History of Ohio Thanksgivings   

Looking back on Thanksgivings past, it’s not unusual for a snowstorm to hit Ashtabula County. This photo was taken shortly after last year’s Thanksgiving holiday in Orwell.

Today is Thanksgiving and chances are northeast Ohio residents will be spending the day with friends and family.

In honor of the holiday, we explored some Thanksgivings of the past, as depicted in the Star Beacon and in other Ohio’s newspapers on Ohio Memory and Chronicling America.

Although the United States Thanksgiving tradition dates back to colonial times, it was not nationally observed until 1863. Following a proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in October of that year, Thanksgiving became a federal holiday. Since then, it has been observed annually.

In 1941, a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress proclaimed Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. The resolution appeared in local newspapers so that citizens knew exactly which date was set aside.

Ohio newspapers in the mid-20th Century published stories and poems themed around thankfulness and family celebrations, who was visiting who for the holidays and photos of wild and domesticated turkeys

A winter blast 65 years ago left area residents thankful they survived Mother Nature’s wrath — 27 inches of snow in Ashtabula County. 

According to the Star Beacon, everything came to a temporary standstill that holiday. Cars were stranded on both sides of several roads, including Route 20.

The National Guard was called in to deliver food and clear the streets.

Snow had bombarded Ashtabula County six years earlier, as well. At the time, Thanksgiving 1950 was deemed the most treacherous in Ashtabula County history.

The National Guard from Ashtabula brought out tanks and half-tracks to clear Route 46. Six semi-trucks were off the road in a one-mile stretch near the Miller family’s farm.

They had to tunnel through the snow from their house to the barn to milk the cows, according to news reports.

In the past, and more so in the present, Thanksgiving signaled the start of the holiday season, and the day after, Black Friday, when shoppers find sales at local stores and online.

This year, most retailers will be closed for Thanksgiving, changing history. 

The new trend started last year when stores closed on Thanksgiving to limit crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic and pushed more sales online. What started as a temporary measure, is being repeated again this year.

To learn more about Ohio Thanksgivings of the past, check out the Star Beacon’s newspaper collections at the Ashtabula Public Library and on Ohio Memory and Chronicling America.

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