From the Lafayette Advertiser & Gazette:
THE STORY OF THE FIRST THANKSGIVING.
HEN in the year of grace 1689, sturdy Gov. John Winthrop and Puritan colonists of Massachusetts proclaimed and duly observed a public thanksgiving, they probably had little idea of the importance with which the festival was destined to obtain in the history of America.
The first Thanksgiving differed very materially from its successors in that it was proclaimed as a fast and not as a feast. Supplies had run short, the ships expected from England were delayed, and extinction threatened the "governor and company of Massachusetts bay in New England." Winthrop and his council decided to hold a day of prayer and abstinence, "so that ye Lord be propitiated and looked upon his servants with favor, in fact that they have humbled themselves before Him." Accordingly a crier was sent about the primitive settlement of Charlestown, and the colonists were each and all invited to take part in the fast. Their sacrifice met with speedy reward.
Scarcely had the noon hour of the allotted day arrived when the long hoped-for ship made its welcome appearance in Massachusetts Bay, the cargo was landed, and the fast was succeeded by a banquet of a sort which must have seemed sumptuous indeed to the exiles so recently plunged in hunger and hardship. On the threshold of dreaded winter Winthrop and his followers found what had been a prospect of fear and peril changed into one of happiness and hope. Such was America's first Thanksgiving, as celebrated 260 years ago. Thereafter such succeeding November was marked in the annals of the colony by a similar festival of gratitude.
But Thanksgiving in the early days of hour history was not confined to the New England pioneers alone. Just fifteen years after Winthrop's proclamation, i. e., in 1645, Gov. Kieft of the Dutch colony, then known as New Amsterdam, but now as New York, ordered the observance of a day of rejoicing and thanks, "for the rest and peace which God had been pleased to bestow upon his servants." Thus we see that the feast of Thanksgiving is not as generally supposed, a peculiarly Puritan institution from the stalwart of burghers of Manhattan island.
The next notable Thanksgiving day in history fell in 1758. On that date the British and colonial army, numbering 80,000 men, and commanded by Gen. Forbes, attacked and captured
from the French, after a fierce struggle, Fort Duquesne, at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongaheia rivers. The name of the place was changed to Fort Pitt, and was the nucleus of the city of Pittsburgh. Thus in a special sense the history of the great capital of the coal and iron industries is connected with the celebration of Thanksgiving day.
But meanwhile, in New England, what had been begun as an occasional day of pious rejoicing had assumed the proportions of a fixed national holiday. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire it was especially popular. There was at first great latitude in regard to the day selected for the feast. Governors proclaimed the chosen date arbitrarily, and no effort was made to keep the anniversary of Winthrop's proclamation. Sometimes Thanksgiving occurred in July, sometimes in midwinter. At length, through the efforts of the president and professors of Harvard college, it was practically fixed upon the last Thursday of November.
The college faculty were moved to interest themselves in the question by the fact that the uncertainty regarding the date caused considerable disorder among their pupils. Boys from different states celebrated on different days, many of them returning home to eat the Thanksgiving meal under their own roof-trees. This very undesirable state of affair could only be put a stop to, said the grave Harvard dons, by the formal establishment of a uniform date for the feast. The last Thursday of the eleventh month suited the collegers, and influence being brought to bear upon the colonial governors
of New England, proclamations were issued making that day the regular Thanksgiving.
In the South Thanksgiving, as an annual festival remained practically unknown until, in 1855, the curious Virginian controversy on the subject was precipitated. This controversy, which is not generally known, deserves a brief notice. The governor of Virginia at the time was one Gov. Johns, a patriotic and broad-minded gentleman, who had always entertained a reverence for the Puritan anniversary which was by no means common below Mason and Dixon's line. Gov. Johns, in a letter to the state legislature, urgently recommended the recognition of Thanksgiving in Virginia, and offered in case his recommendations proved satisfactory, to at once issue a proclamation.
