I’m sure that every year since the first settlements on the Firelands in 1808, there were Independence Day celebrations, but the first with any detailed record was observed at Bloomingville in what is now Erie County in 1820. The story was told in the Cleaveland Herald newspaper published in Cleveland. Our county didn’t have a newspaper until 1822.
The big party under discussion formed at the inn operated by Abiather Shirley at Bloomingville. A procession formed and marched a short distance to a nearby grove where there were “customary exercises” including the reading of the declaration by Huron County Sheriff David Hinman, who then lived at Milan. After more oratory, the procession re-formed and moved to an “airy and elevated bowery” where dinner was served and a total of 28 toasts were offered. The newspaper account doesn’t say whether those present drank to every toast offered, but if they did I’d guess they couldn’t tell you what the last few toasts were.
Toast No. 9 was to The County of Huron and certainly was complimentary to our county, which then included Erie County, the Marblehead Peninsula in Ottawa County and Ruggles Township in Ashland County. The offeror described the county these ways: “Rich in soil and enchanting in its beauties; the Eden of America, she has stolen from Paradise her charms; Arcadian Fancy finds her rival in the beauties of her landscape; the bloom of nature wantons on her plains; clustered groves share their branches to the eyes of adoration; the bounties of heaven crown the toils of the husbandman; may she soon become the storehouse of the west.”
I guess that paragraph will send you to the dictionary!
July 4th was a very important holiday until the time of the American Civil War, because there were American Revolution veterans still living in the area. These veterans were especially honored that day and took part in the ceremonies as long as they were able. When the centennial of the nation approached in 1876, no great celebrations were planned locally as most people were more interested in the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia.
At that time there was a lady living in Townsend Township who had been born July 4, 1776, in Morris County, N.J.. She was Mrs. Elizabeth Shangler Trimmer. Tentative plans were made to take her to the Philadelphia Exposition, but she passed away Jan. 18, 1876, in the middle of her 100th year. Her burial place can be seen in Norwalk’s Woodlawn Cemetery.
No matter how you celbetrated our nation’s birthday this year, I hope that you gave some thought to the significance of July 4.
* * *
REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.