Tug of War, Part One

 One of the much-anticipated festivities planned for the grand July 4 celebrations in 1899 was a tug of war between the two Modern Woodmen lodges.

The June 16, 1899 edition reported:

What promises to be the most amusing and exciting feature of the Fourth of July celebration was originated here Tuesday evening when the Modern Woodmen challenged the Woodmen of the World to a rope pulling contest for that day and which was promptly accepted.

There are to be ten men on a side and the rope is to be stretched across the river.  The side that pulls the other into the river is the winner.  Two propositions were made by the Modern Woodmen.  One that each lodge should choose their own men, and the other that each lodge should choose the men from the opposing lodge that they should pull against.  The latter proposition is the fair one and will probably be accepted, as there are some extra large men in the Modern Woodmen.  Ten men can be picked from their roster of membership who will weigh from 200 to 270 pounds each, making an aggregate of about 2,400 pounds.

The Woodmen of the World lodge hasn’t any extra large men but there are some mighty strong timbers in the camp here and they are willing to accept the first proposition and pull against the heavy weights.

Each man who pulls will be securely tied to the rope so there will be no escape from a wetting if his side loses.

The Modern choppers also issued challenges for a foot race and jumping contest which will add to the amusements of the day.

An update appeared in the June 23, 1899 Skidmore Standard.  Score one for safety and practicality:

In our last issue we said that the tug of war between the two Woodmen lodges would be pulled with the rope stretched across the river.  Such was the understanding at the time but it has since been agreed that it would be impracticable, so the tug of war will take place on the grounds.  There will be twenty men on a side and all the big fellows will pull.  A Manila hemp rope has been ordered for the occasion.

Others in town weighed in with their own opinions (surely unsolicited):

We desire to register a ‘kick’ on the proposed pulling match between the two lodges at Skidmore on the 4th, for if Messrs Kidder, Howden and Mitchell should be pulled into the river, it would rise sufficiently to cause an overflow which would damage the farmers severely. – Phoenix    (Skidmore Standard, June 16, 1899)

As the Fourth approaches, those big Modern Woodmen are gradually losing faith in their ability to yank the other fellows over the line in that tug of war.    (Skidmore Standard, June 23, 1899)


Finally, the big day arrived, and the battle itself ended in a draw due to technical difficulties, as reported by the July 7, 1899 edition:

The Tug Of War between the two Woodmen camps, here, probably aroused as much interest as any other one thing on the program, due to the large size of some of the Modern Woodmen and the firm confidence each side had in its ability to win.  Twenty men pulled at each end of an inch hemp rope.  The contest was very interesting but the untimely breaking of the rope left it undecided.  Each side pulled hard and strong but no advantage was gained by either.  A time will likely be fixed upon in the near future, probably July 29th, the town’s birthday, for another contest to decide the question.

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