Sunday, July 21, 2024

How Independence Day was celebrated in the early days of Texas History


Celebrating July 4, also known as Independence Day, a majority of Texas residents enjoyed the holiday with traditional picnics, barbeques, family gatherings, and perhaps an outing to a lake or river. Of course, the evening hours are devoted to shooting off fireworks or attending a local fireworks display.

Independence Day celebrations were not much different during the early days in Texas history. Even before Texas became a state, residents came together and celebrated much the same way we do today.

In a paper published by The Alamo organization in 2016, several narratives were included about how residents celebrated July 4, in 19th century Texas. The majority of the accounts were gleaned from letters written during that time.

One such letter reads: The Fourth of July was a fine day. 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. Well, it was a grand affair for the times. The young people thought it magnificent. The music was two fiddles. 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.

In 1845, a newspaper account described how early Texans celebrated the day. On the night of the third, a pole was raised upon the public square, and when our citizens raised on the morning of the fourth, they saw waving proudly aloft, the stars and stripes of our Native land, which had been run up during the previous night amid various evidences of individual rejoicing; such as the burning of tar barrels, firing of guns, shouts, huzzas, etc.

In an 1853 letter written by Carl Hilmar, he had the following to say about the July 4 celebration: 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. The gay life lasted until 6:00 the next morning — July 5, when everybody had a cup of coffee. The celebration was not stiff, nor was it rough or unrestrained. It was most congenial.

Ten years before Texas became the 28th state in the United States, Benjamin Milam wrote the following to a friend in 1835 about celebrating Independence Day in the Republic of 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.

Other letters and manuscripts mention the pride of the Texans when it came to celebrating July 4, and would often include stories about flying the U.S. flag and having a public official read the Declaration of Independence.