Much to be thankful for — in 1621 and today


Michael Bushnell

Northeast News

The holiday we celebrate as Thanksgiving had very humble beginnings in a tiny settlement bordering the Massachusetts Bay in 1621. The previous winter had been extremely hard, claiming many lives in the colony, so the settlers held a fall celebration to give thanks for a bountiful harvest that would get them through the upcoming dead season.

The colonists, along with the Wampanoag Indians, dined on a menu that included wild fowl, venison, seafood, squash and corn. Following a second Thanksgiving in 1623, the tradition that began in Plymouth spread to other New England colonies, leading to a day of thanksgiving being set aside annually to give thanks for the harvest.

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress appointed one or more Thanksgiving days each year of the war with the exception of 1777, when General George Washington declared the holiday in December as a victory celebration for the defeat of the British at Saratoga.

Washington later announced days of thanksgiving in 1792 and 1795, this time as the newly elected president of the United States.

However it was not until another war ravaged the United States that Thanksgiving Day was officially proclaimed as a national holiday. Influenced by a seemingly unending stream of letters from Sarah Josepha Hale, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in October 1863 officially recognizing the last Thursday in November as a nationally recognized Thanksgiving Day. Hale’s campaign to have Thanksgiving recognized lasted more than 40 years and consisted of tirelessly lobbying her elected representatives as well as thousands of letters sent to American presidents as far back as Andrew Jackson.

During the Franklin Roosevelt administration, the holiday was designated to the fourth Thursday in November after much lobbying by the country’s business community.

This year’s Thanksgiving postcard was sent to Mrs. Beulah Lyle of 111 S. Oakley on Nov. 9, 1965. The message reads, “Dear member, The K.C. Postcard club meets Sunday November 14th at 2:30 at the Museum. Will you please bring potato-salad. Bessie Lackland, Secretary.” The poem on the front of the card reads, “The Monarch Oak, the Patriot of trees, Shoots rising up, and spreading up by slow degrees, three centuries he grows, and three he stays, supreme in the state, and in three more, decays.”

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