Thanksgiving a time of feasts and fun in the old days
A glimpse back to Thanksgiving festivities over a century ago reveals that several traditions were different from today, but many remain the same.
The following account will take readers on a journey of Thanksgivings long ago as recorded in local newspaper archives.
Some may think holiday travels were less common in the horse and buggy days, but the Nov. 26, 1902, issue of the Reed City Clarion attests that holiday travels were common.
“Thanksgiving Turkey Comers and Goers: Percy Clark of Los Angeles, California arrived Saturday and will celebrate Thanksgiving with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Clark. Ren Barker and wife will “pick turkey bones” with Mr. and Mrs. E. V. Blair, in Chicago, Thanksgiving. Mrs. J. H. Auer left Thursday morning for Saginaw to spend Thanksgiving among friends and relatives. Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Pepper and their grandson are visiting in Grand Rapids and Byron Center until after Thanksgiving.”
The railroad offered special holiday rates for all these travelers.
“Thanksgiving: Grand Rapids and Indiana railroad will sell excursion tickets at one and one-third fare on Nov. 27 and 28.”
Another tradition from 1902 which might have seemed ahead of its time was watching a football game on Thanksgiving. People didn’t have the convenience of watching the game on the television, but a number Reed City people rode the train to Ann Arbor to watch the game between Michigan and Minnesota.
According to the Nov. 26, 1902, issue of the Reed City Clarion, “Frank and Miss Lena Horner left Tuesday for Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti to visit their mother, brother Sam, and sister Mamie, over thanksgiving, and to take in the football game between Michigan and Minnesota. Ernest Goult and Milton Brown will leave on the early morning train for Ann Arbor to attend a football game between Michigan and Minnesota. Alias Schack went to Ann Arbor this morning to attend the football game between Michigan and Minnesota.”
All of these football goers witnessed a 23 to 6 victory for Michigan in their second consecutive undefeated season.
Turkey and all the fixings were as commonplace at Thanksgiving as they are now, but in the old days folks mixed it up a bit.
“Sears: Bert Lambert and Gene Ferguson will give a shooting contest, Tuesday, Nov. 26. The boys will have ducks, turkeys, geese, chickens, etc. This is a chance for our local sportsmen to secure their Thanksgiving dinner.” Reed City Clarion, Nov. 20, 1901
Oyster suppers were even offered at Thanksgiving, “There was a meeting of Lincoln Grange, Nov. 22. There was very good attendance and it was decided on an oyster supper Thanksgiving night at the Maple Hill Schoolhouse. Everyone is invited.” Reed City Clarion, Nov. 26, 1902
The people of Chase also enjoyed a Thanksgiving oyster supper.
“Chase: The Loyal Order of the Maccabees served an oyster supper Thanksgiving evening. Proceeds go to the Hall.” Reed City Clarion, Dec. 3, 1902
Even though oysters and different types of fowl were popular, the partiality of turkey on Thanksgiving still won out, “Chase: Now is the time when we hear the old familiar tune, ‘Turkey, please, turkey, come home with me soon.’” Reed City Clarion, Dec. 2, 1903
In the Nov. 8, 1877, issue of the Lake County Star, the editor, Charles Radcliffe, hinted, “ Thanksgiving Day comes on the 29th. Where’s our turkey?”
No one gifted a turkey to the Star Office on Thanksgiving day, 1877, but their plea was not forgotten. Readers remembered them on Christmas.
“While Henry Saunders, of Chase, and Zach Blood, of Pinora, do not exactly agree with us at all times with regards to politics, men, and measures, yet they have always manifested interest in the county paper and its general welfare so that it may not be so strange after all, that each should pick upon the same date at which to present us with a handsome 12 pound turkey fit to grace the table of the President. Well one of the birds has disappeared and now we are taking a breathing spell, preparatory to a second assault.” Dec. 27, 1877
The Big Rapids Current reported, “The Current Office will be closed tomorrow to enable all hands to do justice to the Thanksgiving turkey.” Nov. 23, 1881
There were several options for folks to celebrate Thanksgiving at community events.
“Hawkins-Thanksgiving is here and Christmas is near, and the merchants of Hawkins are beginning to fix up their stores for the day. There will be a Thanksgiving dance at Hawkins Hall, Thursday evening. Everybody is invited and a good time is expected.” Reed City Clarion, Nov. 26, 1902
“County Line: There is to be a Thanksgiving supper at Cyrus Mann’s. All are invited to attend.”
The Nov. 25, 1903, issue of the Clarion announced, “Orono: Dance at town hall Thanksgiving night.
“Hersey: Union Thanksgiving services at the Evangelical Church Thursday morning. Everyone invited.”
The schools participated in the holiday fun.
“Olivers: Murray Nicol who is teaching our school intends to have a thanksgiving program on the eve of November 28th. All accordingly invited to come.” Reed City Clarion, Nov.14, 1906
In addition to good food, pleasant company and numerous activities, Thanksgiving has always been a time to count blessings and extend kindness to others as this touching story in the “State News” column of the Big Rapids Current relayed.
“The members of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Jackson were in a good mood to observe Thanksgiving last week. They have been burdened several years with a $35,000 debt on their house of worship, and they thanked God with all their hearts for its liquidation on that day.” Nov. 30, 1881