Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving thanks at table and pew

vintage photo of crowds leaving church on Thanksgiving 1915
Even into the 20th century, people went to church before
sitting down to dinner on Thanksgiving. This photo shows
crowds leaving St. Patrick's Church in Washington, D.C.,
after the Pan-American Mass on Thanksgiving Day 1915.
(Photo credit: Library of Congress)
Thanksgiving in the late 19th century was as much a day of churchgoing as it was of feasting. I was surprised to learn that. Records show up in more than one Florida newspaper in online archives.

An article in the Chipley Banner on Nov. 26, 1898 reminded readers that: “In every State of the Union the people last Thursday, assembled in the churches and in their homes to render unto Almighty God their thanks for the blessings that had been vouchsafed to them, and to their country during the past year.”

Several years earlier, the Florida Agriculturist reprinted the governor's entire Thanksgiving proclamation in its Nov. 28, 1892 edition. The proclamation read, in part:
The past year has been replete with blessings to the people of Florida. 
In accord with a custom honored in its observance, I, Francis P. Fleming, governor of the State of Florida, do hereby appoint and set apart Thursday, November 24, 1892, to be a day of thanksgiving and recommend to the people of our State, on that day, to attend their respective places of public worship and render thanks and praise to the Giver of all good for bountiful harvests; for peace and prosperity, for freedom from pestilence; for health and happiness; for civil and religious liberty and all other blessings of His Divine Hand, and invoke the continuance of His mercies and protection. 
In the enjoyment of our many blessings, let us not forget those in need and distress...
After church, people dined at home or at places like the Montezuma Hotel in Ocala, where manager J.P. Galloway planned an elaborate Thanksgiving Dinner in 1901, as noted in the Nov. 27 issue of the Ocala Evening Star:
All who desire to partake of an excellent dinner and do not care to go to the trouble of preparing one at home are respectfully referred to the accompanying menu. Dinner served from 12:30 to 3 o'clock. Only 75 cents.
If you're wondering what was on the menu, here it is:

  • Soup: Beef and Celery Bouillon; Cedar Key Oysters on Half Shell; Red Snapper, Genoese Sauce
  • Relishes: Celery; Mixed Pickles; Chicken Salad, with French Dressing'
  • Roast: Prime Ribs of Western Beef, Brown Gravy; Wild Turkey, Oyster Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce
  • Entrees: Compote of Quail, with Olives; Veal Croquettes, with French Peas; Banana Fritters, Wine Sauce.
  • Vegetables: Potato Croquettes; Candied Yams; Asparagus, Hollandaise Sauce; Turnip Greens, with Bacon; Steamed Japan Rice; Old Fashioned Corn Pone
  • Dessert: Pumpkin Pie; English Plum Pudding, Hard Sauce; Frappe Creme de Menthe; Assorted Cakes; Assorted Nuts; Crackers; Fruit in Season; American Cheese; Iced Tea; Coffee; Buttermilk.
I hope no one went hungry back then, and won't go hungry today. Let us all pause and give thanks before taking the first forkful. Happy Thanksgiving.

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