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MEMORIES IN FOCUS:   Independence Day over the years

This article, written by early day resident Mrs. T.B. Matlock, for the July 12, 1945, edition of the newspaper, describes the first Fourth of July celebration in Marion Centre in 1863 in what at the time was a park southeast of Billings and Main St., south of what is now Marion Marble and Granite.

Marion’s first Fourth of July celebrations took place in Billings Park, which is about four hundred yards from our present home on Billings St.

It was in 1863 that the first settlers assembled, 90 in all, which included everyone on this frontier at the time.

The big picnic started early in the day and lasted long into the night. Everything that could be found in the way of eatables was enjoyed by young and old.

While the youngsters were wildly playing back in this then-primeval forest, their elders gathered near the log house and began a rehearsal of their hardships endured since their arrival two years before.

They were a discouraged people on the morn of this first celebration — but not for long, for Aunt Keziah Billings suggested that “we change the tune,” and a real community sing followed.

They sang hymns. We have an idea that the forest “rang with their hymns of love and praise.” They sang every song they knew. Then they entered the games with the young people — and, of course, they danced.

There was no pavilion that day. They swept a portion of ground here and there, and sometimes several sets were going at one time. No musical instruments, they sang and whistled their music.

It proved a gala day after all for twilight in Billings Park that day found those first pioneers drifting into enthusiastic plans for their future.

It proved to be a day of the renewal of their courage to remain and carry on in their chosen place — on the frontier.

Last modified July 3, 2018

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