July 4th Celebrations

This old photograph (courtsey of Loren Lacy) taken July 4, 1922 shows a portion of the town square of Livingston.   A very large number of people turned out to attend this event.

  According to information contained in the early newspapers printed in Livingston and Overton County, it was nothing unusual for a very large crowd to gather on the square to celebrate the 4th of July. After reading about some of the festivities included in these celebrations, even as far back as 1914, I had to wonder ... why arenít they observed anymore? According to the population totals for our little town, the numbers are far greater today than they were way back then, yet one newspaper account says as many as 8,000 to 12,000 people were in attendance for one of the Strawberry Festivals held. I guess folks today are just too busy with other things or maybe just not interested, but that surely wasnít case then.

An issue of The Golden Age newspaper printed on July 8, 1914, tells about "The Fourth A Big Day For Livingston." Here is the information contained in that article:

"It has been many a day since there was as large a crowd in Livingston as the one which gathered here last Saturday the celebrate the Natal day of this Republic. The number of people was estimated all the way from 3,500 to 5,000. At any rate every nook and corner was full and the streets were literally running over. Amusements of various kinds were furnished and the prizes offered by the business men were hotly contested for. The Livingston Band furnished the music which thrilled the visitors with patriotism in keeping with the day. The complete list of prized and the winners may be found below:"

"Greatest number of people on one wagon, W.D. Clark and Albert Mitchell. There were 184 people on this wagon drawn by six mules. Luther McCormick had 157 people drawn by eight mules, and Reece Ogletree had 156 drawn by ten mules."

"Prettiest baby, Mr. and Mrs. Barlow McDonald."

"Tallest woman, Miss Olga Conatser."

"Boy shoe race, Benton Young."

"Longest foot, F.M. Copeland, 13 inches."

"Longest pitch of wagon skein, Shirley Ledbetter."

"Largest family, W.A. Winningham, wife and 13 children."

"Best high jump, Willie Waites."

"Quickest 100 yard dash and return, Byrd Bohannon."

"Best specimen of wheat, 1st, J.F. Williams, 2nd Ras Willeford."

"Largest married couple, Mr. and Mrs. M.F. Ogletree, 442 pounds."

"Largest woman, Mrs. Burr Vaughn, 217 pounds."

"Guess on number of peas in quart jar, Irwin Hammons, exact, 3939."

"Most graceful riding by old soldier, 1st, Harve Swift, 2nd, F.G. Bilbrey."

"Best old time fiddler, tie between S.V. Bowden and Will Matthews."

"Youngest looking soldier, Tom Curtis."

"Most fancy one-horse turnout, W. H. Estes. There were four entries, Miss Beuna Maynord drove the winning rig which was decorated in white crepe. Dr. Breedingís rig was in the National colors and driven by Mrs. Burr Smith and Mrs. Breeding. Elmo Eubankís rig was in green and driven by Misses Lillian Eubank and Rose Gore. D.W. Phillipís rig was in pink and driven by Miss Margaret Cooper."

"Foot race, Ridley Ledbetter."

"Ugliest man, Will Eldridge."

"Best saddle horse, Dr. Breeding."

"Bicycle race, 1st Jess Mitchell, 2nd Haschel White."

"Best all-around ballplayer, ??? Johnson."

"There were no contests in Slow Mule Race, Prettiest Twin babies, Oldest Married Couple, Oldest life insurance policy, and Most Handsome Old Maid. There were a number of the latter in town."

"Judges Will Ledbetter, John Clark, and John Sweat."

A card of thanks was also printed in that issue of The Golden Age from B.F. Smith that reads, in part, as follows:

"I wish in behalf of the old veterans, to express our appreciation of the nice luncheon dealt out to use on the Fourth. It came unexpected but was highly enjoyed by the little remnant of heroes of the sixties. We very much appreciated the manifestation of respect displayed by the good ladies of Livingston toward the boys who fifty years ago faced fire, smoke, shot, shell, blood, and death to defend what they conceived to be right. The politicians may and sometimes do ignore an old veteran, but the women of the South never will. B.F. Smith"

Luther McCormick, who came in second for bringing a large number of people to Livingston on a wagon, was a brother to my grandfather, Marvin McCormick. Luther and his wife, Elzie (Lea) McCormick owned the property on Highway 84 where the Overton County fairgrounds is situated. Their home stood were the grandstands is now. They raised a family of 7 children, Paul, Elizabeth (Bessie), Clementeen (Clem), Anna Laura, Lucille, Faye, and Nettie. It would be wonderful to have a picture of those wagons coming into town loaded with over 150 people on them. Just to see a wagon with ten mules attached would an unusual sight as well. Robert and Mary Eldridgeís book indicates the load of 184 people on the Clark/Mitchell wagon was just about all their six mules could pull.

The article from the newspaper didnít include the information about who did the planning for the 4th of July celebration. Reading the names of some of these contests makes me think they had very vivid imaginations! A couple of things did cross my mind about the contests ... why didnít they include the largest man contest? And, guess the number of peas ... how in the world did someone get the exact number? If Irwin Hammons didnít cheat, he must have been a pretty smart fellow. I think the Merchantís Association should bring this celebration back. Sounds like an awful lot of fun!