Nuckolls County held its first 4th of July observance in 1872
July 1, 2021
(The following article was taken out of The Nelson Gazette June 29, 1967)
The Fourth of July was always celebrated with great fervor in the old days Everyone welcomed the opportunity to break the monotony of the day-to-day frontier loneliness.
The first observance of the Fourth of July in Nuckolls County was in 1872. It was held under a spreading cottonwood tree on the west side of the Little Blue, opposite 'The Narrows', scene of an early-day Indian raid. The Declaration of Independence was read, an orator performed. Patriotic songs were sung.
Things got livelier as the country's population increased. In 1884: "Nelsonites were greeted by a grand salute at sunrise, telling us that the glorious Fourth had arrived. Soon the people were seen pouring in from all directions to help celebrate the day dear to the hearts of all patriotic citizens of America. At 10:00 a.m. the citizens formed a procession and led by the Superior cornet band, marched to the inviting shade of the beautiful grove adjoining the town. The chief orator of the day, the Honorable Judge O. B. Hewitt, was well-received by the audience, the only demerit being a slight of weakness of voice. This followed a rich feast of good things in the form of basket dinners spread our in the green lap of earth. This followed with a program of speeches, band music, sack races, wheelbarrow and potato races. In the evening a grand social hop was given in the new town hall where young people kept up the dancing until four o'clock in the morning. The crowd was estimated from 1,500 to 2,000 people. The drunk man was conspicuously absent. We are proud of our town, in which not one saloon is found."
The Fourth continued to draw amazingly large crowds. Trains arrived bringing carloads of merrymakers from Superior, Fairfield and Edgar. In 1898, a half-mile throng estimated at 2,500 people paraded to the grove, led by the town band and a wagon bearing 45 little girls representing the states, accompanied by Uncle Sam and Columbia. Every merchant in town seemed to have an elaborate float of some type. One was described as a wagon enclosed with red, white and blue bunting, where four black couples were dancing a quadrille.
Through the years ball games, fireworks, bicycle races, home-made merry-go-rounds pulled by horses or mules furnished amusement for old and young. Nora reported four balloon ascensions on the Fourth in 1906, a popular novelty in the early days.
No Fourth of July celebration was ever complete without one or more speeches on patriotism and citizenship, all calculated to inspire the American citizen to higher and nobler ambitions.