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My dad was George Edwin (Ed) Farrar, who served in WWII in the 8th Air Force, 384th Bomb Group (Heavy), 544th Bomb Squadron. During the time he served, he wasn’t married and he didn’t have a girlfriend waiting at home for him. Like many unattached young men in the service, his number one girl was his mother.
My dad’s mother was the former Raleigh May George of Atlanta, Georgia. She was born in 1890, grew up in the Grant Park area, and lost her father, Raleigh David George, not long after her first birthday.
Raleigh May grew up to be a very patriotic woman who during WWII had three sons in the military. Sons Carroll and Ed were in the Air Force and son Bob was in the Navy.
Raleigh May’s feeling of intense patriotism did not start in WWI or WWII. It started much earlier, in 1895, when she was five years old. In that year, the Cotton States and International Exposition was held in Atlanta, Georgia from September 18 to December 31 on the grounds of what today is Piedmont Park.
A few weeks after the start of the Exposition, the Liberty Bell came to Atlanta as a prime attraction of the fair. After the Civil War, the Bell had become a symbol of unity and the idea was to bring the Bell to the people to proclaim liberty and to inspire the cause of freedom.
The Liberty Bell had already traveled to New Orleans in 1885 for a World Industrial and Cotton Exposition, and to Chicago in 1893 for the World’s Fair. A crowd greeted the Bell in Atlanta. A two-mile parade from the train station took the Bell to the Exposition, where tens of thousands of people lined up to see it pass.
Liberty Bell Day was proclaimed on October 9 when the Liberty Bell was installed in the Pennsylvania Building at the Exposition.
A book written about the Cotton States and International Exposition (see sources below), describes events of Liberty Bell Day in Atlanta.
The pupils in the public schools were given a special holiday, and it was further directed that every teacher in the Gate City [a historic nickname of Atlanta] should previously relate to her pupils the story of the Bell and bring home to them its patriotic significance. Railroads and traction companies volunteered to carry children free to the Exposition, that none might be debarred from some share in the celebration.
A grand civic and military parade escorted the Bell to the grounds in Piedmont Park, where, at noon, upon the broad steps of the Pennsylvania Building, in the presence of 30,000 people, it was solemnly given over to the care of the City of Atlanta.
At the Liberty Bell Day ceremony, Mayor Charles F. Warwick of Philadelphia spoke to the people of Atlanta.
We leave it in the hands of its and our friends. We know you will watch it with the same solicitude and tenderness that we bestow upon it. Though its lips be mute, though its tongue be silent, it is more eloquent that ten thousand human voices. Its echoes still thrill the world. The words inscribed upon its surface, taken from Holy Writ, are prophetic. It seems as if they must have been written by inspiration, and may they go ringing down the ages, giving hope and encouragement to nations yet unborn, to peoples not yet free.
The inscription on the Liberty Bell is a Bible verse taken from the book of Leviticus 25:10. It reads, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all inhabitants thereof.”
Four officers (Robert Mofflit, James A. Robinson, Frank F. Westphal, and Harry Hetteroth) from the Philadelphia Police Department were specially detailed to guard the Bell during its stay in Atlanta until the end of the Exposition on December 31, 1895. During its travels outside Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell’s guards have been blamed for the worsening of the crack in the Bell. They were accused of chipping off pieces of the Bell and selling them as souvenirs.
I don’t know the validity of that claim, but I do know of one of the wonderful, kind things one of the guards did that impressed patriotism upon my grandmother, Raleigh May George, at a very early age. She was one of the school children, then only fives years old and a kindergartener, brought to see the Bell. One of the guards picked Raleigh out of the crowd of children, lifted her up, and told her to put her hands on the bell. As her tiny hands touched the Bell, the guard told her she would remember the moment for the rest of her life. He instructed her to tell the story to her own children one day.
The simple act of the Bell’s guard impressed my grandmother’s young mind so deeply that she did remember that special moment years later and told the story to her children. She told the story to her daughter, Beverly, and Aunt Beverly told it to me. Aunt Beverly turns eighty today, January 25, 2017 – Happy Birthday, Beverly! She shares her birth date with her mother, Raleigh May George Farrar, who gave birth to Beverly at forty-seven years old.
Beverly is the last one of Raleigh May’s nine children now that are left. I am thankful that Beverly shared this story with me. My grandmother didn’t get the chance to tell it to me herself, not that I remember anyway. She died shortly after my first birthday. Patriotism runs deep in our family and it has its roots in the Liberty Bell.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017