In their new settlement of Marietta on the bank of the Ohio River, investors in the Ohio Company celebrated the Fourth of July in 1788 with “a spread of food and drink in ample quantity.” Punch and wine was “seemingly limitless,” and 13 toasts, among them to the United States, Congress, the king of France and the new federal Constitution were made.
In addition to toasting the king of France, the settlers had chosen Marietta, from Marie, to remember France for its aid during the Revolutionary War. The Fourth of July was not all about the United States. The country was young and remembered its European ties; George Washington was not yet president.
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, passed by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the fall of that year, made this 1.5 million acre expansion possible. Its participants – investors who would construct their cabins and clear their land for farming – largely came from New England. Revolutionary War veterans were given some preference, but most participants were carefully selected for the construction and fabrication skills needed for river boat and town building. It was the beginning of “Ohio Fever.” During the roughly 100 years to follow, the names of other territories and states to the west would precede “fever.” The country was limitless.
David McCullough writes about this early westward expansion in his new book, “The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West.”
(The “Northwest” in 1787 was between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers; the eventual far reach to a more distant Northwest would come with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.)
After the food and alcohol on the first July Fourth came two particularly harsh winters when food was in short supply for the not fully prepared Marietta residents; after that, Marietta, on the very significant Ohio River trade route, flourished.
Although McCullough ends “The Pioneers” in 1863, we can expect that at the right moments in history, in Marietta there were expanded fireworks, baseball, even larger parades, and plenty of speech making on the Fourth.
The Fourth of July is like that, or almost like that, in every town and city in the country.
Red, white and blue are waved and worn, the more the better, bands play marching music, and there are athletic contests. There are tributes to the country and to the men and women who played significant roles in its founding.
Cortez is known for its fireworks display. That begins at dusk on Thursday at Centennial Park in the 800 block of East Montezuma Avenue.
For a nearby parade, be in Dove Creek at 9 a.m. or in Rico at 11 a.m., both on the Fourth.
For an earlier dose of fireworks, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe will launch its fireworks at the casino on U.S. Highway 491 at dusk Wednesday. That evening-prior timing is a tradition.
Friday, June 28’s Journal had a lengthy list of area events occurring Wednesday through Saturday.
Remember that this holiday celebrates our United States, which always needs attention. Make a pledge to vote, to give some assistance to those in need or to support or lead a community betterment project. We are fortunate to live in such a great country, one which can be made even better.