4th of July Celebrations 1900-1904

7.4.2021 [archived ~ originally published 7.2.2015]

The Fourth of July celebrations in the community of Deer River had started with picnics at various farms.  In 1900 the Itasca Lumber Company brought passengers from the village, five miles north to the farm of Mr. and Mrs. James Woodward, and back in time for a dance at Churchill’s Hall. 

“At the long table in the grove about one hundred persons, comprising stalwart men and blushing maids, tanned and grey tillers of the soil and matronly mothers, businessmen and their wives, the town chaps and the fresh girls, amid the cheering chatter of the sunny-faced offspring, touched elbows and broke bread in merriment and drank to the continued success of the thriving people in a new land.  The enjoyment, to say the least, was beyond anything ever attempted by Deer River’s farming element and it goes a long way toward showing what it will amount to in a few years hence.  Too much praise cannot be sounded in Mr. and Mrs. Woodward’s behalf for their diligence in setting a pace so successfully for future occasions.” [Itasca News 7-7-1900]

Another year a gathering was held at the Sullivan farm, which included a supper furnished by the ladies of the village, proceeds of which were to benefit the church.  There were organized committees for this celebration, but as pointed out by the Itasca News, “We have not learned that any oratory, nor recitations have been provided for, the management evidently believing that such features would be odious for Deer River anyhow.  But in the main will be a good old-fashioned time with lots of fun and friendliness, good cheer, and good crowd.”

By 1903 Deer River did have definite plans “The day will open with a salute of thirteen guns at sunrise, followed by a call-champion parade at 10 o’clock.  In the afternoon there will be races of all kinds – horse, pony, foot, sack, hurdle, potato races for boys and girls and races for fat men.  The gun club will have a grand sweepstake shoot, open to all comers.  In the evening there will be a display of fireworks, and a grand ball will be given in the Robinson Hall.  Come out and come all and have one of the best times of your life in this neck of the woods.” [Itasca News 6-27-1903]

A torrential downpour prevented many of the planned activities, but by late afternoon the horses raced on slippery mud.  They didn’t make good time but made plenty of excitement.  “Jake Reiglesberger and young Tibbetts, going opposite directions on horses, had a collision which was very liable to be a fatality as both were under good speed.  The riders were both thrown to the ground.  Tibbets was unhurt, but Reiglesberger was confined to his bed several days.  He is now able to walk a little but has a badly swollen leg which will lay him up for a couple weeks yet.” [Itasca News 7-11-1903] The Tibbetts horseman took second place and a cash prize of $10.

The fireworks display was also curtailed, but the dance was well attended.  The crowd was large, the music good and it was 3 a.m. when the dancing stopped.  “Enough enjoyment was had to convince Deer River she can furnish her own celebrations to complete satisfaction every Fourth hereafter.” [Itasca News 7-11-1903]

So, in 1904 the Deer River community solicited funds from citizens and businessmen, and organized an impressive program as detailed in the Itasca News 6-25-1904.


Opening Address by Village President Murry J. Taylor, at Grandstand in school ground at 10:00 A.M.

Reading – “Declaration of Independence,” by Miss Opal Skallerud

Song – “America,” by the people

Oration – “American Patriotism” by Rev. William G. Fritz

11:20 – Grand Parade, Calithumpian Band

11:40 – 50 yard dash, Ladies Running Race.  Prizes: first $3, second $2, third $1

Noon – Lunch all day at the church

1:00 – Gun Club, trap shooting contest. Prize, gold medal

2:00 – Log rolling contest. Prize $5

3:00 – Ball Game, Deer River vs Deer Lake.  Prize $20

4:30 – Fat Man’s Race.  First prize $5; second, $3

there were many running, jumping, and sack races for children, prizes $3, $2, $1

5:30 – Horse Race, $15 and $5; Pony Race, $7 and $3

8:30 – Fireworks

9:00 – Woodsman’s Grand Ball, Music by Tony’s Orchestra 

Reports after the celebration stated that the guns and cannons started at 1 a.m. and did not cease until well after daylight. The community singing was expanded to include the “Star Spangled Banner”and “Three Cheers for the Red White and Blue.”“…There was no friction or disorderly conduct noticed throughout the day and it was remarked by everybody that the celebration was a great success. To the general public thanks are due for the liberal donations.”  [Itasca News 7-9-1904]

1904 was a big year for other smaller communities as well.  At Bow String Lake Commissioner-candidate Vance was the speaker, followed by a baseball game.   In Walley, about fifty people gathered at the old Harrison claim on the Big Fork River and enjoyed speeches, games and contests,

In Bigfork plans were made in late May for the Fourth. “Pete Peterson, the saloon man, is making preparations to erect a large pavilion near his place of business for the Fourth.  There will be a good floor to dance on; refreshments of all kinds; there will also be an ice cream and lunch counter, superintended by Mrs. John Peterson.  Henry Vogel, the celebrated comedian and captain of the Bigfork Baseball Nine, will act as floor manager.  Two concerts will be given during the afternoon.  The very best of music that can be had will be there and all those who have musical instruments are requested to bring them along – the more the merrier. Special invitation is given to our neighbor 62-26.” [Bigfork Settler 5-16-1904]

One of the adventures I would surely like to know more about was reported in the Bigfork Settler7-7-1904.

“A party of four consisting of Mrs. O. Wenaus and daughter Effie, Miss Katherine Costello and Orin Patrow left for Big Falls last Thursday evening by boat down the Big Fork River, a distance of over one hundred miles by this route.  They will spend the Fourth at that place and return the same way – how long they will be in getting back we may only conjecture.”

The group left on June 30th, and if they arrived in Big Falls on July 3rd, would have gone 30-40 miles a day traveling with the current.  I concur with the editor of the Bigfork Settler. Just how long did it take them to return to Effie and Bigfork?

1 Comment

  1. youngv2015 says:

    I love how the people were described: “At the long table in the grove about one hundred persons, comprising stalwart men and blushing maids, tanned and grey tillers of the soil and matronly mothers, businessmen and their wives, the town chaps and the fresh girls, amid the cheering chatter of the sunny-faced offspring . . . .”

    People sure enjoyed a good party and celebration then as they do now.


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