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July 4, 2015 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Lifestyle of the primitives.

1841.Jefferson Walling log cabin, Henderson, Rusk County, TX ./LoC/USPD.by fed employee/Commons.wikimedai.org)

Now this is roughing it. (Jefferson Walling log cabin near Henderson, TX. Built in 1841. This Land Grant pioneer home is the only remaining structure from Republic of Texas era in Rusk County/LoC/USPD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Wild. Untamed. Dropped into primitive surroundings, would they forget where they came from or hold on to any shred of civilization from their former lives?

No doubt family and friend back home worried.

Renouncing citizenship, forced to learn a new language, and expected to bow to the mandated religion.

Why would they put themselves into circumstances like this? Why abandon who they were?

The immigrants shrugged.

Feeling if someone asked, there’s no way they would ever understand.

On this Fourth of July, thought you might be intrigued by a few passages from journals of early Texas settlers.

A different time and place. Life without a safety net. Yet they still celebrated July 4th.

(1834) The Fourth of July was a fine day. The barbecue was near Mr. Dyer’s house, and the quilting and ball were at the house. The ladies spent the day in conversation and work, the young people dancing in the yard, the children playing under the trees, and the men talking politics. There was no political speaking, as the Mexicans were present. The politicians and lawyers from San Felipe and Harrisburg were there, but they had little to say. The people were very anxious about Stephen F. Austin, as he was in Mexico, a prisoner. Three of the Mexicans ate dinner and were very sociable. One of them danced a Virginia reel, but the others could not dance anything but waltzes, and our young ladies did not waltz. Well, it was a grand affair for the times. The young people thought it magnificent……Well, the young people danced to that music from three o’clock in the evening till next morning. Mother went home with her family before day. Everybody else stayed all night. We ate barbecued meat, all sorts of vegetables, coffee, fowls, potatoes, honey and corn bread, but no cakes, as there was no flour in the country. The whiskey gave out early in the evening, and there was no fuss or quarreling. Everybody went home in a good humor…. This was the second time we attended a Fourth of July celebration in Texas. The first time was in Harrisburg. I remembered the Fourth of July celebrations in St. Louis. I had seen the militia parade, drums beating, flags flying, cannon firing, but the glory was not to be compared with that of the Fourth of July in the year 1834, near Stafford’s Point on the Brazos, about fifteen miles from Harrisburg.

Source: Dilue Harris, “The Reminiscences of Mrs. Dilue Harris I,” The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association Vol. 4, No. 2 (Oct., 1990), pp. 110 – 111.

Elegant and elaborate doorway to Mission San Jose y San Migel de Aguayo. Bexar County, San Antonio, TX.Typical architecture built during the TX frontier period. LOC/HABS/HAER/HALS/US PD.by fed employee/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Elegant and elaborate front door of Mission San Jose y San Migel de Aguayo. San Antonio, TX. Typical architecture built during the Texas frontier period. (LOC/US PD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

(1835) The Fourth of July, Texas Style: First Hand Accounts of Independence Day Celebrations in 19th Century Texas I hope you spent the 4th of July pleasantly with your friends who feel some reverence for the day. As to myself, I can not say I enjoyed it. I got a bottle of vino muscale and drank to the Federal Constitution in all parts of America. I had no countrymen to join me or perhaps I should have done better.

SOURCE: July 5, 1835 Letter from Benjamin Milam to Francis W. Johnson in John H. Jenkins, ed., Papers of the Texas Revolution. (10 vols.; Austin: Presidial Press, 1973), 1:206.

(1845-1847) The 4th of July, the great national festival celebrated in commemoration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776, was also celebrated here. A large American flag was hoisted on the Verein’s building and a formal banquet was given to which the officers of the Verein and a number of dignitaries of the city were invited. The heat had increased considerably during the first days of July and at noon the thermometer registered between 79 F. and 86 F. However, I must confess that it never became oppressive and disagreeable to me. Of course, I refrained from leaving the house during the hottest hours of the day. I was also fortunate in that the house was on a hill, where throughout the day the south wind blew strong enough continually to carry off paper and other light articles through the open door.

SOURCE: Dr. Ferdinand Roemer, Romer’s Texas, 1845-1847. Oswald Mueller [trans.] (San Antonio: Standard Printing Company, 1935; reprint edition, Austin: Eakin Press, 1995), 178.

