nation’s economy was mired in a recession and federal troops had been sent to
Chicago to prevent further violence associated with a national railroad strike,
but neither situation dulled the patriotism of Texans on July 4, 1894.
Despite the tough times, Texans observed the anniversary of the 1776 signing of
the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia Hall with everything from cannon
salutes to greased pole climbing contests. The next day’s Galveston Daily News
provided statewide coverage showing how the Lone Star State tipped its figurative
Stetson to the Union only two decades after Reconstruction.
celebration took place in Big D, an
estimated 20,000 people jamming the fair grounds to mark the Fourth.
speechmaking,” the Galveston
newspaper reported, “the crowd was entertained with horse, bicycle and foot races,
riding wild steers, climbing a greased pole, etc.” Perhaps not the best crafted
bit of journalism, but it got the point across.
doings ended with a ball thrown by local locomotive engineers with time on their
hands and perhaps an inclination to partake of a toot or two.
Houston, a party of “excursionists”
traveled to the San
Jacinto battle ground, the spot where Sam Houston’s army guaranteed Texas’
independence from Mexico, to observe the holiday.
On hand for the Bayou
City festivities were six veterans of the April 21, 1836 route of Gen. Antonio
Lopez de Santa Anna -- men who well understood the price of freedom. Those who
had fought there 58 years earlier included James M. Hill of Austin,
L.C. Cunningham of Waelder, someone identified only as “Barbour” of Bell County,
another person listed only as “Sparks,” H.E. McCulloch and Frank Lubbock.
“Those who were in the fight,” the News said, “differed as to some locations [on
the battlefield], but in a general way they pretty well agreed.”
soldiers could not find the tree under which Santa Anna appeared before the wounded
Gen. Houston, the story continued, “and were of the opinion that the bayou had
so widened that the spot had been covered.”
Austin, the rail lines serving the Capital
City (the rail system had not been completely shut down by the strike) reduced
their rates to accommodate those wishing to attend the holiday activities in that
city. Some 3000 enjoyed a union-sponsored barbeque and volunteer fire fighter
competition at “the encampment grounds,” now Camp Mabry.
Three fire companies
from Austin, two from Georgetown,
Taylor, and Belton
and one from Round Rock,
and Palestine took part in
a hose carriage race.
The volunteers from Georgetown
won the top money, getting a hose connected and water spewing in a little more
than 40 seconds. Both the second- and third-place winners got their equipment
going inside 46 seconds.
San Antonio, artillery from Fort
Sam Houston celebrated the national holiday with a 42-gun salute at high noon,
the sound of cannon fire rattling windows all over the Alamo City. Many residents
gathered for a patriotic celebration at Riverside Park, waving tankards of beer
as fervently as the flag. Indeed, the next day’s San Antonio Light reported 40
half-barrels of beer had not survived the event.
A holiday performance
at San Pedro Park Theater of a play called “A Lightning Rod Agent” saw an early
final curtain when the prop manager accidentally shot and mortally wounded one
of the attendees with a supposedly unloaded pistol to be used in an upcoming scene.
Elsewhere in town, a little Fourth of July monkey business nearly cost
one monkey his life. Jocko, a monkey belonging to H. W. Browder and kept in the
Menger Hotel courtyard for the amusement of guests, apparently confused cockroach
poison with something yummy and ate it. “Medical remedies” saved the day – and
Jocko. The San Antonio Light reported that after treatment he was “scolding everybody,
as usual, who approaches his cage in the hotel.”
of Weimar, in Colorado County, started
their festivities earlier with “the rattle of musketry and firing of cannon,”
though a news account of the day’s activities did not report who did the shooting.
Whoever touched off the early-day fireworks, “By 10 a.m. the streets…were well
Locals converged on the town pavilion for a gratis barbeque
lunch, the town postmaster in charge of the pits. Alas, even then there was no
such thing as a free lunch. At 3 p.m., the speech-making began “after which amusements
of all kinds for both young and old were [sic] the order of the evening.”
flocked to Beeville
“from several counties” to attend the “grand picnic and barbeque.” A special train
arrived from Goliad
and the regular trains brought in more visitors, including bands from both Goliad
merchants staged a “trade parade,” followed by racing and a trap shooting tournament.
“All passed off quietly,” the News reported, “and the day’s festivities closed
with a grand ball at the opera house.”
every Texas town went crazy that distant July
The News reported that Nacogdoches
had no celebration of the Fourth, though other places in the county had barbeques,
picnicking and orating.
residents enjoyed a red, white and blue picnic on the Leon River, the News’ holiday
wrap-up offered only this terse telegraphic dispatch from the county seat of Belton:
“The 118th anniversary of the nation’s birth passed by here altogether
© Mike Cox
2, 2009 column
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