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Happy Birthday America!

June 28, 2012

Next week we celebrate the birth of our nation. Right here in Urbandale there is an annual parade, carnival, and fireworks. Families will come out to celebrate, not unlike families of the 19th century.  Sarah Gillespie writes in her diary on July 5th, 1880 that, “Ma & Henry & I went to celebration.”  Five years later, July 4, 1885, she notes that she, “celebrated at Edgewood, the 1st time I was ever away from home on the 4th.” On July 4th, 1890, Sarah (a school teacher) tells of her day:

I went on the excursion train to Edgewood to hear & see Prof. Butler deliver the oration of the day; and also to meet many friends whom I had not seen for a very long time. My pupils have grown almost beyond recognition – but their pleasant smile & friendly greeting tell me so plainly how well they remember me – They all say if I will come back and teach this winter they will all come to me & they have not done for 2 yrs.

Milton Alcorn & his mother are very lonely since Mr. Alcorn died & they did so want me to stay with them. I told them of their cousin whom I met as Conductor on the L.S. & M.S. R.R. from Hillsdale to Elkhart & of the good visit we had. Also saw Mr. & Mrs. Mort. Minkle and the girls – they are feeling badly because Orpha married a short time ago & she is sorry too.

Also saw Judson & Bertie Pogue & Mr. & Mrs. Schacherev and Ellis & Jo. & Josephine, and Mrs. Cox & Mattie & Horace Coon and Mrs. Doc Blair made a change for me – really they all act as though they would like to eat me up – my arms fairly ache and Mrs. Mead & May & Aunt Mary Ryan and Clifford & Ida sand Same & Grace Wetterlen and so many they all are so glad to see me back & all wanted me to come & spend a few days with each of them. Why I don’t believe they w’ld let me stay at home at all . . .

It seems like Sarah attended quite the party in Edgewood that year, much like our family July 4th picnics. We hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Fourth, and we encourage you to join us for fun activities at the Farms that day! Bring the family for some old-fashioned fun!

This time of year we begin to hear classic songs that inspire us to patriotism in our great country.  Many of these classic songs of our country have roots in the nineteenth century.

Though the “Star Spangled Banner” does not become our national anthem until March 3, 1931, many know that it was written much earlier than that.  This hymn we sing at the beginning of athletic contests and as the American flag is raised at the Olympic Games was published first as a poem entitled The Defence of Ft. McHenry to the tune “Anacreon in Heaven.”  Francis Scott Key felt inspired to write these words after the British bombardment of Ft. McHenry in the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.  Key watched the siege on September 13-14, 1814 from a British warship on which he boarded under a banner of truce.  As September 14, 1814, dawned and the smoke cleared, the American flag was still flying over the fort, the Americans had not surrendered.  By the time he got to shore, Key had penned the poem that would go on to represent the United States.

By September of 1814, peace talks had already begun.  Because the peace treaty needed to be ratified, both sides continued the wartime campaigns in North America.  The war would eventually come to an end with the Treaty of Ghent.  Signed by representatives in Ghent (modern Belgium) on Christmas Eve, 1814, the treaty was ratified in Britain three days later and in Washington, D.C. on February 17, 1815, effectively bringing the war to an end.  Not only did the War of 1812 inspire our national song, the Treaty of Ghent laid the foundation for the relationship between Canada and the United States that still exists today and maintains the largest unfortified border in the world. (www.history.com/topics/war-of-1812)

The Walnut Hill Choral Society will be singing in celebration of the Fourth at Living History Farms, for a preview, take a listen to them singing 2 verses of the Star Spangled Banner:

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