The twenty fourth of July was always a gala day in the early history of Mt. Pleasant.
At sunrise, the flag was raised on the historic liberty pole. It was worth rising early to see the men thread the rope through the pulleys and see the flag ascend smoothly and surely to the top of the high pole. We would recall how a lumberman, Niels Rolfson, had brought this long straight tree down from the mountains. What a piece of engineering to guide it safely down the steep slopes and deep canyons! At times it would have to be raised by hand almost perpendicularly to make the quick u-turns and miss the trees that lined the road. The team of horses had to be held at tight rein to ensure the slow movement. When it finally arrived at the corner of State and Main it was raised by block and tackle and secured in its upright position by pegs and props. An iron band was placed around it to fasten the pegs. Pulley were then fastened to the top and bottom to raise the flag.
At ten o'clock in the morning the grand parade would begin. The streets had been lined for hours with people waiting for the wonderful display of floats, beautiful girls and horses. Someone would shout, "Here they come," and we would all rush to the edge of the sidewalk, and sure enough, Uncle Sam, tall and stately in his red, white, and blue could be seen prancing down the street. For years Elija McClelaham led the parade with a high stove-pipe hat, which added to his height. His long legs were made to look longer in the red and white striped pants. The blue coat with large brass buttons was crowned with a silk star-studded hat of blue, with white stars and a red and white striped brim. He carried a cane, which added to his hig-stepping, as he kept time with the drum or band which followed.
The beautiful Goddess of Liberty, her special white float drawn by six white horses, well-groomed and decorated with white pompoms, came into view. The float, a hayrack done in white bunting, carried a beautiful young lady dressed in white with a crown of gold, and her two lovely attendants. The majestic title, Miss Liberty, completed the breath taking pageant.
The 13 original states were represented by 13 lovely ladies all dressed in white carrying a torch to signify our beginning as a nation. Their float was appropriately decorated and drawn by a team of grey horses which were decorated with torches to match.
Miss Mt. Pleasant brought many "oos and aws" as her lovely float, drawn by four horses, made its way into view. She was attended by several lovely girls with banners across their shoulders. All were proud to represent their beautiful city.
Miss Sanpete brought a good laugh as she came riding on a donkey decorated in carrots. Carrots were all over, hanging on the bridle and saddle. Her crown was carrots, and a great corsage of carrots completed her dress.
Following Miss Sanpete came the other 28 counties, represented by 28 young ladies, all riding horses, their county banners across their shoulders.
Utah's best crop, a hayraack loaded with primary children, was exciting for the childdren and parents alike. Scenes from the bible were displayed by other church organizations. The Gleaners were well portrayed by three women bent over among sheaves of corn and wheat. Jacob's well and Moses in the bullrushes was cause for much hand-clapping as the wagons bearing these precious messages moved on.
Indians added a great deal of color as their waagons came along. Their bright shawls and black braids could be seen among them and willows near a three-pole wikiup.
The Gold Dust Twins clowned along beside the parade. Old Dutch Cleanser came in her red and yellow dress, stepping the full width of her wide skirt and carrying her stick to fight dirt.
Following came a long line of covered wagons drawn by oxen. Their wagons were loaded with children poking their heads out from under the cover; Mother and Dad were seated in the spring seat, a small child between them. Outside were boxes of chickens fastened to their wagon. Others led a cow, and small pigs could be seen in their boxes. Calves and colts ran to and fro beside their mothers.
Azel Peel always had a team of cows trained to pull his wagon, Charley Peterson ("Shoemaker" as he was called to distinguish him from others by the same name) hitched a cow and horse together, much to the delight of the viewers.
Indians would attack in mock battle. They would come out of nowhere, shouting, yelling and riding wild into the covered wagons.
Nephi Gunderson, dressed as an Indian with war paint and feathers, rushed up to a wagon where his fiance, Marie Hansen, was riding; grabbed her; at least tried to get her. He found a nineteen year old girl quite a handful. She cooperated and rode off with the Indians among much laughing and screaming by the crowds.
After the parade a meeting was held in the chapel. This was a very special meeting, where so many stories of Pioneer experiences were told. "Come, Come Ye Saints" and "the Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning" were sung by the audience. "Utah, We Love Thee" was always a special solo. The band played the "Star Spangled Banner", and we all stood while they played. Then the closing prayer was offered.
The park where the old fort stood came alive after the program. Here many brought picnic lunches, and a pleasant hour was spent visiting. Finally, the Bishop came with a bag of coins, and the time had come for the races. What fun! Foot races, sack races, tugs of war, and climbing the greased pole! A young pig was greased and turned loose for anyone who cared to chase him. The one who caught and held on to him earned the pig. The park became a ball ground for the men while the women and children retired to the social hall for a children's dance. Later in the evening, after the chores were done and the children put to bed, the married folks went to the social hall, where they danced and ate till the wee hours of the morning.
Occasionally, the twenty-fourth was celebrated in the mountains. This was a day long to be remembered. After the flag-raising and gun powder was set off in Wilson's Blacksmith Shop, the wagons started to roll toward the mountains to Derfee's Meadows. There, on this beautiful smooth meadow the wagons formed a circle similar to the pioneers as they crossed the plains. After the horses were taken into the trees, fed , and taken care of, fires were started in the hole prepared for Dutch ovens. The mothers were well prepared with spring chickens, young carrots, green peas and new potatoes, which were soon stewing under the watchful care of the men folk. Sourdough biscuits were baked, and the picnic was ready. Gooseberry and rhubarb pies were in abundance. Many preferred another scone dripping with fresh butter and honey. Good food, coupled with fresh mountain air made enormous appetites.
Balls and nipkats made their appearance in the circle made by the wagons. Horseshoe games challenged the men. A fiddle played and some danced on the rough terrain. When the ladies got tired of sitting on the wagon tongues, they took hikes through the beautiful forest. They gathered wild flowers and berries. Reference was made that on just such a celebration, Brigham Young was informed of Johnson's Army was approaching. All too soon the sun was sinking, the daylight turning to twilight. Wagons started the long drive back to town. No headlights were needed as the faithful teams followed the rock road home. After chores, the dance hall was filled, and the tired people danced till morning.
Yes, the Twenty-Fourth of July was a special day in the early history of Mt. Pleasant. Much time and effort were put into making it a day fit to honor the pioneers, who made this land choice above all others.