Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving in Geary

Thanksgiving in Geary
Thanksgiving can sometimes be forgotten as the Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier each year.  To many, this holiday is still their favorite holiday to celebrate. It signifies food, family, football and fun. The first Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, but even before the official declaration by the President, many families had longstanding traditions about gathering around the table and give thanks for their loved ones and their fall harvest.  Thanksgiving had been an early tradition in Geary County, and the Daily Union recollects some of the earliest stories of Thanksgiving day in Geary County and how those stories had an impact on the community and in the surrounding areas.

In 1871 a few days after Thanksgiving, George W. Martin, founder of the Junction City Daily Union, wrote “Thanksgiving day in town was as quiet as the Sabbath. There was a general suspension of business, but a very limited attendance at church. Folks were too busily engaged in the kitchens getting up Thanksgiving dinners. If we were to get into the Thanksgiving Proclamation business, we would set an hour for worship so that turkey need not interfere to such an extent as at present. Everybody now enjoys turkey, but more ought to attend religious services than do. It ought not to become wholly a day of feasting!” It’s safe to assume that Mr Martin had an opposing view on how the people of Junction City should be celebrating their Thanksgiving, but believed in the core value of Thanksgiving, to give thanks.

A few years later in 1883, the Opera House held one of the first Thanksgiving Balls, where the community and surrounding areas would get together to celebrate Thanksgiving and dance off what they had just eaten. Perhaps not what Mr. Martin would have liked, but it showed that there was a growing interest in celebrating Thanksgiving as a community. The Daily Union stated, “Professor Tappan’s Thanksgiving Ball promises to be the most extensive entertainment of this kind ever known in Central Kansas. From fifteen to twenty couples at Abilene have signified their intention to come, several from Solomon, four from Minneapolis, a number from Manhattan and ten or twelve couples from Lawrence are coming too.” Unfortunately however, the ball that year was upstaged by a fire that broke out near the Highland Cemetery, and that took most the attention away from the Thanksgiving ball and Professor Tappan’s professional dancing.

After George W. Martin moved on from the Daily Union and into the state capital, George Clark the new editor the Daily Union, had a much less condescending view on Thanksgiving than Martin did just a few years earlier, “The Seventh Cavalry never sat down to a more substantial dinner in their lives that they did on Thanksgiving Day. The dinner was one of the best the market could afford. It was cooked and served well, and at the conclusion of the meal, each trooper offered up (in his mind) thanks to the Giver of all good for the bountiful supply of a substantial concealed under his blue shirt.”

In 1893, Clark reported on a Thanksgiving feast that was consumed in a very public way. It seems Fred Durland, the owner of Durland Sawtell Furniture store, attempted an unusual advertising gimmick when he arranged in one of his store’s largest front windows, with a stylish new dining room suite and all the accessories. On Thanksgiving Day, he decorated the table with his own beautiful spread, which included turkey, oysters, celery, oranges, apples grapes and other fruits and trimmings that might be associated with Thanksgiving. The intent of the display was to lure prospective customers into the store to see the other fine furniture that was on sale. This could be thought of as the first Black Friday advertisement in Geary County!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, when Mr. Durland was asked how he was going to dispose of his display by a very impoverished Frank Trott, Durland said if he could find a group of 6 people that would sit down for a Thanksgiving dinner; Durland would feed them a thanksgiving meal. Trott stated that he knew of his “6 eager men” who could eat that display. Sticking to his word, Frank Durland offered Mr. Trott and his 5 companions the Thanksgiving display to these hungry men.


In the spirit of Thanksgiving, make sure to enjoy it with loved ones and to not overlook it while waiting for Christmas. Eat some food, enjoy some football and make some memories with your family.

This is a look at the Durland Furniture store which hosted that famous Thanksgiving Diner. Although this is not a picture of that display, this does give a good look at how enticing that spread would have been to the people of Junction City