Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence was read on Aug. 13, 1776, on the steps of the 1731 courthouse
Posted on 07/01/2024

1731 Courthouse on the Historic Court Green in Eastville
The historic 1731 Courthouse in Eastville as seen from the 2nd floor Board Chambers in the 1899 Courthouse.Photo credit: Jean E. Flynn

Northampton County, known as the "Land of History," has its roots in the forming of our Republic. Did you know that the Declaration of Independence was read on Aug. 13, 1776, on the steps of the 1731 courthouse (which still stands on the courthouse green- the building pictured on the right with high pitched roof ).
It took almost five weeks for the document to be carried from Philadelphia to Eastville, Virginia the County Seat.

In the booklet, EXPLORING THE OLDEST CONTINUOUS COURT RECORDS OF AMERICA compiled by Traci Johnson, Northampton County Circuit Court Clerk, Frances Bibbins Latimer and  Jean Mihalyka the historical records describe the scene on August 13, 1776, "The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen United States of North America was proclaimed on the Door of the Courthouse. And agreeable to a Resolve of the Honbl. the Convention of this State the Magistrates proceeded to take the Oath of fidelity to the State & the Oath of office to take upon them the administration of Justice in the said County of Northampton. John Stratton, Michl Christian, John Harmanson. Nathaniel Savage, John Wilkins, Littleton Savage, John Robins, Henry Guy. " 

BUT long before that, in 1766, Northampton County, Virginia was already grumbling about revolution- ten years before the Declaration of Independence was created. According to historian, Frances Bibbins Latimer who wrote in the Eastville Historical Brochure that "in 1766, ten years before the colonies collectively denied Great Britain, the justices expressed strong disapproval of the Stamp Act passed by Parliament as a revenue measure. Patrick Henry had denounced the act in the House of Burgesses, and at a court held on February 11, 1766, the Northampton justices declared that it 'did not bind, effect or concern the inhabitants of this colony inasmuch as they conceived the said act to be unconstitutional' What the Burgesses hesitated to say officially to Parliament this small county court declared on its own!"

Latimer continues, "Disapproval and dissatisfaction may have been the tone of many edicts handed down by the justices and recorded by the clerk, but on August 13, 1776, upon arrival in Northampton County of the news that the Continental Congress had 'Declared the thirteen United States of America free and independent,' the justices caused the declaration to be 'acclaimed at the door of the Courthouse' and then 'proceed to take the Oath of fidelity to the state and the Oath of Office, in order to take upon them the administration of Justice.'"- from the Eastville Historical Brochure by Frances Latimer, Eastville, Virginia 1993

We are proud to declare Northampton County is home to some of the original revolutionaries! Happy Independence Day!