By Naomi Hatch
Taylor’s annual July 4 Celebration will kick off with the Cowboy Poetry and Cowboy Music Program at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 5, at Taylor Rodeo Park. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy the program.
The firing of the anvil will begin waking up residents at 4 a.m. on Saturday, July 6, and at 5 a.m. will begin at the Taylor Ball Park on Center Street and Love Lake City and go to Freeman Park, The LDS Stake Center on Willow Lane and end at the City Ball Park on east Center Street, firing to begin the 10K and two-mile Celebration Runs at 6 a.m. The Jennings Band will also be on hand to serenade the crowd.
The patriotic program begins at 10 a.m. at the Taylor Stake Center.
The barbecue begins at 12 noon and again at 5 p.m.
The Taylor Museum, located at Main and Center streets will be open from 1 to 4 p.m., and the other historic sites will be open from 1 to 3 p.m.
This year Taylor will host its 59th annual Rodeo, with pre rodeo entertainment at 6:30 p.m., and barrel racing, calf roping, team roping, bareback riding, saddle bronc and bull riding beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6 to 12 and $30 for a family.
The fireworks show is slated at 9 p.m., and a dance on the pavilion will follow from 9:30 to midnight.
The Hayride Jamboree sponsored by the Taylor-Shumway Heritage Foundation begins at 5 p.m. on Monday, July 8, at the Margaret McCleve Log Cabin. Come and enjoy a hayride tour of the historic homes, a cowboy dinner and entertainment. There is no cost, but donations are welcome and will be used to maintain the historic homes.
Taylor’s Independence Day Celebration is steeped in tradition. Once again the town will celebrate Independence Day to the beat of that famous bass drum and the blast of the anvil.
James Pearce, the first Mormon settler on the Silver Creek, came to Taylor with his wife Mary Jane and their four children on Jan. 23, 1878.
Cyrus Jennings came to Taylor in 1887, which was the beginning of the Jennings Band that played on the Fourth of July every year until his death in 1909.
Major Edwin P. Duzette supervised the making of the Jennings drum, which is made of cowhide, birch and hickory, in 1840 in Nauvoo, Ill. It crossed the plains in 1847 with Brigham Young on the trek to Salt Lake City, Utah. Jennings told how Brigham Young suddenly halted his team during the trek and because the driver behind him was following too close, the wagon tongue went through the drum that hung on the back of President Young’s wagon. Snowflake resident Ralph Ramsey, who carved the horse head on the Flake Mansion in Snowflake and Salt Lake City’s Eagle Gate Monument, repaired the drum.
The Boy From Taylor, the autobiography of Renz Jennings, states, “A young man by the name of Cyrus Jennings (my father) was spellbound when he watched Major Duzette play the drum and lead the band: There was one thing Major Duzette did not realize, and that was that every 4th and 24th of July when Major Duzette led the band, My Father’s eyes were glued on him, the drum sticks.”
Major Duzette taught Jennings how to play the drum and to throw the sticks. When he was getting older there was a contest to see who would get the drum, which Jennings won. The drum came with Jennings to Taylor in 1887.
Jennings could not let the drum remain quiet and so before dawn on the 4th of July, he awoke the town with strains of patriotic music flowing from a rack wagon drawn by two decorated, prancing farm horses. The band drove all around the town with Jennings leading it and playing the drum. Through the years the drum became popular for holidays, especially July 4th and 24th.
The Jennings tradition of beating the drum is carried on today by grandson Steve Johnson, who comes to Taylor every year to play the famous drum now on display at the Taylor Museum.
Taylor’s Fourth of July celebration can be considered a “blast,” an anvil blast that is. There were no cannons in Taylor in the early days, so residents became very resourceful and came up with a unique substitute.
The anvil traveled with the Mormon Battalion during the Mexican War in 1847 as they marched 2,000 miles from Iowa to San Diego, Calif. This 100-pound anvil was brought to Taylor by Joseph Smith Hancock and was used in his blacksmith shop. The other anvil is an 85-pounder that belonged to Taylor founder John Henry Standifird. They used the head of a sledgehammer filled with gunpowder between the anvils in early days and then Gordon Thornhill, a metallurgist, came up with the six-inch cylinder they use now.
The tradition of firing of the anvil stopped for a period of time, but began again in 1952 when the A.F. “Quill” Standifird family, with the help of Jodie McCleve, began waking up the town at 4 a.m. Taylor has become famous for having the loudest and earliest method of beginning the Fourth of July celebration.
Eventually Standifird’s son Jack and son-in-law Monk Frost took over, and Gordon Thornhill, a grandson of Standifird carried on the tradition from 1997 to his death in 2005. His children now keep the tradition alive.
The anvil traditionally began firing at 4 a.m. at Taylor Elementary School, and at 5 a.m., the procession began. The anvil, followed by the ringing bell at the old Taylor schoolhouse, began its ride through town, followed by the Jennings Band. The procession grew as it made its way through town firing the anvil on each corner. The Jennings Band played a patriotic song and the anvil blasted as everyone honked their horns, yelled or made whatever noise they could.
In 1997, members of the town council felt this part of the tradition was not safe, so they now fire the anvil at Taylor Elementary School, Freeman Park, the Taylor Stake Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Taylor City Park.
By Naomi Hatch