In 1842 the citizens of Cattaraugus County and adjoining counties celebrated the fourth of July at Ellicottville (then the Cattaraugus County seat) on Friday the 2nd of July. A national salute was given at sunrise, followed by a procession to “the grove” where the day was dedicated to Patriotic and Religious observances.
National songs were performed by the band; prayers were given by the chaplain. A reading of the Declaration of Independence was given. A national hymn was sung by the children followed by a benediction. After this a dinner was served for the guests. In the evening a display of fireworks and a balloon was sent up illuminated.
In 1876 the citizens of Ellicottville celebrated the centennial of the birth of the United States with the same patriotic zeal. The American flag and red, white and blue buntings hung from every house and business.
Amidst the flags and bunting the birth of our country was celebrated with patriotic speeches, a public recitation of the Declaration of Independence, and patriotic pageants and parades that honored our forefathers. The picnic with family and friends was the culmination of a meaningful day. The fireworks at the end of the day reminded us of the battles our country has fought to keep the Declaration of Independence alive.
Following the speech making, a great patriotic parade was staged. Civil War heroes led troops of veterans, some with empty coat sleeves, some walking with a cane or crutch and some riding in carriages but all showing pride in their country.
The Ellicottville Band marched lively playing our nations anthem.
Wagons were profusely decorated with evergreen boughs, bunting and American flags.
The first wagon, carrying beautiful girls in white bore the words, “Liberty and Union Now and Forever, One and Inseparable”.
Four young girls rode next to a Liberty Bell, formed from, hemlock twigs over a wooden frame declaring “Life, Liberty and Happiness”.
A wagon representing the Constitution, with a young lady bearing a banner of “Liberty”, another, the shield of “Equality”. Next came a wagon with three young ladies emblazoned with “Free Speech”, “Free Press” and “Free Assemblage”.
Another, “Free Schools”, “Free Religion” and “a Free People”.
A wagon carried the Little Red School House bearing the inscription, ”Free schools, the defense of the Nation” was followed by a long procession of school children with their teachers all carrying American Flags.
The second section of the parade was devoted to early settlement. There was a settlers’ ox-team and covered wagon bearing his family, household goods, provisions, a few hens, tools, and seeds for the next spring’s planting and leading a cow or two.
The old Plank Road Stage coach carried five daughters of the first settlers. Aunt Sally Johnston and Mrs. Chauncey J. Fox, daughters of Grove Hurlburt; Mrs. Hannah L. Skinner, daughter of Henry Saxton , Mrs. Henrietta Saxton, daughter of Jabez Blackmon and Mrs. Martha Harlin, daughter of David Gregory.
There was a tableau depicting the clearing of the land and the browsing of cattle, the making of black salts and soft soap, with the leeching barrels of wood ashes and a great cauldron kettle in which to boil the lye. Barter among the settlers and trading with the Indians were also shown and a real Indian wigwam with a family of Seneca Indians, including a war chief with his tomahawk, scalping knife, bow and arrows, and a little papoose strapped to a board on its mother’s back.
There was the old hand pumper Fire Engine followed by its company of fire fighters.
Last came the mugwumps with their grotesque costumes and comical contraptions.
Thanks to “The Republican” newspaper article from 1842 and John H. Northrup’s 1936 speech about the 1876 celebration of the 4th of July, for leaving us this glimpse into Ellicottville’s past.