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Gateway to the Mountains

George Wireman

Chapter 19: Independence Day 1876

On July 4, 1876, the citizens of Mechanicstown staged an event that will long be remembered in the annals of history of this little mountain town. The old saying that the people of Mechanicstown could never get up anything of a startling nature to relieve the monotony of the quietness was beautifully knocked in the head on In-dependence Day, 1876. Many of our present citizens think that the George Washington Bicentennial Celebration of 1932 or the Thurmont Bicentennial Celebration of 1951 were the greatest events ever held in the community, but the celebration of 1876 was one of the most talked about affairs of that day and era.

It was the belief of the citizens of Mechanicstown that the celebration of 1876 would never be equaled in any town of twice the in-habitants. There are several records as to the number of persons who attended, but there were fully three thousand persons on hand to witness and take part in the big event honoring the 100th Anniversary of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence.

People from all sections of the country came to witness this much talked about demonstration, and, notwithstanding the hastily gotten up affair in our sistertown Emmitsburg which was going on at the same time, quite a large number of persons were on hand from that community as well. Everybody was so pleased and some were so much overjoyed by the celebration that they gave out with deafening shouts of applause as the mammoth parade passed through the streets of Mechanicstown.

The celebration itself got underway at twelve midnight, when Charles Harman, an experienced gunner, fired a cannon. This was done to usher in the day, and had the desired effect of awakening the citizens from their sound slumbers. Soon there was a grand street parade led by Mulligan's Guards, under the command of Captain William A. Lynn. Since most of the citizens were not dressed at this hour of the morning and hearing the music in the street, they watched the parade from their bedroom windows. The parade lasted until 4:00 a.m., at which time the church bells were rung until the first signs of daylight began to appear over the horizon. There was no doubt that after the firing of the cannon, all chances of sleep were banished, so most of the people got up and began trimming their homes with evergreens and flags, prepared the day before.

The decorations were beautiful and tastefully displayed from every home. Some were very expensive. Freedom meant a lot to these early settlers and they proved this by taking an active part in the big celebration.

The early Western Maryland train coming East, brought the Rouzerville Band and a large crowd from Sabillasville and other stations along the line. As the band members got off the train they immediately assembled in formation and paraded down Carroll Street and up East Main to the square. When they arrived at the center of town they rendered a very enjoyable concert under the able leadership of William H. Embly.

At 8:30 there was a general stampede down East Main Street to greet the Woodsboro Band who had been engaged for the occasion. Their huge red bandwagon glistened in the sun and the members were dressed in neat and showy uniforms. After dismounting, they too rendered a concert, entertaining the large crowd that had gathered by this time. Flags were flying and excitement was high. Soon after the concert by the Woodsboro Band, delegations from Lewistown, Creagerstown, Graceham, Emmitsburg and other communities began to gather for the big parade.

Dr. J. J. Henshaw, Parade Marshal, and his aides, mounted on fiery chargers made their appearance and the task of forming the parade got underway. This was no easy task, for the crowd was so large and at times almost ungovernable. Dr. Henshaw, however, was equal to the emergency, and with a great degree of coolness and past experience, soon had the procession lined up and ready to move off.

First, in the line of march was the Rouzerville Band followed by the International Order of Odd Fellows, appearing in full regalia, marshaled by John H. Rouzer. This organization, still active to-day, numbered 200 and made a wonderful appearance as they marched down the street in their beautiful colored uniforms. At last this much talked about affair was at hand. Thousands cheered, waved flags, and were thrilled by the music, the color and gaiety of the occasion.

Next in line was Col. J. R. Rouzer, leading the various Sunday School organizations of the churches in the community. Each organization carried their appropriate and exceedingly handsome banners. Following the Sunday School groups was a float featuring the Goddess of Liberty, drawn by two beautiful white horses. Miss Kate Stokes portrayed the Goddess and was seated upon a richly adorned throne. A wagon containing the representatives of 1776 was next in line, dressed in costumes popular at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Two old veterans from the War of 1812 followed close behind in a buggy, decorated with ribbons and flags. As the veterans waved to the crowds, loud cheers echoed through the streets.

The Woodsboro and Lewistown bandwagons were next, filled with beautiful ladies representing the thirty-eight states of the Union. These were dressed in white, with red, white and blue sashes and straw hats trimmed in the national colors.

The next unit of the parade featured a long line of buggies, carriages and wagons, drawn by some of the finest horses in the country. Riding in this unit was many citizens from all sections of the country, who, on many occasions, had given proof of their loyalty and strong attachment to the country which their forefathers had purchased with their blood and lives. This unit turned out to be one of the most impressive of the entire parade. The citizens of Mechanicstown were always ready to defend their freedom and never failed to answer the call to duty. This was proven in World War 1 and II and in every major conflict since.

Following the parade, which lasted several hours and covered every street in the community, the crowds gathered in a near-by grove where ample preparations were made for refreshments and relaxation. There were games, dancing, and band concerts. In the evening everyone gathered at the square to watch an elaborate display of fireworks. Thus ended the great Independence Day Celebration of 1876, which is now but a page of the rich history of the early days of a thriving little community nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Although the spirit for such occasions today just doesn't exist, the spark remained and was rekindled in 1951 (see Chapter 34), when the citizens of Thurmont staged a big celebration in honor of the 200th Anniversary of the founding of this little mountain town.

Chapter Index | Chapter 20: Outstanding Civic Organizations

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