19th century turkey wit and wisdom

Julius Caesar, in the Shakespeare play, was warned “Beware the ides of March.”

In the 19th century, turkeys around the Glens Falls region became wary around the ides of November, as the Thanksgiving holiday was approaching.

“In view of the near approach of Thanksgiving, fat turkeys are looking with feelings of envy upon scrawny fellows, and forming bony clubs, and studying how to get rid of their adipose tissue and reduce themselves to their old fighting weight,” The Granville Sentinel reported on Nov. 17, 1876.

The Civil War did not stop Glens Falls residents from being thankful, or consuming poultry.

“Thanksgiving Day was generously observed by the good citizens of this burg in a quiet, uncontentious manner,” the Glen’s Falls Republican reported on Dec. 3, 1863. “More than the usual number of turkeys, chickens and goslings came to a premature untimely end.”

A Pennsylvania philanthropist set a model for others at the end of the Civil War.

“Some large-hearted citizen of Lewisburgh, Pa. proposed to give a Thanksgiving turkey to every soldier’s widow in his county, and to every widow who lost a son on whom she depended for support,” the Glen’s Falls Republican reported on Dec. 5, 1865. “Let us have his name and pass it around as one of nature’s noblemen. Let some of our rich men ‘go and do likewise’ and know that it is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Thanksgiving charity need not be limited to the rich.

“Help your poor neighbor to a Thanksgiving dinner,” The Morning Star editorialized on Nov. 25, 1884. “One little act of practical charity is worth a whole book full of prayers without the proper spirit.”

It may or may not have been the editorial that inspired George Montee, a saloon keeper in Lake Luzerne, to give away turkeys in a raffle that evening.

“About twenty of the birds were distributed to those who were lucky,” The Morning Star reported.

Stealing a Thanksgiving turkey is not recommended.

“A young lad named Russell went into O’Connor and Brother’s Market, and, taking a nice fat turkey in each arm, started down Glen Street,” The Morning Star reported on Nov. 26, 1884. “Claude Tillotson espied the lad, and, following him, discovered him secreting the turkeys at the read of Sherman’s store. Mr. Tillotson compelled the youthful pilferer to return the turkeys.”

On Thanksgiving evening in 1884 in Glens Falls, Independent Hose Co. №4 held its annual Thanksgiving Ball at Colvin Hall.

The 45 couples that attended worked up such an appetite that they had a second supper at midnight at the Globe Hotel.

Newspaper editors, at least in some years, were blessed with time for an after-dinner nap.

“Today the poor printer will eat his turkey, imported directly from the banks of Newfoundland,” The Morning Star reported on Thanksgiving 1884. “He will also have a short rest from his arduous night work, and, as a consequence, no paper will be issued from his office tomorrow.”

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY