Monday, July 4, 2016

The Fourth of July in Hudson, 1881

Gossips has published many posts about Fred W. Jones, a larger-than-life character in Hudson history--part captain of industry, part impresario. Jones is best known as the owner of the New York Shell Marble & Coral Company, who in the 1880s bought up more than 60 acres of South Bay and 1,600 feet of land along the river's edge in order to build his "mountain railroad" from his quarry on Becraft Mountain to the river. What he did in his captain of industry role continues to impact the life of Hudson. South Bay is still owned by a mining company; the path of his mountain railroad is now the route of Colarusso's proposed haul road. The impresario part of Jones's character is not so well known.

In the 1880s, wagons carrying stone drawn by teams of Kentucky mules were a constant albeit unwelcome sight on the streets of Hudson. They entered the city from the south on Worth Avenue and then proceeded to the river along Union Street to the courthouse, then south on West Court Street to Allen Street, and on to the river. The stone being moved at that time was enormous blocks of shell marble, often weighing upwards of twenty tons, on wagons drawn by as many as fourteen mules. The activity left these streets, which passed some of the finest residences in Hudson, rutted and in wretched condition, either "beds of mud or clouds of dust."

On the Fourth of July 1881, Hudson planned a huge parade to celebrate 105 years of independence. The event was almost postponed because, two days earlier, there had been an assassination attempt on President James Garfield. (Garfield was shot as he was about to board a train in Washington, D.C. The gunshot was not immediately fatal; Garfield died in September as a consequence of the wound.) Despite this unsettling national situation, the folks in Hudson decided that because so much work had gone into the preparation, the parade would go forward as planned. The next day, the Hudson Evening Register reported:
Trains and boats arrived and with them came thousands of people, and by 9 o'clock the city wore the appearance of a great holiday occasion. The gaily decorated buildings along the public thoroughfares, the trimmed streets, the floating flags, the booming cannon, the pealing bells, all seemed to lend inspiration to the occasion. . . . In fact our people celebrated the one hundred and fifth anniversary of our independence in the way recommended by President Adams, who said: "Let the people make a racket!"
According to reports, the "great feature of the parade was the extensive representation of Fred W. Jones, who, it really seemed, had removed his coral shell marble quarries from Greenport to this city." 

Courtesy Greenport Historical Society
The account in the Evening Register protested that time and space would not allow an appropriate description of the extravaganza, but then went on to offer a pretty extensive one anyway:
First came his mammoth four-wheeled wagon, drawn by four span of Kentucky mules. On this had been fixed a car gaily decorated with greens and flags, containing the yeomanry of the quarry district. Then came three span of mules hitched to a mammoth wagon, trimmed, and bearing on each side paintings of the quarries as they are, and as they will be, with mottoes: "Fred W. Jones, Dealer in Solid Material"; "We Believe in a Solid Foundation."
Courtesy Greenport Historical Society
Then three teams of mules drawing a big wagon, under which was an excellent representation of a huge block of Stone. Then came two span of horses, drawing a wagon laden with empty kegs, representing the powder works of Dupont, of which Mr. Jones is the agent. This was followed by two teams of mules hitched to a steam engine and steam drill, at work, on either side of which was the motto, "I Salute You," and by its incessant screeching thousands of people were made to realize the truthfulness of its motto. The whole of this moving pageant was under the especial supervision of Fred W. Jones, who, mounted on his coal black thorough-bred, coolly took supervision of its movements, and handled it with the precision of a general. As we have stated, to go into detail of the matter is impossible to-day, owing to our crowded columns. What we fail to accord to Mr. Jones in the way of praise, he received at the hands of over ten thousand people.
Fred W. Jones's impresarial genius was that he managed to transform what was a common and unwelcome sight of the streets of Hudson into something festive that met with universal praise.

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