|Here's an artist's idea of how Chariton looked in the mid-1870s, taken from the 1875 Andreas "Illustrated Historical Atlas of Iowa."|
Chariton has celebrated the 4th of July in a big way for many years --- no one is sure exactly how long, however, since newspapers from Lucas County's earliest years are missing. Now and then, celebrations were not held --- 1874 and 1875, for example --- but a huge celebration during the nation's centennial year, 1876, compensated.
If the report published in The Patriot of July 9 is to be believed, the 1873 celebration was was a dud --- or at least the editor thought so. But then he seems to have been in an extraordinarily bad mood, complaining in his "This & That" column, "Oh what a trying time it is for the local editor! No marriages, no births, no dog fights, nothing." Here's his report on the celebration, which doesn't sound that bad once you sort through the editorial snark:
THE FOURTH IN CHARITON
As usual the 4th of July was a "big day" in Chariton. One of the largest crowds that we have ever seen in our town assembled, but we will not attempt to say for what purpose.
Some, and we suppose the greater part of the crowd, was attracted by the announcement of the "Modoc performance" and as that seemed both before the 4th and on that day to be the principal topic of interest, we will first say something of the "Modocs," "Fantastics," Shoo Fly's," or whatever you choose to call them.
This feature of the celebration consisted of a company of mounted men and boys disguised to represent as nearly as possible Modoc Indians, who, led by the band, passed through the principal streets of the town and finally halting at the south-west corner of the square, were charged on by a company of Warm Spring Indians, from Russell, and after a mimic battle, which caused no little excitement, (were) captured.
One attraction of this procession was a huge image placed on a wagon and hauled around by a team consisting of two mules, a yoke of oxen and a span of horses, each animal being rode by a "Modoc." We do not know what this was intended to represent, but it was finally burned while the Indians were engaged in a war dance.
There were near 100 of the "Modocs" and some 25 or 30 of the Russell boys (Warm Spring Indians), the latter we are compelled to say presenting very much the better appearance in proportion to numbers.
A large shed was erected on the square where the Declaration of Independence was read with some singing and other exercises which were very short for reason that the comic procession of which we have been speaking, together with the innumerable ice cream stands around the square were sufficient to absorb the entire attention of the crowd.
We think it would have been better had the committee observed the instructions of the public meeting that appointed them and arranged for the exercises at the grove, but there were doubtless good reasons for this change of programme, and every body seemed to enjoy the occasion so much that we presume it was equally satisfactory to the people generally.
Any amount of ice cream and lemonade was consumed, but so far as we could see the crowd was very orderly and not a drunk man in town. We heard of no fights, runaways nor arrests during the day. There was one case of sun stroke, a young man by the name of May, from LaGrange. He was seriously affected but will recover from the attack. While the only damage from fire crackers of which we have heard was the loss of an eye by one Monjaw, a middle-aged man. The cracker was thrown into the air and exploded so hear his eye as to destroy the sight, it is thought permanently.
Sanford's Comedy Company added very much to the amusement of the day for the large number of persons attending at the afternoon and evening performances. Towards night, an extra train came in from Leon and Garden Grove, and brought quite a number from along the branch road who remained for the play in the evening, and also for the ball, which took place at the hall after the theatre performance. The ball was for the benefit of the string band as we understand and was quite well attended.
There were no fire works in the evening, and from the number of individuals of all ages and sexes who were around the square until long after dark anxiously awaiting the usual display of rockets, roman-candles, etc., etc., this was a sore disappointment to many.
The day was one of the hottest of the season but with the exception of a heavy rain and wind storm a while before night was reasonably pleasant.
Many from the country who attempted to get home before the storm, were evidently caught out and pretty thoroughly "ducked," but we have heard of none following up old Elijah's example by "going up" in a whirlwind; and we do not apprehend that they were in a very suitable frame of mind to be translated just then. (It didn't rain when Elijah went up and he hadn't just passed through the terrible ordeal of a 4th of July "celebration.")
On the whole it was a splendid day for ice cream and ginger bread and afforded we suppose about as much enjoyment for all classes as such occasions usually do."