Monday, June 25, 2018

1888's 4th of July fireworks, actual and otherwise ...

A bang-up celebration of Independence Day probably is Chariton's oldest tradition and 2018 will be no exception. The fun begins at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3, and continues on the 4th itself with, among many other events, a concert by the Community Band at 11 a.m., the big parade at 1 p.m. and fireworks in North Park at 10 p.m.

The program at left, however, is for the 1888 celebration, held during a year when the big day also fell on a Wednesday.

If you look carefully, you'll notice similarities --- some things never change. Mercifully absent from the 2018 schedule, however, is oratory. The 4th of July committees formed by our ancestors did not consider their work done until they had lined up a series of more-or-less distinguished males who were prepared to pontificate for hours on the courthouse lawn.

If you're wondering how the 1880 celebration went, here's a report from The Herald of July 5, 1888:


The celebration of the Fourth in Chariton passed off very pleasantly. Notwithstanding the attractions at other points in the county and on the borders, quite a large crowd of men, women and children gathered in the city at an early hour and thronged the streets, until the near approach of the sun to the western horizon began to admonish the farmers and their families of home demands. As usual, the published program was not fully carried out, but everybody seemed to feel happy.

We did not get to hear the speaking, but were informed by competent judges that it was very excellent. The speakers were T.M. Stuart, Rev. F.D. Jaudon, Rev. E. Packer, John V. Bonnett, C.L. Bartholomew, J.A. Campbell, J.C. Mitchell and Rev. S.D. Wheeler, in the order named.

The addresses of Messrs. Bonnett and Bartholomew were spoken of as being very appropriate for the occasion and from what we learn these two young men acquitted themselves in a manner to do themselves much credit. Mr. T.M. Stuart's address was said to be a rather unique one for the occasion and dealt largely with the growing political evils of the day and the insincerity of professional politicians and platform carpenters. Father Wheeler advocated woman suffrage and fired some sold shots into the enemy's camp. J.C. Mitchell is said to have struck a regular fourth of July gait and let the eagle soar for a few minutes in good shape.

Our young friend Campbell seems to have reached for the scalps of foreigners and their descendants, and it was thought for a while that he was going to depopulate the whole country, but finally he succumbed to the intense heat and gave up the chase.  The Reverend gentlemen, Packer and Jaudon, talked in a very sedate and becoming manner of course and we heard no special comments.

During the intervals between the speeches, the Glee Club, under the direction of Mr. O.E. Payne assisted by Mr. Tom Teas, regaled the audience with some very excellent music.

The pyrotechnical display in the evening was very good, but was cut somewhat short by a storm of wind and rain which ended the day's amusements in short order.


There was one major mishap, according to The Herald --- "Little Joe Hoagland put three bunches of fire crackers in his pants pocket with which to celebrate the 4th. The crackers took fire and the excitement was fully as great as Joe desired. He was quite severely burned and will be laid up for repairs for some days."


A couple of other items found in The Herald of July 5 also also were interesting --- to me at least.

Everyone in Chariton, I'm guessing, is familiar with the grand old home on South Grand, considerably expanded, that now houses Fielding Funeral Home. The house was built by Frank Crocker, expanded by the Crocker family, lost when Crocker killed himself after First National Bank failed, acquired by the Horace G. Larimer family, then finally, in 1931, sold to Sam and Edith Beardsley who converted it to use as a funeral home.

 Anyhow, here's an item from The Herald informing readers that construction of the first phase of this house was about to begin: "W.F. Layton & Co., contractors and builders, have secured the contract for the building of a fine dwelling house for Mr. Frank R. Crocker in the south part of town. This is a victory for this reliable firm over the dirt thrower of the Democrat, whose influence, with gentlemen like Mr. Crocker, to damage the business of honorable men, is not as potent as he sometimes imagines."

The "dirt thrower" here was S.S. King, editor of The Democrat, then owned by Smith H. Mallory. Chariton's three weekly newspapers --- Elijah Lewis's The Patriot, John L. Brown's The Herald and Mallory's The Democrat were engaged in a nasty spat that long-ago summer that included considerable name-calling on their respective pages. King always characterized Lewis, for example, as "the boodler" and "dirt thrower" was among the nicer things Brown called King. But that's a story for another day.

The other item involved Chariton's African Methodist Episcopal Church, once located on the site of Carpenters Hall just north of Columbus School on Court Avenue. Back in 1888, when this item was written, Columbus School was the high school and Court Avenue still was Adams Street.

"One week from tomorrow, July 13th at 3 o'clock P.M., the ceremony of laying the corner stone of the new A.M.E. Church will take place under the supervision of the Presiding Elder, Rev. Malone of Oskaloosa. Since our statement last week, made on the highest authority, the minds of the brethren have undergone a change in regard to the location, and the church will be built on a lot on Adams Street, north of the High School building, instead of the Arnold lot north of the Lumber yard as stated. Our colored brethren are greatly in need of a good house of worship and we are glad to know that their needs are soon to be supplied."

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