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FIRST PUBLIC CELEBRATION: 1788


The first public celebration in the Northwest Territory was held on July 4, 1788, the twelfth anniversary of American independence. It was to be expected that the Revolutionary soldiers that landed at Marietta would observe the day with appropriate ceremonies. They commenced at daylight with the firing of the Federal salute by the cannons of Fort Harmar. The principal exercises took place on the Marietta side of the Muskingum, where, at one o'clock, Gen. James M. Varnum, one of the judges of the territory, delivered an elequent and appropriate address.

A repast, consisting of all the delicacies which the woods and the streams and the gardens and the housewives' skill afforded, was served at the bowery. There was venison barbecued, buffalo steaks, bear meat, wild fowls, fish and a little pork as the choicest luxury of all. One fish, a great pike weighing one hundred pounds and over six feet long--the largest ever taken by white men, it is said, in the waters of the Muskingum--was speared by Judge Gilbert Devoll and his son, Gilbert.

The day was not all sunshine.

"At three o'clock," says Col. John May, "just as dinner was on the table, came on a heavy shower which lasted half an hour. However, the chief of our provisions were rescued from the deluge, but injured materially. When the rain ceased, the table was laid again, but before we had finished, it came on to rain a second time. On the whole though, we had a handsome dinner."

After dinner, a number of toasts were drank, among which were to Congress, Generals Washington and St. Clair and the Northwestern Territory, and to "the amiable partners of our delicate pleasures."

Several Indians were present and enjoyed the festivities, execpting whern the cannon were fired. Col. May's journal says, "the roar of a cannon is as disagreeable to an Indian as a rope to a thief, or a broad daylight to one of your made-up beauties." He also states that [he was] "pleased with the entertainment; we kept it up until after twelve o'clock at night, then went home and slept till daylight."

A grand illumination of Fort Harmar closed the ceremonies of the day.


HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF OHIO IN TWO VOLUMES
An Encyclopedia of the state: History both general and local, geography with descriptions of its counties, cities and villages, its agricultural, manufacturing, mining and business development, sketches of eminent and interesting characters, etc., with notes of a tour over it in 1886.
The Ohio Centennial Edition
- Henry Howe, LL.D. [ 1888]


Contributed by: Debbie Noland Nitsche


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