July 4, 1908

by Nancy Freeze

Parade with horse-drawn floats
Mendocino Fourth of July Parade, 1902. A Perley Maxwell photograph of the 1902 Mendocino Fourth of July parade heading east on Main Street near the intersection with Lansing Street. Elaborately decorated floats are drawn by horse teams. People stand and watch the spectacle along the parade route. Note the tall board fence enclosing a garden on the left, constructed with braces to hold it up against the force of the winds and marauding livestock. Telegraph poles and wooden sidewalks are present along both sides of the street.  A very large flag is flying atop a flagpole attached to the Jarvis-Nichols building in the distance on the left. To its right is the Central House (later Mendocino Hotel) with people out on its balcony to view the parade. The next tall building to the right with another balcony would be The Alhambra Hotel. On the far right is the Brown & Gray store, located in the former Kelley General Store building. Large cypress trees left of the store building obscure the Kelley House from view. (Gift of Emery Escola)

I love reading old articles from the Beacon, and last week, I stumbled across a story of a past July 4th celebration. I am continuously amazed at the energy of the early settlers. Their lives were filled with hard work and long hours, and yet they still found time to decorate floats, dress in costume, and organize games.

It was reported that, “July 4, 1908, at Mendocino has gone into history as having been one of the most enjoyable in the town’s historic annals.

The individual elements of the parade began assembling soon after 9 o’clock and by 10 Marshal of the Day, J.N. Rea, with his aides, W.H. Oppenlander and W. B. Coombs, had everything ready and the start was made. The Mendocino Concert Band took the lead, the head of the procession being about abreast of the Bank, followed by the carriage containing President of the Day Frank Beach; the orator, Rev. S.S. Fisk; the Chaplain, Prof. Lorin Handley; the reader, Miss Inez Chase Milliken.

The handsomely decorated float drawn by four white horses driven by Uncle Sam (Milton Johnson) proudly bore the Goddess of Liberty, Miss Ardell Nichols.

George and Martha Washington, represented by James Peirsol and Dorothy Ross, rode in a beautifully decorated phaeton and impersonated their characters with all the colonial dignity and youthful poise possible.”

It seems that the parade was only the beginning of their festivities. Afterwards, the crowd moved on to an afternoon of foot races and games – among them the standard dashes and relays. Contestants were separated by the usual categories of ages and gender, but with some unusual additions, such as the “fat men’s race” and the “married women under 60.” The grand finale was the “catching greased pig” contest.

In the spirit of those who have come before us, the Kelley House is holding their annual lawn party on Monday, July 4, from 11am – 3pm. Sorry, no greased pig contest, but we will have music by the Mixed Nuts and plenty of margaritas, sangria, beer, and wine. Come on down for an old-fashioned celebration! Admission is FREE!