PBS has the most watched history show on television: “American Experience.” The theme of the show is “Where we’ve been. Where we are. Where we’re going.” It is a very fitting theme for a show about American history.

Today’s column shines a spotlight on ordinary Americans living their lives right here in Rome years ago. Two brothers struggling to provide for their families during hard times. A young man planning to get married. Two boy scouts working together on a cycling merit badge. Before we consider their stories, let’s have a history lesson.

Independence from British rule was declared July 2, 1776. The Continental Congress subsequently appointed a five man committee to write the Declaration of Independence. The committee included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston.

July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the final text of the Declaration of Independence. This iconic American document announced that the 13 colonies at war with Great Britain would regard themselves as 13 independent sovereign states. John Hancock is the only man who signed the document that day.

Georgia joined the United States Aug. 2, 1776. Georgia delegates Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton signed the document in Philadelphia that day.

Now for the stories I mentioned:

Pass brothers arraigned for stealing a pig

Adolphus R. Pass and R. Pass were arraigned in Floyd Superior Court, July 21, 1869, for stealing a pig. Judge Augustus Wright addressed the jury on behalf of the accused. Judge Wright said, “Gentlemen of the Jury, these men fought gallantly for their country during the war. It is true they are poor, while their accuser is prosperous. The plaintiff not only did not fight, but hired a substitute to fight for him. I ask you to take into account the unusual circumstances of the case, as well as the denial of the defendants.” The jury promptly found the defendants not guilty.

A delayed wedding

April 1, 1886, Mr. George N. West of Carrollton, was to marry Miss Mary Lou Colclough in Rome. He came to Atlanta, intending to go on through to Rome for their wedding. However, the home at which the wedding was to have taken place was more than 10 feet underwater!

Boy Scouts work on a merit badge

Boy Scouts Julius M. Cooley Jr. and Ralph Jones of Rome were working on their cycling merit badge. Together they rode their bicycle from Rome to Cartersville and back. That was a 50 mile trip. The round trip was completed in just less than 10 hours. Julius said, “The roads were bad most of the way and we saw convicts working on them near Cartersville. There were no accidents except that I hit a bump and fell once, throwing me off on my side, and Ralph’s pedal struck me. I was not hurt but lost a little breath and saw stars. It was a great trip.” The boys successfully completed all the requirements for the merit badge. Jan. 22, 1921, Julius and Ralph were awarded their merit badge.

American history is chock full of ordinary citizens

Americans who worked in the soup kitchens during the Great Depression. Iron workers. Coal miners. Bridge builders. Railroad workers. Rosa Parks and all the folks who blazed a trail working for civil rights. Soldiers, veterans of all the wars. Teachers, like my parents, the late Paul and Charlotte Terrell. Doctors. Nurses. The list goes on. They worked tirelessly behind the scenes doing wonderful things and they didn’t care who got the credit. Great Americans, one and all.

When I think of the Declaration of Independence, I think of the soldiers who fought the American Revolution. Patriots like my paternal great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Pvt. Nathan Sims. He served in the South Carolina militia. Knowing I’m directly descended from a patriot puts a face on this epic piece of American history. He wasn’t famous but he, along with his countrymen, defended his home and fought to break free from British tyranny.

When I celebrate the 4th of July every year, I think about Americans such as the folks mentioned here. Wherever you find yourself celebrating this great American holiday this year, think about your family’s story. You are an American and you have a story which is an integral part of America’s story.

The best way to know where we are going, is to know where we’ve been. That means knowing our story. Pvt. Nathan Sims is certainly part of my story. The American Experience. Where we’ve been. Where we are. Where we’re going. Truly. Happy 4th of July!

Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal, a writer, avid cyclist, history enthusiast and ardent reader of Southern fiction. Readers may email her at pamterrellwalker@gmail.com.