Wirth Watching: Remembering Brigham Young’s monumental 4th of July party

Wirth

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) You might have had an awesome 4th of July party this year, but it probably doesn’t hold a candle to Brigham Young’s celebration back in 1851.

Young took pretty much the whole town, including 130 carriages and wagons, to Black Rock, on The Great Salt Lake, and partied for two days of music and picnics for the 4th of July.

The weekly edition of the Deseret News from July 12th, 1851 gives a glowing account of a 4th of July celebration that remains monumental, even today.

The paper wrote that, “3 cannon blasts woke up the town at day break on July 4, 1851. Everyone was going to march to a celebration. And at 7:00 am the city began to be in motion. The busy throng began to assemble. “

The destination was Black Rock and the Great Salt Lake. They all had a 4 hour trip in front of them. And it would not be a silent trip.

A big deal in Utah back then were brass bands. They all traveled in wagons. Among them were Captain Pitts and the Nauvoo Brass Band played patriotic music all the way out to the lake.

Now we don’t actually have pictures of Captain William Pitts and the Nauvoo Brass Band back then. But we do know the brass band still plays in Nauvoo, to this day, so we can listen to the music

The band led the parade across the dusty land. And 50 year old Brigham Young followed the band for the 20 mile trip.  

The early pioneers had a special attraction to Black Rock. Pioneer Heber C. Kimball even built a home out there. Parts of that home lasted well into the 1950’s.

Brigham Young made sure this would be the celebration of all celebrations. 130 carriages in all heading to the lake. There was a strong wind that day but the brine flies hid their diminished heads.

The crowd finally arrived about 2:00 pm in the afternoon July 4th 1851. And it was now time to climb the big rock. First though, they put up a giant flag. We know there was a flag pole on Black Rock for years. That flag was forty-five feet in length by fourteen and a half in breadth with the American eagle stretching its wings on an area of ten feet. Under and above its left wing with the Utah arms, the bee-hive and rising star.

The celebration was just getting started. The pioneers had a grand ol’ picnic with lots of music and lots of dancing. At 10:00 pm a cannon was fired for prayer. Then dancing continued long into the night.

And come morning, the band played again. By 10:00 am the cannon fired the signal for departure and the camp again moved in order as it did on the trip out to the lake. And the four hour trek through the windy dusty land started again.

And what was said there that day we don’t know. The whole trek was so amazing, the Deseret News only covered that part of the story. The paper wrote, “Not having room. We are obliged to defer the speeches and orations to a future time.”

I couldn’t find any more mentions of any other 4th of July trips to Black Rock in the following years. So I guess it never became an annual deal to have everyone in Utah party at Black Rock for the 4th of July.  That’s too bad, because Utah grew a bit and by now the annual party would have three million people. Now two days at Black Rock with three million people, that would be cool.

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