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Town of Independence gets ready to celebrate 200th year

Photo by Kathryn Ross

Organizers of the town of Independence bicentennial celebration (from left) Bonnie Billings, Karen Smith and Vickie Scott show some of the items on sale Aug. 10-14 in the village of Whitesville.


WHITESVILLE — Three years of planning culminates Aug. 10-14 when the Town of Independence starts its five-day celebration of its bicentennial.

The town was formed on March 16, 1821, in the southeast corner of Allegany County. There were three separate settlements that included Green’s Corners, Whitesville and Spring Mills. Each of these locations had stores and a post office, with Whitesville being the hub.

Whitesville is still the hub of the town where the celebrations will start Wednesday, Aug. 10, and continue through that Sunday. Kim Howe is the president of the bicentennial committee that started meeting three years ago — but was stymied by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the meantime, Bonnie Billings took up the reins and has led the committee since this past spring. Nearly two dozen committee members have planned both modern and historical events for the extensive birthday party.

A book by Elton Harris narrates the families of the town while a poster features the oldest buildings in the town. There is also a pioneer cookbook and a t-shirt. All are being sold to commemorate the bicentennial. The historical society has developed a self-guided walking tour and the town’s first jail has been resurrected and will be on display.

“Everybody has done a great job planning activities for all ages,” Billings said noting that the books, shirt, and poster will be on sale at the Independence Historical Society building on Main Street throughout the celebration.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday the events will get started at 6 p.m. with the big celebration to start on Saturday at 10 a.m. finishing on Sunday with a community church service and pot-luck picnic.

The Sesquicentennial jail will be featured throughout the event. Billings explained, “This was the original jail for the town. It was too far to take criminals somewhere else for incarceration. During the Sesquicentennial it was found in the cellar of the old American Legion and taken out and displayed. Afterwards it was sold never to be seen again. A few years ago, it was rediscovered in a field and even had a tree growing out of it. It has been refurbished for the bicentennial and will be on display on the library lawn during the celebration. Visitors will be able to take photos of themselves in jail.”

Billings said she isn’t sure what will happen to the jail after the celebration, but that it has been suggested that it go on permanent display near the town hall.

The bulk of the event will be taking place on Commercial Avenue where games and vendors will be set up.

Wednesday an ice cream social from 6 to 8 p.m. will start the celebration. There will be music by Dick Pensyl. The Prince and Princess and the King and Queen will be crowned. There will also be a fashion show with participants dressed in clothing from any decade from 1821 to the present.

On Thursday at 5:15 p.m. at the Whitesville Fire Hall there will be a pie contest, a beard contest, and a presentation by historian Craig Braack. Billings noted that the judges for the contests are from out of town.

On Friday starting at 4 p.m. the library will present Captain Dave’s Magic Show at the fire hall with magic and prizes. At 6 p.m. there will be family games including bingo, kickball, trap ball, tug of war, three-legged race and other games on Commercial Ave. Music will be provided by the band Trigger Happy from 7 to 10 p.m.

The big day of the event is Saturday when a car and tractor show we’ll get started at 10 a.m. on Marietta Ave. There will be craft and food vendors, a chicken barbecue at noon at the fire hall, games on Commercial Ave starting at 1 p.m. a Cornhole tournament, line dancing from 4 to 5 p.m. at the fire hall and the town’s self-guided tour will start at 2 p.m. The grand parade takes place at 6 p.m. There will be music by the band Oil Field Trash from 7 to 10 p.m. and fireworks at 10 p.m.

Vickie Scott who has been in charge of the parade says to expect Smokey the Bear, the Beverly Hillbillys, fire trucks, apparatus and rescue vehicles, vintage cars, floats, and organizations. The parade will start off with the American Legion Riders and the American Legion Auxiliary Color Guard.

Sunday quiets down with a community church service at 11 a.m. at the corner of Park and Commercial Street. After the service, Ann and Brody Payne who were married at the Sesquicentennial, will renew their wedding vows. Formerly of Whitesville, the couple now lives in Pennsylvania. Following the nuptials, there will be a Community Picnic. Bring a dish to pass, table service and chair.

“I remember what a good time I had at the Sesquicentennial, and I just hope that everyone will have the same kind of memories from our Bicentennial celebration,” Billings said.