But the legislature of Washington's state did not look upon the New England holiday with favor. Gov. Johns was advised not to make the Thanksgiving proclamation; and, as he did not do so, the matter was allowed temporarily to drop. But public interest had been awakened, and before long a fierce debate was raging in Virginia between the opponents and supporters of the proposed southern Thanksgiving. At last, in 1857, Gov. Wise - Johns' successor - took the metaphorical bull by the horns, and issued a proclamation setting apart a day for the feast. His action caused much angry criticism, and several southern newspapers declared that Thanksgiving was simply "a relic of Puritanical bigotry." In spite of this, the innovation was warmly welcomed. The hospitable southerners greeted gladly another holiday, and the northern feast soon ranked among them as second in importance only to the "glorious Fourth itself. In 1858 - the year after Wise's proclamation - no less than eight governors of southern states proclaimed Thanksgiving in their sections. The war, however, coming shortly afterward, practically extinguished the popularity pf the holiday in Dixie.
But it has become a loved institution in the middle, western and northwestern states. Exiled Americans, too, cling to its celebration, and every November sees Thanksgiving dinners in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome - or wherever some of the scattered children of Uncle Sam may chance to sojourn. Indeed, Mr. William Astor, Chanler, the well-known explorer, tells of a Thanksgiving dinner which he enjoyed in the very heart of darkest Africa.
An extensive and highly interesting volume might be compiled on the subject of Thanksgivings and the events which have signalized them. For instance, on Thanksgiving day, 1788, the British army evacuated New York, while Washington and Clinton marched into the city at the head of the continental army and took formal possession in the name of the young republic. Festivities and a grand display of fireworks closed that memorable day. Thanksgiving had fallen that year on December 25, and the combination of evacuation day and that festival was long jointly honored in New York.
The Thanksgiving day of 1816 is memorable as the occasion upon which an American theatre was first illuminated with gas. This event happened in Philadelphia. The experiment was a complete success, and the manager of the affair was Dr. Kugler. During the war, of the battles and skirmishes fought on Thanksgiving, the most notable was that of Lookout mountain (1863).
A few odd and distinctive methods of celebrating the great holiday still survive in different parts of the United States, although the tendency is toward a uniform manner of rejoicing. In sections of Connecticut, for example, the "Thanksgiving barrel burning" is a time-honored institution. For a month before the day Connecticut boys diligently collect and store in a place of security all the barrels, old or new, which they can find. All barrels are regarded as the property of whomever can carry them away. On thanksgiving night the barrels are piled in a huge heap and ignited. Boys and girls then dance around the bonfire until the very last barrel has gone up in smoke.
From the Lafayette Gazette of 11/19/1898.
And now a few tasty tid-bits about Thanksgiving from the Advertiser and Gazette:
Before another week passes the legal Thanksgiving day will have come, says the Dallas, Tex., Farm and Ranch. There are other days on which we may nourish our sense of gratitude, but next Thursday is one day singled out by state and national governments in which we should cultivate both feelings and expressions of thankfulness.
Man is more and more the master workman, the governor of his own movements, the architect of this own fortunes, the intelligent co-operator with the Great Architect of the Universe. Man is rapidly subduing the earth and will finally master himself, by reason of the strength begot in battle with the external things of his life. We must feel a sense of gratitude because of the progress of humanity and its inherent ability to maintain the positions gained while planning for future development.
Let the Southwest keep step with the marching columns of civilisation's forces, not for purposes of conquest, but that our people may be qualified in every way to rule over themselves, supply their own wants, and give freely to needy peoples of earth both moral and physical lite the more abundantly. For our blessings our opportunities, our needs, our daily cares, hours of toil and seasons of harvest let us be sincerely thankful.
Lafayette Advertiser 11/23/1904.
Thanksgiving Services. - Special Services will be conducted by Rev. C. C. Kramer, in the Episcopal church, at 11 o'clock, to-morrow morning, to-morrow morning, to which the public are cordially invited. Laf. Adv. 11/23/1904.
Thanksgiving at Milton.
