Avon High School Student Enjoys Historic Moment in Philadelphia

Writer  /  Christy Heitger-Ewing

On July 4th, when the majority of the country was grilling burgers, sipping cold drinks and watching fireworks light up the sky, Avon resident Madelynne Hunter was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, doing something that only a rare few can — she was tapping the Liberty Bell.

Madelynne was afforded this unique opportunity because she’s the great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Abraham Clark, one of the 56 original signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Madelynne, a senior at Avon High School, is not only the first descendant from the Hoosier state to participate, but she’s also the first ancestor of Clark’s to ever tap the bell (it gets “tapped” rather than “rung” because it’s cracked).

According to the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, the society was formed on July 4, 1907, at the Jamestown Exposition near Norfolk, Virginia, where descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had gathered upon invitation of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association and the Exposition officials to celebrate the 131st anniversary of the Declaration.

Now every Fourth of July, six adolescents (all under the age of 17) gather in Independence Hall in sections that are closed to the public, don a pair of pristine white gloves and gingerly tap the bell.

“It’s an honor to be able to represent my family lineage, Abraham Clark, and the other signers of the Declaration of Independence by tapping the Liberty Bell,” Madelynne says. “Their vision, courage and sacrifice for this amazing country is a humbling reminder not only of what they did for me but also for what I, in turn, owe to the next generation.”

Jill says it took her husband’s aunt, Shirley Smith, three years to prove they are descendants of Clarks. “And she has a Ph.D. in history!” Jill says.

Now the family proudly displays a framed signed paper from the government acknowledging that they are, indeed, of the lineage of Clark, an American politician and Revolutionary War figure. A delegate for New Jersey to the Continental Congress, he later served in the United States House of Representatives in both the Second and Third United States Congress.

This past spring, Madelynne was inducted into the Avon School and Community Ambassador Program (ASCAP). Comprised of juniors and seniors, as a member of the ASCAP, she represents the school district to community members and beyond.

“I’m lucky to have the opportunity to represent the Avon community and am so thankful for their tremendous support,” says Madelynne, who plans to attend Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., in the fall of 2018, where she will study Business Marketing.

“Though Clark faced a lot of persecution for signing the declaration in 1776, we are very proud to be able to honor his legacy,” Jill says.

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