Glimpse of the Past: Juneteenth In Hillsboro

The Reporter... Hillsboro Texas... June 19, 2014

Juneteenth In Hillsboro

Communities and cultures look for reasons to gather with family and friends to celebrate and to remember. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and public holidays all are occasion for backyard grilling, time at the park, and visiting.

In the 21st Century Memorial Day, Labor Day, July Fourth, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all are holidays well celebrated.

Since 1865 blacks in Texas have celebrated Emancipation Day on June 19th….149 years ago that a Union general from New York delivered a message in Galveston that would forever change the course of the lives of African-American Texans.

On June 19 General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 declaring slavery officially over in Texas. African-Americans in Texas and across the country commemorate the end of slavery on Juneteenth, the oldest known observance of its kind.

One hundred years ago in Hillsboro, Juneteenth was a two day celebration launched with a grand parade from downtown Hillsboro to the Hill County Fair  Grounds north of the city before heading north to the Fair Grounds. All the wagons, carriages, and bicycles in the parade were decorated with festive banners, etc.

The 1914 parade was led by Parade Marshal “Uncle Tom” Elliot and the Arrangement Committee. Tom Elliot was born into slavery in 1840 in Alabama, and in 1914 was living with his sister, Melinda Maxwell, at 328 South Church Street in Hillsboro.  He was a laborer who did odd jobs in Hillsboro and was well respected in the African-American community. 

Speakers at the Fair Grounds included Dr. E.J. Muncus and Prof Goldwaithe of Waxahachie, D. W. Catchings of West and Tom Bodie of Milford. Also speaking was Hillsboro Mayor Marvin W. Lovell, local cotton-buyer.

Foot and bicycle races were a major attraction for the event and a baseball game was scheduled between Hillsboro and Milford. A bronco busting contest was staged as well as horse races. The two day celebration ended with a big dance and crowning of the Juneteenth Queen.

In the 1940s and 50s the Juneteenth Parade was under the direction of the Knights of the Royal Dragons. The Royal Dragons lodge hall was on the northwest corner of Corsicana Highway and Sycamore, and today is the St. John Baptist Church.

In this more recent time the Boy Scouts would lead the parade with Harry hall leading the delegation, followed by the Peabody Marching Band and Majorettes. The celebration had moved to Abbot’s Grove (City Park) where a barbecue pit would be dug for a barbecued goat. Food was plentiful and free to all participants.

By 1974 Hillsboro native Alfonso Blair of Dallas began a new celebration the second Saturday in July to be known as Hillsboro Homecoming. This annual celebration continues in the City Park under the leadership of Billye Demerson and the New Beginnings For Peabody.


CAPTION: MAJOR FIXTURE IN PARADE. Pictured is the Peabody Marching Band and Majorettes in the November 14, 1953 Hill County Centennial Parade. In the 1940s and 50s the Peabody Band was a major fixture in the annual Juneteenth Parade in downtown Hillsboro. The Juneteenth Parade was led by Boy Scout Leader Harry Hall and arrangements were under the direction of the Knights of the Royal Dragon Lodge.


Juneteenth In Hillsboro Texas