Almost 121 years ago, the former Seymour Sentinel, then Seymour’s newspaper, celebrated the July 4, 1899, “Fourth Of July Program” in the city’s downtown, which featured amusements, a dinner, several exercises in the park and even a parade.
There wasn’t a square at that time — it wasn’t laid out until 1901 by A.H. Kindrick — but there was a park area where the Seymour Downtown Park now exists.
Opening the day’s events was a parade procession that formed at 9 a.m.
“Tuesday, the fourth of July, was a gay day in Seymour,” the Sentinel reported. “It had been extensively advertised that Seymour would celebrate, and at an early hour, people began to pour into town from every direction. By 10 a.m., an immense crowd had gathered, and the park where the exercises of the day were to be held was filled with people.
“At 10:30, a procession formed at the school house, and preceded by the marshal, marched downtown and around the square. The feature most highly complimented was a float in which Columbia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the Philippines were represented. Miss Clara Bean, portraying “Columbia,” was truly splendid, and surrounded by the other beautiful young ladies representing the new territories, formed a picture of loveliness beyond description.”
After the procession, the event’s master of ceremonies, Dr. W.R. Jackson, called “the liberty-loving assembly” to order, then the morning’s program began.
“After the invocation by Paul Ellis of Cedar Gap, C.W. Banks delivered the address of welcome, and his heartfelt expressions of good will were responded to by Paul Ellis in a burning speech of patriotic fervor. The Declaration of Independence was then read by W.J. Kindrick, which was followed by the principal address of the day by J.W. Porter of Seymour, and all present united in saying that it was one of the most eloquent, patriotic addresses ever delivered in the young history of Seymour,” the newspaper reported.
Next was the musical part of the program.
“We must not fail to give credit to the musical part of the program, under the efficient management of Mrs. E.M. Gilbert, who played the accompaniments in an admirable manber,” the Sentinel wrote. “All of the songs were perfectly rendered by our local talent, and those who were kind enough to assist in the preparation of the music for the occasion are deserving of high praise.
“A hail shower interrupted the noon-day festivities in the park, and as the weather appeared threatening, the people were invited to the M.E. church for the afternoon program, where they were again highly entertained by the Rev. E.W. Atwell and Prof. E.J. Dunn, who delivered a splendid addresses to the crowd.”
An amusing feature of the day, per the paper’s report, was a “Snolligoster” parade that afternoon.
“The small boys shouted themselves hoarse in commendation of the ludicrous figures on display,” the Sentinel said.
“Taken all in all, our celebration was a brilliant success, though the magnificent pyrotechnical display was interfered with by the rain, thus disappointing many who had remained to witness the exhibition.
“Everything passed on quietly and peaceably, and all seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, and be thankful for the blessings of liberty, which the American people enjoy.”
At the celebration’s dinner, there were several songs and speeches. The order of entertainment included:
• Song, “Freedom’s Banner.”
• Speech, A.J. McDowell.
• Singing, Gentry School choir.
• Speech, A.H. Davis.
• Singing, Star School choir.
• Speech, W.R. Jackson.
• Singing, Finley School choir.
• Singing, Mountain Dale School choir.
• Balloon ascensions.
• Snolligoster parade.
The Sentinel’s report added that afternoon activities of foot races, sack races, egg races and wheelbarrow races were a big success, with prizes awarded to the winners.
The celebration’s committee included Mesdames Gorum, Hattie McMahan, Mary Good, E.M. Gilbert, Miles Rhodes, and Jessie Stone, Misses Ida Daugherty, Sadie Jackson, Minnie Mashburn, Ida Hoover, Angie Shultz, Isa Shulte, Abbie Jenkins and Bertha Jackson, Messrs. W.R. Rippee, Elmer Bradshaw, Sammie Trimble, Spencer Gilbert, A.R. Orem, Dr. Jackson, J.W. Good, Tom Bryant, Clinton Schultz and R.P. Love.