To the Lafayette Gazette:
Please tell the people to come to the Thanksgiving exercises at Theall school house, Thursday evening, Nov. 28, promptly at 6 o'clock, or before. "Ike" and "Willie," "Judge" and "Juba," all the candidates and others will be invited to speak on subjects appropriated for the occasion, and those who can't speak may sing.
Cake, coffee and gumbo will be served at moderate rates. Proceeds for improvement of the school house. Bring your families, your sweethearts, and your friends. Come all. Let's have a good time, be patriotic, be thankful.
Ben F. Toler, Milton, La., 1895.
Lafayette Gazette 11/23/1895.
Thanksgiving services will be held at the Methodist church Thursday morning at 11 a. m. by Pastor, Rev. J. D. Harper. A cordial invitation is extended to all who may wish to attend. Laf. Adv. 11/23/1904.
Next Thursday, November 28th, will be generally observed throughout the United States as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, in obedience to the President's proclamation. Lafayette Advertiser 11/23/1878.
Proclaimed: In accordance with President Cleveland's proclamation, there will be Thanksgiving service in the Methodist church on the 30th instant at 11 o'clock a. m. All are invited.
Lafayette Gazette 11/25/1893.
The Old Darky.
He always prays Thanksgiving eve
Will be both dark and murky,
For then he'll have no cause to grieve
He couldn't get no turkey.
Lafayette Gazette 11/19/1898.
From the Lafayette Advertiser of November 24th, 1908:
A MACADAMIZED ROAD.
Clerk of Court J. G. St. Julien has received a communication from Sam Park, president of the Beaumont Good Roads Association, which may be of some interest to the people of Lafayette parish generally as the question of good roads is a most vital one to the progress and development of this section of the State in particular. The letter reads as follows:
"Undoubtedly you have noticed recent press reports anent the inauguration of a movement to build from New Orleans to San Antonio via Beaumont, a shell or macadamized wagon road; and I write to ask that you advise me of the approximate valuations of properties in your parish as well as the amount of your outstanding debt for road and bridge improvements, if any; also whether or not you think the taxpayers of your community could be induced to call a meeting to discuss voting on the issue of bonds for the construction of such a road through your parish.
Mr. St. Julien has furnished the information desired and has also referred the letter to the Police Jury and City authorities of Lafayette, Carencro, Broussard and Youngsville and Scott.
This seems to be the beginning of a movement destined eventually to embrace the States in a system of great public highways, whose influence was recognized by the Romans, and whose extension now conduces so much to the welfare of European countries to-day. The matter is entitled to serious consideration whatever be the ultimate decision of the proposition. Lafayette Advertiser 11/24/1908.
THE NEW CHAPEL.
The proposition to establish a Catholic Chapel on the northside of the railroad for the benefit and convenience of the people of that section of the town still occupies the care and thought of Father Teurlings and his faithful assistants in the work and towards the latter part of next month some definite measures may be anticipated. Just as soon as sufficient funds are in hand to justify a neat little chapel will be erected and conducted under the supervision of St. John's Church. The site for the chapel has already been offered by donation and some money raised toward the building fund. Lafayette Advertiser 11/24/1908.
THE ORIOLE SERVICE.
The local service passenger train between Lafayette and Houston known as the Oriole train was reinstated last Sunday morning and hereafter a regular schedule of daily trips will be maintained leaving Lafayette at 7 o'clock a. m. and returning at 6:20 p. m. Ever since its inauguration the Oriole has proved of great convenience to patrons of the road generally, especially for local traffic and the management deserves thanks for its consideration of the public comfort and accomodation. Lafayette Advertiser 11/24/1908.
THE NEW POST OFFICE.
The new post office quarters in the Century Club building are almost ready for occupancy; only one or two minor installations now being lacking. The new office is large and roomy and admirably arranged for convenience and dispatch of public business. The fixtures are all new and present a neat appearance. A fine array of lock and call boxes indicates the growing demand for this form of mail delivery and show a marked improvement over the cramped and crowded receptacles now in use. Postmaster Domengeaux says he will move into the new office Dec. 1, and is quite certain of no further delay.
Lafayette Advertiser 11/24/1908.