November 24: North Dakota Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Day! Today’s story is a taste of how the holiday was observed in North Dakota over 100 years ago.

Dakota Territorial Governor Newton Edmunds issued the territory’s first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863, during the Civil War. He said: “Let us thank God for the immortal triumphs of our weapons in this great fight for our national preservation, and let us also thank him for the bravery, indomitable energy and perseverance of our citizen soldiers.”

A couple who settled near Petersburg in 1883 shared a Thanksgiving dinner of two wild geese with seven bachelors who had property claims in their neighborhood. They stayed up until 1am playing music and games.

On Thanksgiving Day 1892, the Weston House Hotel in Hillsboro served more than 200 patrons who dined on roast options, beef tenderloin with brown gravy, beef ribs with potatoes, pork with applesauce, lamb with jam , turkey with cranberry sauce , roast goose with dressing and stewed chicken with meatballs. Other dinner dishes included New England-style baked beans and coconut ribbon cake.

North Dakotans on Thanksgiving Day 1896 faced a three-day blizzard that brought heavy drifts of snow and buried railroad tracks. Several people died in the blizzard. LaMoure residents dug tunnels to move through the streets.

The Bismarck Tribune noted that Thanksgiving in 1918 “will be more solemnly observed than ever.” The Great War had ended weeks before, but the terrible flu pandemic continued to rage, prompting Bismarck High School to cancel its traditional football game. But churches still held Thanksgiving worship services.

Thanksgiving is not universally celebrated. Since 1970, Indigenous Peoples have gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on the 4the Thursday of the month for an alternative event: the National Day of Mourning, which recognizes the genocide, land theft and oppression that followed the arrival of the Europeans.

Jack Dura’s Dakota Diary

Sources:

  • Newton Edmunds’ 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation: https://www.loc.gov/resource/mal.2750800/?sp=1&r=0.23,0.831,0.738,0.363,0
  • Flem, C.; Byrnes, Florida; Resell, G. (1957). Saint Petersburg Diamond Jubilee, 1882-1957.
  • Various collaborators. (1981). Hillsboro, North Dakota: The First Hundred Years.
  • In the Jim Valley.
  • Bismarck’s Tribune. 1918, November 27. Page 1: We will all celebrate our big party
  • Dura, J. 2018, November 26. Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1896. Prairie Public, Dakota Datebook: https://news.prairiepublic.org/main-street/2018-11-26/thanksgiving-blizzard-of-1896

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