "We're not in the save-from-fire-company mode any more."

There were two previous archeological excavations done at the site in 2010.

The original house was built in the 1700s, though a top floor was later added. To make it historically accurate, the top floor will not be included when the home is reconstructed.

Orange said they are not sure yet exactly how much money will be needed in order to rebuild the house.

"It's a lot," he said.
But the history in the building is invaluable, according to Claytor, who has been involved with a number of other preservation projects in the region.

"It's so important these kids learn where they come from. That's real critical," Claytor said.

Benjamin Troupe, 15, Mercersburg, who joined in the dig Saturday, understood that.

"I came out to support the community and to preserve the history of our community. This it not just Pennsylvania history or local history, this is national history," Troupe said. "I want to save this for my kids and their kids, and say that I was a part of this."

Marcus Rauhut can be reached at and 262-4752.

About the house

Supporters of the Justice William Smith House say it is linked to James Smith and the first settler uprisings against the British at Fort Loudoun in November 1765, eight years before the Boston Tea Party and the start of the American Revolution.

A pioneer of the Pennsylvania frontier, Justice William Smith (James' brother and the house's namesake) challenged the authority of the British army after the deaths of hundreds of citizens from the Mercersburg area.

Justice Smith ruled that because the government had refused to protect its citizens from marauding Indians, the citizens had "the right to bear arms" in order to defend themselves.

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