July 1, 2010 by Amy Elliott Bragg
The Fourth of July in Early Detroit: FIREBALLS!
It’s a very special Fourth of July with Friend Palmer for you to kick off your holiday. The General writes about John Owen, a clerk at a general store, and Owen’s friend Captain Edwards, and their hilaaaarious Independence Day antics:
The then city marshal Adna Merritt [was] a nervous, excitable little body who used to get himself all tangled up trying to stop these two from starting and throwing fire balls, balls of cotton wicking soaked in turpentine and re-enforced with twine. It was quite common then on Fourth of July nights and on other nights as well, during the summer season, for the boys to ignite and throw these balls up and down Jefferson Avenue. Merritt tried to put a stop to it but Owen and Captain Edwards were dead against his doing so and supplied all the fire balls necessary from Dr. Chapin’s store. Did you ever see fire balls thrown or did you ever throw them yourself? ‘Tis great fun, and attended with some danger to the hands, and some to property, although I never knew of any harm to come from them. After a short season both Owen and Edwards joined the Methodist church, having gotten religion. No more fire balls from that quarter after that.
On that note, have a safe and happy holiday.