Michigan’s First Thanksgiving, 1820s
History says the first Thanksgiving on American land occurred in 1621. Even so, it didn't become an official holiday until many years later.
According to the Detroit News, after 1800, Detroit was having a rough century. An 1805 blaze devastated its way through the city, the Battle of Raisin River took place in 1812, there was a shortage of food, and the citizens were miserable. When Lewis Cass became governor of the Michigan Territory in 1813, things began getting better. Michigan's first celebration of Thanksgiving took place in 1829 when Cass declared November 26 the day for “public thanksgiving and prayer” (other sources state it was November 25, 1824). He made a proclamation that was printed in the Detroit Gazette that asked citizens to be thankful for “their civil and religious freedoms, equal and stable government, the diffusion of knowledge, advantages of education, and general prosperity.”
Every year after that, the governor would declare a specific day to be Thanksgiving. By the time 1834 rolled around, Detroit had been plagued by an epidemic of cholera; so when November arrived, the Secretary of the Treasury, Stevens T. Mason, handled the Thanksgiving declaration which alluded to the recent cholera outbreak: “I do hereby appoint Thursday, the Twenty-seventh of November next as a day of thanksgiving and prayer; that contemplating with reverence and resignation the dispensations of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe in the destructive pestilence that has visited our territory, we may present our prayers of gratitude for being permitted still to enjoy a participation in the blessings of his providence.” Stevens was elected governor the following year.
Where today's thanksgiving feasts feature many of the usual things like turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes/yams, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, gravy, and pumpkin pie, back in the 1800s, they had many more items they favored for the holiday. Along with all the above-mentioned foods, they also looked forward to feasting on:
Apples, cheeses, chickens, duck, eggs, fish, geese, golden butter, grouse, lemons, mince meat, onions, oranges, pigeon, quail, rabbit, turnips, sauerkraut, venison, and roasted black bear. Oh, and they loved their oysters, too. They made oyster fritters, oyster pot pie, oyster stew, oyster stuffing, oysters on toast, and scalloped oysters.
So what are you having for this year's feast?
No matter what it is, be thankful you have it.
Thanksgiving In Michigan
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