Rose window. Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo chapel, Bexar Co. An Antonio, TX, typical of Spanish missions during TX rontier period. (LOC/ HABS/ HAER/ HALS/ USPD.by fed employee/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Letters and journals are windows into the past. Primary sources of information. (Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo chapel, San Antonio, TX, Typical of Spanish missions during Texas frontier period. (USPD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Although Austin County had only a few settlers in 1846, the Fourth of July was marked with a celebration at a site where Bellville is now located. Apparently the celebration, including a big barbecue, took place at this beautiful location in order to promote it as a town site and county seat. Mr. Jack Bell, a tall man with dark curly hair, was in charge of the affair. Although we could see the houses in the vicinity of Bellville from our farm, which was located fairly high on a hill, we had to travel for miles to reach the place. We had to detour through the impenetrably dark “Millcreek Bottom” and the over prairies of thick grass, with a kind of wide-bladed grass reaching the chests of the horses. A path had to be hewn in order that the animals could get through. Then, after going over some open hilly land we finally reached our destination…. I was just a child at the time, so I must have been all the more impressed by the strangeness of it. The official speaker was General Portis. His wife, a lady of considerable stature, like most of the other ladies wore a muslin dress with large flowers printed upon it and fanned herself with an enormous fan made of the tail feathers from a turkey. Incidentally, there were no domestic turkeys at that time, but there were many wild turkeys about. Sometimes when the eggs were found in the wilderness, they were brought home to be hatched out by chickens, and then one had tame turkeys. At the Bellville celebration we also saw for the first time large quantities of meat being roasted over open pits and then spread out on long tables where everyone could help themselves as desired. Later we attended other celebrations of this kind and became less aware of the uniqueness of this custom. Seeing young and old armed with huge chunks of meat that disappeared into the mouth without ever having been cut a first created considerable astonishment among us. Best I do not describe how the little ones coped with it. It must have been quite a sight.

SOURCE: Ottilie Fuchs Goethe. Memoirs of a Texas Pioneer Grandmother, Translated and Edited by Irma Goeth Guenther. (Burnet, TX: Eakin Press, 1982).

Stairwell. Michel Menard House, Galveston, TX. City founder, statesman, early pioneer /LOC/ HABS/HAER/HALS/USPD.by fed.employee/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Not all housing was primitive. Galveston before the 1900 storm was call the New York and Wall Street of the South. Interior stairwell of the Michel Menard House.The Greek Revival style house was built in 1840 by Menard who was Galveston City founder, statesman, and early pioneer. (LOC/USPD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

(1853) But do not think that we do nothing here but work and that we fail to enjoy life. For some time now life has become very congenial here and gay; much more so than I ever expected it to be. I wrote you that we formed a club out here. The club house has been finished; it is across the road from my mill, to the north of my house. We celebrated the 4th of July in grand style. At 7:00 in the morning we all assembled on horseback at the club house. One man carried a flag which had been embroidered and decorated by the local ladies, at which work the ladies Lungwitz and Petri distinguished themselves. We all rode leisurely towards Fredericksburg, and the procession grew steadily in size. Just before entering the town we got into accurate formation and rode to the Market Place where members of the City Club, which is called The Reform Club, were waiting for us. We were received with music and loud Hurrahs! After about ten minutes the people from the Northern settlement came carrying a beautiful Texas flag. This had a large five pointed star on top and the words “Club of the Backwoodsmen”. The flagbearer was dressed in a blue denim shirt and trousers; he was an excellent representative for the backwoodsmen, The procession was much longer than yours at home when the Shooting Club meets, for as everyone was mounted and others followed in wagons, we made a huge parade. The parade moved through the town to music with the presidents of the various clubs leading the way to the “Vereins Haus” (club). After we had passed through Fredericksburg, the formation broke up; otherwise we would have made too much dust. In full gallop we made the three miles to the “Verins Haus”, around which we rode in stately formation. A lot of people had assembled
here. Now we formed a “Caree” and someone read the “Declaration of Independence” first in English and then in German. After that everyone unsaddled and we set up more than 30 private tents. In these each family served refreshments to its members and their friends….. Then the young people danced. At off times there were shooting matches, foot races and jumping matches. The winner had to pay for the wine, which all enjoyed very much. At 4:00 o’clock there were speeches and after that they danced the Polonaise. The gay life lasted until 6:00 the next morning – July 5th, when everybody had a cup of coffee. The celebration was not stiff nor was it rough or unrestrained. It was most congenial.

SOURCE: July 14, 1853 Letter from Carl Hilmar Guenther. Translation of Diary and Letters of Carl Hilmar Guenther. Edited and Translated by Regina Blackman Hurst. (San Antonio: The Clegg Co., 1952).

