Bidwell’s Fourth of July

Here’s an entry from the General’s diary for July 4, 1877:

Fine cool pleasant day. = Callers: J.W. Gilkyson to excuse committee about calling on Bonte – Haley (Ed. Enterprise) to see Bonte – Mr. Ellis to dine – Rich to call on Bonte – Grand 4th July celebration – Rev. J.H.C. Bonte, orator, Nourse poet, Dr. Dawson reader of poem, St.T. Black reader of Declaration of Independence – Procession began at 9 1/2 A.M. – and lasted one hour – exercises at Pavilion lasted until 12 1/2 P.M. The whole a grand success = in P.M. the Horribles – In evening salute, music, fireworks, dancing.

Most of the General’s entries for the 4th record an oration, a poem, and the reading of the Declaration of Independence. But what were “the Horribles?”  That one stumped me until I did a bit of googling.

According to Language Log, a “parade of horribles” was a popular feature of 4th of July celebrations in the late 19th century. A procession of grotesques–people in masks and costumes–formed part of the festivities of the day. This is probably what Bidwell was referring to in his July 4, 1874 entry when he notes “a hideous crowd, masked, came over from town.”  The Daily Nevada State Journal ran this announcement in 1889.

Glocester, Rhode Island, still holds an “Ancients and Horribles Parade” on the 4th of July. I wonder when it died out in Chico?

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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5 Responses to Bidwell’s Fourth of July

  1. THOMAS BONTE says:

    J H C Bonte, the orator, was my great great grandfather. In 1889 he was Secretary of the Regents of the University of California. Before 1881 he lived in Sacramento and was rector of the Episcopal church. His son married Anna Nichols. Her brother opened Nichols Hardware in Chico and I think he was up there visiting.

  2. THOMAS BONTE says:

    I think his ‘oration’ was BEFORE the “Parade of Horribles!”

    • nancyleek says:

      Yes, it would have been. Also, from Bidwell’s diary entry I gather that the Rev. Mr. Bonte was a guest at Bidwell Mansion. Diary entry for July 3rd reads: “Rev. J.H.C. Bonte, orator of the day for tomorrow, arrived.”

      • THOMAS BONTE says:

        Thanks for the information. He has a well documented life; I knew some about him from obituaries and a few family stories. Thanks to the internet, I am still finding out more.

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