Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving in December

The first official observance of Thanksgiving after the creation of Montana Territory came in 1865. Although President Lincoln had established the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day, following Lincoln’s assassination, President Johnson chose December 7 as the day of official observance.

President Andrew Johnson, courtesy Library of Congress
Residents of the mining camps paused in their relentless search for golden treasure and gave thanks for their good luck and for the end of the Civil War. Virginia City businesses closed. There were private celebrations and culinary preparations in many homes and restaurants. The Montana Post reported that sleighs were gliding merrily around town all day, men hobnobbed at the bars, and there was a singing party in the governor’s office. The next year, 1866, at Last Chance, celebrations were more community oriented. Young ladies put on their pretties and attended the Firemen’s Ball on Thanksgiving Eve at the Young America Hall. Markets were well supplied for Thanksgiving Day feasts. Shoppers could choose elk, deer, bear, sage hens, grouse, and pheasant. There was no mention of turkeys, however, at Thanksgiving tables on that particular holiday.

This Helena meat market on Bridge Street offered mostly wild game in 1869.
Montana Historical Society Photograph Archives, 954-179

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