Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mining Camp Thanksgiving

Abraham Lincoln set a precedent during his presidency proclaiming the national observance of Thanksgiving the last Thursday in November. In 1863 Harriet and Wilbur Sanders, the soon to be famous vigilante prosecutor, spent their first Montana Thanksgiving at Bannack.

Wilbur Fisk Sanders. R.A. Lewis, photographer
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives
Goods were scarce, freight was slow arriving, and no one even thought about serving a turkey. Near neighbors invited Harriet and Wilbur along with Henry Edgerton, Sanders’ uncle, to Thanksgiving dinner. This neighbor wanted to make a good impression on the family. Edgerton was the newly appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Idaho Territory, which then included present-day Montana. Their host offered the invitation well in advance. He miraculously procured a turkey—an unheard of, unbelievable luxury—for thirty dollars in gold dust, and paid a fortune to have it freighted all the way from Salt Lake City. Harriet wrote later that their Thanksgiving meal was as fine and beautifully cooked as any meal she ever enjoyed in New York City’s finest restaurant. Unfortunately, their host failed to make a good impression. In early January, just weeks later, Sanders and the vigilantes saw to the hanging of Sheriff Henry Plummer, the same man who had hosted their Thanksgiving Day feast.

Bill for the coffin and burial of Henry Plummer
Montana Historical Society Archives

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