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Modesto's First Fourth of July Celebration

Excerpts from Stories of Stanislaus by Sol P. Elias

McHenry Mansion 4th of July CelebrationModesto's first celebration of the nation's birth was a notable occasion in many ways. The personnel of the participants, the enthusiasm that it created for the flag and the reunited nation, the extensive and novel program of exercises, and the grace that accentuated the entire festivity made it an affair of more than ordinary importance in the infant village.

On this day the town presented a lively and cheerful appearance. The townsmen as well as the residents of the entire countryside zealously joined in doing honor to the historical episode. The homes were draped in the national colors. The spirit of patriotism was in the air. Even Nature, attuned to the event, contributed a cool and calm day.

At early dawn, "Peg Leg Jack", the most interesting town character, apprised the citizens of the arrival of the natal day by the thunder-like reverberations of his loud-mouthed cannon, which was almost as ancient as the day it sought to commemorate. By 9 o'clock the people from the country began to pour into the village. The citizens, by practical unanimity, had proclaimed a universal holiday. Until ten o'clock the people passed the time amidst a scene of waving and floating flags and a continuous volley of noise produced by the popping of fire crackers and the explosion of bombs on the street corners, on platforms and on the crowded sidewalks. It was, indeed, a boisterous Fourth.

AT 10 o'clock Grand Marshall George Buck, assisted by his aides, Charles Aull, Charles Anthony, Andrew McGinnis and Joe Hall, formed the procession on "H" street in front of the Court house. It was led by the Modesto Brass Band, followed by a carriage containing the president of the day, the chaplain, the reader of the Declaration of Independence, and the orator. Then came a large wagon carrying a platform with raised seats on which were thirty-seven little girls dressed in red, white and blue, each girl; representing one of the states of the Union.

The next feature in the historical pageant was the cavalcade of six pioneer girls all dressed in red, white and blue. A company of schoolboys followed the ladies on horseback and acted as an escort to them. Citizens on foot and in carriages followed.

The line of march was through the principal streets of the city. The procession stopped at the Huffman warehouse-the granary just north of the old Southern Pacific passenger depot at the comer of Eighth and "I" streets-where the exercises were held. The warehouse was extensively decorated with evergreens. The large platform, which had been erected at its northern extremity, was completely arched with shrubbery, flowers, pictures, and flags. Though seating accommodations for fifteen hundred people had been provided, the warehouse was filled to capacity hours in advance of the beginning of the exercises. There was a large overflow crowd on the outside listening to the exercises.

For a complete description of the rest of the festivities, see Sol P. Elias' Stories of Stanislaus, which was published in 1924. The McHenry Museum is in the process of reprinting this book.