John Adams believed that today—July 2—should be the day on which American independence was celebrated because it was on this day in 1776 that the Second Continental Congress voted in favor of the resolution of independence. Instead, American independence came to be celebrated on July 4, the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
Starting in 1777, when thirteen gunshots were fired in salute, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence has been commemorated in various ways, but the holiday, as we know it, evolved over time. The first recorded use of the name “Independence Day” occurred in 1791. The first Fourth of July celebration took place in Eastport, Maine, in 1820. In 1870, July 4 was declared a federal holiday (although it wasn’t until 1941 that it became a paid holiday for federal workers).
Always interested in putting Hudson in the context of significant national events, Gossips decided to find out how the Fourth of July was celebrated in Hudson in 1870—the first year that it was recognized as a federal holiday. What was discovered, from newspapers of the time, is that it was not celebrated—at least not that year. A big celebration was planned for Columbia Springs, probably on the grounds of the Columbia Springs Hotel, involving a horse exhibition, horse races, boat races, and taking the waters at the new Fountain of Health, but if you stayed in Hudson, the only opportunity for amusement was an early evening excursion on the river to Rhinebeck and back on the steamboat City of Hudson.
The editor of the Evening Register had a low opinion of this. Here's what he had to say on July 3, 1870:
No observance of our National holiday will be made in this city. This is hardly creditable, and provokes severe criticism from some of our contemporaries. But this neglect of a time-honored observance is not from lack of patriotism in our people, or a full appreciation of the important event the day commemorates.
The fact is, the preparation and organization of a proper celebration of the day involves much time and hard labor, which must be performed by a few, and the task generally proves to be a very ungrateful one. Such at least has been the experience of most, if not all, who have engaged in the enterprise in years past.
We probably will not have another public celebration of the day until our citizens, as a whole, take part in it from a spontaneous impulse of patriotism; or another installment of men appear on the stage, who are willing to sacrifice their time, skill, labor and money to get it up—who possess the stamina to encounter all the rebuffs, jealousies, and opposition that churlish men will be sure to meet them with—who have the energy, perseverance and vim to “fight it through” to a successful termination; and the philosophy to retire in good humor at the close, with weary limbs, aching head, and lean pocketbook, and receive as their recompense more curses than thanks.
For ourselves, the weather is too warm to write an oration, and our readers are too familiar with the immortal deeds and great events which have enshrined “Independence Day” in the hearts of the American people, to require their recapitulation here.Before it was renamed for the family who owned the mill that was its principal industry, Stottville was known as Springville, because it was the location of Columbia Springs—mineral springs whose waters were, according to an advertisement of the period, "especially efficacious in the treatment of rheumatism, blood, kidney and liver and stomach trouble and general debility."
In 1855, Charles B. Nash purchased the springs and opened a "house for the accommodation of invalids." Franklin Ellis describes the springs and their setting in this way in his 1878 History of Columbia County:
Connected with these health-giving fountains are very handsome grounds, where are combined the best effect of hill and dale, adorned by stately oaks and hickory-trees of nature's own planting. . . . On one of the most commanding elevations is the spacious "Columbia Springs House," one hundred and thirty feet long and three stories high, with cottages and other conveniences of a well-arranged summer resort adjoining. From the piazza of the hotel is unfolded a variety of charming views. At the base of the hill lies busy little Stottville; beyond highly-cultivated fields can be descried the winding course of the Hudson, and still farther westward the magnificent Catskills loom up in all their grandeur, now bathed in light, now veiled in misty splendor. It is a scene that fills the mind of the beholder with a sense of pleasurable contentment, and which yearly attracts hundreds of visitors, who are benefited by these scenes as well as by the truly meritorious waters of the spring.In its heyday, the Columbia Springs Hotel rivaled the Saratoga Spa, but in the 1920s, business declined, and the resort closed. In 1925, the hotel and the cottages were destroyed by fire.
The picture that accompanies this post was found online and shows people picnicking in the late 19th century, nowhere near Columbia Springs and, truth be told, not even in the state of New York.