The Centennial Fourth of July
1776 - 1876
How it was observed in Watertown
In paying proper tribute to the Centennial Fourth of July, Watertown in her celebration yesterday was adequate to the important task.
The weather was all that could be desired for the season, clear, pleasant and warm without being sultry. The day was ushered in by the ringing of bells, firing of canons, etc. By early morning our streets were astir, and the residents from the surrounding country came pouring in, all anxious to witness the celebration and drink from enthusiasm with our citizens.
Main Street presented a beautiful appearance with its linings of green and the flags and streamers that waved in proud defiance from the buildings. From all the principal buildings the American flag was flying and in all parts of the city our citizens had decked their residences with the starry emblems, thus showing by their acts that they possessed the true spirit of the occasion and were proud of their American citizenship. Such general tribute to the flag could not but be interpreted as denoting undying loyalty to the nation.
At 10 o’clock a.m. the vicinity of Turner Hall was the scene of great activity and excitement, being the point at which the procession was to formed. After the proper time had elapsed for getting things in order the procession formed and was soon taking up its line of march according to the program.
The procession was the longest ever seen here, and its arrangement was complete in all particulars. In the costuming of the different characters presented great pains had been taken and in every instance a true delineation was rendered. The display in the procession of products of manufacturers was more meager than it should have been, and Watertown could have herself more justice in this respect.
The two fire companies with their beautiful steamers, surmounted with brilliant floral decorations, made a splendid display, and were greatly admired. The Phoenix boys with their Silsby machine came out in their new and beautiful uniforms for the first time, showing a fine appearance by the side of their gaily dressed comrades of the Pioneer Company.
After parading the streets the procession moved up to Richard’s Grove, that enchanting piece of woods in the southern limits of the First Ward, where the exercises had been appointed to be held. In the grove a living mass of humanity was gathered, fair estimates making the number of people assembled on the grounds at from 7,000 to 8,000. The grandstand was occupied by members of the committees, speakers, officers of the day and singers, which latter included several hundred children from the public schools. [ CROSS REFERENCE: Washington Park is a part of "Richard's Grove," the picnic place of early days]
The exercises opened with the singing of the National hymn, “Our Country Tis of Thee,” and words cannot describe the grand effect given by this glorious hymn, when rendered on an occasion like this by hundreds of voices mingled with inspiring music. Next an impressive prayer was made by Rev. Mr. Hendrickson of the Congregational Church. The declaration was read by Mr. W. H. Rohr, in a clear and district manner, after which came singing and then the oration by Rev. Myron W. Reed, of Milwaukee.
It would be impossible for us to do justice to this address in any review we would give of it, and hence we publish a good portion of it elsewhere. We will say, however, that we never saw a speaker that rivaled the attention of a vast audience with more success than he did. But a great deal is lost in the oration by not hearing the words come from the lips of the speaker himself. Every word and gesture from him denotes the true orator. The address made a deep impression, and was received with marked satisfaction by all present.
The German speaker from Milwaukee having failed to appear, Mr. Wm. Soubron, of the Milwaukee Herald, was substituted at the last moment and read an original poem in German, appropriate to the day and occasion. Mr. Soubron’s impromptu effort aroused the enthusiasm of his hearers, and the speaker closed amidst rounds of applause.
A magnificent display of fireworks in the evening, surpassing in extent and variety anything of the kind heretofore attempted here, closed the festivities of the day.
From first to last the celebration was a grand success, reflecting great credit on the ability, patriotic motives and determination of all concerned in it.
Yesterday was a proud day for Watertown, and it was shown with unerring certainty that she possesses the right spirit and impulses when called into action. Our citizens, one and all, may well feel a just pride in the manner the Centennial Fourth of July, the proudest day in our history, was observed among us, and its recollections will always find a pleasant place in our memories.
The Watertown Republican, 05 Jul 1876
History of Watertown, Wisconsin