A German Fourth in 1852
A translation from the Hermanner Wochenblatt, editor Eduard Muehl, published in Hermann, Missouri in 1852.
At daybreak on the morning of the 4th, a chorus greeted the holiday from a platform in front of the Courthouse. Shorthly afterward, the Hermann Jaeger Company (1) posted on the heights of Fourth St., thundered a dawn salute with musket and canon fire. Flags waved in different locations around town, “even” as the paper reported, “in front of the Evangelical church.” At the conclusion of these dawn ceremonies, a distant drum roll could be heard as the Jaeger Company marched back into town.
Members of the Union of Free Men (2) and their families gathered at 8 a.m. before the Erholung building (3). There in a circle, the crowd sang several verses from the Marseillaise (4) that had been translated into German. Afterwards the parade formed. The young people led off carrying an American flag. the musicians, the women and girls, and the men followed. The latter groups had their own flag carriers. The parade accompanied by renewed cannonading, marched along the shady lane leading to the festival grounds in the vicinity of Rasche’s farm about a mile from the Erholung. Shelters had been erected under the oaks. So that no one would lack for refreshments, Hermann innkeepers presided over four booths where food and dring of different kinds were served.
After an hour given to relaxation, a trumpet called the crowd together in front of a flag-draped speakers platform. After the chorus sang several appropriate songs and the Declaration of Independence was read, the main speaker addressed the crowd. All this took an hour-and a half. Although several more Union members had prepared speeches, they forbore, since it was dinner time (5).
Families gathered and wine flowed freely. The paper reported, “many tongues were deployed in holiday dexterity.”
The afternoon amusements included a birdshoot (6) for the men, target shooting with bow and arrows and pole climbing for the boys, and cock fighting. Others enjoyed themselves on the swings hung from the trees. Bolder young men and women could post letters at a “post office.” A courier, riding an old nag and dressed like Rochus Pumpernickel (7) delivered these letters in a very formal manner. The day wound up with dancing on the grass to music played by an ochestra on the speakers platform.
When the evening came, the parade regrouped and marched back to the Erholung. There the crowd again sang the Marseillaise and remaining speakers unburdened themselves. The account concluded: It was a beautiful German-people’s holiday!”
From Hermann, Missouri 1852 News and Voices; translations from the German newspaper the Hermanner Wochenblatt, editor Eduard Muehl, translations by Siegmar Muehl, grandson of the editor. Hermann was founded by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia in 1837-38.
(1) Hermann Jaeger Company, Hermann Hunters Club - the Schutzenverein of Hermann, or today's equivalent of a gun club. (2) Union of Free Men - Hermann's Free Thinker or Rationalist Society, a Christian based religious group. (3) Erholung is the recreational hall operated by the local Turnverein. (4) The Marseillaise was a revolutionary song, an anthem to freedom, a patriotic call. (5) The noon-day luncheon meal. (6) A birdshoot is a shooting contest by the Schuetzenverein where a high wooden pole was erected with a carved bird, (usually an eagle which to the Germans represented the King) on the top. The goal was to shoot the bird off the top. (7) Pumpernickel is a German folk character, a dwarf noted for roguish and ribald behavior from the Brothers Grimm.