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Meet the Folks - Ep. FO15 - of Oak Springs on 4th of July 1885

Updated on July 3, 2016

Home were decorated across the valley

Folks decorated their home in patriotic colors
Folks decorated their home in patriotic colors

The Fourth of July fell on Saturday in 1885

By 1885 in Oak Springs the Fourth of July Independence Day Celebration had become a full day affair. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post and the Chamber of Commerce worked together to put on a patriotic, family-oriented daylong set of activities for young and old, families and singles, men and women. Activities now took place both at Centennial Square on the north side of the community as well as at the fair grounds in the southwest corner of town. Now that businesses were located all the way around Centennial Square, it was a great place for speech making and more formal affairs. Family activities, picnics and the fireworks took place at the fair grounds. Folks could spread out, but could all see the fireworks set up in the far southwest corner of town, across Patton Run from the fair grounds.

The day’s activities began at the Patton Memorial on the north edge of the fair grounds. When those participating in the parade had all assembled, the GAR Post members performed a brief ceremony at the Memorial paying respect to their fallen Civil War comrades who had contributed to the continued Independence of the nation. Some still boycotted this ceremony as ‘inappropriate,’ but most community folks accepted it as part of the day’s activities. Led by the GAR Band, then, the parade headed north up Central Avenue the several blocks to Centennial Square. This year there were six recognized, authorized parade units that led the way. Tradition allowed anyone who wished to, of course, to follow along to be at the Centennial Square Opening Ceremony and Independence Day Speeches.

The Band was followed by a troop of GAR members, in their uniforms, marching as a unit. The third group this year was a set of four decorated wagons in patriot colors and themes. An organized costumed parade unit followed representing a school club group putting on a play during the afternoon, just for this year. Another set of three decorated wagons, representing Chamber of Commerce businesses, followed in order. Finally, a grouping of eight horses and riders, decked out in their finest saddles, bridles and accessories, many in red, white and blue, concluded the formal parade elements.

They organized a baseball game

Some of the men played a baseball game in the park
Some of the men played a baseball game in the park

Patriotic speeches were a 4th of July tradition

The parade was supposed to arrive at Centennial Square so that the speeches could begin at 10 o’clock on Saturday morning, the 4th of July. Inevitably, of course, it was closer to 10:30 a.m. by the time things settled down for the “Opening Ceremonies” to begin. Some folks were still drifting in, as well, in anticipation of a late start and long-winded speakers. A stage was located in the northwest corner of the Square, in front of City Hall, for the speakers and official party. The sun was shining brightly as the affair got under way and the crowd gathered around to get the program started in eighty-five degree summer heat. Children who had stood beside the parade route, waving their small American flags, now gathered with their parents, still waving their flags, waiting for the event to begin.

This year, after the local speakers said their remarks, the State Senator, from Rolla, gave the keynote address. He now represented Oak Springs in the State legislature. He only came to Oak Springs once or twice a year, so this would be the biggest audience he would face all year. It was not an election year, but the speech sounded to many in the audience more like a campaign speech than a 4th of July oration. While he received a polite ovation, from an appreciative audience, many noted later they had heard better and more moving speeches.

Following these formalities, everyone moved on to their family or other lunchtime arrangements. Some went to their homes around town while most of the country folks had picnics in the park at the fairgrounds. Some chose to have their lunch in grouping in Centennial Square. The taverns and restaurants were busy places, as well, of course.

Everyone enjoyed fireworks

Fireworks were shared in the evening
Fireworks were shared in the evening

Afternoon and evening organized activities were mostly at the fairgrounds

The school group had set up their stage on the south side of the Community Building near the fair grounds. Many other activities, formal and informal, were planned at various sites. The fairgrounds now took up most of three city blocks, so there was more than adequate room for all of the activities, the many family gatherings, and there was room for the horses and wagons to be parked and be comfortable.

Two groups of men, one representing the west valley and one representing the east valley, had organized a baseball game for the first time at the 1885 4th of July celebration. Someone had read it had been done back east, and they wanted to see if it would work in Oak Springs. They were quite surprised that when they started to play, a fairly large crowd gathered around the field they had laid out in the southeast corner of the city park/fair grounds area. Even with as many fumbling moves as great ones, the crowd got into the competition whole-heartedly, with a few wagers being placed it is likely. For many in the crowd, the baseball game was the highlight of the day’s activities.

The evening formal activities included a band concert, a recent addition to the 4th of July Celebration. The heart of the band was made up of the members of the GAR marching band unit of about eight or nine men. During the month of June, however, they had recruited (and took qualified volunteers) to increase the size of the band to sixteen members this year. They had rehearsed four times, and most folks agreed they put on a pretty decent concert. They were given a rousing round of applause at the end, prior to the start of the fireworks display.

Volume 3 now at Amazon

Volume 3 is now available as an ebook
Volume 3 is now available as an ebook

Note from the author

This is the fifteenth episode of the short story (FOx) series, Meet the Folks | … of Oak Springs. This is in 1885, coinciding with the end of the Kings of Oak Springs series. Each episode will explore, at first hand, some folks who lived in Oak Springs, c. 1880s. The stories are set in the Ozarks Mountains setting of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga historical fiction. These episodes are set in the 1880s time frame, following the 80 episodes of “The Kings of Oak Springs” stories. That series had followed the time period of the “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” collection of short stories. Some of these earlier stories are published on The Homeplace Saga blog, found at the link, below. These FOx episodes provide depth and background stories for the entire "Saga" series.

The first 40 episodes of the King Family series have now been compiled into eBooks, titled: "The Kings of Oak Springs" Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. See the link, below, to get yours. Volume 3 was recently released, and Volume 4 will be released later in July.

“The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”

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