Monday, June 29, 2015

Red, white and blue boiled hams for the 4th of July

At Mercersburg, Pa., before the Civil War, the town folk and farmers would go out to President James Buchanan's birthplace and share a picnic.  One lady brought "boiled hams decorated with cloves and red, white and blue paper."

"Mercersburg always enjoyed the distinction of celebrating the Fourth of July with more enthusiasm than many of the other towns. A large picnic was the event of the day; the meeting place [President James] Buchanan's birthplace. All the town folk and the farmers took their teams, their families and baskets of provisions. I can see the tables now as they were spread upon the ground. I remember that Mrs. Unger, at the Gap, always had her boiled hams decorated with cloves and red, white and blue paper.

Cold roast beef, fried chicken, bread, butter, beaten biscuit, apple and custard pies, jam, jelly, pickles, boilers of coffee, freezers of ice cream, buckets of lemonade, cakes of every kind and description, and all this in such abundance that large and hungry crowds were well filled.

There were swings for the children, platforms for dancers and music by the band. The orator of the day, before commencing his speech, recited the Declaration of Independence. Colonel Shirts usually delivered the speech. He was an insignificant man in appearance, but when he launched into his Fourth of July address, you were compelled to listen. I do not remember that there were any Fourth of July celebrations after the breaking out of the war."

Mary McNaughton Agnew, 1890 and photo in:  Old Mercersburg. 1912

©2015 Patricia Bixler Reber
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