In 1856 the new Republican Party across the North organized young men's marching clubs called "Wide Awakes."
Carrying oil lamps on long poles and wearing oilskin hats, red sashes and capes to keep dripping oil off the marchers, they participated in all anti-slavery Republican demonstrations. They served as political police in escorting party speakers and preserving order at public meetings. In 1860, there were estimated to be over 400,000 drilled and uniformed wide-awakes nationwide backing Lincoln for president.
Historians have not found any example of their engaging in violent or threatening behavior outside of enlistment in the Union military.
During the 1880s the wide awakes were again active in our community. Peter Flint, in one of his Ti Sentinel articles (1933) remembers the group as active Horace Greeley supporters. Helen Johnson, in her Streetroad research, tells of "these men dressed in dark capes and small round caps with a flat fore-piece carrying lighted torches as they paraded on special occasions to the beat of one lonely drum. As a rare treat the Ticonderoga Band would add its martial music. These gatherings were held on a grassy plot by Barton's Corner (intersection of 9N and Veterans Way) and were known as torch light parades. Every youngsters heart was thrilled at the idea of being permitted to watch these brave and gallant men, mostly in evidence around election time."
In the 1880s the Thirteen Club was created to debunk the superstition of 13 at a table being unlucky. This belief states that when 13 people are seated together at a table, one will die within a year. They met on the 13th of the month for a dinner served to 13 people at each table. By 1887, The Thirteen Club was 400 strong, over time gaining five U.S. Presidents as honorary members: Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.
The 13 at a table superstition may take its origin from the Last Supper wherein 13 people dined (Jesus and 12 disciples) and Jesus died soon after, or from the Valhalla Banquet story in Norse mythology. That story tells about 12 gods invited to a banquet. Loki, making 13, intrudes and Balder, the favorite of the gods, is killed.
The Thirteen Club in Ticonderoga was organized in 1914 and flourished until 1926. Little can be found of their activities but some of the ladies claiming membership were : Mrs. Hiram Treadway, Mrs. Geo. Loomis, Mrs. Benjamin Drake and Mrs. Sheldon Shattuck.
This series of articles is compliments of Ticonderoga Heritage Museum, located in the 1888 building at the entrance of Bicentennial Park.