An Old Time FPC Thanksgiving Story

November 23, 2006

Thanks Mark and C.J. Happy Thanksgiving! I don’t have much to add by way of customs and habits for spiritually benefitting from this great holiday, but a number of years ago, Otho Johnson (one of our elders) pointed me to this interesting historical note, relating to The Rev. L.J. Halsey, who was the minister of our congregation, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson from 1842-1848.

John Munn, who was born in Connecticut, was a merchant and banker living in Canton, Mississippi, when Governor Brown issued his Thanksgiving proclamation. Mr. Munn recorded in his journal on November 25, 1847:

“An unusual scene has been witnessed in our village and state this day. By appointment of Governor Brown it was selected as a day of ‘Thanksgiving’—and for the first time in this state has such a date been set apart for such purpose. This good old New England custom was a long time confined to those states—in time was adopted by the Western and middle states and for the last few years had gradually come to be observed in many of the Southern states, and on this day and this year about two thirds of the states unite in rendering thanks for the mercies and benefits received during the year now drawing to a close.

“There is something grateful and pleasant to the feeling of any man of right thought and mind in contemplating such a scene, but how much more so to one who was born on the soil of New England as he sees state after state adopting so advisable a custom. Far away from that birthplace, the observance of the day here brings a flood of recollections…

“In our village the day has been observed in a manner that would have given ample satisfaction to the most rigid observer of such days in the times of its earliest appointment. All business was suspended and quiet prevailed in our streets. There was a general attendance at church to listen to the Rev. Mr. Halsey of Jackson and seldom have I listened to a more interesting and appropriate sermon. It was well adapted for a people who were assembled for the first time for such a purpose, and those listening attentively could not but have been instructed in the objects of those who first established the custom and the reasons that demand its observance.”