By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching and thoughts of Turkey and all the trimmings mingling in the minds of many, I began to wonder what makes Thanksgiving different in Appalachia, and especially West Virginia, from the rest of the country.
So, I started digging…
I found some rather interesting historical information on the holiday’s history in what would become West Virginia in an article from the West Virginia Explorer called “West Virginia uniquely tied to Thanksgiving Day celebration.” The article revealed that while the rest of the country officially declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 with the Lincoln proclamation, what was then known as the “Restored Government of Virginia,” a Union loyalist government in Wheeling had declared a day of Thanksgiving after an 1861 declaration by their Governor Francis H. Pierpoint with the celebration designated to November 28th of that year.
The Explorer article also quoted the original proclamation document by Pierpoint. “Now, therefore, I, Francis H. Pierpoint, governor of Virginia, do hereby recommend to the good people of the Commonwealth the observance of Thursday, the 28th inst., as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessings of the year, and of humble and fervent prayer that He will, in more abundant mercy, bring to a speedy end the heartburnings and civil strife which are now desolating our country, and restore to our Union its ancient foundations of brotherly love and just appreciation. And I do further recommend that all secular business and pursuits be, as far as possible, suspended on that day,” Pierpoint wrote.
The proclamation came at a time when the future of America was uncertain. The strains of the Civil War were strong with many households divided by the issues of the day. In fact, it was just prior to the day of thanksgiving that the area known as West Virginia today was called the State of Kanawha. According to a History Channel article, the proposed name for the new state that was being formed of 39 counties in 1861 was Kanawha, but when statehood was finalized in 1862, West Virginia was adopted.
It struck me how the holiday in my newly adopted home state emerged from such times of civil and family strife. But moreover, it sought to bring families and communities closer together during one of the bloodiest and tragic moments in the country’s history. A fact that I think speaks to the strength and close-knit nature of the people of West Virginia.
Of course, as a foodie, I couldn’t help but find a lot of traditional dishes related to holiday traditions in the area. Two I found interesting was the traditional dishes of Chicken and Dumplings and West Virginia Vinegar Pie. The latter I may just have to give a try to this year, as I am a great lover of lemon pie.
Perhaps the one thing that I can say resonates most to me about West Virginians is their dedication to taking care of one another, especially in Tucker County. I grew up with my mother’s large close-knit family and I see a lot of what I grew up with reflected in the people I have met here in Tucker County and as the holiday approaches, I just want to say take a moment to reflect on how fortunate I feel to have landed in a place so close to what I knew as a barefoot kid on the banks of the Mississippi River. |So to everyone out there, have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving and take a little moment to remember that while Thanksgiving may have started with the Pilgrims and become an national holiday thanks to Lincoln, West Virginia is where it got its heart.