Wade House Historic Site offers elements of 19th century Fourth of July observance

GREENBUSH, Wis. (WBAY) -- One area historic site opens its doors on Thursday to provide insight into how people observed the Fourth of July more than 150 years ago.

Red, white, and blue starts to pop up at Wade House Historic Site in Greenbush.

"The Wade House itself is a late 19th century stagecoach stop hotel on the road between Sheboygan and Fond du Lac.We're actually exactly halfway between the two towns and that was done by design," said Jim Willaert, Curator of Interpretations and Collections at Wade House Historic Site.

Volunteers dressed in costume give people a look into what life was like in the small community during the Civil War era.

"We're a small town here but we sent 127 people to the war in I think it was five different units," said Willaert.

In 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg broke out on July 1. It lasted three days, wounding and killing more than 800 Wisconsin soldiers.

"Probably would have led to a lot of concern on the part of families here in town; however, it didn't stop the celebration of Independence Day," said Willaert.

He says while fireworks, picnics, and festivals are how people celebrate the holiday today, it was observed much differently in the time Greenbush was created. "Independence Day tended to be a very political and patriotic celebration that was mostly celebrated by speeches."

Local and state politicians traditionally presented the speeches along with a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Wade House interpreters plan to continue that tradition as part of their festivities on Thursday by reading the document from the balcony of the house at 1 p.m.

"There's an old statement that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. While there are many good things about the past that we like to remember--we like to celebrate like Independence Day--we also need to remember why we celebrate those things, " said Willaert. "That's because when you don't have those freedoms, you have do deal with other elements like things as terrible as the American Civil War. "

Wade House Historic Site is open on Thursday, July 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Along with the reading of the Declaration of Independence, guests can go through the carriage museum, tour the sawmill and blacksmith shop, and enjoy hand-churned ice cream.

The cost to attend is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $7.50 for children ages six to twelve, and free for children ages five and under.

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