Local History and Genealogy

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

4th of July buried on Angola square more than a century ago

     More than a century ago, the city of Angola celebrated the 4th of July in a most unique and bizarre fashion.
     Mrs. Jesse Greenamyer of Angola found a clipping noting the "festivities" and submitted it.
     A Fourth of July celebration had been advertised for Angola.  Bills had been freely circulated and masks
procured for a fantastic parade which promised to be immense.  Before the day arrived for the jubilee, however, an attempt was made to collect money from the business men of the town to pay the expenses, but
they refused to put up the necessary funds.  When this fact was learned, those who had the matter in hand declared the celebration off and then resolved to publicly bury it.
     On the morning of July 4, 1859, the people of the town, who were not let into the secret, were surprised to find a grave twelve feet long and three feet deep, at the northeast corner of the public square, and curiosity was at a high pitch.  In the meantime about fifty men had assembled at Nichols and Miller's wagon shop south of the public square and organized a fantastic parade, and before the people of the town had an inkling of what was being done, the procession had started, and a weird, grotesque and solemn scene it presented.
Every man wore a false face, so that his nearest friend could not recognize him more than if he had been a native from the wilds of Africa.  At the head of the parade rode the captain, W. C. Weicht, on a jackass.
His face was covered with as horrid a looking mask as one could imagine; in his right hand he carried a sword, his feet were encased in two paint kegs for stirrups and with mammoth spurs he goarded the jack.
Next came the musicians, Chris Stealy playing the fife, Henry Nichols the snare drum, and Thomas R.
Moffett the bass.  Following them were the pall bearers carrying the coffin the which had been placed a dummy with a mask for a face.  The casket was covered with a thick, black pall.  Following this, with slow,
measured tread, came the balance of the company.
     After parading on several of the principal streets where they were seen by scores of wondering people,
they surrounded the grave where the pall was removed and the coffin gently lowered amidst the groans of the mourners.  Asa M. Tinker then delivered a solemn oration over the remains.  Just before the close of the
exercises, while Mr. Tinker was in the midst of the most impressive part of his address, a man drove by with a horse, and jack struck up its doleful tune.  At this juncture the captain gave it a jerk to make it hush, when they both fell into the grave, to the great consternation of the chief mourners.  After quite a struggle, the animal, with the captain still on its back, got out on good footing.  The grave was then filled, with the coffin left at the bottom, and thus it remains to the present day.
Steuben Republican, June 26, 1974.