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Jacksonville Newspaper Tracks Thanksgiving History

The official date for Thanksgiving Day has moved around over the years, but currently falls on the fourth Thursday of November, which is Nov. 26 this year.

The holiday has ties to the Civil War.  President Abraham Lincoln suggested a day be set aside in gratitude for Union Army victories. The Oregon Sentinel in Jacksonville watched the holiday evolve.

On Nov. 22, 1864, the newspaper reported the celebration featured a torchlight procession that started at the courthouse, stopped in front of Max Muller's store for speeches and ended with dinner at the Franco-American Hotel. Music and fireworks followed. Thanks were given for the reelection of President Lincoln.  In Phoenix, Ore., Camp Baker soldiers shared their army rations at a Thanksgiving banquet.

Two years later the holiday had become one of feasting on turkey. The paper suggested, "many a proud gobbler would be gobbled up on that important day."

In 1872 the newspaper reported, “Thursday November 28 was declared Thanksgiving Day and the turkeys began to roost high."

A rather modern Thanksgiving had evolved by 1875. The newspaper reported, “Appropriate services will be held at the various churches, and the turkey population will be decreased considerably."

Sources: Oregon Sentinel 19 Nov. 1864 [Jacksonville, Oregon] . Print. Oregon Sentinel 26 Nov. 1864 [Jacksonville, Oregon] . Print. Oregon Sentinel 17 Nov. 1866 [Jacksonville, Oregon] . Print. Oregon Sentinel 13 Nov. 1872 [Jacksonville, Oregon] . Print. Oregon Sentinel 28 Nov. 1875 [Jacksonville, Oregon] .

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.