(Editor's note: For the next year, we will present a series of articles that examine the years around 1900. Our purpose is to provide a comparison of the beginning of the 20th Century to its upcoming end.|
The author, Connie Williams, is doing graduate work in history at St. Cloud State University and has worked at the Paynesville Area Museum for several summers.
Fourth of July celebrations have always been a family time. Today it seems the celebration is more tied to the immediate or extended family, while at the turn of the century it seemed to be the community family. People didn't have the convenience of travel like they do now, so they celebrated at home.
An awareness of freedom seemed to be more a part of the festivities including patriotic speeches by orators and the reading of the Declaration of Independence. Many people today view the Fourth as another day of vacation.
Horse racing on dirt roads was a frequent activity at Fourth of July celebrations according to Paynesville: Year 125, a book published by the Paynesville Historical Society in 1983.
The first settlers of Paynesville were not going to let the Fourth of July pass without a celebration. According to the Stearns County History of 1915, a group fo settlers took great pains to build a boat. Lumber had to be brought by teams from St. Cloud.
The boat was assembled on the evening of July 3, and then bright and early on the morning of July 4, the group, consisting of O.S. Freeman, James H. Boylan, Lucy Monson, Zina Brown, Canarissa and Victoria Richardson, and John J. Brown, set out for Long Lake where they spent the day.
They used two lumber wagons, each drawn by six yoke of oxen, to bring the participants and the boat to Long Lake. The driver, John J. Brown, was a lad of 14, but a "master hand with cattle." Not to be without refreshments, a milk cow was hitched to the rear of the second wagon.
As the day ended the sky darkened with a brewing storm. On the way home, the party got lost in the hills around Cape Bad Luck and remained outside all night.
In the files at the Paynesville Historical Museum, Zella Hegg tells of looking forward to the Fourth of July as a child. "Always the first thought was of the merry-go-round and how thrilling it was to ride on it," she said. The merry-go-round man was Jacob Heagle, who had come from Germany as a young man. Zella was quite sure he brought the merry-go-round with him from Germany and that the horses were hand carved.
It didn't have a motor so several young men had to walk around on a platform and push on the beams which branched out from the main axle and from which the horses were suspended. Out of three rides, the boys who pushed received one ride free for their work.
"Even if it was an early model, we could hardly wait to ride on it," commented Zella.
Roman Candles, Prismatic Whirwinds, Dewey
Bombs, Stromboli Fountains, Floral Fountains,
Rockets, Colored Mines, Dewey Chasers,
Brazilian Jugglers, Nigger Chasers
P.H. Bradley, Proprietor
from an ad in the New Paynesville Press, June 21, 1900.
According to the New Paynesville Press, Lake Henry observed the Fourth in grand style. Lake Henry extended a cordial invitation to one and all to come and have a good old-fashioned celebration. The program included horse races, wheelbarrow races, fireworks, music, and dancing.
The programs for the Fourth were to commence at the early hour of 5 a.m. with a national salute, according to the New Paynesville Press of June 21, 1900.
Throughout the day actitivties included a bicycle parade, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, music by the Grand Chorus, and a picnic dinner. The oration was given by the Honorable D.B. Searle. At 2 p.m., there was a baseball game with Litchfield playing St. Cloud for a purse of $100. There also were foot races, sack races, egg races, and horse races with a Bowery dance in the evening.
Regal celebrated the Fourth of July under the auspices of St. Anthony Catholic Church. That year there were races, a tug of war, bowling, and pole climbing.
At 2:45 p.m., Regal and Eden Valley met in a "hot" baseball game. Eden Valley was in a tie for the lead of the Great Soo League and Regal hadn't lost a game that season in the Central Minnesota Baseball League. Lefty Wendlandt was at the mound for Regal.
Dinner and supper were served by the ladies of the Regal community. "This will surely be a calling card as people for miles around know what excellent cooks the Regal ladies are," stated an article in the Paynesville Press of June 28, 1934.
The mouth-watering meal consisted of roast beef, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing, peas, carrots, hame-baked beans, cabbage salad, radishes, onions, picles, lemon and banana cream pies, cake, tea biscuits, and coffee.
After the lost of fingers and eyesight from firecrackers in the past, a new awareness led people to start cracking down on the misuse of firecrackers in 1939.
"The modern safe and sane 4th of July is a great improvement over the Glorious Fourth of a generation ago," said the Paynesville Press on July 29, 1939. "Anything that involves playing with fire and powder, even when the powder is in small amounts used in baby firecrackers, is dangerous."
We have the equipment to do a first
class job in a hurry, too.
Hoiseth Motor Sales
from an ad in the Paynesville Press, June 28, 1939.
The article went on to say that accidents in the past had ranged from small burns to grave injuries involving tetanus infection. They warned that the use of firecrackers by young children should never be allowed without the supervision of an adult. Putting explosives under a tin can or investigating the cracker that didn't go off were classic causes of lost eyes and other grave injuries.
The story further stated that one of the most dangerous possibilities in connection with the Fourth of July accidents was a tetanus infection, or lockjaw. This occurred when dirt and powder were driven into the skin and tissues by the explosion. Immediate attention was imperative so that antitetanus serum could be administered promptly.
People still enjoy the Fourth of July as much as ever, whether it is for patriotic reasons or not. These words from an ad in the New Paynesville Press in 1899 speak across time about the enjoyments of the day. "If you are going to celebrate the 4th, you will need: Flags, Firecrackers, Hammocks, Croquet Sets, Baseball Goods, Cigars, Candies, Kodaks, Fishing Tackle and a good drink of Ice-Cream Soda."
Return to Turn of Century