Johnson City Celebrated America’s 121st Birthday with Much Gusto

July 4thholidays of yesteryear were observed with colorful flag displays, community synchronized events and wholesome family get-togethers. The one for 1897 was no exception with festivities being held the following day on Monday.

The 1897 Comet newspaper revealed 42 city merchants and individuals donating $90.55 for the city’s festivities. Some of the businesses (and their contributions) included the following: Ward & Friberg ($5); M.P. Dyer & Co. ($5); McFarland & Bolton ($2.50); Kirkpatrick, Williams & Bowman ($1); Webb & Worley ($2); J.A. Mathes & Co. ($1); Piedmont Hotel ($2); Whitlow & Co. ($3); Gump Brothers ($2); Hart & Smith ($2); City Grocery ($1); Wofford Brothers ($2); Wofford & Co. ($2.50); and Wolfe & Co. ($1.55).

Expenditures included two Spaulding balls ($2.50); general labor ($3.15); railway fare ($12.80); lumber/labor ($5.80); brass band ($20); meals ($4.10); prize money ($17.60); printing ($18.25); advertising $7.98, which included telegrams and drayage (wagon rental for hauling goods); dynamite ($1.18); and carriage rental ($1). The final tally was $94.36, leaving a deficit of $3.81.

The day was kicked off at Fountain Square with a gun salute at sunrise. Mayor W.W. Faw welcomed the crowd at 9:30 followed by an oration by Gov. Bob Taylor at 9:45. The guest of honor spoke for 10 minutes, telling his constituents that America was the greatest country on earth. He humorously expressed his delight to look into the faces of those among whom he was born and among whom he expected to die.

In his characteristic witty style, Taylor told a few amusing stories, but wound up with a solemn admonition to keep the fires of patriotism perpetually burning as the country was threatened by “the money power.” After chiding the people of Washington County in a pleasurable way for loving him so much and voting so hard against him, he concluded his speech. People then crowded around their idol to shake his warm hand and get a glimpse of the “merry twinkle of that bright eye.”

The ensuing day’s events were well attended. John Lusk won first prize in the obstacle race on Market Street and Garner Range finished second. Norman White of Boones Creek carried away first honor in the hurdle race with Garner Range placing second. Will Caldwell took first accolade in the foot race and Norman White second. Earl Smith of Bristol won the bicycle race and Maxwell Willoughby of Washington College came in second. Finishing the morning’s activities was an exhibition by the city fire department.

The afternoon entertainment moved to Lake Wataussee with picnicking, a swimming race and a tub race. Norman White was first prizewinner in the swimming competition with Charles Collett finishing second. At 3:30, a baseball game was played between Johnson City and Greeneville. After seven innings, the game was called because of darkness with the score 10 to 2 in favor of the home team. Frank Hart umpired and was highly complimented for his unbiased calls.

The Jonesboro brass band, described as the handsomest band in the nation and composed of young men of about the same age and size, was on hand and furnished some good music for the occasion.

At the conclusion of the long day, a fatigued but contented patriotic crowd journeyed back to their respective abodes on foot, horses, wagons, streetcars and trains, having celebrated yet another of our nation’s birthday. The Comet complimented the streetcar system for providing excellent service throughout the day.