The Fourth on the Frontier - The Weekly Holler #11

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July 3 · Issue #11 · View online
American Mythology
Welcome to The Weekly Holler. This newsletter is published by Luke Bauserman. Luke grew up in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio. As a young adult, he worked in a nursing home while studying history in college. During this time, he made friends with and heard many stories from the “old-timers” of his community. Shortly before graduating, Luke won the Randolph Stone Award for Historical Writing from Ohio University. Luke is working on his first novel, an Appalachian folklore fantasy (updates forthcoming). 

The Fourth on the Frontier
Fort Harmar near Marietta by Joseph Gilman
Fort Harmar near Marietta by Joseph Gilman
The first celebration of the Fourth of July northwest of the Alleghenies took place in Marietta, Ohio on July 4, 1788. Marietta was the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory and the festivities took place just three months after its founding. Most of the settlers were still living in tents.
The morning began with a thirteen-gun salute and martial music from Fort Hamar, which sat across the Muskingum River from Marietta. “The flag of the United States was hoisted in the forts, and the bastions and curtains decorated with standards,” wrote Samuel Prescott Hildreth, an early historian of the area.
A bowery, made of a pole framework covered with leafy boughs for shade, was erected along the banks of the Muskingum River. At two-o’clock, the settlers gathered there to participate in a feast. Hildreth recorded the details: “The table was supplied with venison, bear meat, buffalo and roasted pigs, with a variety of fish. Among the latter was a pike which weighed one hundred pounds, and when suspended upon a pole from the shoulders of two tall men, its tail dragged on the ground.”
After the meal, fourteen toasts were drunk with General Rufus Putnam acting as toast-master. The participants raised their cups to:
- The United States
- The Congress
- His most Christian Majesty
- The United Netherlands
- The Friendly Powers throughout the world
- The new Federal Constitution
- His Excellency George Washington, and the Society of Cincinnati
- His Excellency Governor St. Clair, and Western Territory
- The memory of those who have nobly fallen in defense of American freedom
- Patriots and Heroes
- Captain Pipe, chief of the Delawares, and a happy treaty with the natives
- Agriculture and Commerce, Arts and Sciences
- The amiable partners of our delicate pleasures (their wives)
- The glorious Fourth of July
James M. Varnum, a judge of the Territory, gave a speech. Concerning the future of the nation he said, “Were the paths of life entirely strewed with flowers, we should become too attached to this world, to wish to ever exchange it for a more exalted condition. Difficulties we must expect to encounter in our infant state; but most of the distresses common to new countries we shall never experience, if we make use of the means in our power to promote our own happiness.”
Regarding patriots and veteran of the Revolution, Varnum said, “Our friends — our country’s friends — we embrace you as a band of brothers, connected by the most sacred ties! In the name of all who have fought, who have bled, who have died in the cause of freedom! In the name of all surviving patriots and heroes! In the name of Washington! We declare that, in the honorable character of soldiers, you revere the sacred rights of citizens! Live then in this happy assemblage of superior minds! Whenever you may be called to the field of Mars, may you be crowned with unfading laurels! We know you fear not death — but living, or dying, may you receive the plaudits of grateful millions!”
In closing, Varnum turned the thoughts of those listening towards God and the salvation of mankind. “May we look forward to that all important period when the universal classes of mankind shall be satisfied! When this new Jerusalem shall form an august temple unfolding celestial its gates over every corner of the globe … then shall the dark shades of evil be erased from the moral picture … and one blaze of glory pervade the universe.”
The celebration continued until midnight and closed with a beautiful illumination of Fort Hamar with tallow dips and bark fires. 
Notes:
Pioneer History: Being an Account of the First Examinations of the Ohio Valley, and the Early Settlement of the Northwest Territory, H. W. Derby and Co., Cincinnati, Ohio (1848), by Samuel Prescott Hildreth 
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