What!! The Cuba Patriot says the 1885 July 4th celebration was “Wellsville’s Worst”. Well, was this sour grapes from a town that wanted the “Big” celebration for itself? The only way to get a fair and balanced report is to again dig into the archives of the Wellsville Daily Reporter. The headline in the July 6, 1885 issue:
WELLSVILLE’S FOURTH – A Fine Day, a Large Crowd, and a Thin Entertainment – But Lots of Fun
The weather was beautiful on that 4th of July day. A beautiful day for a celebration, but the money was not there to make it a true success. Firstly, the paper complains, there was no geographic center to the town. Wellsville had two business ends – the north and the south part of town, both competing for attention. Wellsville had no “courthouse square” where celebrations could be definitively held, so fireworks and cannonading were held wherever the money to buy the gunpowder was supplied.
The celebration began on the night of July 3rd, “with monster firecrackers, villainously huge torpedoes, healthy horns and patriotic war-hoops, there was no lack of fervor or of noise. At 12 o’clock the bonfire was lighted and the bells rang in chorus with the big tannery whistle. Just enough official resistance was raised against the bonfire to cause it to be built twice as large as it would have been had there been no resistance.”
“Cannonading began soon after daylight, and at an early hour people began coming to town in goodly numbers to hunt for the celebration. But the absence of the usual handsome fire department parade, with bands and banners, in the forenoon was sadly missed, and the solitary band wagon of the circus did not seem to fill the bill.” The fire department was suffering a low membership at this time, perhaps this kept many of the Wellsville units out of the celebration.
“There were varied and various races scattered about the town hither and yon, so as to encourage the subscribers to the fun...and much enjoyed by a small element of the crowd. And so the day wore on and away, and the good natured visitors kept up an extraordinary degree of hopeful courage.”
At 4:30 the parade of the “fantastics” kicked off, and marched twice down Main Street. The parade consisted of Master “Dave” Blackman with his famous Shetland and the circus band, Buffalo Bill cow-boys and a Wild West show. An old Whitesville line stage coach to remind people of travel in the olden days, the Baldwin Hose Company and Carriage, and parodies of local businesses and other “good take-offs”.
“In the evening there was a really good display of fire works on the school house lawn, while another crowd took in the circus, and yet another detachment mingled in the jolly dance at the (skating) rink, where, indeed, all day long crowds had enjoyed the fun on wheels and the music of Elwell’s Band.
There were a few creditable and many comfortable features connected with the so-called celebration. The day and evening throughout were conspicuously agreeable in temperature, and the crowd temperate, well behaved and patient.
Several citizens worked hard to get the best results possible out of the slim opportunities offered, and are entitle to much credit. There were few and only minimal accidents and expecting ruffled patience, general good feeling was manifested. There have been better celebrations in Wellsville and others more discouraging. All in all, it wasn’t so bad.”
In the same issue of the Wellsville Daily Reporter, a little story about the effects of the “fun”
MUCH GLASS BROKEN
During the Friday night “celebration,” explosions of the Van Campen dynamite compound shattered glass at several points. The main misfortune befell the Baptist church, where most carelessly the explosive was placed in too close proximity to the edifice; The glass on that side of the church had been shivered and weakened by the school-house fire, and much of it was cracked and patched. It was this doubtless that was shattered. The firmer panes were not broken, and none in the school house and only two in the Congregational church.
However, the accident is one of most inexcusable carelessness, involving a somewhat serious loss, which in justice, to a fair amount, ought to be made good, and we trust it will be.