Black Hawk County and The IAGenWeb Presents to the genealogy world...

Waterloo's 1853 Celebration

of July

by Mary Beth Eldridge

Only eight years after the first white settlers built a cabin at the future site of Waterloo, it was decided to hold a Fourth of July celebration in the town. The celebration was planned for some time. Young people volunteered to sing in the choir, women (both mothers and daughters) agreed to provide the baking and other foods and everyone pitched in on some type of planning committee.
The morning of the Fourth dawned clear and bright. At sunrise, a merchant from Janesville named Hunter, awakened the Virden family (with whom he had stayed the night) by singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the top of his voice out in the yard. Soon after sunrise, Mr. Virden and his sons killed and dressed a pig, which Mrs. Virden roasted whole in the oven along with chickens (probably prairie chickens), vegetables, pies, cakes and a half dozen loaves of bread. Everyone was expected at the celebration site by 10 o'clock, so preparations were rushed.
Around 8 a.m. Mr. Hale and Mr. Balcom passed the Virden house, playing music as they marched toward the celebration grounds. The site chosen for the celebration was on the east side of the river near the point where the river was usually forded. There were no streets at that time, only prairie grass. A small platform had been constructed and decorated. Families began arriving in ox-drawn wagons loaded with people, chairs, tables and provisions. The Virden family arrived with their wagon heavily loaded with people and food.

The parade began and everyone joined in the march along the banks of the river, singing and playing music. After circling the platform, the musicians and speakers took their seats. The marshal of theday was Charles Mullan, with G.W. Hanna as chaplain. John Virden read the "Declaration of Independence" and John Brooks gave the oration. Young people sang and the musicians played. Those in the audience who had not brought chairs, sat on the thick grass.
While those on the platform made their speeches, sang and played their music, the women were busy getting dinner ready. A driftwood fire served for boiling potatoes and coffee. Men helped with this work also as everyone pitched in to make the celebration a success. When the speakers concluded, everyone came to dinner. Mr. Virden stood at the head of the table and said grace. After everyone had eaten their fill, they strolled along the river bank. Young men ran races and pitched quoits (a game in which flat rings are pitched at a stake). Later, everyone gathered around the platform again to participate in more music and singing. Around 5 p.m. supper was served and, afterwards, the wagons were loaded up for the journey home. Mr. Hale and Mr. Balcom, playing the fife and drum, led the wagons away from the celebration grounds.
Elizabeth (Virden) Fancher remembered this celebration well because at the time she was living at home and helped her mother with the extensive baking. Before the next Fourth of July, however, she was the wife of Nelson Fancher, living on a farm four miles east of Waterloo.
In 1855 a celebration was held in Virden's Grove. The fare was barbecue ox, but unfortunately it burned on the outside and was rare on the inside. The people still enjoyed themselves, however, as a "horse company" drilled and maneuvered, S.W. Rawson delivered an oratory and Mason Hale and Elijah Balcom provided instrumental music.

If you are looking for some very well researched Black Hawk County History, these are the pages to view. Mary has done a wonderful job in the history of our county.
She has also shared this information at different sites throughout the IAGenWeb Project. For one such site, Abandoned Towns and P.O's.

Created June 1998 @IaGenWeb Project and Rootsweb