Kirby: The evolution of Thanksgiving Day in Augusta

The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.


– William Blake


How did Thanksgiving Day evolve in Augusta? I was curious.

Fortunately, I have access to this newspaper’s remarkable two-plus centuries of archives, so I began to look back, and here’s what I found.

The first mention of a “Day of Thanksgiving” in The Augusta Chronicle was on Dec. 29, 1810, with this printed notice:

“The Presbyterian Church in this place having appointed Tuesday as a Day of Thanksgiving, the Rev. Mr. Thompson intends performing Divine Service in St. Paul’s on that day at the usual hour in the forenoon.”

Because Dec. 29 was a Saturday, we can figure that the Tuesday referred to was Jan. 1 – New Year’s Day 1811. So that first Thanksgiving seems to have been both a New Year’s event and a church service.

Over the next several decades there were several mentions of “thanksgiving” activities and church, such as this on Oct. 29, 1823:

“Our citizens … will doubtless rejoice that a day has been set apart by the civil authority of this place, for the purpose of a public and united expression of thanksgiving and praise to the Great Author of all good, for the benefits conferred upon them.”

While this is more of a fall festival, its religious component is apparent.

Three years later, we’re back to beginning the new year with thanksgiving, and The Chronicle reminds citizens that the governor has proclaimed it throughout the state.

Seasonal charity also begins to evolve with a later notice indicating that an 11 o’clock chapel service will include a collection to be taken up for the Female Orphans Asylum.

The Chronicle reports in 1830 that Thursday, Nov. 18, will be the “Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer to Almighty God ...” Ten years later, an 1840 notice designates New Year’s Eve as a day of public thanksgiving.

That people will take a day off shows up in 1841 when The Chronicle tells its customers that because of a day of Thanksgiving “no paper will be issued from this office to-morrow, Oct. 14,”

On Nov. 6, 1845, The Chronicle published a box referring to “Thanksgiving – This festival of the Pilgrims” and how it is celebrated on different dates in 10 different states – most of them in the North.

By the 1870s, Thursdays in October and November were being proclaimed “Thanksgiving” Days.

Finally, in 1880, you-know-who shows up.

“Thanksgiving Turkeys” proclaims a headline in the Nov. 25, 1880, Chronicle.

“Received by express, 500 lbs. Fine Dressed Turkeys” reads a notice from W.A. Ramsey, who will sell you one from his shop at 213 Jackson St.

Finally, by 1887, Augusta seems to have figured out what Thanksgiving in America had truly become.

The newspaper was running recipes.




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