We think of George Walton as one of Augusta's Founding Fathers.
One of our busiest roads bears his name. Our town's oldest building -- Meadow Garden -- was his house. He signed the Declaration of Independence,
He was a Patriot. He was a judge. He was a lawmaker.
And he is a mystery.
I didn't know how much of a mystery until Ellen Burroughs called.
She told me of a recent visit to South Carolina where a tour guide casually mentioned that Edward Rutledge , of the Palmetto State, was the "youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence."
This surprised her, Ellen said, because everyone in Augusta says George Walton holds that honor. She wanted me to check it out.
I did, and found out there is much about Walton we don't know.
His birthday, for instance.
Most historians -- the Georgia ones, anyway -- believe Walton was born in 1749 in Virginia.
If that is the case, he is one of three Declaration signers born that year. South Carolina's Thomas Lynch was born Aug. 5. and Edward Rutledge was born Nov. 23. There is a chance Walton could have been born in the year's last weeks, making him the youngest, but the odds would be against it.
Other history Web sites (you can "Google" them yourself) have Walton born almost a decade earlier -- 1741. But no one around here thinks that's accurate.
Further complicating Walton's birthday is his birthplace.
Most sources agree on Virginia. But they have him being born in different counties: Frederick, Prince Edward and Cumberland.
A map shows these counties are nowhere near each other -- another Walton mystery.
Erick Montgomery , of Historic Augusta, said he wasn't surprised. Walton lost his parents at a young age and was raised by relatives, eventually ending up in Savannah and then Augusta.
Back then, if a name and birth date didn't end up in church records or the family Bible, it was often lost.
Declaration signers are a good example.
Of the 50-plus signatories to this most famous of American documents, about eight have no official birthday. In fact, Walton's fellow Georgia signer Button Gwinnett could have been born in 1732 or 1733 or 1734 or 1735.
I asked Lee Ann Caldwell at Augusta State University what historians do when they don't really know.
"When a specific date cannot be identified," she wrote in an e-mail, "historians mark it as circa (ca.). So George Walton is ca. 1749. I trust the dates of the scholars who have done the research. In Walton's case that is Ed Bridges, whose dissertation was a biography of Walton. He lists him as 1749/1750.
"Dr. Stan Deaton at the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah did the article in the New Georgia Encyclopedia and uses the c. 1749. As you found out, some sources list Walton's birth even earlier. Rutledge was born Nov. 23, 1749, so ... he is certainly the youngest as far as actual documentation goes."
So, I guess we better quit saying the man buried in front of the Municipal Building was "the youngest signer" of the Declaration of Independence.
Unless, of course, someone finds that Bible.