The Fourth in capital times

To celebrate the Fourth, I thought it might be interesting to learn how the early settlers of days long past celebrated this day.
Governor John Reynolds, who came to Illinois with his parents in 1800, wrote in his book, “My Own Times,” “The celebration of the Fourth of July was frequently, in these times, made by horse-races and other sports, to demonstrate the joy of the people.
“I attended two celebrations of the Fourth at horse-races, one in 1807, at a race in the American Bottom, a mile east of the Sugar Loaf; and the other in the next year on the prairie in the American Bottom north-west and near the residence of the late Samuel Judy.
“At that day and previously, never saw in Illinois any regular celebration of the Fourth of July by dinner, speeches and the like. I had often read the Declaration of Independence of 1776 … but I had never heard it read at a Fourth of July celebration until in Knoxville, Tenn., on the Fourth of July 1812.”
Vandalia residents celebrated the Fourth in ways common to frontier villages, with dinners followed by visiting politicians or dignitaries.
In 1838, The State Register reported, “Independence Day was celebrated by a procession that formed at the Statehouse and marched to an arbor, where about 500 heard the reading of the Declaration of Independence and J.T. Owens made an address. Dinner was served and toasts were drank … amid bursts of rapture and shouts of applause.”
Many of Vandalia’s celebrations, as shown by a report in the 1830s, were held on the Public Square, where some of the celebrants in their joy and jubilation fired off their weapons in close proximity to the capitol building, and the concussion shattered windowpanes.
Editor John R. Flynn of The Weekly Democrat recounted the event in the July 8, 1863, edition: “Independence day passed off quietly enough in Vandalia. The usual amount of firecrackers cracked, some fireworks fired and a few pop bottles popped and lemonade aided the perspiration of the degenerate sons of the patriot sires of 1776.”
He also noted that the majority of the citizens attended the Sunday school picnic at the Bluff.
A side note to the July 4th celebrations in Vandalia – in June 1839, Gov. Thomas Carlin proclaimed that as of July 4, 1839, Springfield would become capital of Illinois.

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