Fourth of July celebrations date back to the beginning of this country’s independence in 1776 with parades, fireworks, concerts and family gatherings. In the 19th century small-town America, the day’s festivities featured processions, picnics, contests, speeches and fireworks.

Let’s take a look at a Fourth of July celebration that occurred 125 years ago in 1898. A lengthy article in the Corvallis Gazette provided a description.

“The Fourth was a model day. The morning was cool, sunshiny and crisp. Early in the day the people began to pour in from every section of the county and on every road. Corvallis has not witnessed such a crowd since the day of the McKinley parade in the autumn of 1896. Everybody was decked in holiday attire for the occasion and every heart swelled with pride and patriotism.”

The day’s fun included a parade that traveled from Corvallis City Hall to the Benton County courthouse. Songs “in the shade of the large maples in the courthouse square” included the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “America” followed by the reading of the Declaration of Independence.

There were several activities that tested athleticism and skill (and even cuteness in the case of a “baby show” that included a dozen entrants). All types of races were seen — foot (in various distances), bicycle, potato sack, wheelbarrow and hose.

“Two teams from Corvallis and one from Philomath entered and contested in the hose race,” the story reported. “The first Corvallis team made the run and coupling in 52 2/5 seconds, but the water forced the hose off the hydrant. The second Corvallis team made the run and started the aqueous fluid in 33 4/5 seconds. Philomath made a fine run, but their man who was to make connection at the hydrant got tangled in the ropes and could not make it. The prize was $30.”

Another Philomath team fared much better in another contest.

“Philomath contested with Corvallis in the tug-of-war contest, the former winning the prize of $5.00.”

In the evening, there was a bicycle parade and fireworks.

“Corvallis has never had such a fine display of pyrotechnics as on this occasion,” the newspaper reported.

150 years ago

Store burglarized: The store of Shipley and Hinkle, at Philomath, Benton County, was burglarized last Thursday night to the extent of $100, coin, and a lot of clothing. (Published July 8, 1873, in the Daily Oregon Statesman, Salem).

125 years ago

Toledo celebration: The great American celebration of the country’s independence was celebrated on the Fourth of July at Toledo in old fashioned style. … The oration of the day by Hon. E.L. Bryan, of Philomath, was a masterly effort. (Published July 8, 1898, in the Lincoln County Leader, Toledo).

100 years ago

Big winner: Walter Kizer of Philomath yesterday came to Albany and claimed the davenport that was given away by Bartcher & Rohrbough at a drawing held last week. Kizer held the number 12,866, the first number drawn. (Published July 10, 1923, in the Albany Democrat).

75 years ago

Lions Club: The newly organized Philomath Lions club will install its officers at a meeting at the H Bar H ranch Tuesday, July 13. Corvallis Lions have been invited to attend the installation. (Published July 10, 1948, in the Corvallis Gazette-Times).

50 years ago

Philomath legislator: A state legislator whose district includes Oregon College of Education at Monmouth suggested Thursday a study of closing Portland State University. Rep. Robert Marx, D-Philomath, got in a tongue-in-cheek response to a disclosure early this week that the legislature’s fiscal staff will look into the feasibility of closing OCE. (Published July 6, 1973, in the Oregon Statesman, Salem).

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.