Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tales of Thanksgivings Past

Since it’s so close to Thanksgiving, I will share with you a few stories of pioneer Thanksgivings that I enjoyed reading. I hope you do too.

Thanksgiving on the Frontier

Wild turkeys were present on the frontier, but on one occasion thankfulness came not for enjoying the turkey, but for still being alive, as recalled by Mrs. Hulda Esther Thorpe.  “One of the best Thanksgiving dinners we ever knew of was when a family of settlers had their nice wild turkey dinner taken by the Indians, who came in silently and just shoved the folks back and eat [ate] it up.

“They did not harm the white people though and after they were gone the women made a big corn bread and with what few things the Indians left, they had a feast, the best as the daughter tells, that she ever eat [ate]. This was because they were so happy and thankful that the Indians spared them.”   (Excerpt from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940, a public government work).
Miracle of the Gulls Monument, Salt Lake City;
photo by David McConeghy; wikipedia creative commons 2.0

The Mormons’ First Thanksgiving

The first Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. They got a late start on planting that summer, and the crops didn’t yield a plentiful harvest, not allowing for any thanksgiving feast. The hundreds of Saints who arrived that year had a rough time just surviving winter.
A late frost in May 1848 killed many crops, and a lack of rain caused further difficulty. The warmer summer planting season would have allowed some of the frozen crops to recover, but crickets came on the frost’s heels and destroyed the few healthy plants that remained.
It was a difficult time to live in the Valley—the outlook was so bleak that a few people continued on to California or returned to the United States. But most of the Saints stuck it out, did all they could to preserve their crops, and trusted that God would make up the difference.
That’s when the famous seagulls came to their rescue, consuming the destructive crickets and leaving the Saints with a chance to plant again. By midsummer they were hopeful for a plentiful harvest. They believed God had brought the seagulls and provided much-needed assistance. They decided to set aside a day for giving thanks to God—August 10, 1848.
That morning, the Saints gathered for the celebration. They raised a white flag on a pole—a traditional symbol of freedom—and decorated the pole with wheat, barley, oats and corn. They fired a cannon and a band played. The Saints shouted “Hosannah to God and the Lamb, for ever and ever, Amen.”
Then they feasted on bread, butter, cheese, cakes, beef, pastries, corn, lettuce, melons, radishes, beets, carrots, peas, onions, cucumbers, parsnips, squash and beans. No Jello salad!

How to Season the Dressing
The most famous Laura Ingalls Wilder Thanksgiving story is the argument between Laura and her sister Mary about how to season the dressing. The argument began when their Pa announced he intended to shoot a goose for Thanksgiving dinner. After he left to hunt, Laura delighted over the prospect of dressing seasoned with onion. Mary objected, saying she doesn’t like it seasoned with onion and wanted it seasoned with sage instead.

The sisters continued to bicker back and forth: “Sage.” “Onion.” “SAGE!” “ONION!” Until Pa came back without the goose. This evidently remained a favorite story for Laura because it’s a reminder at Thanksgiving to look around and be grateful even if “the seasoning of my blessings has not been just as I would have chosen.”



Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and romantic suspense novels, all spiced with paranormal elements. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a pair of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

Amazon Author Page: viewAuthor.at/LynHornerAmazon (universal link)
Newsletter:  Lyn’s Romance Gazette http://eepurl.com/bMYkeX
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 


  1. Took a little time out from preparations for tomorrow's big Turkey Day and enjoyed reading your interesting stories. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    1. Thank you, Cheri, and the same to you and your family.

  2. I do so cherish these kind of stories. Thank you for finding and sharing them. Doris


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