A Pennsylvania coal town expressed astonishment that it celebrated July 4th without violence in 1862

“The spirit of patriotism burns brightly in the Upper End.”

Few holidays brought out celebrations in the United States during the 19th century quite like the Fourth of July. During the dark years of the Civil War, the occasion took on new meaning as the fate of the Union hung in the balance and the country’s young men were off fighting for the meaning of freedom once more.

At the northern end of Dauphin County in Central Pennsylvania, the citizens of Lykens planned to mark July 4, 1862 will an especially zealous display of patriotism. The newspapers in Harrisburg described the preparations:

Pennsylvania Daily Telegraph, June 24, 1862

Fourth in the Upper End –

The preparations for the celebration of the Fourth in the Upper End has been quite extensive. The Odd Fellows and the citizens generally have made arrangements to participate. Col. A.J. Herr has been selected as the orator, and Wm. T. Bishop, Esq., will deliver an address in German. We have no doubt that the whole affair will pass off very well. The spirit of patriotism burns brightly in the Upper End.

Pennsylvania Daily Telegraph, June 27, 1862:

Affairs at the Upper End – 

Our country cousins at the upper end of this county expect to have a lively time on the approaching anniversary of American Independence. A grand demonstration is to come off at Gratztown, and we we learn by the Lykens Journal that times will be also be “numerous” in that picturesque village on the occasion. The United American Mechanics of the latter place will have a parade, and several of the Sunday Schools will have picnics. The Odd Fellows, propose an excursion to Gratztown, and an effort is making to have a display of fireworks in the evening…

Residents in the mining village of Lykenstown pulled out all the stops for their celebrations. Luckily, an account of the occasion from the Lykens Journal survives. The description provides us with a window into life in Lykens Valley Coal Region in the mid-19th century and how rural America marked such an important national holiday with enthusiasm.

Fourth Upper End
Pennsylvania Daily Telegraph, July 10, 1862

The Fourth at the Upper End.

The glorious Fourth was observed with much eclat at the upper end of our county. The Journal of Lykens says: “The ‘Mechanics’ paraded in full force, escorting the Lutheran Sunday school to their picnic grounds, where a very pleasant day was agreeably spent. An able oration was delivered to the ‘Mechanics’ by Mr. Wm. Straub, and Mr. Jas. L. Yoder read the Declaration of Independence with good effect. The ‘Odd Fellows’ enjoyed their trip to Gratz highly, where A.J. Herr, Esq., delivered a fine address to them. In town H. Bueck’s dancing platform was thronged with trippers on the ‘light fantastic toe,’ not only all day and evening, but also Saturday and Saturday evening. John Hain made the neighborhood of the ‘Continental’ merry with his ‘flying horses,’ where, as elsewhere during the day, Adam Robinson made numerous addresses.

Dancing was in order at all the hotels in the evening. Wonderful to relate, there was no fighting to speak of.”

And that was the rough-and-tumble world of the Coal Region in 1862.

Featured Image: Independence Day celebrations during the Civil War

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