The Fourth of July took on special meaning for Shepherdstown Wednesday as the celebration of the nation’s 236th birthday coincided with the town’s 250th anniversary.
The first highlight in the daylong celebration was the dedication of a historical marker honoring 98 local volunteers who left Morgan’s Spring on July 17, 1775, to join other volunteers from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania on a 600-mile “Beeline March” to join Gen. George Washington’s army in Boston 25 days later.
The marker’s text was written by John E. Stealey III, Shepherd University professor emeritus of history.
Also making the day special was a 1 p.m. concert on the steps of the university’s McMurran Hall by the 249th Army National Guard Band from Morgantown, W.Va.
At 3 p.m., the town’s Fourth of July parade began with the Combined Veterans Honor Guard from Berkeley County, W.Va., marching down German Street.
The National Guard band again stirred the crowd with rousing renditions of John Philip Sousa marches as it paraded through the town square. The band included Amanda Licea, a Shepherdstown Elementary music teacher.
Following the parade, the festival moved to Rumsey Park for the annual town picnic. Music there was provided by members of the National Guard band’s own rock group led by Thomas Goff, commander of the guard band.
Mayor Jim Auxer, the parade grand marshal, rode down German street sitting on the back of a 1937 Packard four-door Phaeton convertible.
Other military units in the line of march were the 201st Field Artillery Regiment from Fairmont, W.Va., a unit that traces its roots to the Shepherdstown volunteers on the Beeline March, according to parade literature.
The 157th Military Police Company of Martinsburg, W.Va., and the Eighth Maryland Volunteers Company A, an honor guard of Civil War re-enactors made up of “12 members and four ladies,” also participated.
Units of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Daughters of the Confederacy were represented, as were a few local politicians mindful of Election Day in November.
The parade was sponsored by the Shepherdstown Rotary Club.