Old Bergen

Chapter LIV.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

PAUSE and Pfingster were essentially Dutch institutions. On the one the coloring and cracking of eggs were indulged in with as much zest as are the Easter festivities at the White House at the present day; while on Pfingster congenial couples might be seen riding and driving in every direction, oftentimes settling the most momentous affairs of life ere their return.

The Fourth of July was celebrated with special enthusiasm in the olden time, for the memories of Revolutionary struggles and hardships were so recent that the lustre of heroic deeds was yet undimmed. Its observance indicated that it was then invested with a deeper significance than in these latter days. Instead of being given up to noise and merry making, the occasion was arranged so as to fasten in the mind the patriotism of the forefathers, their sufferings and privations, and the necessity of holding fast to their faith and doctrines, in order to insure the perpetuity of the Union.

Early in the day was seen and heard the bustle of preparation. A large tent was erected, and at an early hour the gathering began. They came singly, by families, and by wagon loads, until nearly all the population was gathered within the confines of the parsonage orchard, before alluded to. Tables were spread, and fairly groaned under the abundance of good things, prepared in accordance with the well tested rule4 of the -ood old Dutch housewife. The Declaration of Independence was first read, a suitable address was then delivered by the dominie or some other prominent person, and patriotic songs were sung by the Sunday School children. In this way was emphasized the importance of a strict adherence to the principles of Lib erty and Justice. As an evidence of the enthusiasm with which the anniversary of our independence was celebrated in the early days, we have the following extract from The Sentinel of Freedom of July 28, 1812:

The farmers of Bergen, being informed that Capt. Decatur would pay them a visit from Newark on the morning of the Anniversary of our Liberty, with his Flying Artillery, and a troop of horse, on his way to New York, made preparations to receive him right royally; but having waited in vain until eleven p.m., it was unanimously agreed to prepare cartridges, man a gun, and proceed to the City of Jersey to fire a salute. Everything being ready by three-quarters past eleven, the party set out, and returned in twenty minutes, although having the misfortune to lose a linch pin, and break one of the axle-trees of the carriage on the road thither.
The following program shows how the Fourth was observed at a somewhat later date:
  1. National salute fired at Bergen, and Ringing of Bells.
  2. Procession form at 10 o'clock precisely, at the upper Flag Staff, Bergen, and proceed to the church in following order:

    Artillery, Military, Band.

    Heroes of '76 and Banner.
    Orator and Reader. Rev. Clergy.

    Civic Authorities.
    Com. Arrangements.
    Citizens in general.

    Prayer. Ode.
    Declaration of Independence.
    Music by Band. Oration.
    Ode. Music by Band.
Preserve the same order from church, and proceed to the Square, where a National salute will be fired. Then proceed to Five Corners, dismiss and Dine.
The annual training day, when all able-bodied men were compelled to muster for enrollment and drill, was an occasion very generally recognized and gathered a most wonderful aggregation of armed warriors. At Christmas time Santa Claus was eagerly welcomed, and gifts were exchanged, the value of which was estimated not from a monetary standpoint, but because of the wealth of love and affection they represented.

But New Year's Day was the crowning event of the year, and was celebrated by all. Calls were interchanged and friendships renewed in the social manner peculiar to those days, and from early morn until sometimes the dawning of the next day, the cordial greetings were given and received. On every New Year's Day, the Dominie made special addresses to the different classes of the congregation-the old, the middle-aged, and the young,; and in turn each stood as indicated. The fathers in Israel, with whitened heads and bent and tottering forms, listened to the words of love and encouragement from their revered pastor, as he assured them of his love and sympathy, and, commending them for their steadfastness, reminded them of the reward of the faithful. They were followed by the middle-aged, those who were in the full vigor of manhood; these he earnestly besought to bear the heat and burden of the day, and with wise and appropriate words, strengthened them in the faith. Lastly the young, so closely enwrapped in his affections, hung upon the kindly words spoken to them, as though his great love for them, impelled the going out to him of their young hearts, cheering and helping them by his loving admonitions and advice.