Since I was a child, I recall Newburyport always celebrated many of the holidays that we enjoyed as children – two of which were always prominent. The largest celebrations to my knowledge were for Christmas and the 4th of July.
As I recall, 4th of July was very well celebrated in comparison to other cities and towns around the area. All the surrounding towns and cities celebrated these holidays, but there certainly was an air of abundance when the people of Newburyport celebrated the 4th. I think this occurred because of their great historical past combined with their feelings of pride for Newburyport’s many accomplishments.
As children, we always enjoyed the celebration of the 4th. To me, it seems it was a much larger celebration then than that of today – or maybe, it was just exaggerated in my own imagination as a young child. It was celebrated in various ways by various people. Some of the old-timers, whose families were early settlers in Newburyport, had good stories to tell people. We would all go to listen.
One of those very interesting individuals, who kept us in awe and listening with our eyes wide open, was Mr. Jacques. Every 4th of July he came to Market Square in Newburyport to tell his stories. He would set up a platform and a display of fireworks which on Middle Street approximately where the Grog Restaurant is located today. Mr. Jacques appeared to me to be an older person. As I recall, he was of medium stature and he had a moustache. He always wore a tweed suit coat and a cap. I believe he may have come from the South End of the city.
Mr. Jacques would give very interesting speeches of the glory of Newburyport’s past. He used no microphone or megaphone to publicly tell his stories; he used only his loud, strong voice….and crowds would gather round.