German immigrant, Betty Holekamp, arrived in Texas in the early 1800's (USPD.pub.date/Commons.wikimedia.org)

Another German immigrant, Betty Holekamp, arrived in Texas in the early 1800’s (USPD/Commons.wikimedia.org)

So it looks like it wasn’t all skinnin’ possums and shaking’ rattlesnakes on the Texas frontier.

They still made time to celebrate a holiday from the old country.

Not such a primitive idea.

Party on!

Phil the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

A nod and thanks to the archives of the DRT (Daughters of the Republic of Texas) – You know, those little ladies who gathered up all the money they could and managed to buy the land with the crumbling Alamo to keep it from becoming a parking lot or shopping center. Oddly, no one else was interested in the old place at the time. The Alamo saved and sheltered for years as a shrine to honor those who fought and died on both sides of the wall. Kept it from turning into an event venue or amusement park. (Heaven help the State of Texas Land Office if they do not do the same.)

NO permissions granted.Flags hanging in the Old North Church, Boston, MA. ALL rights reserved. Copyrighted

Yes, the yellow flag is the “Don’t tread on me” flag. But this one is in Old North Church of Boston, not in Texas. The similarities between the two places might surprise you.©

 

 

 

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. easyweimaraner / Jul 4 2015 12:57 pm

    hat was interesting to read, many thanks. I like it to see special days through the eyes of other people. Happy 4th of july, have a wonderful independence day weekend o)
    easy rider

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    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 4 2015 1:53 pm

      History is so much more interesting when it’s just stories. Thanks for a tale wagging comment. Enjoy your weekend, too

      Like

  2. colonialist / Jul 4 2015 2:08 pm

    Some real period pieces you have there. I wonder if accounts of our own various celebrations will make as fascinating reading some 170 years from now?

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    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 4 2015 2:54 pm

      Hopefully some of the electronic writings are being also saved in traditional forms. Another reason to encourage all to write – even about ordinary lives. In the future things will be so different that any glimpse of these years will be treasured – to trace back to roots of ideas, countries, and families. (Hopefully some people living today will learn to view materials/past in context of what was considered normal/acceptable at the time – appreciated as period pieces. Otherwise so much will be lost – especially the understanding of how people got to where they are. Best not to throw out the baby with the bathwater…those who do not know the past are bound to repeat it. Thanks for browsing through these pages of time

      Like

  3. Kate Crimmins / Jul 4 2015 2:14 pm

    Interesting! I am always intrigued by how people lived back then. Life as a rule was harder but they still partied like there was no tomorrow! Woo hoo! Happy 4th!

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    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 4 2015 2:57 pm

      Hardy people who knew how to make the best of a situation and learned not to let it get them down. (Must be the foundation for the way anything is an excuse to party around here now?) Enjoy your 4th – party on!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul / Jul 5 2015 12:03 pm

    A real tail wagger of a post Phil. I enjoyed the stories from the late 1800’s.It occurred to me that some of these were written just before the Civil War.

    WP seems to have unfollowed you. PMOQQB. Refollowed and have some catching up to do, Sorry about that Phil. 😀

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    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 5 2015 3:24 pm

      Always interesting to hear what actual ordinary people of the times have to say about their era – in their actual words. Many times surprising.
      WP is busy doing something these days – quite quirky using it the past few days. Who knows why, but over the last year, everyone says their subscribers are being disconnected – a lot of discussion about it in blogs. (Crickets from WP) (Could manipulation be yet another “experiment”/”study” to learn more about blogger/ blog readers’ behavior?…has been done before…oh, Pooh Bear. Now ALL my subscribers will be deleted. HA HA – joke WP!…really it was.)
      Thanks for joining the parade, Paul. Will have to march around to find where your latest is!

      Like

  5. reneejohnsonwrites / Jul 5 2015 5:58 pm

    Just picked up a book in Fort Fisher that is the published diary of a young woman during the Civil War. So much to be gleaned about the history of the era when exploring through the eyes of the ones living it day-to-day. Happy Fourth!

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    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 5 2015 9:50 pm

      That book sounds like a real find. History is so much better when it’s a story (and it’s all a story if told right) Thanks for popping in with a comment

      Like

  6. Cynthia Reyes / Jul 6 2015 12:29 pm

    This is a fascinating post. Thank you.

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  7. jmmcdowell / Jul 7 2015 6:30 pm

    Always interesting to see how holidays were celebrated in the past. 🙂

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    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 7 2015 7:11 pm

      It is. No matter the era, people are going to party. I found the part talking about how the wagons were driving through tall prairie grasses interesting. There are a couple of prairie reserves where the reintroduced grasses are really taking hold again. Only a small fraction but will give some insight to the earlier environment settlers lived in. Hope your 4th was full of fun.

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