Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Mild Thanksgiving in Wild Miles City, 1882

Miles City was a wild town in its day. Wooden false fronts, wide dusty streets, and saloons where whiskey flowed made the town on every cowboy’s route and a place where a good time was easily found. Cowboys and soldiers at Fort Keogh frequented the numerous houses where the ladies entertained them lavishly, for a fee, of course.

Miles City prostitutes and patrons in a parlor house reception hall.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, Morrison Collection
But for one day in the 1880s, an unusual atmosphere pervaded the air. The Miles City Daily Press noted after Thanksgiving Day in 1882 that seldom had there been such a mild holiday. The weather that day was clear and brilliant and the temperature balmy, precisely the kind of day one would choose for a holiday. And so Miles City gave itself up to relaxation and enjoyment. The bank and the post office were closed although citizens received their daily mail. Stores were open early for shoppers planning holiday meals, and by noon, all stores had hung their closed signs in their windows. Visitors flocked into town from neighboring settlements and reaches to see what fun might be going on. But, said the paper, there was only the mildest type to be found. There was never a more sober and orderly day witnessed in Miles City. The saloons were all open and they were well patronized and did a brisk business, but the patrons were all unusually well behaved.  Unlike the usual barroom scuffles and rowdy behavior, the spirit of good behavior seemed to hover over all. Miles City was in it glory that Thanksgiving night in 1882, and it was gratifying to record that not a single disturbance occurred to mar the general harmony that had prevailed throughout that pastoral Thanksgiving Day.

May yours be as pleasant.

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