Saturday, June 27, 2009

July Fourth in the 1880's in Rich Hill Missouri

This blog is about Rich Hill Missouri and one of its earliest 4th of July celebrations. The article came from the July 10th, 197? Wagon wheels edition of the the Rich Hill Mining Review.

The earliest record that I have been able to find on the Fourth of July celebration in Rich Hill was in 1882. At that time the parks were covered with tall prairie grass and no shade trees. Concern had been expressed about getting trees to grow in the heavy grass roots. In order to provide shade for celebrations, the towns people would go to the banks of the Marais Des Gygnes River and cut large branches from the trees and bring them to town and build an arbor of poles covered with the branches.
During the month of June, Rich Hill sent out an announcement to the, neighboring towns that arrangements had been completed for a Fourth of July celebration and invited them to participate in the festivities.
On Monday evening, July 3rd, the express brought Judge Givens and W. J. Terrell of Harrisonville and Senator D'Armond of Greenfield (Dade County) to Rich Hill. They were taken to the Talmadge House where they had rooms. On July 4th Governor Crittenden came on the 7 o'clock morning express to help celebrate the nation's birthday and the second anniversary of the existence of Rich Hill. The governor was escorted to the Talmadge House in a grand way with the Montrose and Rich Hill Bands forming the procession.
A twelve-pound field piece had been brought from Jefferson City to be used in the celebration. It was fired at intervals during the day. This cannon had beep captured in Mexico by a Missouri Regiment.
The crowd awaited the arrival of the excursion trains from Pleasanton, Nevada, Butler and Adrian before forming a procession to move to the celebration grounds. The parade started with the Montrose Band in the lead followed by the Mayor, council, press, special invited guests, and Colonel P. J. Shields with his colorful Knights, of Plutonia moving to the arbor on the celebration grounds. A large part of the populace had already gone to the Celebration grounds as the wait for the excursion trains caused a long delay. The speakers were ushered to the grandstand that had been beautifully decorated in red, white and blue. The celebration started when a salute of several guns had been fired.
When the music stopped, Rev. Wilson Collins delivered the invocation asking for divine guidance on the exercises of the day and the nation.
Professor J. H. Hinton, Superintendent of Schools,read the Declaration of Independence in a dramatic and expressive manner showing his genius as a master elocutionist.
Colonel Brown introduced Governor Crittenden who came before the crowd in a reserved and modest manner. The governor delivered a forty-minute extemporaneous, informal talk that was well suited to the occasion. His remarks were complimentary to Rich Hill saying that she was a "Marvel of Wonder" and that her destiny was as bright as the noonday sun. No mathematican would be able to estimate the value of the great wealth to be obtained from the deposits of dusty diamonds beneath the soil. He continued by saying that Rich Hill's, possibilities were as certain as Kansas City's had been ten years earlier.
His speech was purely patrotic, and that he was greatly appreciated was evident by the frequent applause from the populace.
W. J. Terrell gave a thirty-minute prepared speech that was an excellent tribute to the nation's birthday. At the conclusion of his talk, the program was adjourned until after lunch. People had brought well-filled picnic baskets, and spread a cloth on the ground and ate near the celebration grounds.
At 2:30 in the afternoon, the band called the people together with a few choice selections. Then Senator W D'Armond was introduced and made a fitting speech.
Judge Givens was the last speaker delivering an enthusiastic speech in an eloquent manner. The program was finished by 5:00 o'clock, but thousands remained on the grounds until the fireworks at 9:00 o'clock. Even then many remained on the streets to dance until daylight.
This had truly been a gala day for the "Infant Wonder" (a term used many times in reference to Rich Hill). It was to be long remembered by the people of Bates County and surrounding territory and was truly worthy of a place in Rich Hill history.
Extra copies of newspapers had been printed and were distributed to the thousands of people on the grounds.
The news of the celebration evidently spread to other parts of the state as the St. Louis Republican July 14, 1882, ran the following article about the Rich,;;
Hill celebration.
"The day passed quietly, not a single drunk or row reported. The fireworks at night were magnificent. Excursion trains brought hundreds of people from western Missouri and eastern Kansas to hear the great governor of magnificent Old Missouri."
Evidently the people were quite well pleased with the celebration as an article from the Western, enterprise June 8, 1883, really got things to moving for another celebration. It was suggested that Boulware Mineral Springs would be an ideal place for Rich Hill and Butler to hold a joint celebration.
Butler did not go along with the idea. Another suggestion was made that the day could be a reunion for old soldiers who fought on either side of the Great Rebellion and include those Mexican veterans and any other soldiers who might be residing in the county. It was also suggested that the meeting be held on the same grounds that had been used the previous year.
None of these suggestions seemed to meet with approval, but the people continued to voice a desire for a celebration.
Final plans were made to have the celebration at the beautiful and shady grove at the school house in "Old Rich Hill". People were so elated over the decision to celebrate again that the miners claimed they could feel the coal in the deepest mines being shaken as if by an earthquake due to the rejoicing of the people.
A procession was formed headed by a good brass band that played all through the streets and all along the road to the grounds where everything was prepared for the celebration.
On the morning of July 4, 1884, the sleeping masses of people were awakened by the firing of anvils and firearms. There had been strong winds and a heavy downpour of rain the night before. The fury of the storm had been great enough that broken limbs and other destruction prevented the program from starting until 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon even though the crowd had started to gather at1 0:00 o'clock in the morning. C. A.Denton started the program by reading the Declaration of Independence, followed by W followed by W.A. Jackson of Butler who was introduced as the orator of the day. The title of his speech was,"The Struggle of Liberty" He started by tracing the existence of Greece and Rome through their struggle for liberty and marked the causes of their downfall. Then came the growth and development of liberty in England and the United States and the effect of liberal ideas in Europe South America, and the United States. He went on to make remarks on the abuses in American politics and the existence of dangers to liberty and liberty's future hopes. The speech was so moving that it held the audience completely spellbound.
The concluding speaker was Rev. H. M. Hackney who spoke in an amusing, and satisfactory way to the young people. He was well .known for his entertaining speeches and always delighted the crowds. The crowd at the grandstand dispersed at 5:00 o'clock and gathered at the junction of Park Avenue and Sixth Street where the fire companies made a test of time and a grand display of waterworks. This was quite interesting and exciting to the masses.
There was a grand display of fireworks at 8:00 o'clock lasting for two hours. It seems that every year the fireworks were a high point, of the festivities.
W. P. Brobeck and John Weathers of the Cowles Mercantile Company who lived at First and Walnut on adjoining lots had a joint illumination. They had their yards illuminated by Chinese lanterns and discharged rockets and Roman Candles making a beautiful display.
From this report and records of later, celebrations we can see that the Fourth of July has always been an important event for the people of Rich Hill and a place where old friends like to return to share in the celebration.


Nancy J. Rich said...

Amazing, Bart!
Too bad we do not celebrate "Old School" the way they got together back then to make the celebration quite grand. We want to draw people to our celebration, but we don't want to invite others to help bring the grandness of the celebration. What you just wrote up would celebrate America's Birthday and not just the 4th of July in Rich Hill. Thanks for the history lesson!
Nancy J. Rich

Bart McClaughry said...

Your Welcome-Nancy