The first celebration of the Fourth in Moorestown was within the year it was founded, 1882. A lumber camp had been established in the Summer of 1881, and a they struggled to install a workable railroad all winter. They started with wooden rails and horse drawn carts. By March 1882, J.H. Moores had officially platted Moorestown, and as late as June, his crew continued to lay track that could sustain a full locomotive rather than just a car pulled by horses.
On the Fourth of July, 1882, the whole town piled on the cars of the train and rode into the woods for a picnic, celebrating the completion of the railroad.
Fred C. Hirzel recounts a story of celebrating Independence Day circa 1893 in Moorestown, Missaukee County, Michigan, just a decade after the town's founding.
Mr. William Cantwell, Sr. was the life of every Fourth of July celebration. In celebrating this day, Moorestown and Stittsville alternated about annually. Mr. Cantwell would organize and the “horribles,” and the pageant that they put on is something to make one fairly wish for the return of the good old days.
At one Fourth of July celebration held at Moorestown, at least 100 “horribles” trained by Wm. Cantwell took part. They were divided about equally as “Infantry” (White men) and “Wild Indians” on horseback. The village was flanked in those days by dense forest on the west and north edges. The infantry was parading for the entertainment of the celebrators, which had come from as far away as Cadillac and even Reed City and have been estimated to have numbered 1000 on that day in Moorestown.
The “Indians” suddenly emerged from the woods, surprising the “White Infantry” and before the commanding officer could rally his forces and disperse the enemy, several had been “shot” and either “killed” of “mortally wounded.” These troops and Indians had been so secretly and so well trained by Cantwell in the upper story of the J.H. Moores Sawmill that many of the spectators actually believed, for the moment at least, that the fight was “the real thing.” “Captain” Albert Bulson, pierced by a bullet from an Indian’s rifle, plunged headlong to the ground from the back of his horse which was galloping at full speed. Bulson was a wrestler of some local note and was able to take the jolt he got when he came in contact with the earth. The reckless abandon with which he threw himself from the horse caused many to think that perhaps he had really been shot.
At this time, “Doctor” Cantwell dashed up, riding a small Western pony. Cantwell had clothes made to order for the occasion. The trousers had a waist measurement of at least 60 inches and were stuffed with straw or other material. There was no flap on the front to cover the buttons which had been cut from the butts of shingles and measured about four inches in circumference. He had on a pair of shoes which he constructed from cedar splints and tarred paper. They were an excellent imitation of shoes and measured approximately 1 foot in width and three feet in length. He used horse collars for stirrups. When Doctor Cantwell reached the place where the wounded man was already laying on an “operating table,” he pulled his feet from the stirrups, stood erect, and the horse walked from beneath him. Cantwell then quickly administered a couple of huge dough pills, and then, opening his medical kit with a cold chisel and a hammer, produced a rusty handsaw and began to “amputate” Bulson’s leg. An edging (a piece of wood about an inch square and a couple feet long) had been conveniently placed along side his leg for Doctor Cantwell to saw on. This he did without removing the trousers, cutting through them, A woman in the crowd actually fainted dead away.
Bulson, then having “died” in the operation, was doubled up and pushed into a sugar barrel, which was lowered into an already-prepared grave. While the funeral services at the grace were in progress, the Indians again suddenly emerged from the forest, drove away the “militia,” and crashed huge rocks into the grave on the coffin. There was screaming from the spectators and another woman, who had withstood the first ordeal, fainted. Bulson, of course, was safe; his sugar barrel coffin having been placed at the end of another barrel previously buried and with both ends out, he had crawled through same and through a subterranean tunnel to safety under a brush heap. Of course, this was unknown except to those who had planned it.
Mind you, in those days there was only one store in Moorestown. This was owned and operated by my father, Godfrey Hirzel, who was, first, last, and all the time, interested mostly in providing for the people a good time on the Fourth of July, regardless of the cost. My father had the Hon. Perry F. Powers there from Cadillac to deliver the oration of the day. The Cadillac City Brass Band of many pieces furnished continuous music from mid-forenoon until late at night and during the act of shooting off of $300.00 worth of excellent fire-works, all of which was provided at my father’s expense. Of course, he was not exactly trying to see how much money he could throw away. He had in operation a good clean dance hall at which 16 sets of square dancing went on from the morning of the fourth until the morning of the fifth. He had at least three stands besides the store selling pop, ice cream, candy, cigars, fire crackers, etc. Everyone was happy. There were races and games of all kinds with substantial prizes and cash and goods given by my father. This was probably 1893 or 1894.
-Fred C. Hirzel