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Past and Present, Hamilton County Loves a Parade!

The Fourth of July is fast approaching, and we are in the mood for a parade! Hamilton County Historian David Heighway has written several articles through the years about parades in Hamilton County, and here is a brief roundup. (Follow the links to his original articles for more.)

In the second iteration of the Indiana militia law passed in 1818, white men ages 18 to 45 were expected to join up. Hamilton County’s militia members in the 17th Brigade of the Sixth Division. Technically, they were supposed to participate in a military muster once a year, but it’s said that many of the men shirked their responsibilities, kind of like jury duty. The most visible demonstration of their service was during the 1844 Fourth of July parade.

The parade took off from Thompson’s Hotel on Polk Street and proceeded to “Oaken Grove, where Henry Conner, Esq., will deliver an oration, after which the procession will re-form and march to the place where freshments will be provided,” according to a newspaper column.

Five local organized units included the Hamilton Light Horse Company, Independent Greys, Fall Creek Township Company, Wayne Township Company and Noblesville Township Company (aka “The Square-Toes”). A sixth possible group was the “Aberbeen Rifles” (or perhaps “Aberdeen”).

Borrowing from the Victorian tradition of marching societies, early Hamilton County parades often included groups organized primarily to add interest for its audiences. As Heighway reports, these groups were often politically affiliated and somewhat military in appearance. Retired Civil War uniforms were common attire.

“Sometimes the groups had musical instruments and sometimes they carried signs. They would drill to be able to march in step, but that wasn’t a primary focus. Enthusiasm probably counted for more,” Heighway writes.

During the United States centennial in 1876, Hamilton County residents celebrated on the Fourth of July with, according to a newspaper in Union County, a barbecue featuring fresh ox meat at the fairgrounds and a grand parade — just like today!

The 1876 parade featured Thompson’s Cornet Band, the 37 states represented by ladies in wagons, a military unit, local luminaries, local societies, the fire department and bands. (Check out Heighway’s article for details on the very winding route the parade followed.

Politicians have always loved a parade. Republicans rallied on October 2, 1900, ahead of the presidential campaign between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. A train from Indianapolis arrived in Noblesville with rally participants as hundreds of roman candles were lit.

A parade followed, starting on the north side of the Hamilton County Courthouse Square with bands playing, including the Marion County Marching Band, Arcadia Drum Corp and The Reverend Barney Stone and his group of African American drummers. Loehr’s musket brigade marched as well as 200 mounted members of the Marion County Rough Riders Club, a tribute group to Theodore Roosevelt’s original crew.

The parade took a looping route from the square, going down 9th Street, turning east on Walnut to 10th, going north to Hannibal, then east to 8th Street, and down to the factory.

One hundred years ago this year, Hamilton County commemorated its 100th anniversary! To celebrate, the nine townships planned a two-day celebration in October. The festivities included speeches, stunts, games, music contests, singing, a parade, a demonstration from Battery B of the 139th Field Artillery of the Indiana National Guard, a pageant of the county's history, and a pitch-in dinner.

Photographer and dentist Dr. Earl Brooks has lent so much to our local history. His photos of the 1923 Hamilton County Centennial Celebration show us what words could never capture as vividly.

His 88 images were made from the negatives owned by the Hamilton County Historical Society. The society shared the negatives with the Hamilton East Public Library so that they could be scanned and made available for public viewing through Indiana Memory.

On this Fourth of July, get out there and enjoy a local parade!

The Hamilton County Bicentennial is proudly supported by Duke Energy, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, Hamilton County Tourism Inc., and Hamilton County Historical Society.


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