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As we approach this 241st anniversary of the signing if the Declaration of Independence, we are preparing for an Olde Fashioned Independence Day Celebration. It seems only fitting, as we are the hometown of one of America's greatest tributes and symbols of freedom, Mount Rushmore.
Planning for this event has led me to do a little digging for what the 4th of July used to look like. Today the celebration is much like it was envisioned by at least one of our founding fathers, although it is safer by far and for the most part a tamer occasion. On July 3rd,1776 John Adams wrote to his wife:
"the second day of July, 1776,...lamaptto (I am apt to) believe...will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore."
That pretty much sums up what we engage in today on July 4 all over this nation.
Adams was talking about the "resolution of independence" that was adopted on July 2nd as the pivotal event in the birth of this nation, however, the Declaration of Independence would soon completely overshadow the resolution and July 4th would be considered at the date this country was born.
One year later we get our first glimpse of what the celebration of this occasion would look like.
“On July 4th, 1777 Philadelphia held one of the largest Independence Day festivals for the young country's first Fourth. The Continental Congress feasted at an official dinner, gave toasts and arranged a 13-gun salute. Americans also celebrated with speeches, parades and fireworks.” "1777 in Philadelphia kind of sets the tone for July Fourth for the next 80 or 90 years"
said Adam Cribelez, assistant professor of history at Southeast Missouri State University in his conversation with livescience.com.
Fast forward 123 years to the Hocking Sentinel, (Logan Ohio), 28th June 1900,
"One of the signers on that famous Fourth of July, 1776, declared on his deathbed that he would like to sleep a century, then wake up to find out how future generations were celebrating Independence Day. If the old gentleman's wish were to be granted, when he heard the fish horns, the multitudinous snapping of John Chinaman's red wrapped inventions, the reports of the dangerous torpedoes and dynamite crackers he might be willing enough to hurry back to his tomb."
It appears that at least one person that year was not fond of all the pops, bangs and booms created to commemorate the occasion. But, as we know, he must have been in the minority.
At some point the celebrations must have gotten a little out of control. In the early 1900s, the reform minded Progressive movement aimed to improve American morality.
"One big target was the Fourth of July,"
"What reformers said is that people were getting too drunk and they were being dangerous by shooting off fireworks."
Organizers, such as local activists, doctors, police and firefighters, started the ‘Safe and Sane Movement’. In Cleveland, the movement prompted the city council to ban fireworks in 1908, and other cities followed suit in the following years, according to researchers at Case Western Reserve University The Princeton Union Thursday, July 11th , 1907 reports,
"when this column goes to press the one-hundred and-thirty-first battle of the Fourth of July will have been fought, the dead will have been counted, the wounded bandaged and the country saved. In the one-hundred-and-thirtieth battle the killed numbered 158, and the wounded 5,308, making a total of 5,400 casualties. Of the wounded, 22 were made totally blind, 72 lost one eye, 56 lost a limb, and 227 lost one or more fingers. Of the dead, 18, mostly children, were burned to death. This sounds horrible and yet we can hardly expect any smaller list this year, for we are increasing both in population and in pocket money. The list may reach 5,500."
Sounds like a pretty rough party was had in 1906.
It doesn't seem that much has changed over the years regarding the celebration of this holiday. Parents are still concerned about the safety of their children with fireworks. Law enforcement is concerned with over consumption of alcohol. For the most part though, it is a time of family, food, games, and entertainment celebrating our independence and the great and enduring democracy that we live in.
One of the earliest celebrations documented in Keystone was on July 4th, 1899 on Main Street during the time of the gold rush, which is now celebrated by a larger event, Holy Terror Days, which is held every September as a tribute to the gold mining history of the community.
Keystone will celebrate on the 3rd of July, in conjunction with the festivities at Mount Rushmore, by decking out the town in a huge Independence Day Decorating Contest. A lemonade, ice tea, and watermelon social will be held on the green lawn at Grapes & Grinds which will be festooned with hundreds of helium balloons and garland galore. We will take it back to the gold rush version of events with a Buffalo Chip Throw, Log Toss, and Tobacco Spitting Contest for the adults, and Bubble Gum Spitting, and Turn of the Century Games for the kiddos. To my knowledge, Keystone doesn't own a cannon. I don't think our local Sheriff’s department would view kindly the shooting off of muskets at dawn, as John Adams thought was appropriate, and the National Forest Service does not like fireworks anywhere near the trees, so by comparison our event will be safer and probably quieter, but still, wholesome good fun. Jen Greene will appear and provide the music for the event and Jarrett Dahl of Dahl's Chainsaw Art will complete three chainsaw carvings which will make plenty of racket and which will be auctioned via silent auction with the proceeds going to local charity.
There’s all kinds of wildlife in the Black Hills. We have lots of bison, deer and elk. There are populations of bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Coyotes and mountain lions are around, but elusive.
But there are three species — moose, bears and wolves — that you probably won’t see see.
At least not yet.