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Celebrating the 4th at Millbrook Village

  • Four flags were flying at the main intersection of Millbrook Village. They include a Massachusetts (yellow) "Don't Tread on Me" flag, a Liberty flag, a U.S. Army flag and the 13-star American flag.
    Four flags were flying at the main intersection of Millbrook Village. They include a Massachusetts (yellow) "Don't Tread on Me" flag, a Liberty flag, a U.S. Army flag and the 13-star American flag.
Published July 01. 2011 05:01PM

Flags and bunting turned Millbrook Village's old houses into a colorful panorama as the village celebrated Independence Day. Millbrook is part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

On a corner, a set of four flags includes the yellow Don't Tread on Me flag of Massachusetts, a blue Liberty flag, a United States Army flag and the 13-star United States flag.

Sue Grove, who is with the National Park Service, said the celebration is like a 19th century event when Independence Day was a big deal in small towns.

There were parades and watermelon-eating contests. A game of croquet was played in a park or back yard. There were ball games and perhaps a carnival atmosphere with fireworks.

But with an all-volunteer staff the village was limited in the events it could offer. The event is co-sponsored by the park service and the Millbrook Village Society. It has been held every year for the past eight, said Grove.

The store and post office were open and on the green in front of the store the parade would disband.

Paper flags and hats were made to be worn in the parade, and red, white and blue flowers and fans were being made at the children's craft tables.

The parade was short but everyone had good spirit and enjoyed it. Wilson Bullivant, president of the society, gave the Independence Day address after the parade disbanded in front of the general store, which also houses the post office.

Bullivant said it was a pleasure to have people come to the celebration. The Fourth is celebrated because on July 4, 1776, independence was declared.

The Declaration of Independence was read in five cities stating that the colonies did not want to be subject to King George.

Millbrook Village, a village typical of small villages throughout the Northeastern United States, began with the prosperity of a mill. Other small businesses followed such as a blacksmith, the general store, a distillery, church and school.

The vicinity around the village was also typical of the many villages that grew up. Farmers in the area endured through the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, Civil War and World Wars I and II.

It was typical that no congressman came from the area. There was nothing of major significance.

Parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles didn't travel more than 25 miles from the village in their lifetime, said Bullivant

The peak for the village was in 1865. With the coming of the railroads there were jobs available elsewhere. At that peak there were 75 residents and 25 buildings.

Residents had the same problems as people do today asking, "What's wrong with the next generation - but we all survive. The next generation will do find. It just keeps rolling on," said Bullivant.

Women got more prominent jobs in business, industry and politics, but their domestic role remained important. During the major wars women ran the farms, the blacksmith shop and other businesses. Finally, in the 20th century, they gained the right to vote.

"We are a typical little village," Bullivant said. Though many of the little villages died, Millbrook is alive at least a few days of the year - made so by the society.

He showed the brilliantly colored ribbons for the watermelon-eating contest winners and suggested people go to the picnic area to participate. He then went to the back porch of the hotel to help cut the melons into contest-size pieces.

A group of young people were playing croquet on the grass behind the hotel. There were mild disputes as several methods of play had been learned. Mary Ann Zimmer, who was conducting the game, was the final arbitrator of which rule would be used.

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