Fourth of July in Saratoga and Ballston in 1840.


"Long, long as the banner of freedom unfurled,

Triumphantly waves on the ocean and shore;

While Columbia shall flourish, the pride of the world,

THIS DAY shall be lauded till time is no more."


THE Fourth of July in 1840, as I learn from the diary of a friend, was celebrated at Saratoga and Ballston by a Sunday-school pageant, which, although in these days quite common, at that time was an unusual spectacle. At ten o’clock in the morning, the schools of the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopal churches assembled in the Baptist church with their teachers and superintendents, whence they marched in procession to the Presbyterian church, where appropriate exercises were performed.

The church, what with the different schools, the villagers and the visitors, was crowded to excess, and many could not find admittance. The opening prayer was by the Rev. Joshua Fletcher, the Baptist clergyman. Gideon M. Davison, Esq., read the Declaration of Independence – prefacing it – in one of his most felicitous veins, for which he was so remarkable – with a few well-adapted historical and patriotic remarks. The Rev. Albert T. Chester (now the Rev. Dr. Chester of Buffalo) then delivered an address of about half an hour’s length well suited to the occasion and the auditory. It was neither a political oration nor a sermon, but, in some respects, combined the elements of both – at once historical, moral, and patriotic, inculcating such lessons as should mark the early training of the Christian politician. Several set pieces of music were well executed by the united choirs of the village during the exercises.

These being concluded, the schools were re-formed in procession, and marched under their various banners to the beautiful grove in which the residence of the late Chancellor Walworth is embosomed. Halting before the Chancellor’s gate, the procession was joined by the schools from Ballston, which, in neat and beautiful array, had arrived to the number of several hundred in the eleven o’clock train. The Saratoga schools then opened to the right and left, forming a living avenue, through which the Ballston schools passed; and entering the grove, the whole interesting collection surrounded an extended table liberally provided with refreshments consisting of cakes, fruits, ice-cream, and lemonade in great abundance.

The day is described as being intensely hot, and an hour was most agreeably passed beneath the grateful umbrage of the Chancellor’s evergreens, during which time the motherly form of the late Mrs. Chancellor Walworth was seen constantly moving in every part of the assembly seeing that each child lacked nothing. How like her! Always so unselfish and large-hearted, and ever attentive to the happiness of others. The Chancellor, too, how benignantly he looked over his spectacles at the merry youngsters before him, and how he patted each little head and kindly saw that each lemonade glass was kept full. His own little favorite Mansfield, perchance, was there also, then as innocent and joyous as any of that company. Alas! could he have but looked forward! Foolish, vain mortals that we are! who, with so many lessons constantly occurring around us, seek to pry into that futurity which an all-wise God so mercifully hides from our vision!

After the collation was ended, the schools of Saratoga and Ballston united and returned to the railroad depot, whence the entire company was conveyed rapidly to Ballston, in two long trains of cars containing altogether eight hundred souls. Arrived at Ballston, the schools proceeded to the church of the Rev. Mr. Fox, where services similar to those which had been observed at Saratoga, though necessarily curtailed for the want of time, were performed. The prayer – and an excellent one it was – was by the Presbyterian clergyman, Rev. Daniel Stewart. The address, which was very happy, was by Rev. Mr. Fox. {Rev. Mr. Fox was formerly a lawyer of Washington County, New York State, and a member of the Legislature during the administration of Governor Clinton. At this time, however, he was an eloquent and devoted Baptist clergyman and settled in Ballston.} After these exercises the children walked to the residence of Mr. Stephen Smith, where refreshments were again served, and the Saratoga schools were conveyed back to their own village in the cars before five o’clock. The day was one of unalloyed enjoyment, not only to the schools but to those who arranged and superintended the festival. Not an accident occurred; and, says the private diary before alluded to, "The Saratoga and Troy R.R. Co. are both entitled to many thanks for the pains they took in providing extra cars, and in making all the necessary arrangements for the occasion entirely free of charge ." In view of this narrative may we not ask, Have we, in these years, improved any in our mode of celebrating the Glorious Fourth?



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