Pioneer Fourth of July

EagleAware that they must cross the formidable Sierra Nevada before snowfall blocked their path, California-bound pioneers seldom halted their wagons very long for either births or burials. Independence Day, however, was a different matter. On July 4th most wagon trains stopped for the day to celebrate with whatever means were available to the members. If there was a musician in the group, melodies rang out across the prairies accompanied by the sounds of clapping and dancing.  If no fiddler or flute player was present, they often danced to the music of clapping hands and singing, or sang patriotic songs as a chorus. A few organized “parades” around the encampment. Long guns fired ceremonial salutes and the women brought out special dishes as supplies allowed. Speeches and toasts, of course, were always part of the proceedings. Probably the best-known landmark on the entire California Trail was Independence Rock, a massive natural formation on the north bank of the Sweetwater River, supposedly named by a party of American fur trappers who camped near it on July 4, 1842. By the end of July 1849 the sides of Independence Rock carried the names, slogans and graffiti of thousands of passing gold rushers. 


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