On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. In 2015, this most American of holidays will be marked with red, white and blue flags, fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues across the country.
In 1915, the Fourth of July fell on a Sunday and consequently, most Independence Day celebrations in Laura’s home of Mansfield, Missouri were held on Monday the fifth. The following article, published 100 years ago in the Mansfield Mirror – shares how the town’s residents spent the day. I felt a little discomfort when I discovered that F. C. Huntington’s Minstrels was one of the draw-cards. For me, it’s impossible not to remember the ugly stereotypes of black Americans portrayed in the early minstrel shows of the 19th century. But after reading everything I can on the subject, I have concluded that Huntington’s show was far removed from the carousing, raucous and cruel lampooning affairs of the antebellum period and was focused on beautiful singing and clean comedy. In one article, I even saw it described as a “love letter” to black American music. The talent of some of these musicians was simply incredible.
Wishing all Cottonwood Tree readers a sparkling Fourth of July, filled with peace, pride, honor and lots of fun.
The Mansfield Mirror – 1915
Monday was an ideal day for the celebration of our country’s natal day, and an immense crowd enjoyed the occasion in Mansfield. The crowds came early and stayed late, and the people
seemed to have a good time all day long.
The celebration was under the auspices of the Mansfield Concert Band, and the various committees did their work well, thus providing a big day’s entertainment for old and young. F.C. Huntington’s Mighty Minstrels were here and gave some splendid exhibitions. This is a high class company and they gave a show up to and surpassing expectations. Their band also assisted the home band in furnishing music during the day. They also showed here Thursday while enroute to Ava, where they gave performances to crowds Friday and Saturday. They have two special cars in which they travel.
The celebration opened with a parade at 10 o’clock. The parade was a dandy and was much
appreciated by the large crowd of people present as they marched around the square. Mayor F.H. Riley and Constable S.J. White headed the parade on horseback as marshals of the day, followed by the Mansfield Concert Band.
The band was followed by a couple who just walked in from Arkansas – or somewhere.
Then came the automobiles. Congressman T.L. Rubey’s car, with the speakers, in the lead.
Next came the W.C.T.U. ladies in R. N. Farren’s car. The Presbyterian Sunday school children rode in the G.W. Freeman and A.T. Friend autos. Postmaster M. E. Gorman’s car, which won the $2.50 prize for the best decorated auto, was next in line, followed by the N.J. Craig and Andrew Newton cars.
J.A. Cover and family of Mountain Grove, who were on their way to San Francisco in their Case car, took part in the parade. The Christian and M. E. Sunday schools had prettily decorated floats, full of children, waving flags. Boys on bicycles, came next, followed by F.C. Huntington’s Mighty Minstrel Band. Carriages and cowboys were the finishing touches to the parade, and they were gorgeously decorated.
The celebration was held in Burney’s beautiful grove, where amusements and concessions galore were on hand to supply the wants of the crowd, as well an abundance of ice water and shade.
The program was opened by Mayor F.H. Riley, who delivered an appropriate address of welcome in his usual pleasing way.
Congressman T.L. Rubey, wife and niece, Miss Mary Winter, were here in the congressman’s auto, in which they made the trip from Lebanon. Congressman Rubey spoke at Manes Saturday and spent Sunday in Mountain Grove. As he desired to start home early in his auto, his place on the program was advanced from the afternoon to the morning session, and Rev. J. W. Needham, who was to have spoken in the morning, spoke in the afternoon. Both are able, eloquent and forceful speakers, and their addresses on this occasion were of an unusually high order. Our people are always pleased to hear the talented member of congress from the 16th district, and Rev. Mr. Needham has won for himself such a warm place in the hearts of our people that he is always assured of a good audience whenever he speaks in Mansfield.
The prize-winners in the afternoon contests were as follows:
– Foot race for children under 8, 50c, Frank Potts.
– Potato race in tow sacks; first prize, $1, Leslie Strong; second, 50c, Ellison Gaines.
– Ladies heavy weight throwing; first prize, $1, Miss J. Newton; second 50c, Mrs. J. Eldridge.
– Blind-fold stake race, $1, Percy Rippee.
– Ring tournament, $2, Lova Keeling.
– Men’s foot race; first prize, $1.50, Orel Dennis; second, $1, Frank Peacock.
The celebration closed with a grand illumination of fireworks at night.
The crowd was large and good natured, the cities, towns and villages in all directions being
well represented. All roads led to Mansfield Monday – and the people came in goodly numbers,
and the day’s exercises well repaid them for their visit.